We have already reviewed the 10 best Center Parcs in the UK, now we look at the cheapest and which is the best value from Longford Forest in Ireland, and Whinfell, Sherwood, Longleat, Elveden, and Woburn in England.
Center Parcs resorts enable families to stay in a lodge with easy access to loads of activities; walking, biking, swimming, playgrounds, soft plays, and other family-friendly activities. When thinking of a family holiday, the brand name that springs into most parents’ minds is, of course, “Center Parcs”! But don’t forget to be realistic when budgeting for your Center Parks holiday. All activities cost at Center Parcs, even a trip to the gym isn’t cheap. Unlike at most hotels, a gym visit costs a further £13 GBP, so I’d say expect to pay at least 50% of your accommodation fee again for activities and the same again for dining out.
Wherever you want to stay, book family breaks with our luxury travel concierge. We offer discounts on family breaks at holiday villages like Center Parcs as well as free upgrades, free breakfasts, free hotel credit, and VIP gifts at luxury hotels like Four Seasons, Aman, Belmond, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, InterContinental, and more for the same price as the hotel’s own websites. You can also pick up a holiday bargain in our luxury travel auctions.
Center Parcs originated in The Netherlands in 1967, with the first UK park opening in 1987. Center Parcs UK is now a separate entity, and the prices reflect this. Getaways on the continent, in the Netherlands and Germany in particular (as well as France and Belgium), can be cheaper than a UK park. Perhaps this is a result of the exceptional demand in the UK, or perhaps it is because each park offers different facilities and the UK parks tend to be better catered for in terms of activities.
That said, some European parks have facilities like an indoor ski dome and extra freebies and vouchers that you don’t get in the UK. Regardless of these vouchers, the UK Center Parcs are massively popular, with over 2.2 million visitors visiting these parks each year.
There are 6 Center Parcs locations throughout the UK. Each one is entirely unique, the latest village being in Ireland, which has just opened! Each village features up to 200 outdoor and indoor activities, an award-winning Aqua Sana Spa, great restaurants, and the amazing Subtropical Swimming Paradise (heated to a balmy 29.5C all year round), along with a huge array of accommodation in varying sizes and styles. But which is the cheapest?
For the sake of this review, we have selected the cheapest lodge at each park for 5th October (outside the school holidays, which is always cheaper) for 2 adults and 2 children.
For these dates, here’s how the Parks stack up and you can see which is cheapest:
- Sherwood Forest, 2 bedroom Woodland Lodge costs £379 GBP for 4 nights
- Elveden Forest, 2 bedroom Woodland Lodge costs £379 GBP for 4 nights
- Woburn Forest, 2 bedroom Woodland Lodge costs £389 GBP for 4 nights
- Longford Forest, 2 bedroom Woodland Lodge costs €439 EUR for 4 nights
- Longleat Forest, 2 bedroom Woodland Lodge costs £429 GBP for 4 nights
- Whinfell Forest, 2 bedroom Woodland Lodge costs £529 GBP for 4 nights
Now when you drill down to the details, these lodges have been refurbished at different times, and the base lodges at some parks are more luxurious than those at other parks. But this pricing gives you a general idea of the cheapest lodge rates you might get at each Center Parks resort.
1. Sherwood Forest Nottinghamshire
In our review of pricing above, Sherwood Fores is your cheapest Center Parcs resort. It ties with Elveden Forest. This may be because the base lodges at Sherwood Forest can be worn, but the facilities here are excellent, making this Center Parc a great choice.
Set in the heart of Nottinghamshire, this resort has lots of lakes and waterside views, more than most of the other resorts. The spa here is excellent, and there’s a great Treetop Sauna.
Sherwood has the best play areas, in my opinion. This Centre Parc features 2 larger outdoor playgrounds as well as Huck’s American Bar & Grill and Forester’s play areas.
In terms of which resort has the best spa, as outlined above, it’s a tie between Woburn and Sherwood Forest. The Woburn Spa is the newest and biggest with the best facilities. However, the Sherwood Forest spa is incredibly friendly, and there’s a great Treetop Sauna.
In terms of lodge choice, we had a few issues with facilities working in Whinfell and Sherwood, but out of those two, I would opt for Sherwood again as the lodges felt a little bit newer.
If money is no object, or you have plenty of friends or family to go on holiday with, then pick an enchanting Treehouse with your own private outdoor hot tub, dedicated treehouse host, games den, and four stylish en-suite bedrooms. These can be found at Sherwood, Longleat, Elveden, Woburn. The older Whinfell resort currently doesn’t have treehouses.
Finally, if you fancy a go on the Tropical Cyclone ride, which is now open at the Sherwood Forest Subtropical Swimming Paradise, you can enjoy a 125-meter ride filled with twists, turns, and drops, with audio-visual effects in the main bowl of the ride. This ride is exclusive to Sherwood.
2. Elveden Forest Suffolk
Elveden Forest Suffolk is joint cheapest in our review of the best value Center Parc resort. It features one of the largest watersports lakes of any Center Parc, where you can try the Cable Water Ski or The Drop, a tower with varying heights of up to 10 meters to free-fall from!
The facilities here are conveniently close, and this Center Parc is designed on a flat plot which makes getting around easy. Plus, when we went, there was a fun inflatable waterslide!
Here you can pick a unique Waterside Lodge. These are only available at Elveden Forest and feature a hot tub, three ensuite bedrooms (two with a balcony), unique nautical décor, and breath-taking views of the lake. Our pricing was not based on this lodge. It was based on the best value standard lodge.
3. Woburn Forest Bedfordshire
In at number 3 in our cheapest listing is Woburn Forest Bedfordshire, one of our favorite Center Parcs as it is so conveniently located.
This Center Parc is aimed at Londoners and is set just one hour from the city. This is the newest village in England, although it is probably the smallest and it is not as new as the brand new Irish Center Parc.
Woburn has some of the newest and best facilities, probably making it come out a touch above the rest, and being that it is such a good deal, this is probably our favorite option for those on a budget.
There isn’t much to pick between resorts in terms of dining. All resorts offer a huge range of drinking and dining options (at least 10 in each resort!), as well as the ParcMarket to pick up groceries, DVDs, wines, beers, and bits and bobs you might have forgotten.
If you like Latin American or Mexican dishes, choose Woburn or Longleat, which features Las Iguanas. All resorts feature the Rajinda Pradesh restaurants offering contemporary Eastern-inspired dishes.
If you like Italian food, I’d also pick Woburn with its newish Strada restaurant, though all properties feature either Strada or Bella Italia. And if you like hearty traditional English grub or American diner-style dining, then there’s a pub and a Huck’s American Bar & Grill in each resort.
But, let’s not forget you’re in a resort, so inflated resort prices apply. You might find yourself paying 40% more for the same meal as you might get in your home town, if not more, so if you are looking for a cheap Center Parks holiday, it is wise to self cater.
One of the most wonderful things for parents about a stay at Center Parcs is the fact the there are numerous indoor and outdoor play areas throughout each resort which are all set adjacent to restaurants and bars. All the resorts have numerous play areas, including outdoor and soft play. Woburn Forest Bedfordshire features the largest Subtropical Swimming Paradise with excellent pools for toddlers and a pirate ship to explore for younger children.
4. Longford Forest, Ireland
The 395-acre site in Newcastle Wood, County Longford in Ireland, opened in 2019, and this Center Parc is home to 460 self-catering lodges, plus all the usual Center Parcs offerings. While this is one of the cheaper Center Parcs, once you have considered the cost of getting to Ireland from the UK, this is rarely the best deal.
The opening of Longford Forest means Center Parcs now offers 4,813 units of accommodation, including apartments and self-catering lodges, across the UK. The facilities at Center Parc’s sixth UK resort include more than 460 self-catering lodges, a Subtropical Swimming Paradise, a spa, shops, restaurants, and leisure activities.
Of course, this is the most modern of all the Center Parcs in the UK. The swimming pool is excellent and has all the associated water slides, which comprises the core of every Center Parcs. There’s a “village square’ of bars, restaurants, and shops. A sports hall includes a climbing wall, a bowling alley, and badminton courts, and guests are accommodated mostly in self-contained lodges. This Irish Center Parc also includes 40 apartments.
Because all Center Parcs villages have around 95% occupancy all year round, you can’t expect perfect decor, and at the older properties, the furnishings are a little worn in places. If you’re looking for brand new furnishings and immaculate apartments, you will want to pick this new Irish resort.
5. Longleat Forest Wiltshire
Longleat Forest Wiltshire is the most southern village and home to rare 100-year-old Giant Redwood trees. It’s one of the more expensive Center Parcs in our review but is still a great choice.
It’s also ideal for slightly older children due to the size of the property and distances between activities. Visitors can amble around the village on foot, whizz around by bicycle, or catch the special Land Train, but note that it is quite hilly for walking!
For cycling, we think the best park is Longleat, although Sherwood, Elveden, and Whinfell are also great, and at all four, bicycles are virtually essential. Sherwood and Whinfell have more options for cyclists, and all resorts offer bikes, helmets, bike seats, bike trolleys, and so on to hire. It’s not cheap, so if you can bring your bikes with you, I’d recommend that. Bike hire costs: £30 GBP for an adult bike and £22 GBP for a child’s bicycle, so you’re adding more than £100 GBP to your bill for a family of four before you’ve even arrived.
6. Whinfell Forest Cumbria
Whinfell Forest Cumbria is the most expensive Center Parc in October, probably because it benefits from more of its activities being indoors. This Center Parc is also the most northern village and is set on the edge of the Lake District in a 400-acre forest. It probably has the prettiest setting and the nicest lake to stroll all the way around.
No matter what the weather, there’s something to do for all ages and preferences in bad weather at each property. However, if you’re going over a wintery or wet spell and want to know the best Center Parc to choose, we think Whinfell is the best, as it’s pretty much all under a dome, and it doesn’t ever seem too crowded anywhere because it’s all undercover.
Whichever resort you choose, arrive early and leave late. Make the most of your time at the village by arriving early: you can usually enjoy your chosen resort’s facilities from 10:00 am on the day of arrival (excluding the Sub Tropical Swim Paradises’ which tend to be available from 2:00 pm), though you won’t be able to get into your lodge till 3:00 / 3:30 pm. On your day of departure, you need to be out of your lodge by 10:00 am, but you can still use the facilities till as late as midnight (!), so make sure to make the very most of your stay! Because of this, I don’t think it’s worth paying more for early check-in as you can simply use the facilities for free anyway. It’s just the lodge you have to wait for.
7. European Center Parcs
There are 25 Center Parcs in mainland Europe, including holiday parks in France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany. They offer an appealing alternative to the UK Center Parcs and can be much cheaper.
The best European Center Parcs are usually thought to be Center Parcs Le Bois Aux Daims in France, Center Parcs Het Meerdal in the Netherlands, and Center Parcs De Vossemeren in Belgium. All are fairly easy to drive to from the UK and offer an alternative to the UK parks. These European Center Parcs tend to be cheaper, even when the cost of the ferry and petrol to get to these parks is included, so it is worth considering those which are easy to get to in France, Belgium, and Holland before making your final decision.
Note: Benefits offered correct at the time of writing but may be amended at discretion of the vendor. Any auction prices listed correct at time of publication, but will be subject to change. Posts may be sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced.