Well here we are in early February 2020, a weekend at Center Parcs Longleat, there is a huge storm coming our way and we are off for a long weekend at Center Parcs at Longleat, situated in Longleat forest, in Wiltshire, South West England. https://www.centerparcs.co.uk/discover-center-parcs/holiday-locations/longleat-forest.html
We have booked a three bedroom woodland lodge from Friday until Monday for the princely sum of £750. Seems a bit expensive
Guests are allowed to use the facilities of the park from 10am, so we aimed to get there round about 1pm. The lodge will be available from 3pm.
Everything was going great until we got to the entrance of CenterParcs. The car queue must have ‘snaked’ about 300 cars. All eager to do as we are and use the facilities to maximum effect. To be fair it didn’t take long for the queue to go down. Armed with our rubber ID/Front door/ Swimming Poll locker wristbands we were parked at the main car park.
You suddenly become aware of the huge size of the parc/park. There is ample parking, albeit the early ‘arrivees’ got to park close to the main facilities. On your last day you can use the facilities throughout the day so there may have been more cars than usual where people have stayed on.
It is now about 1.30pm so the idea is to have a quick familiarisation around the Plaza, and sub tropical swimming paradise (Their description not mine) and then drive to our lodge.
First impressions are important, and I was impressed! I did wonder if the supermarket, Parcmarket, would be overpriced, but not at all. Yes the prices were slightly higher but then CenterParcs are aiming at a certain level of customer. Not sure what I was doing there! There were burger bars, bars, restaurants, shops, and an amusement arcade to keep everyone amused throughout the weekend.
3 O’Clock came and I, together with about 7,000 other cars joined up as a ‘snake’ and drove to our apartments. That was when I really appreciated how big the complex is. We were staying at the Firs complex, on the left hand side as you view the map. We were about 1.5 miles from the Plaza (See above, the main area of entertainment). I was concerned how we would get back to the plaza, however my worries were lifted later that evening when I realised there was a train/bus.
The lodge we had was a three bed, 2 toilet/1 bathroom unit. The kitchen area had everything you need to manage family meals. There was good central heating, washing machine, ironing board (And iron), even a blackboard that the children or adults can draw on. TV and subdued lighting completed the lodge.
The main communal area was a good size with even an eight seating dining table. Perfect.
The idea is that once you have off loaded the luggage, you park in the main car park, and collect shortly before departure several days later. We took the decision as it was cold and rainy to go swimming, then drop the children off and later take the car back.
The sub tropical swimming paradise was really everything a young family could ask for. It was heated in the pool, but to be fair it was a bit cold when you were walking around. There are a number of individual pool areas, a baby pool with slides and fountains, a young child pool with spurt fountains and slides, adult area with wave machine. Also slides for all ages, and an excellent outside heated wild water rapids.
The changing rooms were a bit chaotic at times due to the amount of people and some changing room doors not locking.
Later that afternoon we returned to the lodge, fed the children and then a couple of adults took the cars back to the main car park. This gave us the opportunity to research the bar area! The bar we went to was situated on the lower level of the Plaza. Within the bar area was a 10 pin type bowling area for all ages. It looked great fun. The bar was very much a ‘plastic corporate’type bar selling an array of lagers, but decent bitter was not available. I had a bottle of Doom bar which was fine. I suspect the bar is presented this way, ie lots of lager, as perhaps the turnover of staff means no one can look after the ale pipes as in a normal pub. But I appreciate that, and there is a good selection of beers available in the supermarket. Even some local beers from the ‘steam company.’ Of course this is a family theme place and emphasis is probably put more on looking after people who retire to their lodges each evening with products form the supermarket.
Also within the Plaza is a very busy ‘Bella Italia’ Italian Restaurant and a Cafe Rouge.
To get back the 1.5 miles to the lodge is easy in that you take the shuttle train/bus which runs every 20 minutes. There are ample, well placed, train stops near all the accommodation.
Saturday morning brings sunshine, but still very cold, and a trip on the train. Today we are going to hire bicycles from the main cycle centre. This is not a cheap pastime. I hired a mountain bike for the weekend and this cost £33. Helmet and lock was included. We also hired a bike with a child trailer, which just about accommodated a 4 year and a 1 year old child together, this was £66 for the weekend. All the bikes were of good quality. There is facility to hire an electric bike, but these were all pre booked, so be aware if you are thinking of an electric bike.
Along with the bikes are maps showing the trails. Although CenterParcs Longleat is hilly, the paths meander around the areas on a longer route with slight inclines.
The weekend pretty much involved cycling and swimming, with the occasional visit to the Plaza bar.
The weather was dreadful so more swimming than cycling.
Lake, sports plaza and spa
Close to the Firs accommodation is the lake, sports plaza and spa.
In better weather you can hire a small dingy, but not this weekend. The sports plaza has badminton and tennis courts, sports complex, etc. Also further bars, and even an Rajinda Paresh Indian Restaurant. There is a climbing wall if you feel adventurous.
I did come here with reservations that we may get ‘ripped off’ but not at all. One of the adults in the party went for a spa costing £50, expecting not a lot, but was pampered throughout and was pleased with the price.
I would go again, but perhaps when the storms are not going through the area.
All in all, great fun.