I’ve recently been away for a few days to Centre Parcs (Whinfell Forest) in Penrith. It’s the most pointless waste of money – for me as an Eryri resident. Don’t get me wrong is it lovely and I can see the appeal of it for city dwellers but it’s not for me.
I feel like I don’t need to spend money going to Centre Parcs when I have all the facilities I need at home in and on the outskirts of Eryri (Snowdonia). Let me run through it…
The lodges you stay in are lovely and set in beautiful forest settings. Tall trees surround you and the village is located around a central lake area. So yes, lovely.
But… we have forests and lakes here in Eryri. If you’re after something similar then you can walk through Beddgelert Forest and see one of many lakes such as Llyn y Gadair or Llyn Gwynant.
And whatsmore, the walks we have in Eryri is full of amazing mountain or coastal views and history to be seen at every corner. Slate industry heritage and castles everywhere!
One of the benefits they say with Centre Parcs is that the roads are clear of cars. There are strict rules about bringing cars on site – you can only bring your car to your lodge when you unpack on arrival or pack when you leave. At all other times the car is parked in a central car park (which is bloody miles away – so don’t leave your charger there by mistake!).
Sounds great – and it is – but at home in Eryri I have so many car free cycle routes! They’re mostly on old railway track beds like
- Lon Las Peris (old Llanberis to Caernarfon line)
- Lon Eifion (old Caernarfon to Afonwen line)
- Lon Las Menai (old Bangor to Caernarfon line)
- Lon Las Ogwen (old Penrhyn quarry to Porth Penrhyn line)
- Lon Gwyrfai (Caernarfon to Beddgelert – keep an eye out for Welsh Highland Railway trains!)
- Y Cob (small section from Porthmadog to Boston Lodge – keep an eye out for Ffestiniog Railway trains!
- Mawddach Trail (old Ruabon to Barmouth line)
Centre Parcs have all manner of activities including ziplining, treetop adventures, boating, climbing walls, (indoor) caving, 10 pin bowling, arcades… oh and when you visit, you have to pay for each activity on top of your holiday price. During our visit we took the kids to the climbing wall and to 10 pin bowling. The climbing wall cost £25 each for the kids and the 10 pin bowling cost £39.
The choice is great but at home in Eryri we have alllll of this! Ziplining at Zip World, treetop adventures at Ropeworks Active, watersports at Llyn Padarn with Snowdonia Watersports, boating at Llyn Tegid, caving at Go Below, 10 pin bowling at Glasfryn Parc, climbing walls at Beacon Climbing, arcades in Barmouth….
Another draw of Centre Parcs is the tropical swim centre that they have at each location. Lots of space with slides, rapids, jacuzzi etc. When they say tropical it is warm in there as it’s situated in a big glass dome which basically means you’re swimming in a green house!
Now I will grant them this one as it is good and we haven’t got anything on this scale in Eryri (not yet but there are plans to convert the old Ferodo site into a waterpark). There is SC2 in Rhyl which is similar albeit on a smaller scale.
There are a few chain restaurants at Centre Parcs. At Whinfell Forest there’s an Italian restaurant (Bella Italia), an American style joint (Huck’s) and Cafe Rouge as well as the Pancake House. All very nice places. We sampled Bella Italia on our stay there and it was very entertaining watching the robot servers. The food was nice but price – 2 starters & 2 mains for adults plus a 3 course kids meal each came to £83!
Where do I start? Plenty of places to eat at home in North Wales. There’s an Italian restaurant in Bangor, (Torna A Surriento), an American style diner in Llandudno (Harvey’s New York Bar & Grill).. In Caernarfon there’s a wonderful Dutch pancake house in Scoops. But then there’s so much choice in the local area from the weird and wonderful Sheeps and Leeks which serves 10 course meals of random yet Michelin star food (sweet and sour ants anyone?!), to Indian restaurants (thinking of Sopna Tandoori) or Chinese restaurants (Fu’s in Caernarfon or Jade Village in Menai Bridge is our top choices).
I can’t list all of the eateries here as there are far too many to chose from but what I’m saying is that we can rival any offer that Centre Parcs have.
Now let’s look at the nitty gritty of this shall we? How do prices compare. So we went from Mon-Fri which cost us a grand total of X which can be broken down as follows:
£1400 – Accommodation (3 bed lodge)
£83 – One meal for a family of 4 at Bella Italia
£39 – Wall climbing for 2 children
£39 – 10 pin bowling for a family of 4
To compare this with staying in Eryri
£0 – Accommodation
£75 – One meal for a family of 4
£40 – Wall climbing at Beacon Climbing Centre
£32 – 10 pin bowling at Glasfryn Parc
£75 – Fuel for a week say
£290 – Swimming for 5 days for family of 4 at SC2 Rhyl
So for me the greatest saving is the accommodation as I already live here (it’s the best place on Earth after all). Also for me it would’ve been lovely to keep the pounds in the local economy.
Ah well the kids had a great time so that’s all that matters right?