Center Parcs Ireland – A Surprisingly Eco Holiday!
Wednesday, 2 October 2019 | Admin
Earlier in the year, we weren’t sure if we’d get a family holiday away this year so we decided to treat ourselves to a Center Parcs weekend in September when the crazy summer holiday prices came down. So we headed off for the Friday to Monday package with no idea of what to expect.
It turns out were very pleasantly surprised at how eco-friendly our little holiday was so I thought I’d share a few tips on what to expect and how you can best enjoy an eco-holiday there too!
No planes, no trains, no cars… just bikes!
Centrally located in a lovely Longford forest, it’s only a couple of hours journey from most places in Ireland, and there’s no plane journey to take for those trying to be more conscious of their flying eco-footprint.
When we arrived at 3ish, there was a big queue of cars waiting to check in - so be warned! - get up and get there early – you don’t have to wait until check in opens at 3pm, you can get there in the morning, leave your car in the main carpark and wander around the park, go for a swim, have some lunch or just check out some of the forest before you go back to check in to your lodge or apartment. At check in you get electronic bracelets which are your key to your front door and your pool locker – ingenious!
Once you have checked in at the main booth on the way in, you’ll drive to your lodge where you can unload your car directly outside your accommodation – but the best bit is to come – you have to drive your car back to the main car park before 6pm AND LEAVE IT THERE FOR THE WHOLE WEEKEND!! The pure bliss of being in a huge parkland area without a single car passing your door (apart from the odd service van) is something else – you will really notice the quietness and peace of not having an incessant stream of cars outside – and it makes it so safe for the next eco-friendly activity that really impressed us – cycling!
Bring your bikes if you can, and if not, you should definitely hire them!
A friend advised us to bring our bikes so we borrowed a bike rack that fitted the 3 kids bikes and we thought we’d get away without needing any ourselves – but as soon as we got there, we realised it would be lovely to go for slow meandering cycles with the kids in such a peaceful safe place (with lovely smooth new roads!) and it would get us to and from the swimming pools, shops and restaurants quicker too (especially if someone forgot their favourite pool toy or jumper and we had to nip back for it!).
Bike rental at Center Parcs isn’t cheap so it would be better to bring your own, but if you can’t, there’s a list of the prices below – we paid €35 each for a mountain bike for the 4 days. The bikes with the trailers for kids were very popular and there are spacious bike parking areas everywhere you need them.
Tip – bike locks come with the rental bikes but don’t forget to bring your own locks if you’re bringing your own bikes, none have been stolen yet according to the guy in the bike rental shop there, but you don’t want to risk it. They’ll lend you a bike lock anyway if you forget or there are some for sale too.
Center Parcs Forest Activities:
There are over 100 activities to take part in, from 1 to 3 hours long, indoors and outdoors, so something for everyone – but all at a price. I’d advise you to only do one or maximum two activities a day if you even bother at all – we only booked one activity (archery) for the whole weekend and we didn’t feel we missed out as we spent about 4 hours every day at the pools – and that’s totally free. There are some great activities in the forest for all ages though so do book ahead if there is something you really fancy as most will be booked out by the time you get there. When we got there we saw how good the treetop walk and zipline was – lots of rope bridges and treetop houses connecting from tree to tree through the forest and ending with an amazing zipline finale over the lake. It was great looking up and seeing people teeter their way from tree to tree. So if you or your kids would love that, book it well in advance, I’d say it’s the one must-do activity of the holiday.
It’s reasonable enough to book the tennis courts or football pitch and for rainy days, you can book table tennis or volleyball or the climbing wall at short enough notice too.
There’s lots of activities on the lake too but we didn’t book any because to be honest, it’s a tiny lake so it looks like it get’s a bit boring circling around and around in it – maybe nice for little kids to experience their first ‘trip on the sea’s’ though.
Swimming and chilling poolside:
The swimming pools were lovely – from the wave pool to the lazy river, then over to one of the large family jacuzzis then out through the tunnel to the outdoor heated pool (not sure how eco that can be to heat though!) which leads to the rapids (not for little kids or the faint hearted!). There are also excellent slides with inflatables you sit in and a café – it’s warm enough to wander around in swimwear all day and even to sit in the poolside café and have lunch. There are indoor cabana’s available to hire, we didn’t need them, but it could be handy for families with young children who need a nap in a quiet spot without having to change and go back to your lodge.
The showers were lovely and there are shower/body wash pumps by each shower which were surprisingly nice (usually they feel cheap and nasty but these didn’t) so no need to bring your own. And there are plenty of family changing rooms and really spacious lockers that don’t need euro coins – your electronic bracelet opens and locks them for you – it’s all so easy for those times when you’re usually under pressure!! The downside eco-wise is that they still have the miniature shampoos/body washes in the lodges so lots of plastic waste there.
The really exciting bit for me about the lodges:
I admit I get overly happy about these things but when we arrived on the Friday and checked out our lodge, one of the first things I spotted was the 3 eco-label dishwashing tablets in a cardboard box sitting on a reusable teatowel, followed by an equally impressive brown food bin with 2 spare compostable food bags and a separate recycling bin – I was a very happy bunny they had thought of these things! Bins are located within a few steps of the lodge and the recycling one are clearly marked so it’s super easy.
Another little joy we didn’t expect is that the lodges are tidied every single day - we came home to freshly made beds and a dishwasher full of clean utensils every afternoon!!!
Dining out - and in!
There’s a brilliant option where you can order from any of the restaurants to your lodge if you don’t fancy eating out. But the restaurants are brilliantly suited to families, the Diner has a separate games room, soft play room and mini playground room so the kids can safely have fun while you sip a well deserved vino ��. The staff actively encouraged the kids to go and play and are so friendly and well trained - they were given 2 whole months of training before the park opened in July, testing the different restaurants and activities so they could answer any question.
Don’t forget your reusable coffee cup as I spotted a few too many disposables out and about. We had to ask the coffee shop to give us the kids hot chocolate in normal mugs instead of disposable ones and they had a stack of plastic glasses beside the water jug – I just asked for more mugs for the water instead and they were happy to oblige – but disappointing overall that this area seems to have been overlooked.
There are 4 or 5 restaurants that you can go to but you need to book online before you go – that can be 5 minutes before you go if you want to make a last minute decision to go. The kids meals are very good value – most were 3 courses for €8ish and better quality than the usual nuggets and chips – Hucks Bar and Grill even had a 4oz steak as one of the kids mains options! The grown up main varied from €15ish to €25ish. But be warned - I ordered a side salad for €5 at the Italian restaurant and got three straggly pieces of lettuce, a quarter of a tomato and a quarter of a lemon in a tiny bowl - so I had to send it back (I’m not one for giving out but that was ridiculous). The waiter mentioned quietly that he noticed the mains were always reasonable but the sides small so it seems to be their modus operandi – you have been warned! The menus were varied and there were plenty of options for vegan and vegetarian fare.
Tip: The kids size pancakes in the Pancake House are plenty big enough for kids or adults alike. We found the food, ambience and value best in Huck’s American Grill of the 3 we visited which also included the Italian and Cara’s Diner.
The supermarket is well stocked with just what you need for breakfast, lunch and dinner but very little loose fruit, veg or bakery so lots of plastic packaging unfortunately. You can always bring the majority of your food with you as there is a decent fridge and small freezer and even a wine cooler in the kitchen!
Hopefully has given you some good tips if you’re planning a trip at some stage. It was definitely a greener holiday than I was expecting it to be – and great fun too!
Let us know if you've been too and if you have any tips to add.