This post is a review of our recent Center Parcs holiday at Whinfell Forest in Penrith. I’ve also added some tips on how we made the most of our holiday. We went for a Monday to Friday stay and of course, we chose the only week which included snow that brought the whole country to a stand still this winter!
On arrival we were surprised at how long the queue was! You aren’t allowed to drive your car to your lodge until 3pm but you are allowed to park your car up and go for a wander around the forest. We arrived around 2pm and were very surprised, as it wasn’t a school holiday or anything like that. I can only imagine the queues been twice as long in the summer time! Check in couldn’t have been easier, all you do is drive up (like a McDonald’s drive through) and see the lovely reception staff. I had put all our details in online so that speeded up the process and when we drove in they knew all our details, this is a must to do. We were handed a map of the forest and our key fobs for the lodge and lockers at the swimming pool.
We had wanted to hire bikes for the week but we were unsure which would be best for Tobias so didn’t do it prior and I’m glad we didn’t. Due to the snow, bikes would have been useless for the whole week. But I certainly want to get some the next time we go!
I had completed a full grocery shop for the week on the Friday before we set off. I had planned what each day would kinda look like activity wise, what food we would need and if we were going out, which helped keep the costs down. There is a supermarket on site which I found reasonable in price and kept us topped up if we ran out of something such as bread and milk. I had considered the welcome pack that you can purchase prior to going and I may try that in the future to make life easier, especially on the first night.
From reading other blogs I thought that I would need certain essentials but found that I had packed a lot of things that we didn’t really need, such as extra bin bags, toilet roll, dishwasher tablets etc. The only thing that was missing from the accommodation was salt and pepper, thankfully we had taken our own.
Some recommendations would be:
• There is the option to order a takeaway which can include pizza, indian or chinese. We had one on our second night and it was delicious we only waited half an hour for them to bring it to us and you can pay by card which is always a bonus.
• Take as much wine and beer as you need. It’s really expensive in the restaurants and the super market, which Gavin is still complaining about!
• We did a BBQ on the first night (I know it was freezing!) We took a disposable tray with us and a variety of meats. It was great we served it with some potato wedges that I cooked in the oven and a salad, it was a quick and easy tea.
The accommodation comprised of a hallway with a cloakroom to the side, an open plan kitchen, dining room and tv area. Then upstairs was a double bed with ensuite, where the bath was and a twin room with an ensuite, this had a walk in shower. I made two faux pars with the booking. In the future I will make sure that we go for a detached property as we could hear the neighbours (I’m sure they heard us too) and there was no fireplace!!! I’d packed logs but couldn’t use them so I will be making sure we have that facility next time, that’s a must!! The beds were really comfy, the bathrooms were amazing and Tobias loved the bubbles in the hydrotherapy bath. The only complaint I had was the sofas were too hard, but I guess we wouldn’t have been sitting on them quite as much if the weather was a little fairer.
Activities: do your research and book before you go is the general theme I get from talking to other people. This is the kind of holiday that needs planning. We were only able to do certain activities due to Tobias’ age but as he gets older there becomes a lot more available to him, which I’m sure he will want to do!
On the Monday once we dropped our car off we went for a walk to find our lodge and to get our bearings with where the main function center was. We grabbed some late lunch and by the time we had finished it was time to pick up the car and unload our belongings into the lodge. Gavin took the car back to the car park whilst I unpacked the food and once he got back he started with the BBQ. I gave Tobias a bath, we ate dinner and then it was bedtime.
We woke on the Tuesday to snow, everywhere! After breakfast we went swimming, which Tobias went crazy about, there was so much choice and different areas for him to explore. The only thing he wasn’t too sure about was the wave machine that simulates the ocean. We went home for lunch as Tobias was knackered from his busy morning and once he woke back up we went for a walk around the lake to explore other lodges and the sports plaza. We ended the day with a takeaway and an early night.
On the Wednesday morning, Gavin woke to find me with stomach pains and the dreaded D&V! All night I had been up and down to the toilet, at the time I put it down to the takeaway but it turns out there’s a bug going around and now the whole family have had it! I stayed in bed for the full day, exhausted whilst Gavin looked after Tobias. They went for a walk in the snow to see the birdhouse.
The Thursday I perked up a little and we went out for a walk in the morning, followed by lunch at home and Tobias’ nap. We then went swimming in the afternoon which worked better for us. Tobias managed to last longer without getting overtired and it was great. We went out for tea at Cafe Rouge which was lovely and we came home to watch a movie, the new Kingsmen movie.
The Friday ended with us worrying about how we would get home due to the weather and roads being closed. Gavin contacted a farming buddy who lives in Penrith and we ended up going up to Carlisle, following Hadrian’s wall all the way to Newcastle (the other side of the country) and then down the A1, back home. Turning a two hour journey into a five hour car drive with a one year old, needless to say I was ready for my bed by the end of it. Before we left though, we had had breakfast at the pancake house and I would say this is a must for everyone to go to! They were amazing and we will definitely be doing this every time we go.
I wish we could have done the free treasure trail that you are given a map of, on arrival but I wanted to do it on bikes, which was never going to happen that week! I also wouldn’t have minded visiting the Spa. I was a scared to go in as I am pregnant and didn’t know what would be available to me, so I shall wait till baby is here before attempting to go for some kind of therapy.
There’s so much variety in eating out. Different types of restaurants means that everyone is catered for. We did keep getting asked if we had booked so I think they prefer you to do so in advance. All the staff were excellent and the food was always good.
I think the main point I want to make is that the swimming pool is free and it’s great for all ages. For going to the pool I would recommend:
• take your own beach towels (They are available to hire but at a cost).
• there’s a cafe in the pool area so if you know you will want food or drink take money with you.
• buoyancy jackets are provided free of charge, so you won’t need to take your own. But be warned they run out quickly.
From my point of view, we had a lovely time. Traveling abroad on a plane doesn’t appeal to me anymore with young kids so I would prefer to do something like this twice a year with my family. We spent all our time together, exploring and discovering new places and bonding.