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Center Parcs: Taking the break to Longford Forest resort

Stuart, Effie (4) and Hugo (3) and mum Shari Wilson, from Banbridge, Co Down at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest.
NO REPRO FEE 26/7/2019. Baz Ashmawy and his daughter Mahy,6yrs make a splash in Ireland’s newest and largest waterpark, the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest! After months of anticipation, the forest resort launches today offering the nation a glimpse of what families can enjoy at the new short break destination. Baz and his family were among 2,000 special guests to preview the resort before it welcomes its first paying guests on Monday, 29th July. Center Parcs Longford Forest is set to become Ireland’s leading family escape, offering Irish families hours of endless fun and quality time come rain, hail or shine.Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Irelnd
No repro fee 26-7-2019 Picture shows from left the Murphy family from Drogheda, Ciara (12); and Andy; at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest. After months of anticipation, the forest resort launches today, offering the nation a glimpse of what families can enjoy at the new short break destination. To celebrate the launch of the long-awaited forest resort, 2,000 special guests were lucky enough to preview the resort before it welcomes its first paying guests on Monday, 29th July. Center Parcs Longford Forest is set to become Ireland’s leading family escape, offering Irish families hours of endless fun and quality time come rain, hail or shine.Pic:Naoise Culhane-no fee
Brian Finnegan and his son Brian (11) from Dublin at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest. Picture: Naoise Culhane
No repro fee 26-7-2019 Picture shows Amie Finnegan (9) from Dublin at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest. After months of anticipation, the forest resort launches today, offering the nation a glimpse of what families can enjoy at the new short break destination. To celebrate the launch of the long-awaited forest resort, 2,000 special guests were lucky enough to preview the resort before it welcomes its first paying guests on Monday, 29th July. Center Parcs Longford Forest is set to become Ireland’s leading family escape, offering Irish families hours of endless fun and quality time come rain, hail or shine.Pic:Naoise Culhane-no fee
No repro fee 26-7-2019 Picture shows tv personality Karen Koster with her daughter Eve (1), and sons Finn (4) and JJ (3) at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest. After months of anticipation, the forest resort launches today, offering thNo repro fee 26-7-2019 Picture shows tv personality Karen Koster with her daughter Eve (1), and sons from left Finn (4) and JJ (3) at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest. After months of anticipation, the forest resort launches today, offering the nation a glimpse of what families can enjoy at the new short break destination. To celebrate the launch of the long-awaited forest resort, 2,000 special guests were lucky enough to preview the resort before it welcomes its first paying guests on Monday, 29th July. Center Parcs Longford Forest is set to become Ireland’s leading family escape, offering Irish families hours of endless fun and quality time come rain, hail or shine.Pic:Naoise Culhane-no feee nation a glimpse of what families can enjoy at the new short break destination. To celebrate the launch of the long-awaited forest resort, 2,000 special guests were lucky enough to preview the resort before it welcomes its first paying guests on Monday, 29th July. Center Parcs Longford Forest is set to become Ireland’s leading family escape, offering Irish families hours of endless fun and quality time come rain, hail or shine.Pic:Naoise Culhane-no fee
No repro fee 26-7-2019 Picture shows the McGonigle family from Bansha, Co Tipperary; Jack (11); Shane; Katie Mai, (7); Kay; and Charlie, (9) at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest. After months of anticipation, the forest resort launches today, offering the nation a glimpse of what families can enjoy at the new short break destination. To celebrate the launch of the long-awaited forest resort, 2,000 special guests were lucky enough to preview the resort before it welcomes its first paying guests on Monday, 29th July. Center Parcs Longford Forest is set to become Ireland’s leading family escape, offering Irish families hours of endless fun and quality time come rain, hail or shine.Pic:Naoise Culhane-no fee
NO REPRO FEE 26/7/2019. Baz Ashmawy and his children Mahy,6yrs , Jamie 9yrs and Jake 17yrs make a splash in Ireland’s newest and largest waterpark, the Subtropical Swimming Paradise, at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest! After months of anticipation, the forest resort launches today offering the nation a glimpse of what families can enjoy at the new short break destination. Baz and his family were among 2,000 special guests to preview the resort before it welcomes its first paying guests on Monday, 29th July. Center Parcs Longford Forest is set to become Ireland’s leading family escape, offering Irish families hours of endless fun and quality time come rain, hail or shine.Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Irelnd
No repro fee 26-7-2019 Picture shows from left the Murphy family from Drogheda, Aoife (15) ; Andy; and Monica and at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest. After months of anticipation, the forest resort launches today, offering the nation a glimpse of what families can enjoy at the new short break destination. To celebrate the launch of the long-awaited forest resort, 2,000 special guests were lucky enough to preview the resort before it welcomes its first paying guests on Monday, 29th July. Center Parcs Longford Forest is set to become Ireland’s leading family escape, offering Irish families hours of endless fun and quality time come rain, hail or shine.Pic:Naoise Culhane-no fee
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

If you haven't already heard, Center Parcs has arrived in Ireland - and with it promises "epic family time".

Not for us though. And all because of dad here.

Days before we were due to set off on our very much-anticipated trip to the new Longford Forest resort I broke a leg.

I blame the kids - had they been able to catch me as we chased around the garden it would not have happened.

What followed was agony. Not the immense pain in my leg, or the hours spent in the hospital - or the seemingly endless walks, or hobbles, to the next port of call in the corridors of the Royal.

But rather what to do. Center Parcs had been the go-to threat for months.

Our five-year-old had been packed since May and the youngest (3) had asked every day if it was "Center Parcs today?".

So with adventure locked in and after a chat with the pre-arrivals team for how we could do it, we set off into the unknown.

It's around a three-hour journey from Belfast and once you leave the motorway heading south to go west its lots of country roads - but crucially there are a few pit stops on the way, though as always for kids they aren't spaced five minutes apart.

We arrived in the late afternoon and check-in was slick. Everything is done from the car and can be mostly done before arrival. After a bit of info, armed with our wearable keys we were off to the lodge.

And swish does not come into it. Spec-ed to the highest level woody greens, greys and browns dominate the spacious living-kitchen-diner. And all built by a Limavady firm too.

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With my mobility needs it all being on one level and with plenty of room there was no issue.

We had a two bedroom - the kids room came with an en-suite. The well-kitted out kitchen could handle the demands of a Sunday roast and the back patio - which opens out to the forest - has a brick barbecue for some sizzle.

Adventure just oozes from the moment you weigh in. There's families on bikes towing trailers of kids all around the place and the lodge just says, 'go explore'.

Cars are only allowed on turnaround days so they are not a worry for the kids careering about on their bikes. Although you have to watch out for the kids careering about on the bikes.

Cycling is a must. Everyone has to have one, not by rule, it just makes sense.

Large areas around the 400 acre site including the main village area, the lake and beach, are all pretty much on a level or with slight inclines and declines so nothing it too much of a strain. Even for those that only brought one good leg.

The staff beam with pride at how Center Parcs has transformed what's thought to be Ireland's least visited county. Not anymore one feels.

One staff member who'd been there since the first digger put shovel to dirt could have talked all day about how the site went from nothing but woodland to the 466 lodge mega resort it is today.

Another in the bike center spoke with delight at how he helped put together the 1,600 bikes for guests and staff and how he loved the work.

My wife thought it very "Disney-like" -everyone with an hello. But there was a warmth and genuine enthusiasm from all we encountered. When you've one leg in plaster cast everyone is always willing to help.

But still I wanted to get up and play with the kids - which got me in the cast in the first place.

Activities are a plenty - hundreds according to the book.

From aerial adventures, to boats, den building and possibly every sport imaginable, the choice is endless.

My car-mad boys loved the off-road mini Land Rover adventure. And the crazy science hour was a blast - literally.

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'The best day ever,' was the kids' verdict.

But it was the 'Subtropical Swimming Paradise' which captured their hearts. The spaceship-like structure dominates. Access is included for all guests and it is incredible.

Slides, easy rivers, rapids.. it is one place you could lose time in and my boys did try.

All that activity thought does work up a hunger - and there is plenty to chose from.

American-style diners, an Italian and Indian and even delivery to your lodge should you not want to budge after a hectic day adventuring. And the food is good.

There's even an on-site decently priced supermarket for pretty much anything you would need.

For the mums and dads there Ireland's biggest spa - which offers combination deals of a creche for the kids - giving no doubt much-needed relaxing time.

We give it a steer (the leg again) but we were told, endlessly it would seem, 'it's the best there is'.

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My sore leg.. oh and the fam.

The price thought has everyone talking. Yes we were there as guests for the launch weekend and got spoilt. But Center Parcs have pulled out the stops.

Bar the pool all the activities are extra. And they are priced "from" and depending on demand. So it is only once you book can you get to see the cost for you.

It's very much far from cheap and cheerful though. Everything is about quality and style. There is no cutting of corners.

Plus it felt relaxed. There was no stalls of endless tack to engage the kids pester powers. There was no feel of a big sell anywhere.

Pottering around the site on the bikes would have its own value.

You will get your money's worth, the kids will have a ball and though it will hit pockets hard, I imagine it will be a family favourite with many making the return.

We'll be back, and next time with an even number of good legs - I hope.

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