“ Craig Tara Holiday Park, Dunure Road, Ayr, KA7 4LB „
As a self-funding postgraduate student, money is tight when looking to get away for a short break and when I saw The Sun newspaper advertising their £9.50 holidays, I decided to make an effort to buy The Sun and collect the tokens so I could get a little break away. It was only myself and my boyfriend going away together so we had to pay a little extra (I think somewhere in the region of £38 for a four night break) and then with extras such as entertainment passes and bed linen added in via the Haven website, it brought the total up to just a little over £100 in total for the 4 night break in mid-September. I'd read terrible reviews of Craig Tara on the internet and had never travelled to a Haven resort before, so I was slightly apprehensive before leaving but decided to make my own judgements on arrival.
We were travelling by public transport and I had concerns that the caravan park would be difficult to reach without a car but soon discovered that there was a bus service that ran straight to the caravan park reception from Ayr Bus station. The bus cost £2.55 for a single journey which lasted about 20 minutes, so it was a reasonable price although the service wasn't particularly frequent (it only ran once an hour). Ayr also has a relatively large train station with frequent services to and from Glasgow so it makes the town of Ayr easy to access for the non-driver. The Craig Tara bus also drops off at the train station on the way from Craig Tara to Ayr. For drivers, Craig Tara was only a few minutes drive outside of Ayr itself and there seemed to be plenty of parking dotted around the site although it may not be as near to your accommodation as you might like.
The Check-In Process:
The bus dropped us off right outside reception and bags in tow, we trooped inside. The check-in area was clearly marked and well-staffed. I thought it looked quite busy when I approached it and anticipated a long wait but we had our keys in hand within about 5 minutes. There did seem to be a little bit of flapping about by the receptionists and they didn't seem to be able to find all the things they needed but they were all very polite and helpful. When we were given our keys we were also given a map and the receptionists circled our accommodation on it and gave us directions to it. The site itself is quite large but is well sign-posted and the map proves useful. Luckily for us, our accommodation was at Stirling Village which was near to the reception area.
Again, I'd read horror stories in the reviews about the quality and the cleanliness of the accommodation and it was with trepidation that I turned the key in the door but I was very pleased. The caravan was large and very clean. A previous tenant had left some medical supplies in one of the cupboards but this was no major worry. The living room area was large with a dining table and padded seating running around it. The television was small and basic but had a freeview box attached to it so there was a good degree of choice when it came to channels. The kitchen had a kettle, an oven, a microwave and a toaster and plenty of cupboard space. It was also well equipped with crockery and pots and pans. There was a small toilet with a shower and sink; a bedroom with two single beds in it and a larger bedroom with a double bed, a large cupboard, a chest of drawers and a mirror. I was very pleased with the amount of space to move around and with all the storage space dotted around the caravan. The size of the caravans varied and ours was one of the smallest as we'd paid for a standard caravan and hadn't opted for anything fancier but this was plenty of space for us and I think it would be spacious enough for a family of four so long as the children were quite young. However, the fire was a bit hard to light and you couldn't clearly tell whether it was on or off at times. As it was a gas fire, this was a bit of a worry. Also, the rings on the hob on the gas cooker didn't seem to stay lit. Two of the four rings wouldn't light at all and two lit but went out frequently. This wasn't a major problem for us as I was constantly standing at the cooker when cooking but for a busy family who are trying to entertain the children while making dinner, it would be easy for them to not notice that the flame had went out. We also had a problem with a bathroom tap which seemed to keep turning itself on.
The site was large and split into individual sections to make it easier to find your caravan. There was also a large play park, centrally located and beside this a 'multi-sport' area which was set up to accommodate basketball more than any other sport, I felt. There was a large, central complex which included amusements, some bars, Burger King, a pizza takeaway, a gift shop and a Spar. Behind this there was a sports complex which had two pool tables, a snooker table, a table tennis table, a bouncy castle, small trampolines, Quaser and a central area where lessons such as fencing and archery took place. Also, there was a smaller amusements area which had an indoor mini golf, a small bowling alley, some dodgems for children and a few games machines. Of course, there was a large Haven swimming pool, too. Near the beach there was a small funfair complex with a few rides, go carts and outdoor mini golf but unfortunately this was shut for the whole length of time that we were at the caravan park. The beach itself was easy to walk to from the caravan park but it was very quiet whenever we popped down to it (perhaps because a Scottish beach in September isn't the most hospitable of locations!). It was quite a stoney beach and was coated in a lot of seaweed, so it might not have appealed to everyone, particularly families who perhaps would prefer to head into Ayr beach where there is more sand for building sandcastles.
On arrival, we were given a 'What's On' programme for the week. It was split into two sections inside: one morning and one evening. At the back it had the timetable for the swimming pool and for sports sessions. The entertainment, as you would expect, was aimed primarily towards children and families. There was a great deal of activities on during the day for kids, mainly of them involving large cuddly park mascots. As my boyfriend and I were on our own with no kids, I can't comment on these during the day activities but we did go to some of the evening activities which happen in the main complex, usually in either the Live Lounge or, more often, in Bonga Wonga. The Live Lounge was a rather uninspiring barn of a place where we went to part one of the 'Big Quiz'. I expected a 'Big' quiz to last at least half an hour but instead it last only a few minutes. We were given 5 questions and were expected to return every night for another 5 questions each night. After our five questions of the quiz, we were asked to leave as the bar was closing. Bonga Wonga wasn't much better. We went here to watch the talent show and again, it was a bit of a barn, except this place had large shops at the side selling merchandise designed to attract kiddies (glow sticks, candy floss, giant teddies etc.). The talent show was full of enthusiastic children. Again, this is what you would expect and wasn't particularly entertaining. We'd bought the 'Entertainment Passes' as I'd read you couldn't access the main complex at all without them which did not seem to be the case. The only places where bouncers checked the passes was entering Bonga Wonga and to be fair, I wish I'd saved the £12 or so that the entertainment passes cost.
The amusements were extensive and good fun but were expensive, particularly if you were there with children. Like most amusement arcades, a ticket system was in operation where you could win tickets for your performance in most games and use these tickets to buy prizes. These tickets schemes are usually a bit of a rip-off but I felt that at Haven they were particularly awful. At the amusements arcade closest to my home, there is a broad range of prizes ranging from the 10 ticket range up to the 5000 ticket range but at Haven there was really only prizes for denominations of 100 and upwards. There was a choice of a balloon for 30 tickets or a small packet of sweets for 50 tickets but you can imagine that most parents would be spending a fortune trying to let their children attain 100 tickets or more. The prizes for 100, 200 and 300 tickets were rather uninspiring, too. The best prize available for 100 tickets was a colouring-in book and the best prize for 200 tickets was a small pack of toy soldiers. Many of the claw machines (a favourite of kids) were really expensive, most charging 50p or £1 a shot although there was a few 20p ones dotted around. There was a small number of pool tables in the amusements but, unfortunately, had been rather used and abused with cues that were very much worse for wear.
There was an extensive programme of sports activities on offer for an additional fee. An activities pass could be bought before arrival for varying fees depending on how many activities you wished to pay for. Six activity sessions cost around £36 via the activity pass or, if you chose to pay for them singly on arrival, you would pay about £8 each. Activities on offer included fencing, archery, quaser, and climbing but you needed to book sessions in advance and many of the sessions were aimed at children. There were 'mini' sessions for young children available for free which I thought was a good idea but there were no adult only sessions available which put me off booking any. I'd have liked to have tried archery and fencing but I'd have had to have joined in with the age 10s and above and I suspected that this might have been a bit of a nightmare. I did see an archery lesson in progress, however, with the young kids and the tutor seemed genuinely interested, patient and good with kids. The swimming pool was free to use but there were specific sessions using the Water Walkers etc. that had to be paid for using the activity pass. Again, it was very much a play pool geared towards children. My boyfriend is 6 foot 5 and as the pool would have only reached his waist if he was lucky, he decided against going in.
Of course, the caravans allow you the chance to self-cater but there are also places to eat out on site. Burger King is available which would certainly appeal to the kids and a pizza place on site can deliver to your caravan door. The pizza place has small pizzas ready made or larger pizzas can be made to order. Meal deals are available here which are quite reasonable. There is also the Mash and Barrel, a pub in the style of Wetherspoon's pubs, which offers food. We ate out here once and I had an excellent burger and my boyfriend had an equally tasty lasagne. The food was delivered to our table quickly.
A small Spar was on site where groceries and household items could be bought. It wasn't particularly more expensive than any regular supermarket although it was small so there wasn't much choice. It also sold some merchandise related to the park (cuddly toys, rock etc.). Near the Spar there was a relatively large gift shop which sold the usual selection of Haven goodies (Bradley bear and friends), activity packs, games, toys, gifts, rock, outdoor toys etc. but all in all, Ayr town centre provides far better shopping opportunities.
The park was quite quiet when we went as it was the end of the season so perhaps our caravan was cleaner and the service we received was quicker and better than other reviews that I'd read because the staff had more time on their hands. I can imagine that during the peak of the summer, it could be madness and the sports sessions would fill up quickly but everything was quiet and laid-back while we were there. The amusements could be quite chaotic in the evening with children running around crazy. In fact, parental supervision did seem relatively sparse around the park in general and quite often kids would appear at your side to steal pool balls off your table during the game, or ask you to win them a prize out a claw machine but then it is a family park so if kids are going to bother you, then it probably isn't the place for you. It was certainly better than I'd expected and we happily spent four days there. You can use the park facilities on the last day after you've checked out if you choose to, too, which is excellent particularly if you have a car to leave all your bits and bobs in while you have fun. For a family, this would be an excellent, budget holiday option and even for a couple, this is a cheap and cheerful way to spend some time together.
I'm giving Ayr 3 stars but that is being quite generous. It does have some really good points, and the fact I've gone back every year says something, but it has some very bad bits as well. I've included a guide at the bottom to make the most of your holiday there.
Great swimming pool.
Fun kids character shows.
Very affordable accommodation if you book online using Haven's half price holiday deals.
If you do pay for the most expensive caravans, you will get good accommodation, but no dogs.
Many lovely nearby attractions.
A huge beach, muddy and full of sea weed, but great for dogs. If you walk far enough( about 15 -20 minutes) past a rock outcropping on the right (facing the ocean) you'll find a lovely much cleaner secluded cove, but watch the tide as I'm not sure if you can get back at high tide. It also requires a bit of climbing.
The best selling point to me is being able to take the dog.
Horrible prices for almost everything in the park. £64 got us about 1 1/2 hours entertainment at the funfair for two children, although the youngest just walked about while the older played golf. £30 got an hour in the amusements only because the baby played alot of games without tokens and we spent nearly half the time filling out forms to get a refund whenever a broken machine just ate the coin.
If you are unlucky enough to get an awful caravan, you may have to pay extra to change.
It is very much a party spot and loud all night parties are common, as are shouting drunks walking back to their own caravans at night. Don't expect the best night's sleep.
The so called children's daytime entertainment is a joke - a rather bad one. Even things you pay extra for, like the Teddy Bear's Picnic are not well done. You see Bradley the bear walk past and then get handed some crisps, an orange, a tiny cup of juice and bread-sticks - not even a sandwich.
Some of the staff can be very rude, especially if you dare to interrupt whatever game they are playing on a mobile phone.
It appears to be quite high crime and security is not at all adequate to deal with the situation. On my visits I have seen horrific assaults on youths due to adults mistaking them for fans of a rival football team, a fellow brandishing a knife running about screaming about slashing tyres, and found drug paraphernalia in one caravan. I also had a mother and son team attempt to pickpocket me. They failed and it was only travel brochures folded up that looked the shape of a wallet anyway. At least one other woman was pick pocketed in the place though and crying as she had no money left at all.
Also if ever there was a place to make you despair of the future of the human race, this is it. Parents screaming at their "useless piece of_____ children for asking money fora chip while they are busy polishing off another pitcher of beer. Children as young as one, dirty and crying eating garbage from the floor while Mom drinks ( and then shouts the head off the poor security guard for not watching her child who wandered outside into a road). Of course it isn't Haven's fault, but its depressing.
My survival guide:
Never display valuables, lock everything and but travel insurance that includes theft.
If you aren't in the most expensive caravans, bring a plug in heater. Heating in most other ones is completely inadequate.
As soon as you get settled nip down the road to Iceland and buy all of your messages. It will save you a fortune over shopping or eating in Haven, and better food too.
Buy the £25 activity pass. You get 6 fun activities like walking in a giant hamster ball in the pool, inflatable jet skis, bike hire, roller disco etc...
Well worth the money and cheaper then any other entertainment in park.
Other then activity pass and pool spend as little time as possible in the park. Right next door is "The Heads Of Ayr Farm Park" which is absolutely brilliant. You get a full days entertainment rain or shine for one reasonable price. We always go at least twice and its money well spent.
There is also a lovely adventure park on a beautiful sandy beach in Ayr, which is free. Right next to it is Pirate Pete's once of the best indoor soft play areas I've ever seen. They even do a funfair in summer.
Less then 1 hour away is Louden Castle, funfair rides all day for one reasonable price, but the height restrictions mean my sons cant go on anything good and they enforce them to the slightest fraction of an inch, so check the website and get out the measuring stick before you go. Also check opening dates as it isnt open year round.
If you don't mind traveling a bit further try M&D's Amazonia and the Glasgow Science Centre.
As for adults , keep in mind I don't drink myself, but there is a bar/ restaurant with a children's playground, movies and games on the road into camp. Also the City Hotel B+B in Ayr has a bar with lovely atmosphere, if you like nice and quiet. Even if you pay for a taxi you'll save money over drinking in Haven.
We visited Craig Tara for this first time in March this year, the opening weekend.
We have been to quite a few Haven sites and have read the reviews about Craig Tara which weren't that complimentary (to say the least) however as we hadn't paid that much (approx £100) for a 3 night break for 5 of us I was too bothered.
When we got there however I was more than pleasantly surprised. We arrived about 6pm on the Friday and was expecting long queues at check in however there were a few people waiting but there was plenty of staff on and we were checked in and had our keys within 5 mins.
It did however take us quite a while to eventually find our caravan as the map that is given to you when you arrive was nothing like how the site is actually laid out. There's a lot of work going on at the moment and lots of new caravans being sited. Our caravan was right next to the building site which I was quite disappointed with initially but there was no real disruption to our holiday because of this.
We had booked a Deluxe caravan and were extremely lucky to be alloacated one new ones as it was immaculate to say the least. Everything was in pristine condition, and I couldn't fault it in the slightest. All bedrooms had heaters which was great for the kids as it got quite cold during the night. The lounge area was lovely and big with plenty of room for the kids to run around.
The grounds outside the caravan have been well looked after with lots of grassy areas for the kids to play. There were site employees going around each day picking up any litter which had been left.
The entertainment in the showbar each morning was quite good for the kids, there was dancing, arts and crafts etc and it passed a few hours 'til lunchtime. The evening entertainment I didn't think was that great. You have to be in the showbar around 6ish if you want to get a seat and there's a lot of waiting around before any of the entertainment begins.
There's plenty of facilities on site, although some of it is a bit rundown looking. The swimming pool is great for the kids with plenty of slides and shallow areas for younger children.
The one area which I thought let the park down was the amount of (drunk) youtths running about the site at night causing quite a bit of damage. There didn't seem to be any security guards patrolling the area on an evening.
Overall though I would definitely recommend this site for a short break as there is lots to do on site and plenty of things to do and see within the area.
Craig Tara holiday park near to Ayr in south west Scotland is run by Haven Holidays which is a large company specialising in providing family holidays in the UK. I have now stayed in two Haven resorts and they were like chalk and cheese; Marton Mere in Blackpool was lovely but Craig Tara is awful and somewhere I will never visit again.
We booked a long weekend at Haven for a huge family group, me and my sister and our kids stayed in one caravan and another two adults and three kids stayed in a second. Each group paid around £100 for three nights caravan hire plus extra for bed linen but we had different classes of caravan given to us. The caravans are basic but comfortable, our three bedroomed static caravan was adequate for our needs, it had one double bedroom and two single bedrooms one with bunk beds and one with twin beds, the double bed was a bit saggy but the single beds were fine. The bathroom had a shower and plenty of hot running water. The kitchen came well equipped with a gas cooker, small fridge and plenty of pots and pans and utensils. The living area had a dining table and plenty of chairs and a small flat screen TV. It's certainly not luxury accommodation but for a family on a budget then it is fine.
The accommodation itself was adequate but the rest of the park was a run down mess with staff who didn't care less if you had a good time or not.
Craig Tara bills itself as a family resort with fun filled entertainment for all of the family. The main buildings in the centre of the park have amusement arcades, bars, food outlets, a swimming pool and bowling alley but that is not enough to keep you amused for more than a day. We decided to brave the family bar one evening and it was crowded and noisy with overpriced drinks, dirty tables and terrible entertainment. There is a limited choice of food, Harry Ramsden's seemed like a safe bet as you can't go wrong with fish and chips, unfortunately they had ran out of many items and the staff were busy chatting to serve the guests anyway. Never mind off to Burger King where they had no rolls so you could only have chips. The Chinese food van served the greasiest Chinese food I have ever tasted but at least there was a doughnut van serving freshly fried cakes which was good!
The swimming pool was the highlight of our visit, there are large family changing rooms and not enough cubicles for privacy but the pool itself was good. There were numerous slides and water features and it was a firm favourite with our family and is also included in the price of the holiday. Unfortunately the kids all caught verrucas from this pool so even a dip in the pool led to trouble.
Other forms of entertainment in the park involve you spending lots of money. The huge amusement arcades even have teeny machines for little kids to play. My daughter spent a fortune winning tickets from machines to exchange for prizes from the shop. The bowling alley was ancient and in need of a revamp but at least they guy there let the kids play unlimited games on the air hockey table for £1, sometimes having staff that didn't care was a good thing.
An attraction that Haven boasts of is direct access to the beach from the park, in reality it is a good long walk to get there and when you do arrive it is strewn with seaweed and is not very nice or relaxing.
The park overall had a tired and gloomy feel about it. Despite the fact you are not meant to have large groups of young adults we had a caravan full of lads partying all night next door to us. The huge seagulls ran amok over the site, they have obviously grown fat on all the litter thrown about providing loads of food for them. The park feels a bit like a prison camp rather than a holiday resort. We escaped to Ayr to go to the supermarket and found it to be a rather run down little town, it is home to Burns cottage but is not a place I would really recommend you visit.
As you can guess the adults hated Craig Tara but the kids still managed to have fun. If you are looking to book a Haven holiday make sure it is not at Craig Tara.