I have always loved magic shows. One of my as-yet unachieved ambitions in life is to have a coin magically "found" behind my ear. I know; I should probably reassess my life goals. But I digress... So when my friend Lizzie discovered that Stephen Mulhern was appearing at Butlin's every weekend over the Summer, it was a question of when we went, not if.
Where was never in doubt. We live in the South West; Minehead seemed our best option. And so, on Saturday the 10th August, we found ourselves setting off up the M5 for an entirely new experience. I'll be honest: I somehow spent an entire childhood never having been to Butlin's. Ever. In fact, I was a Pontins child, but shhhh, don't tell them that. My point is, I had very little to go on. I know what holiday camps are like and I'd seen pictures, but basically, I was a blank page, in terms of Butlin's expectations. So it's quite an achievement for them to have impressed me enormously before we even got there.
Basically, Lizzie and I were troublesome and couldn't get there on a Friday; we could only manage Saturday and Sunday that particular weekend. Butlin's breaks tend to be for 3, 5 or 7 nights at Minehead, but we were allowed to book for just 2, which made us feel thought of and as though our individual needs were being met right from the start. Not an easy task for a big company!
We were staying in the most basic accommodation, but everything was so clean and comfy that we didn't have reason to envy the guests in the bigger apartments. We had a welcome pack that let us know everything that would be going on during our stay and gave us helpful numbers to call if we needed anything extra. We had a wander around some of the other accommodation blocks and were incredibly impressed with the huge variety on offer. There seemed to be something to suit every budget and every possible other requirement, from traditional chalets and deluxe lodges, to the stunning Blueskies apartments. You really are spoilt for choice at Minehead!
Given that we arrived with plenty of time to spare before the show we'd actually gone there for, Lizzie and I decided to do the obvious thing - explore! Well, what can I say?! I don't think I've ever been anywhere where there has been so much to do, all of the time! In the space of barely a couple of hours, we went on fairground rides, played on arcade games in the Skyline Pavilion (which has to be seen to be believed), posed for pictures on "the big deckchair," hired a fun bike and actually ended up completely lost, until a very lovely redcoat (whose name I never got, sorry!) pointed us in the right direction... Thank you!
We even managed to watch a couple of children's shows in the Skyline Pavilion, prior to heading up to Centre Stage. Even though we were *cough* a few *cough* years older than the little audience members, we were caught up in all the fun and ended up dancing and laughing, having an absolutely brilliant time. We both agreed that for a family with children, this place would be Heaven for the kids and an ideal break for mum and dad, too!
We ate at one of the many food outlets dotted around the campus. You can add food to your stay so that everything is paid for up front and I've heard many good things about the delicious meals on offer if you choose to do things that way, but to be honest, there's so much to choose from, you're bound to get something tasty however you go about it.
Having arrived a little early for Stephen's show, we managed to take in some of the Centre Stage atmosphere before it began. There were games being played, lots of children of all ages on the dance floor and a real buzz about the place. Credit has to go to redcoat Matt, along with Kyle and Bethan, for ensuring that everyone was kept thoroughly entertained right up until showtime. In fact,we were enjoying ourselves so much, we almost forgot that there was a showtime. Put it this way: I lost count of the number of dance routines I learnt and Lizzie and I didn't stop smiling all night long! The redcoats do a genuinely fantastic job and every one we met was lovely, too.
Stephen's show was just as brilliant as we predicted it would be and we were fortunate enough to meet the man himself afterwards - what a lovely guy!
We hung around until closing time after the show, enjoying more games, dances and entertainment. There really is something for everyone to enjoy and we both agreed that we were looking forward to our second night, even though we hadn't even finished the first! We checked out the on-site nightclub afterwards - there's definitely plenty of fun on offer for grown-ups as well as kids at Butlin's. By the time we crawled into bed, we were tired but extremely happy and thoroughly won over! In fact, we were already planning our return visit...
On Sunday, we headed to Splash Waterworld, to check out the fun pool and all the slides. We had a fantastic time, riding the water coaster and being carried along by the river rapids. The weather stayed sunny for us, so we had a chance to dry off on some more fairground rides, before checking out a few more shows. I swear, something happens to you at Butlin's and you just forget the real world - before I knew it, I was dancing along with Angelina Ballerina...
By the time we left on Monday, both of us had a serious case of the post-Butlin's blues. Look at Lizzie; that's a girl who doesn't want to go home!
I think the best way to sum up that first ever experience of Butlin's is to say that it took me completely by surprise. I expected to like it, but I suppose, if I'm honest, I didn't think I'd love it as much as I did. Everyone we met was friendly, nothing was too much trouble for anyone; even when Lizzie unfortunately lost her phone, the staff at reception were incredibly sympathetic and helpful. There's always something to do; a show or a sports event, or a new activity to try. The scenery is stunning, with the beach literally just across the road... I'm really trying to pick a fault with Minehead Butlin's and it's just not happening!! Which is the best indicator of it being a fantastic holiday destination.
In fact, no... The best indicator is the fact that we've already been back again since and had yet another fantastic weekend (three nights this time!) and yet again couldn't fault anything about the trip. From the friendly (and very talented!) redcoats, to the cleanliness of the complex... From the helpful staff, to the incredible array of entertainment..I can't think of a bad word to say about the place. I guess all that remains to be said is.. See you very soon for our next weekend!