Upon arrival at roughly 1:30pm, we were checked in quickly and left our luggage at reception as our accommodation would not be ready until 4pm. Although this was something of a nuisance, we were warned in advance that this would be the case and one can see the necessity of cleaning the accommodation after previous guests vacate.
At first, we went to the Skyline Pavilion, where a number of arcade games kept us entertained for a while, although at quite a large price (around £1 per ride). Luckily, we soon discovered Bob the Builder's Yard, an indoor funfair specifically designed for under 5s. Our two-year-old loved it. There were various merry-go-round type rides with all different vehicles - from aeroplanes to ladybirds, a long slide, a mini waltzer and a train ride. The queues were short, the children are allowed unlimited rides and, best of all, it was completely free of charge! We spent most of our time there before heading to our accommodation.
The bungalow was clean and everything appeared as we expected. Unfortunately, the television only received three channels, one being the Butlins information channel. The signal was so poor that we could barely read the information anyway and the other channels could barely be seen at all. We reported it to a cleaner that was around and she assured us that someone would come by to look at it. Later we also discovered that the toaster and heaters were also broken.
Heading to the food court at dinner time, we were happy to see the variety of choices. I had sliced roast pork, carrots, boiled potatoes with herbs and gravy. While I wouldn't say it was the best meal I've eaten, it was certainly of a reasonable standard and about what I expected for the price we paid. My daughter had fish fingers, carrots, peas and gravy, which she enjoyed. My husband wasn't so happy with his choice of a beefburger and chips as the meat was quite dry and there was no cheese on offer to go in the burger. Other than that one meal, we all enjoyed everything else we had in the food court. At breakfast times, we were offered cooked food such as eggs, bacon and sausages and also fruit and cereal. I would definitely recommend the dining plan, especially as it saved me lots of time in preparing food and washing up!
For lunchtimes, we prepared small meals with food from the on-site shop. The prices were very high and I think if we decide to return next year, we'll take more of our own supplies such as tea and sugar and make the trip to one of the supermarkets in Minehead for the rest of our food and other necessities. The only other restaurant we used during our stay was the Pizza Hut, which offered the same service and quality of food you would expect from any Pizza Hut.
One of the highlights of our stay were two trips to the swimming pool. With ample changing facilities, many slides, a lazy river, wave machine, small pool and shallow areas for smaller children and non-swimmers, it was probably the best pool I have ever been to and we all enjoyed it immensely. It is best to check times though, as we found one morning that we couldn't go straight in as premier guests were offered a separate session.
Another very useful facility was the nursery. Our daughter attended the free session on Tuesday, a late night session on Wednesday evening and two daytime sessions on Thursday. She enjoyed every moment of it and it gave me and my husband some time alone together, something we have gone without since she was born! On Wednesday evening, we had a wander around the arcade games, went for cocktails in Bar Rosso then collected a small pizza from Pizza Hut before picking our daughter up. The nursery staff were brilliant; very welcoming and friendly. I could barely drag my daughter away at the end of her sessions there!
Another problem we had was arranging activities. My husband went along to the leisure hub on Tuesday, hoping to take part in some archery. He was told that he needed to pre-book this activity, something we hadn't been previously told. Although annoyed, he arranged and paid for us both to do archery on Thursday morning, while our daughter would be in nursery. However, when we turned up, our names were not on the instructor's list and we had to produce a receipt to prove that we had paid for it. He included us in the group but we were very much tagged on, always shooting last and feeling as though we were holding others up. It was a fun session, despite being a little soured by the difficulties in arranging it.
After all of the problems we experienced, we did complain and were visited by a manager, who brought us a new toaster, had the heaters fixed and gave us Butlins vouchers to spend on resort as a good-will gesture. We were pleased that the problems were eventually dealt with but it has put us off booking again a little.
We didn't attend many of the shows, simply because they weren't to our tastes. I took my daughter to a Mike the Knight show, a Pingu show and a Puppet Show, which were all entertaining and enjoyable. I also took her to one of the under 5s discos, which she really loved, dancing around with the other children and playing games such as musical statues. The redcoats organising these events were engaging and entertaining.
We are still deciding whether or not to book again with Butlins for our holiday next year. Our daughter had a brilliant time and we did enjoy aspects of it too. For anyone who is planning a holiday there, I have a few pointers:
- Check if you need to pre-book any of the activities you wish to take part in before you go
- Pre-book any sessions in the nursery you wish to make use of
- If you're self-catering, take along some supplies and go to the supermarkets outside of the resort
- Make good use of the free facilities such as the swimming pool, shows and fairgrounds
- Carefully plan what you want to do each day so you don't end up rushing from place to place!