Center Parcs or Forest Holidays – both offer private woodland lodges and a great UK holiday, but which is better? Well, fear not. I’m here to give you the low down on my experiences at both.
The Center Parcs I have stayed at are Elveden Forest in Suffolk and Longleat Forest in Wiltshire. The Forest Holidays I have stayed at are Blackwood Forest in Hampshire and Thorpe Forest in Norfolk.
Center Parcs offer quite a few variations of accommodation to suit your party size and budget, ranging from cosy apartments to luxury treehouses. I have stayed in a 3 bedroom woodland lodge and a 3 bedroom executive lodge. The lodges have open-plan living and dining areas while containing a mix of double and twin beds. Plus all the basic amenities you need.
The woodland lodges are ideal for those on a budget. They tend to have just the one family bathroom, whereas the executive lodges offer a little more luxury with ensuite bathrooms. The ones I stayed in also had a sauna (which didn’t even get used!).
Forest Holidays accommodations are a little more straightforward and are all log cabins, including ones suitable for couples. I have stayed in a 3 bedroom Silver Birch and a 5 bedroom Golden Oak Treehouse.
The Silver Birch included one double with ensuite bathroom plus two twin bed rooms with a shared bathroom. The Golden Oak Treehouse had 3 bathrooms shared between 4 bedrooms in the main part of the cabin and then the treehouse, which was situated over a rope bridge, had its own double bed plus bathroom. I did actually stay in the treehouse, which is novel and has a good amount of privacy, however its less great when you’re walking over the bridge at night in the rain and then find a spider in your bathroom! Cabins here, like Center Parcs feature open living and dining areas.
The biggest draw to all Forest Holiday cabins is that each has its own private hot tub! It is wonderful to have a soak and be completely surrounded by nature.
My winner here is Forest Holidays, simply because it has more space and privacy, and of course the hot tubs!
At Center Parcs, if your wallet is big enough you will never get bored! In fact, the only time I left the complex during my stays was to visit Longleat Safari park, otherwise all the entertainment you need is right on your doorstep. I couldn’t even begin to list all the activities that Center Parcs offer, however I can tell you which ones I have tried: swimming, bowling, aerial adventure, adventure golf, pottery painting, laser tag and Aqua Sana spa. You do have to pre-book alot of these activities which can be annoying, this even includes going to the pool despite not having to pay extra for that activity.
My favourite activity at Center Parcs was the spa, I can’t remember much about the Longleat one but the Elveden one is probably the best spa I’ve been to – there are so many rooms (steam rooms mostly) to try out!
Forest Holidays do offer a few activities such as bike hire, archery and kayaking, however I didn’t try any of the activities on either of my stays and instead just took myself on walks or explored outside of the complex.
My winner here is Center Parcs. Yes it’s pricey but you can pick and choose what you want to do and there’s something for everyone.
As well as activities, Center Parcs also has shops and restaurants on site. During my most recent visit to Elveden Forest I dined at Rajinda Pradesh Indian restaurant, Bella Italia and The Pancake House. While The Pancake House had some mixed reviews from my party of 9, Rajinda Pradesh was thumbs up all round. It was probably one of the best Indian restaurants I’ve been to! There are also other restaurants on site, some of which vary depending on which location you are staying at.
Forest Holidays are more about being at one with nature, rather than tempting you to never leave the complex. This means that dining options here are limited. You can hire a private chef or order in-cabin takeaway. We did try the in-cabin menu at Blackwood Forest but wasn’t too impressed. I had a Quorn teriyaki and it was disappointing. Aside from that one in-cabin menu experience we tended to either self-cater or enjoyed the local pubs.
While both Center Parcs and Forest Holidays are geared towards self catering and have barbeques at your accommodation, what I will say is that the kitchens, refrigerators and cupboard space are quite small, so bear this in mind if you are self catering for your entire stay.
Center Parcs wins for convenience and variety but Forest Holidays wins for not being solely about getting more money out of you!
Center Parcs are very much a no car kind of resort. Everyone checks in at the same time and then you are able to drive your car to your lodge to unload. You must then return your car to the main car park. As the resorts are quite big, despite being signposted we still managed to get lost trying to find our lodge!
Forest Holidays are smaller resorts and each lodge has its own parking area, making it more convenient for going out and about. Both cabins I stayed at had space to park 3 cars but that would be depending on the capacity of your accommodation.
One other thing to note is that both brands only offer Monday to Friday or Friday to Monday stays. The weekend stays tend to be more expensive than the Monday to Friday option. Prices are also dependent on date of stay and party size. As all of my stays have been with groups of adults and I’ve only had to pay for myself, it has worked out to be good value.
Center Parcs or Forest Holidays – which is better?
If it’s peace and quiet that you seek then Forest Holidays would be your best option. However if you are looking to be entertained, if you have young children perhaps, then Center Parcs is a better choice.