I love the idea of getting back to nature, but I’m not really one for roughing it. Which is why ever since No 1 Son was little we’ve been taking him to Center Parcs for mini-breaks. I love the fact that you’re right there in the middle of a forest and can wake up to find rabbits and deer on your doorstep – but your villa has all mod-cons.
We’ve stayed at Longleat, Elevden Forest and Sherwood Forest, and had a fabulous time in all three. Last year we went with friends and their kids – so four teenagers in total. We hired bikes and the kids were able to enjoy the kind of freedom they don’t really get living in the city. Everyone enjoyed the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, particularly the rapids, and my mum friend and I were able to enjoy a whole morning of being pampered in the Aqua Sana. (I’ve been to spas all over the world, and the treatments and facilities at Aqua Sana really are fab. There are lots of different delicious experiences to try, including a Greek herbal bath, Balinese steam room and Tyrolean sauna, and the facials are wonderful.)
We always self-cater, so we had lots of barbecues, and our executive villa had a games room, including snooker table, which was a big hit with the boys. There was also a sauna. (I’d really love to try one of the Treehouses the next time we visit).
The beauty of Center Parcs, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, is that there are countless activities on offer – but you can do as much, or as little as you want. My advice would be to book maybe one activity (and bikes) and leave it at that, because once you’re there, time sort of runs away with you.
And if you’re looking for a half-term or weekend break then check out the Center Parcs autumn breaks – and there’s a fantastic new family water ride opening at Elveden Forest. It’s one of my favourite times of year to visit, because it’s not too busy and the parks look absolutely stunning. See you there.