A look back at our trip to Center Parcs Longford Forest
We were extremely lucky to have been able to visit the new Center Parcs Longford Forest site in March. We were the last weekend of bookings allowed to stay prior to the first lockdown.
Longford Forest is Center Parcs’ newest site and their first in Ireland. It opened recently in Autumn of 2019 in the woodlands of Ballymahon, County Longford.
We did consider not going, due to the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 in mid-March. We decided (thankfully, in hindsight) to go, thinking we would keep as much of a distance between us and other guests as best we could. The numbers at this stage were extremely low.
Arrival and Accommodation at Center Parcs Longford Forest
We arrived at Longford Forest for our three-night stay on a Friday at around 4pm. It took just under three hours to drive there from Waterford.
After checking in, we drove down to our accommodation. As my Dad is a bilateral amputee, we had booked an adapted four-bed Executive Lodge. I expected it to have been of a good standard, given how new it was, but it actually exceeded expectation.
The lodge consisted of two double bedrooms, one with a wall-mounted T.V. There was also one room with two single beds, and the large accessible suite.
The suite had all the mod-cons; electric bed, a normal single bed for a partner, a large wall-mounted T.V., an electric hoist and a fully accessible en-suite bathroom.
We had a choice of two shared bathrooms, both spacious. One contained a walk-in shower, the other a large bath. Miniatures and towels were also provided in the lodge.
The living room had a fireplace, sofa, and another T.V. with an open-plan dining area and kitchen. The kitchen had nearly all the amenities you could think of, including a lowered accessible counter. There was also a Tassimo machine and a mixture of pods – this was a nice surprise as I’d actually forgotten my own.
Outside, we had a private patio area, outdoor seating and table and a BBQ. Unfortunately mid-March isn’t BBQ weather, so we gave that a miss. Nice idea though.
Center Parcs Longford Forest is a car-free zone. This is to reduce noise and air pollution, to make the site safe for cyclists and pedestrians and as not to disturb the wildlife. Cars are only permitted by the accommodations on check-in and check-out and for a limited amount of time. As we were in an accessible lodge, my Dad got to keep his car in the space outside should he have required his spare wheelchair, or need emergency medical assistance etc. We had to leave mine in a car park a short walk from the lodge.
Center Parcs email you before your stay to remind you to pre-book any activities you’d like to do in order to avoid disappointment. This is also the case for dining out options. Off of the back of that you can plan your stay around your itinerary.
As we were a group of adults visiting for Dad’s birthday for just a weekend, activities weren’t a huge selling point for us, it was more about family time. We did book in for a few things though.
We arrived at the park. After unpacking and exporing the lodge, myself and Jon went to collect our bikes that we had reserved. That evening, we had homemade chilli in the lodge, drinks and a birthday cake in celebration for my Dad.
After waking up to a super yummy full Irish, my Stepmum had booked herself and her friend into the Aqua Sana Spa for the day, which they thoroughly enjoyed every minute of. Jon and I decided to cycle and grab a coffee from the cafe in the main complex. After that we headed into the Subtropical Paradise, Ireland’s largest indoor waterpark. With slides for all ages, cabanas, a cafe, an indoor lazy river, an outdoor pool and outdoor rapids, you’d be forgiven for losing track of time in there. It was brilliant fun and a super comfortable space – the pool areas are heated to 29.5 degrees celsius all year round, and is full of tropical plants – it’s lush and you’d be forgiven for forgetting you are in Ireland.
That evening we’d booked into Cara’s Kitchen, one of the restaurant options available to us for eating out. During dinner, a musician started playing guitar and singing and the place erupted into a good old Irish sing-song, which was an added highlight of the evening. The only downside was we were on a time restriction for our booking, so I don’t think I fully relaxed and could have happily stayed in there for drinks afterwards. The food was good, but nothing to rave about. Oh, and also, for someone with a wheelchair it was a bit of a squeeze. We had mentioned this to staff when booking, but it seems they still weren’t prepared for us.
Jon and I were going to check out the Sport’s Bar afterwards, but ended up going back to the lodge as we were just so tired from all that fresh air. After a few more drinks and a few games of Articulate, we hit the hay.
On our third day, we didn’t really have any plans so we saw where the day took us. Starting with a bike ride, we headed to the Pancake House but it was so busy inside and the queue for a table was so long that we decided to swerve it in favour of another coffee from the cafe. My Dad later tried the Pancake House and said it was nice – het got to build his own pancake with choice of toppings.
We decided to go for another swim, heading back for lunch briefly, and then spending the afternoon cycling and looking around the shops in the main complex. My favourite was the sweet shop, naturally, but there were some cute designer bits on sale, too. On the note of shopping, the mini-market within the complex is really good value, so don’t feel you need to do a large shop before arriving, it’s really reasonable and competitve with standard supermarket pricing.
As the Subtropical Swimming Paradise was open until late, I’d been eager to go and spend my evening in the outdoor pool under the stars, enjoying the jacuzzi seats and plunging down the rapids. It was a really nice experience to go night-swimming outside, and the pool was heated so I was never uncomfortable.
The best part of this day was at the very end. At around 12am I was sat outside the lodge on the patio facing some woodland having a hot drink, when I heard a rustle and a family of deer appeared, majestically yet silently walking through the trees.
It pretty much made the weekend for me and was a testament to how well-preserved the nature of the forest is, despite the holiday park being there.
On departure day we had to check out of our accommodation and return our wristbands , but we were told we could use the park and facilities for the remainder of the day. The bikes had to be returned early though, which was a bit of a bummer.
Covid-19 Updates For Center Parcs Longford Forest:
Owing to the current situation, Center Parcs Longford Forest is currently closed again (October 2020) due to the three-week level three lockdown in Ireland. When they reopened, however, they had implemented a number of new measures to help keep you safe, but they will affect your stay:
- Joined Fáilte Ireland’s Covid-19 Safety Charter
- You must wear a face mask as directed around the park and social distance
- Enhanced cleaning regimes
- Staff in PPE or behind perspex screens
- Hand santiser units installed across the site
- Fewer guest bookings accepted
- Payments by card, Apple or Google Pay only
- Check-out is now 10am and you must depart the site by 1pm that day
- Daily housekeeping is unavailable
- Paper, tea and coffee has been removed from all lodges
- Reduced numbers for activity sessions
- Activities and restaurant bookings must be made online in advance of your stay
- Increased takeaway service and menu options for delivery to your lodge
- Restaurant bookings for groups of 6 or less only
- No baby milk/ food heating facilities
- Limited (and this is the worst one) access to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise with booking prior to arrival, on the following restrictions:
2 night stay = 1 x 2 hour pool session
3/4 night stay = 2 x 2 hour pool session
5/6 night stay = 3 x 2 hour pool session
7 night stay = 4 x 2 hour pool session
- You must arrive 15 minutes before your booking, wearing your swimming costume underneath your clothes
- There are no shower or dryer facilities available
- A new 10c charge per person per session has been added and will be given to Barretstown Children’s Charity
We had a wonderful time visiting Center Parcs Longford Forest and would love to visit again one day. I would highly recommend it, however given the new restrictions, I would advise waiting until everything reopens properly (yes, I do believe there will be a time). The pool area was the highlight of our trip and I’m 30, so I can’t imagine how a child would feel being denied access when it is right in front of them, or being dragged out after only two hours. Not cool.
I would also recommend not over-saturating your itinerary with activity bookings. Much of what’s on offer you’ve probably done before elsewhere. The focus of the activities definitely feels geared towards children, or Stag and Hen / Away Day groups, as it did all look a bit team-builder-y. It would be nice to see more activities specifically geared towards couples, too.
We had more than enough to do cycling round, enjoying the sites on offer, swimming, mooching around the shops, drinking coffee and relaxing at the lodge, so don’t feel you have to spend hundreds in extra cash to fill up your days.
Peace & Love