A couple of weeks ago, we went on a long overdue weekend away at Center Parcs Longleat Forest – thanks to the Beast from the East causing our original weekend to be cancelled!
My family has been visiting Longleat Forest for years – even before I was born – so it’s become a bit of a tradition visiting there. Although, the water slides all feel a bit smaller now!
One of the best things about Center Parcs is the Sub Tropical Swimming Paradise (swimming pool to you and me) – complete with wave machine, outdoor jacuzzi, lots of slides and outside rapids. The rapids are quite chilly, so perhaps not something to linger on during the colder months!
Longleat have recently added two new slides to their pool – the Tropical Cyclone and the Typhoon. These are perfect for big kids and adults, and I must say they’re a little terrifying! The Tropical Cyclone is definitely a white-knuckled ride, not one for the faint hearted – but a fantastic addition to the pool to give grown-ups a little more to do.
Longleat Forest is home to some own-brand and chain restaurants, as well as having two Starbucks onsite – perfect for all weathers and a welcome treat after a tiring session in the pool! We have tried all of the restaurants on our many visits, and a couple are definitely our favourites.
One of the restaurants within the Plaza is Café Rouge, which on this occasion we visited for dinner on our first evening, and breakfast on our departure day. Obviously this is a chain restaurant, so you arrive knowing what to expect – and the food is all good!
I opted for a crab and avocado terrine to start, which was light, colourful and very tasty.
Followed by a big ol’ bowl of moules! Delicious, served with a white wine sauce and fries.
T chose a steak, the obvious choice, accompanied by peppercorn sauce and fries. A classic, and always good. Café Rouge is a great choice if you’ve come as a couple or as a family.
Next up – Las Iguanas. Now, this has been one of my favourite restaurants for years, so I’d say I am probably a little biased. Las Iguanas came to Longleat Forest last year, and we were beyond excited – we actually were there on the opening night, and the food was as excellent then as it was on our most recent trip. We visited here twice, once for a tapas-style lunch and again for dinner – with a few cocktails thrown in the mix too!
As with every Las Iguanas, the cocktails (and mocktails) are all delicious, and always on Happy Hour 2-for-1! My favourites are the fruity or gin-based ones, you can’t go wrong with those.
The decor inside Las Iguanas is very instagrammable – vintage light bulbs, exposed wood and lots of colours make for a cosy and fun atmosphere, completed by the jungle feel inside the Plaza!
Las Iguanas have two menu offerings – tapas or normal main courses. For lunch, we opted for tapas… and everything was just so delicious.
Nachos topped with beef chilli and all the trimmings – a classic, and excellent for sharing.
Chicken Quesadillas – full of flavour and oozing with cheese.
Calamari – already one of my favourite dishes, but done extremely well at Las Iguanas!
Cod Croquettes – mini fishcakes with mint and pea inside. Very tasty.
Last, but by no means least, the mighty Sweet Potato Fries. Always delicious, especially when accompanied by Aioli.
I would highly recommend booking a table at Las Iguanas if you find yourself at Longleat Forest – it’s a great addition to the Plaza, and is the perfect place for cocktails with a group of friends.
While we were at Longleat, we booked a three hour spa session at Aqua Sana – something that we usually do each time we visit. The spa is the best I’ve ever been to – over 10 different saunas, steam and other rooms for you to spend your time wandering between, as well as a pool and wood-burning stoves dotted around. It’s a real haven, and so worth visiting if you have the time. We didn’t have any treatments booked this time round, but I have previously had a scalp massage, reflexology, a facial and a pedicure, and they are all wonderful!
One of the fantastic things that Aqua Sana offers is spa days – meaning that you can book a stand-alone spa day (T and I have done this for our birthdays before) and enter the forest for just one day. You don’t have to be on holiday at Center Parcs in order to enjoy the spa! Check out all the details here.
Another lovely restaurant at Longleat Forest is Bella Italia – a great choice for large parties and families. They have a huge menu, with pizza, pasta and other mains, as well as a little ice cream parlour and lots of cocktails. Definitely worth a visit if you’re staying for a week!
One of my favourite things about Center Parcs has always been the nature – from inside your villa, you can often see squirrels, birds and ducks wandering past and foraging for food. If you have children, the animals in the forest really make for a great holiday.
If you haven’t visited before, this is what the traditional villas look like – ours was a three bedroom one and was very cosy, with a wood burning stove, large living room and three en-suites. We’ve always stayed in these villas, rather than the newer style accomodation – but that’s just our preference.
The Plaza (which houses the Sub Tropical Swimming Paradise) is very warm and is full of leafy trees and exotic plants. This is where you’ll find the little market, gift shops, several restaurants and a Starbucks, as well as the entrance to the pool. Extremely busy on arrival and departure days, and always a hub of activity. If you do visit, I would recommend doing a food shop before you arrive as the ParcMarket doesn’t stock everything.
If you’re considering a long weekend or week away at Center Parcs, I would highly recommend giving it a go. As well as the pool, you also have the option of taking part in lots of activities – from quad-biking, badminton and tennis, to archery, segway tours and more – so there is definitely enough to keep you busy!
Have a browse through the Center Parcs website here – our favourite is Longleat Forest, in Wiltshire.