Travel review: Center Parcs, Woburn Forest

Wild water rapids

Wild water rapids - Credit: Archant

The new Center Parcs in Woburn with luxury spa makes an ideal getaway for couples as well as families.

The lake

The lake - Credit: Archant

On holiday as a child, it had it all – pretty much every indoor or outdoor pursuit imaginable, a sprawling swimming complex and, best of all, you rode your bike everywhere.

But would a return to Center Parcs some 20 years on have equal appeal? In short, yes it did – but for a whole load of more grown-up reasons.

My partner and I visited Center Parcs’ newest village in Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire – taking a direct train out of St Pancras International with Govia Thameslink after work on the Friday, and we were there in under an hour. A shuttle service met us from Flitwick station and whizzed us to the park just five minutes away, bypassing the queue of cars waiting to check in and taking us straight to the hotel.

As far as getting to a weekend break destination goes, it was among the most stress and hassle free experience I’ve had.

Outdoor pool at the spa

Outdoor pool at the spa - Credit: Archant


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The 75 room hotel – connected to the cutting edge spa complex – is slick, luxurious and offers a truly five star experience. Accommodation is sumptuous, with a modern but homely design and outdoor terrace. We were fortunate enough have one of the rooms with a small kitchen – and our pre-ordered groceries pack gave us all we needed for a hearty breakfast to kick start the days.

Being in the hub of the park, we had just about all we needed on our doorstep or within decent walking distance – but getting on your bike is what Center Parcs is all about and without any cars allowed apart from on changeover days, cycling around the stunning 375 acre forest grounds was a big draw.

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We pre-booked our activities online ahead of our break, being careful not to cram too much in. And across the first half of our stay we played badminton, tried archery and visited the subtropical swimming paradise.

At 5,200 square metres, the enormous aquatic playground, which boasts balmy temperatures and thousands of tropical plants, cost £28m to build. It still had the lazy river I remembered, a wave machine signalled by a bellowing Tarzan, and the gushing outdoor white water rapids.

One of the hotel rooms

One of the hotel rooms - Credit: Archant

But nothing prepared me for the hair-raising water rides this new complex has. As we lined up, all I could hear was echoing screams – and I was practically shaking myself when we made it to the front.

The two of us sat down in a four man rubber ring before being launched down the flume at high speed. My heart was left in my mouth after we’d taken a vertical drop down into even bigger tunnel. I opened my eyes momentarily to see my partner on the other side of the rubber ring, nearly upside down, and figured my eyes were best left closed. It took a lot of courage to then try out the Twister ride, on a double inflatable ring – not quite as petrifying, but just as speedy.

Children couldn’t get enough of the rides so families would undoubtedly want to spend hours on end there – making the cabanas you can hire out for the day complete with TVs and fridge ideal for a base.

If the first part of our break was all about action, the second was about relaxation – and we spent the Sunday afternoon enveloped in the luxury of the park’s £12 million Aqua Sana Spa. It boasts 25 experience rooms divided into six areas inspired by nature – fire and ice, blossom, herbal, sensory, mineral and gemstone and salt. There’s soul cleansing relaxation rooms, fragrant steam rooms and saunas to ice experiences and rainforest showers, leaving you feeling invigorated and a million miles away from everyday life.

There’s also a beautiful heated outdoor infinity pool and whirlpool with sun terrace overlooking the forest, which was perfect for soaking up some of the late summer rays.

Our afternoon was rounded off with massages – I opted for the Decleor aromatherapy massage. In an hour of complete bliss, the therapist massaged in warm balms and essential oils to my dehydrated skin, melting away tensions and soothing my muscles tired from the weekend’s activities.

While Center Parcs remains a family focussed retreat, this impressive adults-only spa and luxurious hotel make it an equally ideal for grown-up getaways and spa breaks. Should you want to get a bit closer to nature or come in a larger group, there’s also 625 lodges dotted around the park which come in varying sizes and degrees of luxury.

Evenings are low key, with plenty of restaurants to choose from, pool tables, two bowling alleys and a bar with a DJ and dancefloor – but with so much to do during the day, late nights weren’t on our minds.

As always, Monday came around too soon – but our journey back into the big smoke was as stress free as the trip there had been.

A taxi collected us and got us to the station for 7.30am, allowing us to be back at our desks for 9am – thoroughly reinvigorated but wishing we were back there.

Prices for a midweek break for two in the hotel start at £299. Book here or call 03448 267 723.

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