Earlier this year we were delighted when we were chosen as Butlins Ambassadors for 2016 and last week we headed off for a Monday-Friday Just For Tots break to Butlins Minehead.
It wasn't our first Butlins experience as we visited the Butlins Caravan Park in Skegness last year with Tyne and really enjoyed our time there, but it was our first time heading to Butlins Minehead and we were excited to see how much Tyne would enjoy it now he's a little older...and also to see what Noah would make of his first proper holiday experience too!
Minehead is our nearest Butlins site, only around an hour and a half's drive from where we live in Devon but despite living so close we have never really visited Somerset before, only driven through it.
Our first impressions of the Butlins Minehead site were good - the fairground is right there as you drive in and Tyne was squealing with delight as we drove past, geared up for the week of fun that lay ahead.
There is so much I want to talk about in this review that I'm conscious of it being a bit of a ramble, so I'm going to break it up into sections for you.
Now I have to be honest, this was one of the area's I was most apprehensive of. We have stayed in some stunning 5 star hotels in recent years and I feared that perhaps we'd been a little too "spoiled" by those experiences which would mean that I wouldn't be able to enjoy simple chalet style accommodation at Butlins.
I'll be totally honest - I can be quite a snob about these kinds of things and I quite often pass judgement on places without ever having experienced them, thinking I simply know it all - on this occasion, Butlins well and truly taught me a lesson!
When we pulled up to the West Lakes Village chalets, I was immediately struck with how beautiful the scene was - rows of quaint little chalets in pastel colours lined up along pretty lakes where ducks swam about and wild rabbits hopped freely, with country hills rolling in the background.
But still, I worried that the decor inside would let it all down - again, I couldn't have been more wrong.
The decor was simple but elegant, fun yet tasteful - the living room was very large and gave so much room for my two little monkeys to run and crawl about, play with their toys and generally get up to mischief - we never felt at all hemmed in, in fact when I returned home my house suddenly felt small and cluttered in comparison!
There was plenty of seating, a large dining table with plenty of chairs, and a spacious and very clean kitchen with every amenity you could wish for. I was also impressed to see that tea and coffee facilities were left for us, there was even a pack of playing cards on the table! It had all the makings of a real traditional family holiday.
There was a large bathroom with a bath with shower over (a lovely change to have a bath available as my children despise showers!) and I was so impressed to see that every little detail had been considered to make life with young children more easy - a step up stool was provided in the bathroom, and even safety covers were left for the plug sockets.
The bedrooms consisted of a twin bedroom, a small room with bunk beds, and a double room - and there was another toilet next to the double room too...very nearly en-suite though not quite in the same room.
I have to say, everything in the chalets looked brand new and it was cleaned to such a high standard it would put some of the best hotels I've ever seen to shame - the cleaner came in daily to make up the beds, and did a thorough job every time - even tidying away toys and making everything look presentable for us returning home.
I was also impressed with the towel animals and wash bags of toiletries left in the bathroom - these may seem like small things but I really do think its the small details which add up to leave an overall impression.
What Was There To Do?
Honestly, it's going to be very difficult for me to get across in words just how much there was on offer to keep you entertained at Butlins.
I already knew that we would be well catered for on the Just For Tots after our experience at Skegness, but I actually think Minehead offered even more!
The main center of action is the Skyline Pavillion - this is where it all goes on! There is a large stage in the centre of the Pavilion were character shows are put on at regular intervals throughout the day (more on those later!) and a sea of deck chairs to lounge in while you watch, an arcade featuring everything from rides, penny slot machines, fairground style games and computer games, a bar, a puppet show area, numerous shops, a high-jump trampoline, face painting and hair braiding stands, and numerous food outlets.
Outside there is a lovely fairground featuring all kinds of traditional seaside rides - there's a helter skelter, dodgems, trampolines, a tug boat ride, a swinging viking ship, a carousel, boat swings and so much more - there are also traditional fairground games stalls and food stands selling candy floss, doughnuts, etc. It really does feel like a trip to the seaside!
There are also go karts, bowling and laser quest on site but we didn't use these.
Some of the main fairground rides are suitable for children over 1m tall only, but there is a separate indoor fairground especially for the little ones called Little Stars Fairground - this is perfect for toddlers and Tyne was just in his element in here!
There was a bouncy castle, a high slide, cars to drive, a train ride, teacups, flying jets and a car ride - as everything is included in the price you pay to be at Butlins it's fantastic as little ones can ride their favourites again and again without you having to worry about how much its adding up!
There are a few different play parks dotted around the site, and some Little Tikes Town play areas which Tyne absolutely loves - outside the food court restaurants there is a section full of Little Tikes playhouses and slides which was a bit hit with Tyne, but the area he loved most was the Little Tikes Town car area which is done as a road for children to use - there are tons of different styles of Little Tikes vehicles available for them to use and even petrol pumps! Tyne spent hours playing here!
There are also some chargeable outdoor activities on site, such as sand diggers, panning for gold, adventure golf and family bikes/buggies to hire.
And finally there's the swimming pool - I do think that there was perhaps more for the little ones to do at Skegness' pool, but this one was still lots of fun - there was a toddler area with a small slide and a water play table, and in the main pool there was a lazy river and lots of Butlins balls to play with which Tyne loved! There were also some fab looking water slides but our kids are too young for these yet.
This was one of the big selling points for us, Tyne absolutely loves to watch shows and - more so - loves to meet any characters he can! It was basically a dream come true for him to get to meet some of his true heroes at Butlins - It may sound corny but I honestly believe that Butlins is even better than Disneyland for this age group as Tyne is yet to get into Disney movies and has no idea who the characters are...but show him Fireman Sam, Bob The Builder or Thomas The Tank Engine and he is in character heaven!!!
The shows we saw during our stay included Thomas The Tank Engine 's Race Day, Bob The Builder and Fireman Sam and Tyne loved every single one of them - the redcoats are great at getting the children to join in and take part too.
There were also two performances by childrens TV presenters during our stay, we went along to the Treasure Island show which starred Sid & Rebecca from CBeebies - I thought Tyne would enjoy it as he's very into pirates lately and I was really impressed with how entertaining it was - the kids loved it and it was lovely to see them getting involved in the show, but there were a few laughs for the Mums and Dads too which is always nice!
After every show there is the chance to meet the Cbeebies presenters for a photo too, we chose not to join the queue as the kids were tired by this point but I thought it was good that the option was there if you wanted it.
Character meet and greets are held at regular intervals throughout each day of the break and usually take place in the photo area within the Skyline Pavillion - there is no pressure to buy the photos taken as you are simply handed a card with a number on which you can take to the photo desk if you want to view them but the choice is yours and you are allowed to take your own photos too.
During our stay, Tyne met Mike The Knight and his sidekick Evie, Fireman Sam and Naughty Norman, Thomas The Tank and The Fat Controller, Angelina Ballerina, and Billy & Bonnie - the Butlins bears!
Most evenings there was a storytime session held in the Skyline Pavilion where Billy or Bonnie bear would read a story to the children, this was something that Tyne really enjoyed and was a nice way to wind him down before dinner.
There are also redcoat shows performed during the stay, and regular performances but Butlins own Skyline Gang which were really fun too with lots of music and lots of giggles - the Butlins performers really are very talented people!
As well as all of this, there were also various classes/sessions for the little ones to take part in - there were swimming lessons and mini-bow archery sessions which we didn't go along to, but the ones we did try out included Music & Movement, Tots Football, Arts & Crafts, and the Play-Doh session - again all of these classes (except for the Swimming lessons) were included in the price of the holiday which I think is fantastic!
Now this is the second area that I was very worried about. I have to confess to having some SERIOUS issues with dining out - I suffer with food-related OCD and find it a real struggle to eat in most restaurants as I worry about the standards of cleanliness and the quality of the food on offer.
We were put on a premium dining plan which means that we could dine at one of the two premium restaurants on site for breakfast and our evening meal each day.
Because the restaurants were all-you-can-eat buffet style I was convinced that I wouldn't be able to eat anything, that the quality would be awful and so I took along some pre-prepared foods to eat in the chalet for the week - well guess what?! I brought every single one of them home with me as I simply didn't need them!
The restaurant we used each day was The Deck and it was honestly spotless.
The decor was modern and minimal, and the food on offer looked amazing every night - there was such a selection on offer that there would surely be something to suit every persons tastes, and I was SO impressed with the quality of it.
There was a salad bar each night, a great selection of hot and cold desserts, even a selection of cheese and crackers available. There was also unlimited cordials/juice and hot drinks on offer.
And as for main courses, there was a carvery each night, vegetarian options available, baked potatoes with various fillings, pasta dishes, indian and chinese curries and noodle dishes...the choice was endless!
There were even live stations where you could request a dish to be cooked to order - these included a pasta station serving various kinds of pasta, a wok station for fresh chinese noodles, and a grill station for burgers and hot dogs to order...just as you like them!
I was also SO impressed with the childrens food options - I loved that the childrens buffet section was on their own level so they could see the food on offer and choose for themselves what they wanted. The dishes were never boring - each night there would be things such as the usual fishfingers and waffles of course, but there was also always a more adventurous option such as meatballs and pasta or pad thai, always lots of vegetables and bread rolls on offer, and always a vegetarian option too..not the usual macaroni cheese but meals such as vegetable pad thai, vegetarian lasagne and vegetarian sausages.
The kids section also provided plastic plates, bowls and cutlery which made life a lot easier.
Tyne's favourite part was the ice cream station which he visited each night after dinner - there were lots of treats on offer to add to your ice cream and he was delighted at getting to choose something different each night!
For younger babies, there is even an Ella's Kitchen station where you can select from a range of pouches or jars of baby food and warm them up in the microwaves provided - this is just ideal for people with babies of weaning age and we used this often for Noah when the foods at the childrens section were a bit too advanced for him.
Breakfast in the mornings was also buffet style, and there was plenty on offer - again the children had their own section with English breakfast items on offer as well as hard boiled eggs, and for the grown ups there was everything on offer from help yourself Full English, continental, fruits, cereals, pastries and even live stations for pancakes to order (DELICIOUS!) and bacon sandwiches etc.
It's also worth pointing out that on our first visit to the restaurant, we were greeted by a member of staff who explained how everything worked - she asked if we had any dietary needs which I thought was great. I mentioned my gluten intolerance and she brought me gluten free toast and hash browns, and told me to ask for the dietary chef each evening who would go over each dish suitable for me - how is that for service?! That beats some high end restaurants I've visited in the past!
There were also plenty of other food outlets on site at a charge - there was a Soho Coffee bar selling hot drinks, sandwiches and salads, a Pizza Hut restaurant, Burger King and a fish and chip shop all within the Skyline Pavillion as well as two or three other chargeable restaurants dotted around the site.
As a VERY fussy eater who expected not to be able to stomach the food, I cannot speak highly enough of it - well done Butlins!
I do think that the service you receive on a holiday can go a long way toward making or breaking it, and I have to say that the staff at Butlins Minehead were exceptional.
Every waitress we encountered, every greeter, every redcoat - all of them were happy, polite and engaging and simply couldn't do enough for you.
They all made an effort with the children too, which is something I always like to see.
I have to give a special mention to the following staff members who were truly wonderful at their jobs:
Inga at The Deck restaurant - service with a genuine smile every night, always chatty and friendly, had so much time for the kids and just ever so helpful and accommodating.
The greeter at The Deck restaurant - I didn't get his name but he was lovely each evening, and I loved how he greeted the children by name too - I assume their names come up when he scans our dining card but still, it was a nice touch!
Redcoat Adam - all of the redcoats were lovely but Adam in particular was a lovely young guy who seemed to go out of his way to help people and was great with the kids.
Housekeeper Bart - our housekeeper was just fantastic all week, we never actually met him but he signed his name on the blackboard in our chalet after each visit - he did such a thorough job every single day and the kids just loved his towel animals!
Highlights Of Our Stay
Hiring the family bike - We hired a Dino bike and took it around the site...we got lost of course, but it was such a fun thing to do! I remembered hiring these bikes at holiday camps when I was little and we have family photos of us on them so I really wanted to re-create the memory with my kids.
The bikes cost £9.00 to hie for half an hour which may sound a bit pricey but honestly...It was such a good laugh!
The kids absolutely loved it, Noah squealed with glee at everybody we rode past and Jon & I haven't laughed so much in ages - it was honestly one of my happiest memories of family life so far! So thank you for that Butlins!
Meeting Fireman Sam - Tyne has been just loving Fireman Sam lately so he was beyond delighted to meet the man himself! And to meet his favourite character Naughty Norman to boot was an added bonus! Tyne met Sam twice - one at the official photo shoot meet and greet and once when he was walking around the Pavilion on the last day - he loved getting to give him cuddles and high fives!
Visiting Minehead Beach - we actually made the mistake of driving there because we didn't realise how close it was - it's literally across the road from the Butlins entrance! It would have been quicker to walk - whoops!
The beach itself was lovely...a long sandy beach which the boys spent ages digging and making castles on. We chose a lovely sunny day to visit, and I didnt even need a coat! Not bad for April!
There is so much to do at Butlins that this was actually the only time we left the site itself, so we didn't see a great deal of Minehead itself but the beach was definitely worth a visit!
Areas To Improve On
I always hate reading reviews that say there's nothing to improve on as it just doesn't sound true but I am honestly struggling to think of anything to suggest!
I would say that perhaps the characters could do their meet and greets after each of their own shows, as sometimes Tyne would watch a show and want to meet that character after and not understand that they weren't doing a meet and greet until a few hours later.
Honestly though I am struggling to think of anything else.
We honestly had the most wonderful week in Butlins Minehead - I said to Jon on the Thursday morning as we strolled from our chalet down to the restaurant "I don't remember the last time I felt this happy and relaxed"...and it's true - doesn't that just say it all?
Our week at Butlins was filled with so many magical moments, fun, laughter, and memories that will last a lifetime - thank you Butlins for a wonderful traditional seaside holiday - you certainly know how to do it better than anybody else!
To find out more about Butlins Just For Tots breaks, please click HERE
Here's a look at the rest of our photos from the week, and keep scrolling if you'd like to see our video which shows you more of the site!
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*If you're heading to Butlins soon or thinking about it, check back next week for my Butlins Tips post!
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