Travel: Escaping the madness at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest, Cumbria
Flat out at work, caught-up in the school-run mayhem and after-school club madness - sometimes townies like me have just got to kick back and head for the hills .
But if like me, you’re not accustomed to gore-tex boots and anoraks, there’s one place where you can get complete relaxation in a city-dweller style, taste-of-the-country haven.
Center Parcs was designed for families like mine. We love to be out and about, but not too far from our home comforts.
Tents and communal toilets are not for us, but a smart lodge in the middle of a tranquil forest - now you’re talking.
Center Parcs at Whinfell Forest in Cumbria is just 90 minutes from the North East and it’s like being in another world.
As soon as you leave the A66 and turn into long driveway up to the parc you start to feel relaxed.
The super-efficient check-in service staff give you all the info you need for your stay - including your wrist-band lodge keys that enable you to pay for items throughout your stay.
And after depositing the wife and kids with the bags - you leave the car in the car-park ready for a traffic-free stay.
The lodges are simply ideal - with everything you need. Tastefully decorated with all amenities, including fridge, freezer, oven, microwave and dishwasher, TV and DVD player.
'‹'‹We stayed in a two-bed woodland lodge with a separate bathroom- but there is a variety of accommodation, including more exclusive executive suites available with en-suite facilities and whirlpool baths..
We hired bikes for our stay - a chance to stretch the legs a bit and it’s completely safe to ride around without the worry of any cars on the roads.
And nothing is more than a few minutes away on the bikes and you can explore all Center Parcs has to offer.
The village centre is where the tropical pool paradise is situated - which is free for all guests to use. It has an array of slides and attractions for all ages. And with eating and drinking areas - you can stay as little or as long as you like.
The village also houses some of the Parcs’ restaurants, including Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge.
Admittedly, the restaurants are not the cheapest, but the beauty of it here is you don’t have to eat out if you don’t want to. There’s a supermarket on site and most take their own food and drink for the stay.
For our first night we went to Lakeside Inn, a pub/restaurant just a stroll from the village where families can relax.
Great for overlooking the activity lake and there’s plenty of choice on the menu, with a good kid’ menu and well-stocked bar to help you unwind even more - but be careful on the cycle ride back!!!
The other two nights of our stay we in, cooking one night, and then taking of advantage of the on-site take-away for the other. What’s great is it has a multi-choice menu. So I had Chinese while the wife had Indian, and it was pizza for the kids.
What makes Center Parcs so great is the range of activities on offer, from the relaxing spa and gym for adults, to climbing, roller skating, football, tennis and tree-top adventures for little ones and families alike.
My two girls opted for the climbing wall this time - which is situated in the Sports Plaza - yet another centre on site where all your indoor sports and activities are held.
The wife took to the spa for a relaxing Saturday morning while I took the kids off climbing, and it was Starbucks latte and mobile video for me while the kids had a magic time.
Lunch and a few drinks in the sports bar were the order of the day after that, while the kids played in one of the many parks.
Back to the lodge after a busy day and some TV and a tipple in the beautiful forest surroundings with a pheasant and a family of ducks for company on our patio - which the kids just loved.
A lazy morning and in the pool for some more fun on Sunday before the little one found her dancing legs at the kiddie disco later.
You can do as much or as little as you like at Center Parcs. It can be action-packed, fun-filled or complete rest and relaxation - ot a little bit of all.
Monday is time to depart. But you can still hang around until 3pm to enjoy the activities if you want. The stay would not complete without a visit to the Pancake House which we did before we waved farewell to a cracking weekend.
Center Parcs can be a little pricey, but for me I get a cast-iron guarantee of a great break/holiday. What’s not to love?
You can book a two-bedroom Woodland Lodge at Whinfell Forest for a three-night weekend break from Â£529. Visit www.centerparcs.co.uk to book.