From waterslides to a new multi-sport activity centre, there’s now even more fun to be had at Haven’s Craig Tara park in Ayrshire.
I’m falling uncontrollably in the pitch black, screaming as my body barrels from side to side. Thirty seconds later, I come to a shuddering halt and look to my left, where my eight-year-old daughter, Lottie, screams: “Again, again!”.
It’s 9.30am on our second day at Haven’s Craig Tara holiday park, and we’ve already experienced the thrill of the giant dual flume at Splashaway Bay.
The huge swimming complex, with its flumes, multi-level pools and terrifyingly fast waterslide is impressive enough but it’s not the main reason my partner Jenny, Lottie and I have travelled to the beautiful Ayrshire coast, about 50 minutes by road from Glasgow. We’ve come to sample the activities on offer at the park’s new state-of-the-art £6 million development, Lighthouse Harbour Adventure Centre, which features an indoor climbing area with seven walls, two aerial ropeclimbing courses, crazy golf, an arts and crafts area and play village.
But what Lottie’s looking forward to most is leaping 12 metres (40 feet), safely harnessed of course, from the centre’s outdoor platform, The Extreme Jump, and, rashly, her mum has agreed to do it with her.
After eight months of construction, Lighthouse Harbour opened this July, and it’s just one of the new developments at some of Haven’s 37 parks across the UK. It’s part of the company’s bigger vision, as Gerard Tempest, guest and proposition director at Haven, explains. “Over the last few years, we’ve focused heavily on understanding what our guests want to see from the Haven experience of the future, and how we can bring this to life across our parks.
“In 2019, Haven is rolling out innovative new concepts across five holiday parks, including the ultimate indoor activity area at Craig Tara. This is the start of our journey to trial what the Haven of the future looks like, and ensures we continue to give all our guests the best possible experience.”
After Lottie’s leap from the tower (Jenny gets cold feet and has to do the walk of shame down the tower staircase back to terra firma), we head back to base for lunch. As a man of a certain age, the word “caravan” conjures up an image of a rickety box on wheels with a tiny bedroom and no toilet, but that couldn’t be further removed from the accommodation at Craig Tara.
We’re in a Platinum two-bedroom caravan, and the first thing that takes your eye as you walk in is the huge L-shaped sofa facing a wall-mounted TV. It’s an impressive space, backing on to a kitchen area with table and chairs, sink, dishwasher, electric oven and hob, and a large fridge/freezer.
Lottie is delighted she has her own bedroom, and ecstatic when we discover that the caravan has two bathrooms, each with shower, basin and toilet, which means she doesn’t have to share with Mum and Dad – it’s an eight-year-old’s heaven.
We’ve stocked the fridge with supplies from the park’s on-site supermarket, so after sandwiches and a cup of tea, we relax on the sofa to plan our activities for the rest of our stay. In addition to the free facilities and activities at Craig Tara (entrance to Splashaway Bay is included in the holiday price, and there are numerous free indoor sessions ranging from mini-fencing and archery to free kids’ shows and a large soft-play centre), there are also paid-for activities.
Downloading the Haven app is essential if clients want to negotiate their way through the 90-plus daily activity sessions on offer during peak season. Slots are from 30 minutes to an hour, and once you’ve registered your bank card details, you can book the activity and time you want. Activities cost between £2 and £20pp, so to avoid any shocks when they arrive on-site, advise clients to do their homework beforehand on what their kids are likely to want to try, and factor the cost into the overall holiday price.
“It felt so amazing whizzing around effortlessly, controlling the Segway with tiny body movements.” (£12pp)
“Cool hand-held jet propulsion machines. Dad did it with me, and it was fun beating him in an underwater race!” (£10pp)
“It was my first time, but Mum helped me as she used to roller-skate as a teen.” (£5pp)
Nature Rockz survival bracelet
“So cool, the cords we made our bracelets from can be unravelled to use as fishing lines to help you survive in the wilderness.” (£6pp)
Nature Rockz firelighting
“It felt exciting to create sparks with a flint – and then we enjoyed toasted marshmallows on the fire we created!” (£6pp)
That evening, after devouring some pepperonis delivered to our caravan from the park’s on-site pizza parlour, we head over to the Bonga Wonga entertainment complex. As usual, the place is jumping as Craig Tara’s resident troupe get their audience of enthralled kids to copy their dance moves and sing silly songs. Then it’s over to the children’s entertainer, and I roar with laughter as he plants a custard pie into a dad’s face during one of the games on stage – hugely relieved it wasn’t me he picked when he scoured the audience earlier looking for “volunteers”. It’s good old-fashioned fun, and afterwards we take the short walk back to our caravan and flop into bed.
Come day three, we’re really into the swing of things. It’s only 2pm and we’ve already been swimming, scaled the walls at Lighthouse Harbour’s crazy climber, and got our groove on at the roller disco. I look at the step counter on my phone’s fitness app and it’s already past 10,000 – more than I’d usually do in an entire day at home.
That’s the great thing about a family break at Craig Tara, you can do as much or as little as you want, but you’re never short of options to fill your days. And investment in facilities and activities is something Bourne Leisure, Haven’s parent company, obviously feels will reap rewards in the long-run.
Head of trade sales and marketing Erman Housein says: “The developments at Craig Tara, and all five of our trialled parks, offer guests a variety of new features that enhance the overall experience. Nearly £100m has been utilised to trial innovative new concepts across a number of parks, which aids agents in terms of selling potential by bringing new and exciting talking points to the table to help secure bookings.”
On our final day at Craig Tara, Lottie wakes up grumpy, as she “doesn’t want the best holiday of her life to end”. She quickly perks up when we treat ourselves to a full English fry-up at the park’s Brigs of Ayr restaurant, and remembers she’ll still be able to squeeze in another junior Segway session and a final trip to Splashaway Bay before we have to leave.
Later, as we pack up our things ready for the journey home, satisfyingly exhausted after four days of non-stop family fun, Lottie cheekily tries to persuade us to book her on to one last activity. Jenny and I just sigh resignedly – it’s like pester power, but in a good way.
Book it: Prices for a four-night spring 2020 break at Haven Craig Tara Holiday Park, Ayrshire, start from £120, based on a family of up to four sharing a Standard two-bedroom caravan, departing 20 March 2020.
Smarter: Clients can beat the bar queues in the main entertainment area and get drinks delivered to their table by downloading the Haven Serve app. Just register a card, order from the menu and enter your table number.
Better: Suggest clients start booking activities on the Haven What’s On app before their stay, as some of the more popular activities can get booked up quickly.
Fairer: The Nature Rockz programme runs sessions in which kids can enjoy the beautiful wooded and coastal surroundings of the park and learn about the environment.