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Craig Tara Holiday Camp - Haven or Hell
Haven Holidays in general
Member Name: sandra101
Haven Holidays in general
Advantages: Cheapish acommodation, kids enjoy it, good base to enjoy Scotland, nice pool
Disadvantages: Badly needs a face lift - drains money from your pockets
Warning - I was taken over by the spirit of someone else and couldn't stop writing.
We recently visited Craig Tara a Haven Holiday camp in Ayrshire Scotland. We have been going to Craig Tara for about the last 10 years. In those 10 years the camp has gone downhill alarmingly and last year we tried the camp at Blackpool, (during the floods etc.) and it wasn't any better. This year much against our better judgement and mostly due to the kids we ended up back in Craig Tara again and I have to admit to a sigh of relief that they have cleaned up their act a fair bit but not nearly enough.
We booked online using the haven holiday website which I have to say is a well designed, easy to use set up on which we have never had any problems. For the first time this year they sent me a quick email to say "Not long now, hope you are looking forward to your holiday. We are really looking forward to having you, let us know if there is anything at all you need". OK it may be tacky, but it was a really cheap and effective piece of marketing that made me feel they were going out of their way to make my holiday a good experience.
I booked a seven night break in a silver apartment. We chose the silver apartment rather than a caravan as we feel there is less noise around when the bars close, you don't get seagulls walking on your roof at 6:30am and it just generally feels more homely. We chose it above a bronze apartment because if you have ever seen a silver apartment you wouldn't really want to go any lower.
Although it is more expensive to stay in an apartment than in a chalet we appreciate the separate living room and kitchen and having a fridge to keep cold drinks in rather than having to constantly pay out for them. We tend to come home around 9:30\10:00 most nights as our daughter is only 4 so we need a bit of space to sit and relax after we put her to bed. We chose to add diners choice to out holiday as we know from experience that the food in the Turnberry Gardens Restaurant isn't that bad and that the food from each of the fast food outlets pretty much is. This worked out at around £400 extra for the week for five people, My thirteen year old being taken as an adult even though he eats less than the four year old. This covered breakfast and dinner.
The travel by road to Craig Tara from Stranraer was quick and painless, the roads are smooth and not overly crowded and everywhere we went to in Scotland seems to be well sign posted. Bit of a problem this year with road works on the main road but it didn't hold us up by much and is only temporary. Be aware that many of the roads in this area have average speed cameras installed so watch your speed unless you want to come home to find you've no driving license and owe a fortune.
Craig Tara is situated just 3 miles from the seaside town of Ayr and as you turn into it if its a nice day the view of the sun glistening on the sea and the surrounding greenery puts you right into the holiday spirit. Unfortuntely if you arrive in the pouring rain it puts you right into the "what the hell have I done spirit"
It was a pleasant surprise when we arrived this year to see that the site looked a little cleaner and had been spruced up since the absolute filthy shambles we had stumbled into two years previously.
- - Arrival - -
The Reception was clean and they have moved the paws soft play area into this room. Probably a good idea as we were standing for about ½ hour waiting to book in and at least this way younger ones can let off a bit of energy. The play area was about 15 ft square and had the like of a ball pool, slide, kitchen etc. The younger ones were really enjoying themselves and parents could sit on seats provided within the area itself or just outside. This area is available for kids from early morning until late in the evening but be warned it is unsupervised and I had to throw a couple of big lads out of it who were throwing the balls quite hard at the little ones - I can be quite scary when I want to be. We received our keys, information and funworks passes and off we went to our new home for the week.
- - Accommodation - -
Our apartment was at the far end of the camp but we don't have a problem with that as it lessens the noise of drunken revelers. The windows were a lot newer than on our previous visits, the paint was no longer peeling off and the spider webs were more of a light dusting than the previous bat cave. The rooms and floors were clean. Small kitchen with fridge, freezer, cooker, cutlery, fruit bowl, microwave etc. all present and correct. Not the most uptodate range but clean and working. Cupboards were home to sets of tableware again clean and unchipped.
There was a small but clean bathroom with a shower. My first disappointment was when after travelling for 6 hours or so I went to go to the loo and there was no paper. It doesn't mention this in the brochure as a "bring your own bog roll" holiday the way matches, towels etc. are mentioned but we had done so as we know to expect this as it had been a bit hit and miss in the past, one year it was there the next it wasn't. I think this is a real oversight on behalf of Haven as at 50p a roll its worth putting at least one in the accommodation as a gesture.
The next disappointment was on inspecting the rooms - We had booked an apartment for 5 but found it was two rooms, one with twin beds the other with a double. We were meant to use the sofa in the living room to sleep on.
Now I don't know about you but putting together a bed every night and taking it down every morning is not my idea of a holiday. We ended up giving our daughter the double bed so we could sit in the living room of an evening with a glass of wine without waking her then I slept in with her and hubby slept along the settee with his legs hanging off the end because we couldn't face dismantling it from a settee. On a previous occasion we have had 1 double room and a room with bunks and a single which is so much better.
Although it states in the brochure that beds will be made up on arrival we were saddled with plastic bags full of bedclothes, a quilt and a bare mattress in each room.. A bit of a bind when you are supposed to be on holiday but on the bright side you got to have a good inspection of the quilt and mattress, checking for iffy stains etc. before sleeping there. Thankfully there were none and we made the beds up.
- - Restaurant - -
After unpacking we made our way upto the Turnberry Gardens Restaurant for dinner. To describe Turnberry Gardens as a Restaurant is a little over egging it, school canteen would be more appropriate. You got a tray and lined up like school dinners and as you went along you asked for meat etc to be served to you and then served yourself to chips\potates, vegetables. There was always a roast meat, fish, some kind of pie, vegetarian option, kids option and spicy curry type menu with boiled new potatoes, baked potatoes or chips and a salad bar and while it wasn't the best it certainly wasn't the worst food I have every tasted, drinks such as orange juice, tea, coffee, hot chocolate were free and readily available from the help yourself stands. Starters such as soup and a roll or melon and desserts such as marble cake and custard, rhubarb crumble and cream or custard and cartons of ice-cream were available too.
Breakfast was available here too.- all you can eat
Kippers or smoked mackerel
Fruit (appeared to be more of the tinned variety than fresh)
Fried or scrambled egg, bacon, sausage, potato bread, croissant, fried bread, beans and then you helped yourself by loading a plate with hot toast and lifting butter, jam etc. from the trays.
Very tasty if a little cholestoral inducing.
On occasion the queues were very long and trying to get a table was hard work.
- - Night Time Entertainment - -
The two choice for evening entertainment are the Bonga Wonga and Atlantic Show Bar. The Bonga Wonga was were we spent most of our time as our daughter loved the havenmates showing them dances, and the live shows with Anxious the elephant and Rory the Tiger. Over the course of a week we saw some great shows, a circus, magician, high school musical and a pantomime as well as some slightly bad shows, but bingo every night between each show was mindnumbingly boring. Thankfully the Bonga Wonga is fully licensed. I didn't think the bar prices were all that expensive, but then I don't go out very often and when I do its to a nightclub so what I call a normal price mightn't be what you call it. I think it was around £3.50 for a good sized glass of red wine and a jug of beer was around £10.99 I think it held 4 pints.
In the middle of the two night time venues is an amusement arcade type building with pool, slot machines, machines for winning tickets etc. Good for a few minutes but always leaves you a little lighter in the pocket.
I can only presume there must be a new manager working in Craig Tara, the entertainment ran much more smoothly, the place was cleaner and there were people who could speak English when you made an enquiry
-- Swimming Pool - -
There are male, female and family changing areas available and the pool is quite impressive, and refurbished, within the last year. Numerous slides abound from pool to pool, two water flumes one which is in darkness and is quite a long ride and a large bucket in the shallow pool at the bottom which poured water over everyone now and again when it was full. You need to show your fun work pass to get in and 20p is required for a locker.
- - Outdoor Activities - -
There was a great outdoor playpark but it is the same one untouched since our first visit and the ground is starting to disintegrate and evidence of vandalism rears his head.
There are sports zones, which were good and allowed for football, basketball etc. we never seen one of these available as they are taken up very quickly.
The beach can be reached from the park and its quite a stoney rocky dirty little beach but great for kite flying or lying on if the sun ever comes out.
There are also organized activities such as fencing, judo, archery most of which are £5.00 each for 30 minutes.
Go- Karts, bungee jumping, climbing wall, bouncy castles, small rollercoaster, bouncy slide etc. are all available down near the beach but all at anywhere between £2 and £4 a go. This may not sound like much but if you have 3 kids and each ride go only lasts 2 minutes you'll find £20 gone in 10 minutes or less, that's £140.00 a week for 10 minutes a day on rides.
- - Kids Clubs - -
There is an age 1-4 paws club everyday which my daughter really enjoyed. The nice haven mates got her colouring and cutting, singing and dancing and then quite often this was followed by a story read by one of the characters. You have to stay in the building with them although you are not called upon to amuse them so I sat at the table with my newspaper, a cup of tea and germbuster on the DS for an hour, all in total peace and quiet. The next club is 5 -12 year olds but again you are expected to stay with your kids. Now it may be health and safety or something but a 10 year old can't have fun with his mates with his mum sitting watching him, I do think this age group are old enough to be left and then picked up an hour later.
- - Out and About - -
Ayr it is a nice town with a few nice shops, a few hours worth of window shopping therein.
Ayr Seafront - This is glorious and even if you don't get the weather you should go down and admire the beautiful beach and the old fashioned Blackpoolesque shops selling sweetie dummy tits, candy floss etc
Loudoun Castle is about 30 minutes away (see other review if interested) and is worth a visit.
Heads of Ayr Farm Park is next door - we haven't been there since the kids were little and it was great then, my friend in work went last year and claimed it as the highlight of the holiday for the kids.
McArthur Glen Designer Outlet, Livingston - great mall but took about 90 minutes to get too.
- - Onsite - -
The camp has a number of shops were you can purchase food, drinks, alcohol, pressies, toys etc. They are a little more expensive that the normal high street but not by much on most things.
- - Disadvantages - -
Bingo bloody bingo every night
You need to attend kids clubs with your kids
Everything is a little worn
Ways to get you to spend money everywhere
No free funfair like Butlins
- - Advantages - -
Lovely area and people
Plenty to do around and about Ayrshire
Some of the shows were superb, especially - high school musical and the pantomime - all ages enjoyed these shows and my daughter really enjoyed the character shows.
All in all there were good times and there were bad times. The place isn't the worst in the world, but far from the best. Plenty for kids to do, food edible and slightly better than fish and chips every night. Apartments, basic, shabby, no damn loo roll. If you get this ridiculously cheap and you can have a laugh and a good time just about anywhere then go for it and enjoy.
Summary: Take the car and get out and about every day.