Planning a getaway with the family? Look no further than Center Parcs in Co Longford, the ultimate adventure staycation for the whole family. Here's our mum-approved guide to what's on offer.
Affiliated with the much-loved Center Parcs resorts in the UK, Ireland’s first offering is set amid 400 acres of woodland in Longford.
Boasting 466 lodges and 30 apartments, the resort accommodates up to 2,736 guests.
While a little smaller than its UK cousin, the Longford Forest is packed with all the same main attractions, namely the 3,500m2 Subtropical Swimming Paradise (heated to 29.5°C all year round); watersports lake, impressive aerial adventure, Aqua Sana spa, and over 100 leisure activities to choose from.
The Subtropical Swimming Paradise and Wild Water Rapids are a firm favourite at Center Parcs. Photo: Center Parcs
Happy kids, happy parent
I don’t believe that family holidays should be all about the kids but let’s face it if they are lit up with delight it really does help lift the collective mood. As purpose-built kid-friendly fun goes it definitely doesn’t get much better than this. Quite apart from the remarkable list of activities on offer – from Bollywood dancing to boating – and the Nirvana that is the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, there are little pockets of delight for kids everywhere in Center Parcs. With attractive playgrounds dotted around the resort and soft-play areas and play zones in almost all the eateries, kids are definitely made to feel like first-class citizens here, and the feeling of fun is pretty infectious.
Katherine, 9, braves the aerial tree trekking at Center Parcs in Longford. Photo: Lizzie Gore-Grimes
Read: The dad's guide to Center Parcs
Read: The boy's guide to Center Parcs
Read: The girl's guide to Center Parcs
No squabbling over screens
It’s such a relief to spend a few days together as a family and not have one single argument over screens. From the moment we arrived to the minute we drove out the gate the kids were busy and distracted… but not by devices for once! Between the multiple water rides, wave pool, lazy river and the rapids of the Subtropical Swimming Paradise (which let’s face it, they want to spend most of their time in), to exploring the resort on their bikes, and experiencing a couple of special activities – the kids were having so much fun phones were well and truly forgotten. Bliss.
The best way to get around the resort is to jump on a bike and enjoy a family cycle. Photo: Center Parcs
Outdoor fun for all
One of the bits I enjoyed best about our visit was the simple novelty of the five of us cycling around together. Center Parcs offers bikes for hire for every ability: trikes, two-wheels, children's bikes, cycles with baby carriers. Cycling home one evening after dinner, weaving all over the road, between the sky-high trees, it felt like such a refreshing break from the city rush. Another early evening we were still in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise as dusk was falling, we swam out into the outdoor heated pool just as a chilly light drizzle began to fall. Bobbing about in the warm water under the stars, with steam rising around us, really felt pretty magical and not at all like the middle of Ireland.
There are plenty of outdoor and indoor activities for all ages at the Center Parcs resort in Longford. Photo: Center Parcs
To self-cater or not to self-cater
The lodge kitchens are impressively kitted out with all manner of culinary mod-cons so you can pack the car with the few days’ worth of groceries and do it all yourself or dip in and out of the resort’s myriad restaurants, cafés and home delivery dining in service. The onsite Parc Market is also well stocked so you can top up any time you need. We enjoyed a mix of picnic lunches at the lodge, one night out, and a barbecue on the last night. Each lodge is equipped with a barbecue set up out back and the Parc Market sells super-sized disposable ones to make life easy… plus giant marshmallows for the all essential s’mores.
Activities for all
With over 100 activities to choose from there really is something for everyone here – including parents. If you enjoy the outdoors, I highly recommend the Aerial Adventure which takes you on an elevated tree-top climb ending in an adrenaline-rush zipline over the lake. The Laser Combat is great fun to do with the kids – even better if you gang up against each other! Kayaking around the lake is lovely – nice and peaceful – we’re going to brave the more demanding stand-up paddleboarding next time.
Indoors, the lads loved playing pool and ping-pong, while Alanna painted her cupcake jewellery box in the pottery studio.
For more information and to book your epic family getaway, see centerparcs.ie.
Main photo: Lizzie Gore-Grimes, IMAGE editor-in-chief, and daughter Alanna, 8, enjoy kayaking on the lake