When my better half planned a surprise getaway for myself and the children to Butlins earlier this month, I was surprised and, dare I say it, a little apprehensive. All those clichéd images of knotted hankies, deck chairs, pinball machines, tannoys and comedic war time chalets instantly sprang to mind. However, we were so desperate for a break away at a time which suited us all, I threw caution to the wind and took gratitude in the fact we had the chance to spend some uninterrupted time with the children (even if it was Valentine’s weekend!).
Upon reaching our colourful destination, I was not so much pleasantly surprised , as completely blown away by the site; I was well and truly put ‘back in the box’ for being doubtful! The infamous white Skyline ‘marquee’ (which is visible from literally miles away) was every bit as impressive as I’d hoped and houses not only two major theatre stages but also an amusements centre, mini shopping centre, restaurants, bars and a towering soft play.
Even simply approaching the golden gates of this entertainment metropolis, we were met by an entire team of security guards, red coats, reps and various cleaners; all of whom would be a cheerful and common sight throughout the break (especially cleaners- they were omnipresent wherever we went.)
All accommodation appeared very clean, tidy, modern and comfortable. However, (much to my delight) we had been booked to stay in the new West Lakes Village; a complex of utterly delicious looking beach houses surrounded by lakes, tropical bushes and gardens. Our own ground floor beach house even had views of the main attraction fountain and über tame ducks inhabiting our veranda each morning.
This new mini complex even has its own reception and checking- in team ( as we discovered when we attempted to present ourselves at the main site desk…. With a grin and a wink we had “Welcome madam, oooh you’re at the posh end; you can check-in there”).
The inside of our new-found ‘happy place’ also didn’t disappoint. With a brand new smell of freshness and tasteful contemporary décor, the rooms were spacious and extremely comfortable. Surprising detail from hotel-style designer toiletries in the bathroom to highly polished and lined cutlery in the kitchen drawers added those touches to change the holiday from ‘nice’ into ‘special’.
Once out and about on our travels around the inarguably huge site, we sampled the delights of stage shows in the marquee. As it was kiddy weekend, we were graced with the virtues of the ‘Skyline’ Dance Crew, Postman Pat, Fireman Sam, Thomas The Tank engine and Mike The Night; live shows all in with the price of our stay. For little more than the price of a large Burger King order, the children also had photos taken with their favourite characters… our youngest two thought they’d gone to child heaven!
Mealtimes at Butlins Minehead are every bit as abundant and exciting as the rest of the package. Although we opted to go for Premium Dining, we also dipped into standard and ‘on the hoof’ eating too. All options were absolutely lovely, but the food in The Deck and The Yacht Club was second to none. Whether heading off for breakfast or dinner, there was hot plate after hot plate and fridge after fridge of choices across all cultures and tastes to choose from. Personally ( if a little predictably), I found the full English breakfast unbeatable, with fresh produce and perfect presentation.
Afternoons at the site were filled up with so many activities we didn’t quite know where to begin or end. There’s the choice of swimming in the fantastic on site ‘Splash’ waterworld ( complete with slides, shutes, rapids and wave machines as well as a beach-style baby pool). Additionally, we bounced recklessly from Pirate Ship Adventure park, to toddler playground, to mini race course, to crafts and soft play. But for older children there’s also a basketball court, archery, target practice, wall climbing and abseiling, Victorian fairground, go kart racing, quad cycling or standard cycle hire. Early evening times at ‘Reds’ the on site ‘club house’ comprise of toddlers, tweenies or teens discos and family performers.
The weekend of our stay we were lucky enough to see no less than 2 West End shows and a night with Dick & Dom from CBBC. The Dick and Dom show was so popular, it had families queuing around the whole site 2 hours before their show. Upon entering, ourselves and 2000 others all laughed, cheered and roared at their hilarious family show. Every single family in the building looked as though they were having the time of their lives and lapping up the goodwill vibe in the house.
When our mini-break was drawing to a close we all found ourselves feeling very sad and wanting to book the next one up straight away. The children had had an absolute ball and we’d had the best stay we could imagine. We were clearly not the only families sad to go; on the morning of our departure we also spotted London based MPs, West country celebrity business people and the odd presenter packing up with their families and forlornly heading to their cars.
Suffice to say that although Butlins have remained true to the core of their presentation and family orientated ethos as a holiday resort, their 80 years in the business has paid off and they have reinvented themselves yet again to an admirable standard for today’s families ( and crucially, for incredible value).
See all details, prices and offers on the Butlins website:
© Tess Egerton 2016