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I tried the Center Parcs-alternative holiday parks in the UK – with huge swimming pools and lakeside lodges

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IF you’re a big fan of the Center Parcs vibe but not the prices, there’s lots of UK alternatives that might be worth a look. 

My family regularly stayed at Center Parcs sites until rising costs put it beyond our budget about five years ago. 

Here's what I think of the Center Parcs alternatives in the UK

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Here’s what I think of the Center Parcs alternatives in the UKCredit: Bluestone

But since then, we’ve explored parks across England and Wales to see which have recreated the forest feel, luxury lodges, subtropical swimming zone and outdoor activities we know and love at Center Parcs.

I’ve taken my boys, aged five, nine and 11, to a number of alternative holiday parks across the UK.

All of these have elements of the Center Parcs magic to them, although none has the whole package, so you need to pick and choose which bits are best for you and then match your break accordingly.

Bluestone, Pembrokeshire

Bluestone in Pembrokeshire is probably the closest you’ll get, with the Blue Lagoon adventure pool boasting waves, flumes, lazy river and the like.

Read more on holiday parks

We particularly loved the open-sided Serendome, offering outdoor activities like high ropes under cover while still enjoying the bracing Welsh air.

And the upside-down platinum lodges, where an upstairs sunroom had sliding doors that could be opened to the elements, was the perfect place to stay.

Bluestone has an amazing indoor waterpark

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Bluestone has an amazing indoor waterparkCredit: Bluestone National Park Resort
The open-sided part of the waterpark is great for warmer weather

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The open-sided part of the waterpark is great for warmer weatherCredit: Catherine Lofthouse

Tattershall Lakes Country Park, Lincolnshire

Tattershall Lakes also has lots of lovely lodges, some with hot tubs.

It really makes the most of its lakeside location, with its entertainment complex, playground, lido and indoor splash pad all looking out over the water.

I also enjoyed the atmosphere in the old-time Spiegeltent, where you can catch a show, although you have to pay extra for tickets, so in that way it’s a bit too close to Center Parcs for my liking!

Tattershall Lakes has an amazing lido

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Tattershall Lakes has an amazing lidoCredit: Away Resorts
The lake has loads of activities too

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The lake has loads of activities tooCredit: Catherine Lofthouse
A look at one of Europe’s Center Parcs complexes in the Netherlands

Haven Wild Duck, Great Yarmouth

Haven Wild Duck has grasped the forest feel of Center Parcs, as the only Haven site that’s not on the coast.

It has a good range of activities like archery and bike hire that don’t cost the earth, but the pools, both indoor and outdoor, are small and nothing like the subtropical swimming dome.

There’s a secluded woodland walk and plenty of wildlife to spot.

Haven Wild Duck has its own outdoor pools, although is much smaller than Center Parcs

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Haven Wild Duck has its own outdoor pools, although is much smaller than Center ParcsCredit: Haven
It has an amazing woodlands to explore nearby, however

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It has an amazing woodlands to explore nearby, howeverCredit: Catherine Lofthouse

Ribby Hall, Blackpool

What I really loved at Ribby Hall near Blackpool was the fact that there was a separate adult swimming area just down the corridor from the bigger family area, which has a splash pad for small children, a water slide and a couple of jacuzzis around the main pool.

We had ducks pecking on our patio door for bread and this is a great spot for wildlife as there’s a small petting farm on site.

Ribby Hall is great for spotting wildlife

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Ribby Hall is great for spotting wildlife
My kids loved seeing the ducks in the morning

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My kids loved seeing the ducks in the morningCredit: Catherine Lofthouse

Marion Resort and Spa, North Wales

Marian Resort and Spa could be the place for you if you want a smaller site with spa facilities and an upmarket feel to the bar and restaurant.

Even the wildlife has got a bit of glamour to it, as there’s a resident peacock parading around the pedestrian pathways by the lodges.

Here cars are parked away from your accommodation and the views over the rolling Welsh countryside are outstanding.

Marian Resort & Spa looks like it could be abroad

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Marian Resort & Spa looks like it could be abroadCredit: Facebook / Marian Resort & Spa
I really liked the woodland lodges

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I really liked the woodland lodgesCredit: Catherine Lofthouse

I’ve heard good things about Landal GreenParks, which has 17 sites across the UK and has a focus on taking a break in nature.

Not all have a pool though, so you need to factor that into your plans.

If you don’t fancy a staycay, there’s always the option of heading to Center Parcs abroad if none of the UK options float your boat.

We went to Center Parcs Zandvoort near Amsterdam and its location was a huge hit.

You could stroll on the beach, take the train into the city or stay on site and go for a swim.

Swimming safety advice

Experts have revealed some of their top advice for both adults and kids heading to the water this summer:

How to stay safe at the beach

Gareth Morrison, Head of Water Safety at the RNLI said: “If you find yourself being swept out to sea in a rip, try to relax and float until you are free from the rip and you can then swim to safety.

“If you see someone else in danger, alert a lifeguard or call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.”

How to stay safe at the swimming pool

Tiny Hearts Education, former paramedic and CEO Nikki Jurcutz said: “Always put your little one in bright or contrasting colours that would be easy to find in an emergency.

“It only takes 20 seconds to drown, little tips like this could save a life”.

An Auqabliss spokesperson added: “Swimming toys such as noodles, dive rings, floaties and beach balls can be dangerous if left in the pool.

“Children may try to grab these from the pool’s edge and fall in.”

How to stay safe at a waterpark

Ali Beckman, Puddle Ducks Technical Director, said: “Never send a child down the slide on their own, not only are they going to be entering the slide pool area independently, they then have to exit the pool and wait for an adult.

“And wave pools should be avoided until your child is really confident with water going over their faces and you know they are able to regain their feet independently.

“Waterparks are often very busy places and it’s easy to lose sight of a child in a split second.”

It’s easy to catch the train or the ferry to get there and it costs about half the price of a stay at a similar UK site.

So, while Center Parcs remains the gold standard for forest staycays, you can pick and choose where else might offer much the same for much less money.





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