Our Center Parcs holiday in the Elveden forest
A couple of days ago I wrote a blog about our time in London, and although our focus was not on sightseeing and exploring the city, I shared with you five places of interest I would recommend visiting whist in London with your children. If you haven’t read it and are heading to the UK, why not give it a quick read now.
In that blog, I mentioned that whilst we were in London we spent a week in the Elveden Forest in Suffolk, at a Center Parcs resort.
So, what is Center Parcs
Now, if you are from the UK or Europe, you will probably be familiar with Center Parcs, but if not, you may, like us, have no idea what Center Parcs is.
Center Parcs provides short holiday breaks to the forest on a year-round basis. In the UK they operate five villages, Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire; Elveden Forest in Suffolk; Longleat Forest in Wiltshire; Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire.
Nature is at the heart of everything that Center Parcs does and so the lodges are situated in woodland landscapes and are designed to bring you closer to nature. The accommodation is very comfortable and although you are aware of your neighbours the park is set up in such a way that you do have a semblance of privacy.
Staying at Center Parcs is a good compromise for nature lovers and those that prefer a little bit of luxury. I must say that our bed at our lodge was one of the most comfortable that we have had all year.
The Elveden Forest in Suffolk
We spent our Center Parcs holiday at the Elveden Forest resort, primarily because of its location and proximity to London. Although our experiences are based on Elveden and although no two villages are identical they do share common features and so I am sure our Elveden experience can be related to the other four locations as well.
Elveden offers over 400 acres of lush woodland, a Village Square, Sports Plaza, a sub-tropical indoor swimming complex and an outdoor watersports lake where you can try cable water Skiing or a dramatic zip wire over the water.
For the less adventurous, there is a nine-hole golf course and there are miles of woodland paths to explore, along which you will probably spot some of the muntjac deer that make the Elveden forest their home.
Elveden really does offer something for the whole family, and no matter what your holiday preferences, there is something here to suit everyone. There are many adrenaline-fuelled thrills, wild adventures, relaxing spa treatments and plenty of creative and sporting activities to keep the family busy. Be warned however that all activities, except swimming and playgrounds, are charged per use, so make sure you manage the budget carefully as you could wrack up a hefty bill fairly quickly.
Our time in Elveden Forest
We spent seven days in the Elveden forest and unfortunately for a good number of those days we experienced your typical English summer, so in other words we had lots of rain.
But although we had rain, we were still able to take advantage of all the indoor activities and especially the sub-tropical indoor swimming paradise. For me this is one of the biggest upsides of a Center Parcs holiday, the resort is designed to allow for a great holiday despite the weather.
Outside of enjoying each other’s company, enjoying the natural surroundings of the forest and of course the indoor swimming pools in the sun-tropical paradise, we also had a couple of organized activities booked. These included Pottery painting, football coaching and a nature activity, amongst others.
So as you can see from the pictures, we had loads of fun during our stay, and for that I have to thank my sister and my mom. They did all the planning and organizing of this trip while we were exploring both North and South America. It was a hugely successful and fun week, and the success was in no small part due to all the pre-planning.
Some tips to make your Center Parcs holiday even better
Although we didn’t do the planning for this trip, here are few tips that I think will help make your Center Parcs holiday even better.
Online check in before arrival.
The arrival process was really simple and we were able to head straight through to our new home when we arrived. All the staff were very friendly and helpful and the hardest part about the whole process was finding our lodge. On your first visit the paths and roads seem all the same and a little confusing.
The reason for all this being so easy was that we had already done the online check in. So do make sure you do this head of time. There is nothing worse than having to start your holiday with a mountain of admin.
If you are able to bring along your own bicycle, I would say definitely do so. If, like us you don’t have bikes, or you are unable to bring them, don’t worry there are bike hire facilities in the park. If you are an avid cyclist you will probably want to hire a bike, but if not, my recommendation would be not to worry. The initial urge is to hire one, as the park seems huge and everything feels like its miles apart. We certainly felt like this when we arrived and thought we would have to hire bikes, but it turned out that we didn’t need them and actually things are not that far apart, are in easy walking distance.
The bike rental, in my opinion, is fairly expensive so I say, forego the bikes and rather use the money for something else. Perhaps treat the family to a dinner out at one of the amazing restaurants.
There is a grocery store in the park and it is reasonably well stocked, so you are able to do all your grocery shopping once you arrive. But, do you really want to spend your holiday grocery shopping? Probably not. I therefore recommend doing a grocery shop ahead of time and bring along as much as you can fit in your vehicle. Obviously, you cant shop for the whole week in advance, but you should definitely, at a minimum, bring along a few staples and food for the first night.
Although well supplied the grocery store is not the cheapest. So by shopping in advance you will not only save yourself the time and hassle of grocery shopping while on holiday but also a few quid.
There are literally hundreds of activities to choose from. They all sound amazing so the hardest part is trying to decide what to do. The activities do however book out quickly so it is advisable to book online in advance. Be warned the activities do come with a hefty price tag. Therefore, do your research and choose wisely. This is actually another good reason to book in advance. By booking in advance you can control your costs and make sure you stay within the budget.
My Final Thoughts
That is a quick summary or our Center Parcs experience and a few, hopefully, helpful tips to make your holiday just as enjoyable as ours.
Overall, we had a great time, and if we were UK based I am sure we would be back. It feels like the kind of place that your family could grow up at. Each time you return, everyone would be slightly older and thus be able to do new and different things. A place that can provide familiarity on your return and yet at the same time, a new and different experience on each visit.
If you live in the UK, and have a family, I highly recommend choosing a Center Parcs village for your next holiday. You will have a blast and I am sure you will continue to visit year after year.
However, if travelling from outside the UK, you may want to give a Center Parcs trip a skip. You will probably want to spend your time seeing the major sites and cities of the UK instead, and you will probably find that your budget will go a bit further.
Until next time