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 dad-approved guide to what's on offer, with David Meagher.
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 forest park, Aqua Sana spa, and over 100 leisure activities to choose from.
The Center Parcs lodges come equipped with outdoor barbecue set ups at the back. Photo: Center Parcs
The barbecue set up out the back of the lodge was a favourite. The kids always love the idea of cooking outdoors and it’s great to have an option when you don’t feel like eating out after a busy day of activities. Making your own food leaves you with more control of your evening and helps keep costs down. The lodges are so comfortable, it seems a crime not to spend more time in them and make use of the eating in option.
Top dad tip: If you have your own barbecue utensils at home, bring them with you! The ones provided are okay but it's always handy to have your own. And if you are cooking for a large group you may want to buy two of the larger size disposable barbecues for sale in the Parc Market. You get about half an hour solid cooking time out of each unit.
Den building outdoors is a fun activity for all the family, and the fantastic Center Parcs staff are on hand to help. Photo: Center Parcs
Read: The mum's guide to Center Parcs
Read: The girl's guide to Center Parcs
Read: The boy's guide to Center Parcs
Without fail, every member of staff we came in contact with was a credit to Center Parcs. Having arrived on a Friday evening after a long day at work, I was slightly frazzled to say the least. I thought I had lost the key to my locker in the changing room – in fact I hadn’t. But, the pool staff could not have been more patient, calm, professional and friendly in helping me bumble around looking for a key that I hadn’t even lost. And they were all so great with the kids it definitely made our trip more memorable and enjoyable.
The Subtropical Swimming Paradise is a novelty during wintry Irish days. Photo: Center Parcs
The Subtropical Swimming Paradise was easily my favourite part of Center Parcs. The adrenaline-spiking rides, which are ostensibly designed for older kids and teenagers, are just as enticing for all you Peter Pan dads out there! The water in the Wild Water Rapids, which we must have ridden 20 times or more, is bath-temperature warm. As they run most of their course outdoors, this really is a great feature. Especially in Ireland where being outdoors in water, without a full wetsuit on, is a pretty rare novelty. The two-man and four-man water slides are also highly recommended. If you have younger children, the Venture Bay and Harbour area provides literally hours of entertainment.
Top dad tip: The cold plunge pool, up at the entrance to the rapids, is definitely worth a try. A quick plunge here and the warm water on the rapids feels all that bit warmer as you ride down.
David Meagher and his son Shane, 4, take a spin in the Off Road Explorer. Photo: Jake Browne
With an active four-year-old in tow, luckily there are no shortage of activities for the younger children across the resort. He especially enjoyed driving himself around in the Off Road Explorer, which came with a cute hat for plenty of photo opportunities to keep mum and dad entertained. The Mini Captain offers the same fun, with the added adrenalin of being on water. But it's the quality time you can spend with your little one – even in a resort – ploughing through the Longford Forest it can feel like it's just the two of you on a boys' adventure saving the world.
Top dad tip: Expect to buy them a toy bow and arrow as soon as you get home after the archery fun with the Mini Crossbow (ages 3 to 7).
If you have an interest in sports, or if there happens to be a big game taking place at the time of your stay, fear not. The Sports Café has the largest collection of big screen TVs, playing the widest array of sports I’ve ever seen. There’s food and drink galore. What’s not to like!
Top dad tip: There’s also a soft play area for the younger kids, and pool tables for the bigger kids if they’re are not as enamoured with watching your favourite team as you are.
For more information and to book your epic family getaway now, see centerparcs.ie.
Main photo: The Mini Captain enjoys a boat ride on the lake with his dad at Center Parcs