We are just back from a fun filled 7 nights in Center Parcs in Co Longford! We had a great time, the kids had a ball and we spent quality time as a family. It was full on from the moment we arrived, its an adventure holiday & it is very much family focused.
Firstly, we booked Center Parcs last year knowing we wouldn’t be holidaying abroad in 2021. We shared our lodge with my sister in-law, her husband and two boys. There were 4 adults and 4 kids (all under 6 years old) in a 4 bedroom lodge.
From the moment we packed up the car and left for Center Parcs it started to rain! I packed for all weathers and we hoped for the best. We arrived at 2.30pm to a big que of cars to get in. It took about 45 minutes from arriving at the park to get to the check in desk, we arrived during peak time apparently! Each car is greeted by security who were lovely & directed us to the drive through check in desk, overall it’s very efficient! You can’t get access to your lodge until after 4pm. The barrier is closed & it only opens up after 4pm – so all cars are directed to the car park. I would suggest arriving after 4pm to avoid the queues.
As we were early we parked the car in the car park and got out to stretch our legs & have a potter about. We stopped off to grab a coffee & sambo in the cafe, this is the only eatery in the village where you can walk in without a reservation. Coffee and food was average.
The barriers to the lodges opened up at 4pm so the Dads went off to drop the luggage at our lodge while us mums & kids stayed in the Que to collect our cycles. I have to say, everything was super efficient & easy. The bike ride to our lodge was great fun, the kids loved it & it was a great start to our holiday adventure. There are no cars allowed in the village or near your lodge. It makes it so safe for kids to bike ride & overall a lovely experience to cycle & walk everywhere. Make sure to pack 2 pairs of runners, you won’t wear anything else on this holiday! You will be walking or cycling from A to B multiple times a day!
We used the bikes multiple times a day so I think they are well worth the money. We rented them for the week. You can bring your own bikes or scooters too, well worth packing especially if you have older kids.
We booked the tandom cycle for me & Lily (6yr) it’s great fun & an activity in itself while getting from A to B. And we booked the mountain bikes with child seat for the Dads & younger kids (Izzy 3yr).
By the time we got to our lodge it was 6.30 & the kids were starving! We tried to order a takeaway pizza but the earliest delivery was after 9.30pm due to the demand. If you are planning a take away pre order it in advance. We sent the dads to the supermarket for frozen pizzas & we ordered a Chinese for the adults that was delivered at 9.45pm & had a lovely dinner with a bottle of wine when kids went to bed!
I would recommend bringing a dinner with you for the first night or a disposable BBQ, burgers etc to avoid hangry kids!
The pictures on the website are very accurate, we found it quite spacious for all of us, 2 bathrooms, full kitchen, dining and living area. It was spotless. Everything you need is in the lodge for cooking and your stay, there were towels & toilet roll in the bathrooms but I brought some extra for the pool and beach. We also had a little patio at the back overlooking the forest and a BBQ area. There is a dishwasher and coffee machine, so bring some extra dishwasher tablets and coffee pods!
2 bathrooms (one with a bath & one with a shower)
It was a short 5 min bike ride to the village square, super easy to get from A to B.
The supermarket is really efficient & the delivery service is excellent, if you spend over €40 they deliver your groceries for free. It’s hard to carry bags of groceries on the bikes too so I’d recommend doing a big shop on the second day and geting it delivered – remember there are no cars allowed in the village so once you are at your lodge you won’t see your car until departure day! Also bring meat & more food with you if you want to BBQ, there is a small selection in the supermarket!
Activities and booking
Once you book your stay you create an online Center Parcs account. Here you will see all of your booking details, information on accommodation and the village etc. You also book all of your activities through your account. You cannot gain access to the booking system until 2 weeks before you are due to arrive. There is a countdown on your account where you can see the date the system will go live for you to book. It goes live at 6.45am and some of the most popular activities will be sold out by 7am. I would recommend spending some time beforehand deciding on what activities you would like to do & at what time of the day. I know lots of families would book things around little ones nap times and feeds etc so it can be frustrating when you can’t book a time slot that suits you as they book up quickly!
I did out a plan of all the activities I wanted to book & at what time of the day. I saved each activity into my ‘preferences’ and it was easier to book them all quickly when the site went live! You can’t see the prices of the activities until the site goes live, I found this really annoying!
There are limited pool slots (covid restrictions) & we had a large group of 8 people (4 adults and 4 kids) to book for. We were allowed 3 pool slots for 2 hours at a time as we were staying for 7 nights. I think its only one pool slot if you are staying for 4 days – check what it says on your booking!
When you are booking the pool & all activities you have to book a slot for each person/ child/ baby in your group if you want to be together!
I booked all of the activities for everyone to ensure all 4 kids were together. You can book separately too if you share your center parcs account with the rest of the people on your booking.
These are the activities we did over the 7 days & my honest opinion based on my kids experience age 3 & 6 years.
Horse riding: 15 – 20 mins
Overall it was fun for the kids, especially if they have never been on a horse before. I wouldn’t recommend if your child horse rides already as they will find it a bit boring! It was Izzy’s first time on a horse (3yr) and she absolutely loved it. Lily did enjoy it too but she horse rides every week & found it a little boring as they just walk them around through the woods quite slowly & she is up to trotting now!
€20 per child
Off Road Explorer: 30 mins
Each child got to drive their own mini jeep through a dirt track. The small kids (3-4yr) needed help with a parent stirring & preventing a crash! Lily (6yr) was well able to do it herself & really enjoyed it!
I’d recommend it for 3yrs – 6yrs & it books out quickly
€17 per child
Adventure Golf: 45 mins
This was a bit of family fun but the little ones (3yrs) were far too young for it & were climbing all over the course and messing about so I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under 6 years.
€7.50 per child €8.75 per adult
Mini Captains Adventure boat ride: 30 mins
All the kids really enjoyed this one & the adults too! The little boat is electric & the kids can drive & steer themselves (helped by an adult). They get to keep their little sailors hats too.
I’d recommend it for 3yrs – 6yrs
€25 per child
Aqua pool: 2hrs
The pool was super & the best part of Center Parcs in my opinion. The kids had a ball, so much to do for little ones, big kids & adults alike. I was blown away by the confidence the kids had in the pool, they felt very safe. The 2 hour slot was perfect for us, the kids were exhausted after it! You can rent towels for €2 each, it saves you carrying loads of bags on the bikes & brining wet towels home. We were allowed 3 pool slots for our 7 nights stay (covid restrictions) , its such a pity we couldn’t go everyday – it really is so much fun. You can also rent a pool side cabana for 3 hours & it has a TV and private loungers. I think its a great option if you have a small baby with you that might need a nap or a grandparent that might like some time out. (not sure how much this is to rent).
There is a 10 cent charge per person to book the pool
There are 2 playgrounds around the village square & they are well built with lots of climbing frames, swings etc. We went every day to kill some time between activities. You don’t have to book a slot!
Short Tennis: 45 mins
Great fun for all family. We booked this last minute to kill some time as it was a rainy day. 8 of us played together, 4 adults & 4 kids. Taking turns & just having fun. The kids were wrecked after it!
€7 per person
Crazy Science: 45 mins
Good activity for little ones for a rainy day. They made some potions, enjoyed mixing & making a mess! Made some slime & a volcano eruption. Suitable from 3 – 6 years
€11.75 per person
Electric Boats on the lake; 45 mins
We found this very boring for the kids. The lake isn’t very big & the boats are super slow. We actually docked our boat before our time was up! I wouldn’t recommend this one at all for little ones!
€28.50 for the session (seats 6 in the boat)
Football Pool: 45 mins
This was good fun to tire the little ones out, again it was a rainy day activity! They didn’t play by the rules but simply ran about with a ball each!
€7 per person
Pottery painting: 45 mins
We booked & paid online but then had you pay extra for the pottery piece you select to paint which I didn’t realise! This was a great rainy day activity. The kids loved it and it was a nice bit of calm among all the running about everyday. They got to take home their masterpiece!
€26 for a table of 4
Potter pieces range from €10 up per child
Teddy bear making: 15 mins
We booked this while we were here as the weather got quite bad! Although the kids loved it, I felt it really was far too expensive for what it was. They select a soft toy, they stuff it and then they pick an outfit and dress it – That’s it! I wouldn’t recommend it as an activity, but if you had a birthday or wanted to treat your child its a nice thing to do other than go to the toy shop!
€30 per child (includes the soft toy & outfit)
There are so many more activities you can choose from for every age group & children with different interests. There are limited activities for children under 5 years and most only last 30 minutes.
Guest services are very helpful while you are there if you want to change your activity, change the time or book extra ones. Overall the staff are really friendly and helpful with everything.
Myself & my sister in law enjoyed a trip to the spa! We both had the 3 hour spa experience & a massage (you book these separately) It was badly needed & absolutely a slice of heaven! I would 100% recommend it if you are into spa days! We chilled out & treated ourselves to a bottle of bubbles while we were there too!
We bought the disposable bbqs & cooked in our lodge most days. I find eating out with young children a bit of a waste of money & not very enjoyable so it was lovely to have the option to cook in the lodge, get a take away & sit out on our patio & have dinner amongst the forest. You have to book every restaurant before you dine, they don’t take walk ins. This is a little annoying when you have hangry kids! Here’s a review of the places we ate in…
- Cafe – toasted sambos, coffee, tea, drinks, cakes & treats. Overall for taste its just OK, I like my coffee!
- The Chinese takeaway in both the complex and Longford village were lovely, we got it delivered to our lodge & it was delicious. I’d recommend both!
- Sports bar, we ate here for late lunch/dinner twice. The food was just ok, burgers, chips, scampi.
- Indian Restaurant, we went here for a date night & overall we had a lovely dinner. When we were finished dessert we were asked if we would like anything else, we asked for 2 bottles of beer.. then told the bar was closed! I felt the service could of been better!
- Pancake house, delicious for a treat. We ate here twice & the kids loved it for obvious reasons! Chocolate, ice cream, pancakes & waffles – American style! There is a little soft play area but it was closed because of Covid which was annoying.
- Bella Italia, we had a family meal here on the last day and it was just OK. Pizzas were under cooked. Pasta dishes were grand, nothing amazing.
There are 6 restaurants to choose from, we didn’t eat in Hooks or Ciara’s as we couldn’t get a booking that suited us but Ciara’s has got the best reviews! Overall from the places we did eat in, I feel the food could be so much better. The prices are average enough when compared with Dublin, but the standard needs to improve in my opinion!
Center parcs is a great family holiday with so much to do for children of all ages. It is not a cheap holiday, its expensive, but worth it if you like to holiday in Ireland and dont mind braving the rainy weather!
We pre booked one to two activities a day & had a 3 sunny days where the kids played in the playground & on the beach when they weren’t in the pool or doing an outdoor activity (horse riding, boat trip) – they had a ball. But once the weather turned & it was raining non stop we had to book some indoor activities & we found they were quite expensive – especially for our kids age group (3-6yr). Covid restrictions do put a dampener on the holiday.
Lots of activities were not available to do or book due to Covid restrictions. All soft play areas were closed which was such a pain especially as it was raining so much. You can’t play pool, bowling, rock climbing etc. Like everything Covid related, some of it just didn’t make sense as to why it wasn’t allowed. The restaurants are classed as “full” & you can’t get a booking yet there are empty tables when you walk by due to social distancing.
We would definitely come back again in the summertime, but only when restrictions are lifted and we would do a shorter stay. We feel 4 nights would be perfect for our kids ages.
There is a great FaceBook group I followed called Center Parcs Ireland Tips / Reviews if you want further info on activities etc!
Packing for Center Parcs
I was so confused as to what to pack for our stay that I ended up packing everything but the kitchen sink! So here’s a run down of what to pack for mum & kids!
What to pack for mum;
The whole resort is super casual. You spend most of your time on a bike flying around from A to B. I had a back pack with me at all times with spare clothes for the kids, rain jackets, snacks etc. I wore runners the whole week, even on our only date night – Sure we cycled to the Restaurant in the rain!
I brought too many “nice” clothes that I didn’t wear at all (jeans, loafers, summer dresses).
I should of packed more track pants, gym gear, leggings & an extra pair of runners would of been handy! It’s action packed, either walking or on a bike. The weather was wet and rainy so I wore my rain jacket every day! I am investing in some wet gear this winter – so if you have some, bring it!
What to pack for kids!
The girls lived in leggings, shorts, zip up hoodies, t shirts, rain jackets, runners & wellies.
I brought too many nice clothes for them too, they didn’t wear a dress once!
If the weather had of been nicer we might of wore a dress once or twice at best. Because you are cycling everywhere, usually with a kid on the back of your bike, you need decent shoes/runners for grip! I wore my sliders to the pool & had to cycle home in the rain in them & I nearly crashed!
Points to note;
There are no clothes washing facilities. As a family resort it’s a little annoying that there is no option to wash some clothes or dry towels.
Allergies: Over all the restaurants were limited with allergens & the staff didn’t seem to know what had egg/nuts in it & what didn’t. I was directed to a QR code to check the menus myself. There was no offer of making anything without the allergens… When they say that there are nuts in the kitchen & they can’t say there won’t be a trace in the food it really annoys me as we cant take any chances with Izzys egg and nut allergy.
Thats a wrap! I hope you find my review helpful and if you have any questions just DM me!