We love our UK holidays – we really do. Yet despite living just an hour and a half from the Lake District, we’d never been to Whinfell Forest before this week.
But we decided to go Center Parcs this time having heard some fab things about Whinfell in particular. We stayed from 1st to 5th May.
Whinfell Forest Review – The Very Short Version
If you want to save yourself reading this rather long review, then here’s a summary of the points I’ve made throughout:
- Stayed in a 3 bed 2 storey new style lodge at Whinfell Forest
- Stayed 4 nights (Monday to Friday) during term time in Spring 2017
- In the party – my husband and I, my Mum, Step Dad, 2 year old son and 7 week old son
- Standard of accommodation in the new style executive lodges is fantastic
- Amazing surroundings which the children just loved
- Roads through the park are traffic free during most of the stay – again great for kids
- Swimming pool is fantastic
- No supermarket deliveries allowed. Our car is always stuffed full when we go away and I’ve always ordered shopping from Asda/Tesco to arrive on site when we arrive at other independent parks. Center Parcs doesn’t allow any external deliveries at all. So it meant we had to either force a shop into the car or buy everything from the on site Parc Market, which has a relatively limited selection (though big by comparison to other holiday parks) and is on the pricey side. This was an inconvenience rather than a really big negative but certainly one thing I’d like to change (i.e deliveries allowed during check in and check out times or similar)
Would we go back?
Yes. Most definitely. In fact, I’ll be taking advantage of the ‘Come Back Soon,’ offer and booking a repeat visit soon.
We booked a 2 storey new style executive lodge at Whinfell Forest. We booked a 3 bedroom lodge as my Mum and Step Dad were joining us for the stay too. We booked a Monday to Friday right at the start of May, outside the school holidays and so the stay wasn’t much more expensive in price than Darwin Forest.
I also downloaded the app because this seemed the most efficient way to book activities in advance.
First thing I booked – early check in. Everyone I know who has been to Whinfell Forest cited the checking in process (through a very busy drive through style system) as being the biggest pain in the backside. As we knew we’d be travelling with a baby of a few weeks and our toddler, we didn’t fancy a huge queue straight off the back of the drive. So for £35, we booked to check in a couple of hours earlier in the day.
Aside from that, we booked a few activities I’ll talk about later.
The Lodge – 2 Storey New Style Executive
As soon as we arrived at Whinfell and checked in, we headed straight for the lodge. We were in Meadow View in lodge number 4, which is the closest part of Meadow View to the village centre. We were around a 10 minute walk from the village centre or just a couple of minutes by bike.
We stayed in a new style 2 storey executive lodge, which had:
- 3 bedrooms
- 3 bathrooms (an en suite for each bedroom) – 2 with hydro baths and one with a rainforest style shower
- An infrared sauna
- Large open plan lounge, dining room and kitchen
- A patio to the back with a table and chairs (plus barbecue stand)
The lodge was impeccably clean and very modern. The interior was absolutely perfect and we were straight out into the forest from the back door, which our toddler just loved.
Here are some photos of our lodge:
The interior was very modern and high spec:
I was a big fan of the infrared sauna!
Center Parcs also provided a good quality high chair (makes all the difference!), safety gates at both the top and bottom of the stairs and a decent quality wooden cot (no linen supplied).
There are bike racks outside each property too, of course. And a chalk board, which was a hit with our toddler:
The outdoor seating area was lovely:
In our lodge, the patio was raised slightly off the ground with steps, so I wouldn’t let my little boy out there without one of us blocking the steps! But down the steps there was a hug forest for him to explore, so we didn’t actually spent much time on the patio area itself.
A Tiny Whinge – Needed Hydrobath Instructions!
I have one complaint and it’s a very first world one indeed! I couldn’t find instructions for the hydrobaths anywhere. I was Googling all variants of “how to switch on hydrobaths at Center Parcs,” and what not to no avail. There was no documentation in the bathroom itself and no instructions in any of the documentation in the lodge.
There was a little touch pad in the corner of the bath that just literally had one icon on it that wasn’t pressable. It was flashing so I figured it must be this. After quite some time of messing around with it (and eventually on day three!) I got bubbles to turn on. They were very, very loud though! And oddly, half hour or so after I’d turned them off and left the room they turned themselves back on again in an empty bath! The same thing happened in the second bath in the other bedroom.
They were a bit loud too.
Incidentally, if you are currently trying to switch on a hyrobath at Whinfell Forest, just put your finger over that little touchpad for a few seconds and they should turn on. Do the same thing again to turn them off!
Whinfell Forest Itself
This place is absolutely beautiful. Make no mistake! And it’s a beautiful thing when your back door opens to this view:
Our son just loved wandering around the forest.
The Swimming Pool
Included in the price of a stay at any of the Center Parcs is the subtropical swimming complex. It’s just amazing for people of all ages. The water is kept at a toasty 29.5 degrees, so it was even warm enough for me to take my 7 week old son in.
We visited from 9:30 for the Baby Dolphins session, which is a session that takes place 30 minutes before the general opening times to allow 0 – 3 year olds to get a bit of time in the water while it’s quieter.
Slides, waves, warm water and a dedicate children’s pool – just perfect.
With a toddler in tow, playgrounds are a huge consideration for us. What attracted us to Whinfell Forest in the first place was the fact we’d read about several indoor and outdoor play areas. In other words, whatever the weather we knew we would have something for our toddler to do.
The large adventure playground just outside the village centre is huge. However, most of the equipment was too big for our 2 year old to use. But there’s another smaller playground near the Sports Plaza and this one was right up his street!
I imagine if we revisit in a year or so, the bigger one will be exactly what he wants.
The Lakeside Inn and Sports Cafe both have reasonable sized soft play areas for children, while the Leisure Bowl and Cafe Rouge have smaller ones.
Our son was equally entertained, however, by simply wandering around the forest. Great weather helped there!
On the whole, though, there is plenty of choice for play areas for children and this is definitely a plus point.
There are over 200 activities to choose from. We booked 3 of them for our 2 year old son:
- Mini Trek
- Fun Pots with Tots
- Teddy Bear’s Picnic
You can read more about what we thought of the activities here.
But on the whole we thought they were well organised and great value.
I was also really impressed with the choice of activities. Next time, we will plan our itinerary better to allow for the grown ups to do some activities too!
We hired bikes and a trailer for our toddler (my Mum was enjoying walking around with our newborn!). At £29 for each bike and another £29 for the trailer for the duration of our stay, it was the biggest single expense while there. But it represents reasonable value, I think. And it was well worth it. There’s so much exploring to do by bike and it makes getting around much quicker.
Beware the hills, though!! Some of those hills were a definite work out!
Restaurants and Cafes on Site
It was our anniversary while we were there, so we actually ventured off site into Penrith for a meal and didn’t eat out any other night for an evening meal. We did have lunch in the Sports Cafe and a late breakfast in Dexter’s during our stay though. The Sports Cafe was disappointing. A mojito, pint of Guinnes and 2 cheeseburgers set us back £38! And the burgers and chips were mediocre at best and tasted reheated.
Our breakfasts at Dexter’s, on the other hand, were tasty, fresh and decent value by comparison to other places.
Other eateries within Whinfell Forest include:
- Cafe Rouge
- Bella Italia
- Rajinda Pradesh
- The Lakeside Inn
We had a couple of drinks in the Lakeside Inn and really quite enjoyed the atmosphere in there.
Now, including the weather in a Center Parcs review might seem unfair. After all, there isn’t much they can do about it is there? But we were so lucky with the weather, having had glorious sunshine all week. It wasn’t overly warm all the time, but certainly bright. And yes, that definitely makes a difference I think. It meant we were able to be out and about walking and cycling all the time.
That said, there are plenty of indoor activities and options for rainy days too, from swimming to bowling, a range of indoor sports and crafts and the spa.
The reason I’m including reference to the weather in a review of Whinfell Forest is simply because a concern of my own before going was how we’d spend our time if it rained all week. Having spent time there, (despite it not raining at all!) I can see just how many rainy day options there are.
Will we be back?
Yes! Our family had an absolutely amazing time at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest. Perhaps that’s the only thing you really need to know from a review and it’s definitely the best endorsement I can give.
I took loads more photos at Whinfell Forest and I’ll share them on Flickr here for anyone interested in seeing more.