This weekend my wife and I drove to Center Parcs Longleat for a short break, from Friday to Monday at a snazzy Executive Lodge in the forest.
We hoped for some quality time together away from the kids, to de-stress and relax – we were not disappointed.
After driving for over two hours to get there, we collected our keys and visitor pack from the front gate about half four then drove through to our lodge. It was situated only a few minutes walk from the Plaza – where you’ll find shops, swimming facilities, cafe’s, bars and restaurants which meant it was perfect. We parked up outside our lodge, unloaded our stuff then drove to the car park. This whole process took less than half hour and was no bother at all.
Back in the lodge, it more than exceeded our expectations. At Center Parcs you definitely get value for money. We stayed in a one bedroom lodge, so there was a lovely kitchen in the centre, a living area to the right complemented by corner sofa, widescreen television and open fire.
On the other side of the kitchen there was a dining table, and then across from that a comfy bedroom. We’ve stayed in a lot of hotels and were at first concerned about the kind of sleep we’d get at Center Parcs. Past experiences in hotel beds has not been very good. Suffice to say the bed in our lodge was one of the softest we’ve ever come across. We both slept soundly with no issues.
I want to make a point here that Center Parcs Longleat were more than generous in that they provided two fluffy pillows each, more than enough soft white towels for both of us, and plenty toilet tissue. You’d be surprised the amount of places (I’m looking at you, Disneyland Paris!) who skimp on things like that.
Not at Center Parcs Longleat. And that’s not even counting the dishwasher tablets, dishcloth, sponge, tea towel, pods for the Senseo coffee machine, tea, coffee, sugar etc that are waiting for you in the kitchen when you arrive. In terms of making an instant impact when you arrive, I can’t sing their praises enough.
The bathroom comes equipped with a gigantic shower, and a jacuzzi bath with overhead shower. There were two toilets for convenience, too. Surely unheard of anywhere else.
It was dark by the time we popped out to the Plaza on our first night to have a quick look around, but we found the grounds well-lit and easy to find our way about. I was surprised to find an outside pool, all lit up. Running around that were rapids that visitors were enjoying well into the night as it was heated – you could see the steam rising from it.
After an hour or so of looking around the shops in the Plaza, we decided to grab a coffee at Starbucks (they have two!) and head back to our lodge. On the way we discovered they have a land train that runs at regular intervals around the entire resort, well into the night. This is extremely handy if you’re staying in one of the lodges down by the lake and want to get to and fro the Plaza with minimal fuss.
At night we set a fire and roasted marshmallows while watching a few DVD’s. I may or may not have consumed some alcohol at this point, but I’ll leave that up to your imagination . . .
This being our first time there, we didn’t try any of the activities there are on offer. We were lucky with the weather – it was cool and misty, and only rained on the day we left – so we were able to take long walks around the resort, exploring every nook and cranny. During the weekend we visited the Winter Wonderland and got to know the reindeer there. We were astonished by the sheer scale of the trees. It really pays to take a moment to look around you, on a long walk, and really take it all in. It was so relaxing to be in among nature like that. Throughout the whole weekend there was a persistent mist coming up off of the lake and it was lovely, it added to the mood. On the sunday night there were fireworks and we stood watching them light the sky, felt the trees shudder with every explosion. The mist seemed to take the colour of each one and amplify it – it was a wonderful experience and we both stood there like a couple of kids watching it.
I managed to get some time in writing while we were there. On the saturday I turned to admire the colours of the trees and was lucky enough to spot a deer walk out of nowhere. Alas by the time I’d run to get my camera and come back to the window, it was gone. A small stream ran at the back of our lodge, feeding into a small lake. A duck made regular visits to our patio door and waited for us to feed it bits of crumpet and toast.
We did have a few problems, but I cannot fault the customer service provided by Center Parcs whatsoever. In fact it’s what sold me on them the most. We had a problem with our gas oven on saturday. We ran the repair line and they sent an engineer straight out. He said the oven was too hot to fix. He couldn’t apologize enough and rang straight through to customer services in front of us. He then handed me the phone and the lady on the other end asked if we’d be happy with a pizza from the takeaway service Center Parcs offer. My wife and I didn’t have to wait too long for a giant 16″ pizza to arrive. The next day two engineers came out, made a repair to the oven. We started cooking our dinner on it, then it conked out again. We rang the repair line and were offered £30 in vouchers for the inconvenience.
Obviously it was a bit of a pain in the backside having the oven break like that, but I cannot fault Center Parcs staff in the slightest. They handled our complaint promptly and couldn’t do enough for us. We totally understand that things like this happen – stuff breaks. At the end of the day, the only option the staff have is to get it repaired as soon as possible, and do what they can to recompense you for the inconvenience, which is what they did.
All in all a great stay at a great resort. The accommodation is top notch, the staff are excellent and the surroundings themselves are breathtaking. I can’t wait to return. The next time I’d love to take the kids for a weekend – I know they’ll love it as much as we did. On the last day I didn’t want to leave – that tells you everything.
Now for some snaps: