A romantic break at Center Parc

by Kay Taylor

Center Parc might not be the first place you'd think of going for a romantic getaway - but at Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, we found it had everything we look for in a happy weekend away for two

I’d always thought of Center Parc as more of a family-orientated, overrun-with-children sort of place, rather than somewhere that couples could retreat to for some well-needed alone time. But when my boyfriend suggested that we take a midweek break in the Lake District, I just couldn’t resist. So we packed our bags and drove his old Volkswagen Beetle to Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, also known as Oasis.

And that's just what it was. Jam-packed full of activities, dotted with restaurants, cafes and shops, and offering an array of sensual spa treatments, Center Parc had everything we could ever want from a holiday.

We opted to stay in a one-bedroom apartment, as this was the cheapest option. It costs from £359 to stay in a lakeside apartment for four nights in August, and this drops to just £199 outside peak season.

Active attractions

Use of the indoor Subtropical Swimming Paradise – a mini water park of slides, wave pools and Jacuzzis - is included in the cost of the accommodation. Unfortunately, though, additional activities come at a high price. Paintballing cost £28 each, and archery was £16 for an hour-long session. But whilst we enjoyed these activities, they didn’t generate nearly as many laughs as the tree trekking (£18.50 per person) did.

Tree trekking is essentially navigating round an obstacle course, using ropes, bridges and pipes to get from tree to tree, and watching each other scramble around was more fun than anything we’ve experienced from a holiday abroad. Sometimes, you just can’t beat a bit of British banter!

We also signed up for the zip wire, which cost £10 each and lasted a whole 10 seconds. Regrettably, we missed our early-morning appointment for this after a heavy night of drinking strawberry cocktails at Huck’s American Diner, which resulted in me throwing up pink puke the next day! Thankfully, Center Parcs’ staff are very understanding when it comes to stomach bugs, and we were able to reschedule our zip wire session for later in the day at no additional cost.

Perfectly pampered

Undeniably, though, our best day was spent in the Aqua Sana Spa, which is an adult-only facility offering ultimate relaxation therapies. It costs around £45 for a spa session, which excludes any massage treatments, but it really is worth it and was definitely the highlight of our holiday.

The initial price includes use of the many different steam rooms and saunas, such as the Japanese Salt Steam Bath and the Greek Herbal Bath, as well as the outdoor heated swimming pool, reflexology footbaths, multi-sensory showers and Japanese Zen Garden.

The Spa specialises in couples’ pampering treatments, such as the Rediscover Romance full-body massage package, which costs £120 per couple, and is concluded with champagne and chocolates. We opted for the cheaper Serail Mud Treatment, which cost £26 each for an hour in the special steam-room. It was an unusual and interesting experience, which involved covering each other with different types of ‘therapeutic’ mud to cleanse and exfoliate our skin.

I would certainly recommend saving enough money to splurge on the spa experience, preferably towards the end of the week, as it’s such a great finishing touch to the holiday. The Aqua Sana Spa also features The Conservatory, a healthy-option café with a salad bar and fresh sandwiches to snack on, which is a great way to break up the day.

Eating and drinking

The other eateries at Center Parcs range from Italian, Chinese and Indian to all-American bars and classic English pubs, but eating out every night would be a very expensive option. As the lodges and apartments are all self-catering, it’s worth taking some food with you (the Parcmarket offers a host of essentials, but is very over-priced).

Our indulgence was the Rajinda Pradesh Indian restaurant, which features a selection of curry dishes at very reasonable rates. While the alcoholic drinks are costly, the food is excellent and comes in very generous portions.

Overall, our break at Center Parcs was a brilliant way to spend time together, and was much more convenient than travelling abroad and relying on the hot weather and a beach to have a good time. We’ve already booked our next visit, and can’t wait to get back to those delicious strawberry cocktails!