I've just spent the last week at the Whinfell Centerparcs and have had the most fantastic time. The first time I went to a Centreparcs last year, it was just me and my husband, so we ended up playing tag team with one of us looking after the little one whilst the other one went off to do an activity - it made booking stuff a nightmare especially as the creche times didn't seem to coincide with any of the activities we wanted to do. This time I brought my parents along which gave us a chance to do things together whilst they looked after our son. I had meant to take a load of photos whilst we were there, but I ended running round so much from one thing to the other I never seemed to get the time! So you'll just have to believe me when I say that I actually managed to drum up the courage to go abseiling (probably had something to do with most of the group being under 12 years old - just would have been way too embarrasing if I bottled it in front of them when they did it)!
So for the review:
First thing was the accomodation. We had a 3 bedroom Comfort plus logde which was set in woodland and very comfortable though the decor is a little dated (I belive they are currently undergoing a rennovation program for a number of the lodges to a more modern style). We were situated fairly close to the Sports Pavillion which was quite handy for most of the activities we had booked. You have all the comforts of home apart from washing machine, but there is a laundrette on site. Down stairs there is a large open plan kitchen/dining/lounge area and one bedroom with an en-suite. Upstairs was another bathroom and two twin rooms. There's a collapsable cot provided which we put in one of the twin rooms though our little one still seemed to end up in our bed most nights!
There are cycle tracks and footpaths throughout the site and you can hire bikes on site or bring your own. The terrain is a bit undulating though if you don't like cycling up hill. We didn't bother with bikes and just walked everywhere this time which we found easy enough.
If you have small children I would definately reccomend bringing along the grandparents to do a bit of babysitting (luckily ours are very ameniable to this as we live far away so unfortunately they don't get to see him very often). I'd also reccomend not being too ambitious and booking lots of activities otherwise you end up running yourself ragged trying to get from one thing to another (which can take a while on the large site). First off Mark did the Quad Biking experience followed by Abseiling for both of us. I somewhat foolhardily signed up for this one thinking it might be something like a rock face, but was rather daunted to see it involved climbing up to a platform about the height of my town house roof (eek), standing with your back against the wall while they check your harness then most scarry of all, stepping forward to the edge of the platform while they connect you to the second rope. Then you have to turn round and slowly lean back over the edge, letting the second rope out as you go. I'd thought going over the edge would be the worst bit, but as you can't see down at that point and you can feel the the rope is taught and holding you it's not so bad. It's just that bit when you're standing at the top on the edge that really makes your heart sink to your toes. After I'd done it the first time, I knew what was coming so it wasn't quite so terrifying - I was really pleased with myself at the end of it for not bottling out.
After the abseling, I had a quick dash back to the lodge to get changed, grab a sandwich and run back over to the village centre for the pottery painting session I'd booked (not realising the abseiling was 2hrs, I mucked my timing up a bit hence having to dash all over the place). At Whinfell the pottery painting (done in association with Flying Saucers) is done in the Green Room where they have evening entertainments. It wasn't as good a set up as in Longleat where they had a dedicated Pottery Painting cafe, but the staff there were very helpful and fetched me a cup of tea from the bar whilst I did my painting. It wasn't quite the relaxing experience I'd intended as I was still pumping with adrenaline from the absailing and my hands were shaking quite a bit, but I enjoyed myself and painted a plate to match the mug that I'd done at Longleat last year.
Wednesday we did the snorkelling session which was great fun, followed by a morning in the pool. In the afternoon I had an art class where the teacher had example paintinings with step by step pictures of how they were done for people to copy. I'm not much of a painter, but I was fairly happy with what I did (though not enough for it to be hanging on the wall any time soon) given that we only had 2 hours.
Thursday morning Mark & I went off site for a pony trek - would have been fab apart from the biting cold (really wish I'd remembered my gloves), but despite that we had a great time. Next time if we go I'd like to do the young families trek - our son was just shy of the cut off age by about a month this time, but I think he'd have been a bit little even if it was after his birthday. They did all look very cute on their tiny ponies though - just like something out of a Thellwell cartoon. After the trek we went back to the Lodge to defrost and have lunch. In the afternoon I hit the spa with my mum - very relaxing. It has a number of different spa's and saunas that you can wonder round (such as Balinese Steam room, Greek Herbal Spa, Turkish Hammam etc), two pools and lots of areas for relaxing. You can also book additionally (or seperately) for various massage/facial type treatments.
Well, with various interruptions etc this has taken me most of the day to write (yeah I know I'm dead slow), so I think I'll call it a day for now. Tomorrow I hope to have time to cover some of the other bits like the resteraunts on site. Ta ta for now.