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Harlyn Sands Holiday Park (Padstow, Cornwall)

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Lighthouse Road, Trevose Head, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8SQ.

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      21.10.2009 16:17
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      A nastly holiday park, which gains dooyoo stars purely for its lovely location and allowing dogs!!!

      With both myself and my fiancé working full time and having a zoo worthy collection of pets at home, holidays are a very rare occurrence! So this year, after bribing the best mate to look after the animals and managing to both blag a couple of weeks off work, we decided to make the most of things and arranged two holidays in one! Firstly, we would be travelling down to Cornwall for 4 days for a little break with the dogs, and then we'd come home, drop them off and then fly over to America to spend a further 6 days with my family over there.

      After browsing online for a reasonably priced camp site that met all our demands of being dog friendly, in a nice location and being able to accommodate our large caravan, we finally settled on Harlyn Sands Holiday Park, just outside of Padstow. We booked up and a couple of months later, off we went.

      - Arriving -
      After the very difficult struggle of trying to safely manoeuvre a Land Rover towing a large caravan down the small, narrow Cornish roads leading to Harlyn Sands, we finally arrived at our destination and upon arrival everything looked rather pleasant. An effort had obviously been made to make the front of the park look nice- flowers were plentiful and on very first impressions, we thought we had made a good choice in choosing Harlyn Sands for our short break.

      However, as soon as we were in the gates, things started to go down hill. The arrangement of the front of the park is quite simply terrible. Imagine 20 or 30 campers, all with caravans or campervans, pulling into a very small car park, leaving their vehicles there whilst they go to reception to check in and you'll get some idea of the chaos that was happening. Then, add to the mix the fact the car park and reception is situated right next to a children's play ground, so you have dozens of kids running about between the cars, this make the whole set up very dangerous indeed and to make matters worse, there were absolutely no staff around to help organise the proceedings. It was simply a case of waiting there until you could find somewhere to move, this resulted in huge tail backs of vehicles on the road outside the park, which is hardly ideal considering the narrowness of Cornish country lanes.

      After waiting in our car for nigh on 40 minutes, we finally found somewhere to move where we would be fairly out of the way and made our way into reception to check in. Unfortunately, once inside, things didn't improve one little bit. There were two lads on the reception desk, well aware we were there but too engrossed in their conversation to even acknowledge our presence. Eventually, they decided to do their job and took our details and checked us in. A paper tag to attach to our vehicle was thrust at us, we were warned never to leave our dogs unattended on site and that was it. Not so much as an ''welcome to Harlyn Sands'' or ''enjoy your stay'' was mumbled at us, so we didn't stick around.

      Determined these were just minor hiccups, we went back out to the car and made our way to our pitch. Here, things thankfully improved briefly. There were several members of staff waiting to direct people to their pitches and they were much more pleasant than the lads we had encountered in reception. The gentleman who took us to our pitch was lovely, very helpful with all our questions and with good local knowledge, telling us where the nearest supermarket was and without us asking, even wrote down the number of the vets he uses for his dog incase we needed it for Grace and Benson. I thought these were very considerate small, but lovely, touches.

      - The Pitch -
      We visited Harlyn Sands during August of this year and during the peak times of the year, there are two fields that are used for camping. Firstly, there is the Main Field, situated on the actual site of Harlyn Sands and secondly, there is the Beach Field, which is an overflow camping field, borrowed from a farmer, a couple of minutes walk from the actual site. We were placed on the Beach Field and had mixed feelings of this.

      It had fantastic views overlooking the golden sandy beaches of Harlyn Bay and they were absolutely lovely but on the downside, there were no toilet or showering facilities on the Beach Field, for these you had to trek a couple of minutes up hill to the Main Field, not a huge problem but hardly pleasant in the middle of the night when you are busting for a wee! However, there was nothing that could really be done about this considering the Main Field was full so we couldn't have been moved even if we had complained, so we set about getting things set up.

      The pitch was a decent size and marked out with rope to make sure you stayed within your boundaries and thankfully, very spacious. We had adequate room for our large caravan and awning, as well as room to park our Land Rover and then extra room for a couple of deck chairs- we didn't feel all crammed in, with decent space between us and our neighbours. One very annoying complaint however was that the grass was extremely long- we were lucky enough to experience mostly pleasant weather but even so, early in the mornings and late at night, the grass was often damp, meaning Grace and Benson brought wet paws back into the caravan after their last wee before bed or after they'd been out to go to the toilet first thing in the morning. Not much fun when they decide to jump on the bed, I can tell you!

      The pitches all have electrical hook ups so you can camp in relative luxury but be warned, having any more than two appliances on at a time in your caravan will result in the fuse tripping, and you cannot fix it yourself- you have to go over to reception and they'll send someone over to open the box and remedy it. And they make it quite clear with plenty of sighing and whinging that you are being a pain when you go over at 11pm to tell them the fuse has tripped, making you feel rather uncomfortable. Well, I'm sorry but I wanted my hot chocolate!

      - Facilities -
      As with most camp sites, there is an on site mini supermarket that sells the basics, but be prepared to faint at the prices, they are absolutely unbelievable (a small packet of cream crackers cost us £1.99) and very little is price marked, so you don't know the damage until you have got to the till, and then you can hardly decline the products, especially with a huge queue behind you. Thankfully, there is a Tesco store a short fifteen minutes drive from the camp, so we used this instead after one trip to the on site shop!

      Take away food is also available on site, and it is actually very tasty indeed. They sell the usual fish, chips, burgers and pizzas and whilst I know there isn't really much room to go wrong with these foods, I was pleasantly surprised by the pizza and chips we brought from here one evening and prices were rather reasonable too. There is also a restaurant on site however seeing as we didn't eat here, I cannot possibly comment.

      A newly refurbished swimming pool is provided on site but strangely, entrance to this isn't included in the price of the holiday, you have to pay for entry at £2.50 each for a 2 hour session. I thought it was a slightly strange idea but we did visit the pool once and whilst it was nothing special, it was clean enough and fully attended by life guards and would be very appealing to children with the flume and shallow children's play pool as well as the main swimming pool. Ample seating was provided around the pool for non-swimmers and there was also a poolside coffee bar, however this was not open on the occasion we visited.

      Evening entertainment can be found in the club house, starting daily at 7pm. This isn't really our thing but I'm sure it would be popular for families with children. We did however call in one evening for a drink after our trip into nearby Newquay and we were left thoroughly disappointed. It was small, dark and dingy with dirty, cramped tables and very poor entertainment on offer. We decided to move next door to the ''Over 25s'' bar only to find this full of children and as dark and cramped as the main clubhouse. We stayed for one overpriced drink each (which the bartender knocked all over Jason!) and made a swift exit.

      A large well equipped children's playground is situated near the entrance of the park and it certainly seemed popular with the children staying at Harlyn Sands. I'd hate to have had a pitch near this however as no matter how late at night or early in the morning we walked past, there always seemed to be children playing loudly on here with no parents in sight.

      - Showers & Toilets -
      Before I start, I'm just going to have to warn you about how much I am going to write about toilets and showers! If it doesn't interest you, feel free to skip it, but I feel the need to warn all fellow campers just how AWFUL these facilities are!

      We'll start with the toilets first. There is one toilet block at Harlyn Sands, (well, two I suppose- a ladies and a gents) and they are absolutely disgusting. There were around 30 toilets in the ladies toilet block which may sound like a lot, but when you take into consideration during peak times there may be up to 200 caravans, tents or campervans on the site at any one time and lets say each of those has 2 women in- suddenly, you'll start to realise 30 toilets is infact a very small inadequate amount!

      To make matters worse, it's not as if they were clean toilets, they were filthy- not once in the 4 days we stayed there did I see someone cleaning them. Now, I'm not saying they weren't cleaned but from past experiences at other campsites, you generally always see a cleaner in the toilets at least once during your stay don't you? Lets just say, I went over to the toilets one evening around 9pm and there was vomit on the floor, I next went back around 4pm the following day (having used the chemical loo in our caravan for the time inbetween) and it was still there. Used sanitary wear was also scattered around the floor in many toilet cubicles and numerous complaints to reception fell on deaf ears.

      Now onto the showers and if you thought they couldn't be worse than the toilets- than think again. There is one shower block at Harlyn Sands containing 10 showers, and they are unisex, and at the time we visited there were two out of order... resulting in 8 showers for the entire campsite. Again, remember during peak times (such as when we visited) there is around 200 occupied camping pitches and presuming that each pitch has 4 people on.. That's a total of 800 people using EIGHT showers. Not pleasant by any means I can tell you.

      The showers are fully enclosed within wooden cubicles that are nice for privacy, especially considering they are unisex, but highly impractical. They have no ventilation, so even the benches meant for putting your clothes and towel on whilst you shower get soaked by condensation, this is made worse by the fact you cannot control the temperature of the shower- they are preset at a set warmth (too warm) and you cannot change it.

      You also have to pay for the showers- 20p for approximately 4 minutes of water. You put your money in a machine outside the cubicle door and then go in, undress etc and then press a button when you wish the water to start. There is no warning when your water is about to stop, so it could quite simply stop when you have a head full of shampoo suds and remember the machine to put the money in that activates the water is outside the cubicle, so you have no way of getting the water back on unless you fancy popping outside the cubicle in a towel, in full view of the line of people queuing for the showers to put some more money in the machine.

      Also, the fact the benches inside the cubicle and the actual walls of the cubicle get soaked by condensation means you have no where to put your dry towel and clothes whilst you showering- incredibly annoying. After the first evening, myself and Jason followed suit of many other couples and put £1 in the machine, meaning 20 minutes of water, went into the cubicle together and one held the dry towels and clothes whilst the other one showered, and that worked out a lot easier.

      It wouldn't even be too bad if the showers were clean, but guess what? They weren't. They were filthy, greasy, caked in grime and dirt and absolutely stank, and due to the sheer amount of people at the camp and the small amount of showers, you'll be waiting at least 45 minutes in a queue during busy times (typically 8-10am and 6-9pm). On our last evening of our stay, we booked into a nearby guesthouse purely to have a clean, decent shower. That's how bad they were.

      Another thing worth noting is that during a conversation we had with a lady whilst in the shower queue she mentioned that there was no baby bathing facilities at the site. I'm not sure whether this is common on campsites, having no children I don't pay any attention to such things but it is worth bearing in mind if you are planning a trip to this site with a baby in tow and have no means of washing them in your caravan or tent.

      - Staff -
      We encountered the site staff on several occasions during our stay and not once were we impressed with their attitude, apart from the gentleman who led us to our pitch on the day of arrival. There were rude, unprofessional and everything you asked seemed like too much trouble. On one occasion we called in to ask for a telephone number for taxi firm so we could enjoy an evening out and both having a drink, we were given one number that we called and they had nothing available for the time we wanted so we went back into reception to ask for another number. They persistently over and over told us there was just the one taxi firm in Padstow. Yeah right. We went back outside, gave my mate at home a buzz and she quickly got several taxi numbers up for us on a simple google search.

      On another occasion, we popped in to ask where the facilities were to empty chemical toilets and the reply we got? '' Look on the map''.

      Rude, unhelpful and unprofessional with terrible attitudes are the only words I can use to describe the majority of staff we met.

      - Location -
      The one thing I cannot fault about Harlyn Sands, is the location. It is situated a stones throw from the gorgeous Harlyn Bay beach, with Padstow town a short five minutes drive in one direction, and Newquay, Wadebridge and Constantine Bay are all nearby too.

      The surrounding areas are wonderful for walking, there are cliff top paths for as far as the eye can see, gorgeous open fields and of course, wonderful sandy beaches that you can wander along for hours and are beautiful and ideal dog walking locations, with various fresh water streams en route so they can get a drink.

      Another plus point for Harlyn Sands is that they own a part of the Harlyn Bay beach, which belongs to the camp, and it is dog friendly. Not everyone will be pleased with this fact I know, but for a dog owner, it is brilliant to find a lovely beach where dogs are welcome. Grace and Benson had a glorious time splashing in the water and tearing up and down the beach, although we took care to only let them off lead very early in the morning or late at night as not to spoil other peoples holidays or frighten children that may be scared by the presence of our dogs. If only other dog owners could have done the same- the amount of rude and inconsiderate dog owners who let their dogs run riot on the beach during the day when children were playing or people sunbathing was unreal, so do bare this in mind and I'll stop on this matter before I go off into a rant about how people like that give dog owners a bad name!!

      - Overall -
      All in all, a very poor site which I will not be visiting again. As well as all the things mentioned above, I honestly did not feel safe there, which isn't a good feeling to have whilst on holiday. The site claims they have a ''teenage curfew'' which is a ban that is suppose to stop groups of teenagers wandering the park at night but this is not enforced one little bit. Every night of our stay we were woken by noisy teenagers who seemed to walk round and round the park generally just being pains in the backsides- they were loud, troublesome and aggressive to anyone who challenged them and the park management either didn't know or didn't care. Being in a caravan with my fiancé and two large dogs, in reality I was safe enough, however if I had been staying in a tent without Jason and the dogs, and I had my god children with me, I generally would be very unhappy indeed. To me, it appeared site security was either lacking majorly or completely non-existent.

      The location is faultless, which is why it is such a shame that the site is so poor- if it had been well staffed, well managed and with clean adequate washing and toilet facilities, it would have been fantastic but sadly it isn't and it will take a lot of time and work before it is even close to a decent standard in my opinion.

      People have told us ''well, you get what you pay for''. We paid £124 for 4 nights in August and then the dogs were £3 each extra per night, so in total we paid £148 for our stay, and yes, whilst that is cheap, I still expect a clean and comfortable site with at least adequate facilities, and this site was simply terrible.

      Despite the awfulness of the site, I'm pleased to say, although it put a dampener on the holiday, it didn't spoil it- we still had a lovely time regardless and the dogs loved it too. The site was simply used as a base to crash out at come nightime and we had our own caravan to do that in, it would just have been nice to be able to use, what could have been, a very pleasant site.

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