Set in the heart of the woods of the Wye Valley, Whitemead Forest Park in Gloucestershire is a really good choice for a hassle-free UK family break.
Staying at Whitemead Forest Park means you have the flexibility of self-catering but with really good facilities on site, and a whole range of activities available for children and adults.
Whitemead Forest Park has a selection of log cabins – some with their own hot tubs – lodges and glamping pods, and plenty of space for caravans as well. There is even a bungalow on the site if you are travelling with a large party or want a bit more luxury.
We stayed for five days at Whitemead Forest Park in one of the buildings split into apartments, one upstairs and one downstairs apartment. We were in the upstairs one, and found it to be really spacious, with great high ceilings and comfortable beds, spotlessly clean and with a really well-equipped kitchen. There was a main bathroom and ensuite with shower, and lots of space for us to spread out and not get on top of one another. Important on a family holiday I always think!
Our accommodation at Whitemead Forest Park is on the edges of a large grassy area, meaning there is lots of green space, lovely views and an open feel. It wasn’t like you looked out of your window and there were wall-to wall lodges; our living room for example had a view onto the central field, and we could see one of the two play areas, large outdoor chess game and table tennis tables.
Whitemead Forest Park is dog-friendly – although the lodge we stayed in was one dogs weren’t allowed in and you can specify somewhere “pet-free” if that’s what suits you.
What we really liked at Whitemead Forest Park was the indoor swimming pool (which has a hot tub, sauna and steam room) and all the activities you could do there. My son (10) took a snorkelling and sea scooter session and my daughter (6) did the mini jet kids. We pre-booked both of these the week before we arrived, which seems to be a good idea as many of the other activities were booked up when we got there.
The snorkelling session (£10) was a good hour-and-a half long and gives the kids time to learn a new skill and hang out with a group of children their own age.
The jet skis were just for 2-5 year olds, and although I was a bit apprehensive about how fast they would go, there are actually only two of them so the children take turns, and they are more like a cross between inflatable dinghys and dodgem cars! Loads of fun anyway and a great option at I think £7 a session.
There is also a gym which looked great although I can’t say I used it, and a cafe/restaurant and bar area which we went to a few times.
The food was pretty good, very family-friendly and not too expensive. I’d say similar to a Wetherspoons menu with things like fish and chips, pizza and chilli on offer. The service was really slow though, both times we ate in the restaurant we had a long wait for food and had to ask the staff several times if they had forgotten about us! It was half-term though so perhaps they were struggling with it being busier than usual.
In the evenings at Whitemead Forest Park, there is a kids’ disco from 7pm which everyone seemed to love (there is a bar in the entertainment venue too!). Bingo followed each night at 8.30 which we really loved, and the prizes were good – depending on how many tickets were sold the prize for a full house was up to £200 one night, so well worth a go.
There was entertainment on after the bingo which was fun – including a Bruno Mars tribute act which my son loved and a kids’ entertainer who was really popular – but started at 9 and ended at 10.15, so pretty late for little ones.
Whitemead Forest Park is a great place for children to make friends though and there were plenty of kids around to have fun with.
Day trips from Whitemead Forest Park in Forest of Dean
Having never visited the area before we were keen to explore the Forest of Dean, and found some really good activities just a short drive away.
We spent a morning at Puzzlewood – a privately-owned area of forest near Coleford which has been used as a location for several films and TV shows. Star Wars, Doctor Who, Merlin and Tree Fu Tom have all been filmed here, and you can see why when you see how magical it is.
There are pathways through the wood which are decorated with handmade fencing, making it feel magical and ancient as you wander through. There is a poster as you walk in with things to spot, such as a fairy doorway and wooden “dinosaur feet” steps, and also an app which you can download to scan pictures of coins hidden in the woods as you go along.
As well as the wood, there is an outdoor maze, play area, farm animals and a great little cafe. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
We also visited Perrygrove Railway, which is just across the road. It’s a miniature railway and treasure hunt in one, as children are given a clipboard with clues to find – all which can be seen from the train. When you get back to the station house, you use the answers to crack a code leading you to your own treasure box, and then use the keep attached to your clipboard to get to your prize.
Really fun if somewhat smaller than we imagined, but something the kids said was one of their favourite activities of the week.
Another day, we took a drive out to nearby Ross-on-Wye and Symmonds Yat. Ross-on-Wye is a charming market town with some nice shops to look in and a great spot for lunch. The kids enjoyed spending their holiday money in Toy Box and we had lunch at a pub called The Royal, which had a great view of the river below. Cafe Eleganza also looked like a good place to eat and I’d try there if I went a second time.
Symmonds Yat is a beautiful place nearby, with a few pubs and a hotel set on a riverside popular with canoeists. From there, you can walk along a wooded path next to the river or up to Yat Rock on the hill if you fancied something more challenging. We ate at the Saracen’s Head and watched the hand-pulled ferry boat take passengers across the river in front.
I’d definitely recommend a trip to this part of the world and if you’re looking for something similar to Centre Parcs for an easy break away, give Whitemead Forest Park a try.
You can also read about 10 Things to do in Gloucester here.
With thanks to Wyedean Tourism for arranging the trip.
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