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After the awful break we had 18 months ago, we were reluctant to book another UK break with a large company. We considered booking a cottage – but then we saw a TV advert for Center Parcs and decided to go for it, booking a Monday to Friday break for February half term in Whinfell Forest.

We decided to treat ourselves to a New Style Executive Lodge, with three bedrooms and the added luxury of an infrared physiotherm room. We also plumped for accommodation relatively close to the swimming pool so that we didn’t need to hire bikes as one of our boys isn’t a confident cyclist.

Given that life is so busy, we hadn’t got around to booking activities at the time of booking the accommodation, then it was Christmas, then the return to school – and then we had an email letting us know our break was almost upon us so we had a look at the list of activities. There was SO much choice. I was spoilt: indoor activities, outdoor activities, adrenalin, relaxing…

Unfortunately our youngest became quite ill at the beginning of February and was admitted on to the children’s ward at our local hospital three times before they finally made a diagnosis so the last thing on our minds was booking anything. And we were all so drained that the idea of anything active was unappealing.

Then we arrived.

The journey up to Whinfell was great as it was clearly signposted. As we turned off the main road and made our way up the ‘drive’, through the forest, to the gates, we were all beginning to get excited. The queue to get in was less than an hour and we were met by a lovely gentleman (I *think* his name was Dave) who explained where we needed to drive and we followed the queue of traffic to book in. The lady who booked us in gave us lots of information, a map and our wristbands which were the keys to our lodge. We parked up, had a leg stretch/slow walk around and headed to our accommodation.

WOW!

There has clearly been a lot of investment in the accommodation – and the thoughtful design makes it feel like a luxury break, rather than a few days in a lodge in a forest. The large open plan living space is light and very family friendly (a cot and high chair is provided in most lodges) and there are stair gates at the bottom of the stairs as well as at the top, providing peace of mind both during the day and at night.
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The downstairs master bedroom wouldn’t look out of place in a hotel – and the large en suite has a bath with jets as well as a separate, very large power shower.

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The upstairs double and twin bedrooms have an equally luxurious feel (the double having an en suite with a bath and overhead shower whereas the twin room has an en suite with a large walk in shower).

There is a fireplace which provided extra cosiness in the evenings, despite the lodge having easily controlled central heating. And for warmer days the patio, outdoor furniture and BBQ would be perfect.

The kitchen is stylish and well equipped; including a dish washer, microwave, fridge and wine cooler.

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We unpacked and our 13 year old son kindly offered to cook (amazing what a change of scenery does!), we ate and after a rest we decided to head out to the swimming pool. The paths at night are thoughtfully lit, not brightly lit so a torch might be useful if your heading out after dark! The changing rooms are warm, with underfloor heating (fabulous as it means you’re not standing in puddles of cold water from the previous occupant) and the lockers are operated with the wrist band – convenient AND secure! There are numerous pools; a large warm pool with a wave machine that turns on every 30 minutes, several pools for children including a little slide, an outdoor pool with a slide, rapids, a terrifying water slide (adrenalin junkies will adore this – our 13 year old and my husband went on several times a night).

On Tuesday we were still needing to relax so we took a nice walk around the forest and got our bearings then headed back for our little one to nap. After our evening meal we swam again.

On Wednesday we decided we needed to do a little more. Dexters was a great choice for lunch, the staff were very helpful – particularly when I didn’t read the menu properly and ordered the wrong dish, which they changed without any quibble. Then we managed to book a bowling lane which was remarkably good value and a whole heap of fun. We headed back to our lodge for dinner and followed that with an evening swim.

On Thursday we went to Cafe Rouge for brunch. In the afternoon my husband challenged two of our teens to laser combat (a fantastic excuse to run around with laser guns) whilst I took our youngest to make a teddybear which began with him stuffing a bear, choosing a heart and outfit and filling in an adoption certificate. We booked to go to Huck’s in the evening. Unfortunately the pool was closed that evening, due to a ‘body spillage'(!) but that didn’t dampen our spirits as we had a quick dip in the spa pool then headed back to our lodge.

After spending the previous two weeks sleeping fitfully, watching our 4 year old whilst he was ill, I was completely shattered. I hadn’t realised just how tired. But spending my evenings relaxing with my family, swimming then taking a bath with the jets on, glass of wine in hand was bliss. And the bed, bedding and pillows were unbelievably comfortable, meaning that I actually slept well.

Friday morning was a quick pack and tidy up before heading home – although we would have been able to stay in site until much later – as we had plans.

I cannot stress just how relaxing we all found this break. It was exactly what we all needed. We would all love to return – but this time we definitely want to make the most of the activities available.

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