Newest Review: ... 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 ... more
Cheap and Cheerful
Haven Holidays, Craig Tara Holiday Park (Ayr)
Member Name: GuruOnAMountain
Haven Holidays, Craig Tara Holiday Park (Ayr)
Advantages: Cheap, plenty to do especially for children.
Disadvantages: Not much to do for adults, amusements can be expensive.
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.
Summary: If you're realistic with your expectations, then this can be a good, budget break.
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