ALISON GROVER finds there’s fun for all the family at popular forest resort

THE sub-tropical swimming paradise at Center Parcs Longleat Forest is already pretty spectacular to first-time visitors such as us with its lazy river, outdoor heated pool, cold plunge pool, wave machine and four slides from the long and slow to the exceptionally fast. Once it gets dark, so do they, which makes for an even more exhilarating experience.

Add to this the newest two, Tropical Cyclone, the largest interactive four-person raft ride in Europe, and Typhoon, which reaches speeds of up to 40km/h, plus new play areas, Venture Bay for toddlers and Venture Harbour for older children, and you have everything you need in a pool.

We wasted no time and headed straight for the new slides, trying Tropical Cyclone first, which must be ridden in a two or four person raft and was opened by Olympic medallist Ellie Simmonds in August.

You can choose your theme before you start on the 142m ride, including underwater and thunderstorm.

It starts off fairly slowly and the unsuspecting rider is just beginning to enjoy it when you come to the steep drop which feels as if the floor has been taken away from you, and the moment you think you might recover from that, you are catapulted up the side of the large cone, desperately trying to look at the images projected on the sides before you are propelled out again.

Then, as soon as it starts, it is over, but it leaves you immediately wanting to go round again and try a different theme.

Typhoon is housed in a smaller tube than the at least 2m diameter Tropical Cyclone one and is a longer, slightly less scream-inducing ride, also featuring cones and personalised themes, such as autumn, in a two-person raft.

Once the ride is over, one tip is not to try and get out of the raft until it floats right to the end, or it could tip over, plunging you underwater so you emerge dishevelled and disorientated to the likely amusement of the waiting riders.

The system which hauls the rafts up to the top of the slide got a big thumbs up from us, a worthwhile investment, as you climb the stairs in a leisurely fashion without having to drag the raft with you, usually meaning you arrive at the top out of breath with barely enough time to recover before being catapulted down the slide.

Always check the height of your children on the handy signs on the way up, or there could be quite a lot of disappointment at the top of the climb.

The new play areas have many interactive features, including tipping buckets, shallow pools, fountains, games and smaller slides that should keep the littler ones amused.

After all that excitement, I was in need of a lie down in a darkened room so I took myself off to the on-site spa, Aqua Sana.

I was greeted and presented with a fluffy bathrobe and towel and told to get undressed and wonder through to complete a medical questionnaire.

The changing rooms were full of excited women having a girly chat, or couples having some time out. I was ushered through to a treatment room with much-needed calming music playing for the Elemis body nectar wrap. I spent a pleasant hour being massaged with beautifully frangipane fragranced products formulated to increase the moisture levels in my dry skin.

After doing my utmost not to fall asleep, which I think I managed, I was ushered through to the relaxation area, which consisted of loungers, lemon flavoured water and a wonderful view of the forest. If there was any stress remaining, it should have been totally eradicated by now.

The facial was particularly beneficial and I left with baby soft skin, feeling thoroughly pampered and ready for whatever the rest of the weekend had to throw at me.

While I was relaxing, the children tried out the indoor climbing activities, which consisted of an array of different themed walls to climb, complete with a ‘leap of faith’ challenge at the end which got the thumbs up.

As far as food is concerned, there are a multitude of options, including Italian (Bella Italia), Tex Mex (Huck’s American Bar and Grill) and Latin American (Las Iguanas) which we plumped for.

The restaurant is modern and colourful, and the brook running through the centre complete with fish swimming in it was a definite hit. The children’s meals were good value at £7.95 and included a drink and dessert, with options including macaroni cheese, crazy quesadillas and wacky tacos.

The portions weren’t huge so they were suitable for children up to the age of about 10. Any older than that and an adult meal could be a good choice.

The desserts were a triumph though and the Dulce de Leche macadamia cheesecake (£5.50) was one of the best I have tasted.

On the last day, we tried out the laser combat in the woods, which promised an hour of adrenaline-pumping fun for all the family. On arrival, we were handed camo face paint and kitted up with special headwear and laser guns and divided into two teams.

There were a lot of teenagers ready for some serious action and a few families game for a laugh. (The minimum age for this is six, something to bear in mind when booking.)

After a trial run, where we got used to having 10 lives, and the gun announcing ‘man down, man down’ when they were all up, we launched into fast-paced games, trying to capture the enemy’s base. There was much strategic talk going on among the male contingent, a lot of which went over my head. All previous careful aiming on my part was abandoned in favour of a more trigger-happy approach but I was proud to be the last ‘(wo)man’ standing on my team at the end of one game.

Sadly, our time was up in laser combat and the weekend was fast coming to a close. We had come, we had conquered the newest slides and we vowed to return just as soon as we possibly could to this idyllic holiday paradise in the forest.

Alison Grover visited Center Parcs Longleat.

Four nights in a two-bedoom woodland lodge currently starts at £499, but check the website at for details of special offers and seasonal deals.