We recently went on a family holiday to Park Ruda in Devon for our 2016 Summer holiday. I have to admit; I didn’t have the pre-holiday buzz I usually get as I was a little disappointed we weren’t going overseas. My last caravan holiday (with another holiday company, NOT Parkdean) wasn’t the best. The site was ok but the clientele was rough (excuse my snobbery but there’s no sugar coating it) and the caravan itself, despite being a non-smoking caravan was stinking of smoke, the kitchenware was just grimy and the floor was that dirty after 5 minutes of walking in the caravan our socks were utterly black.
Driving to north Devon from home is quite a distance away but luckily enough my Dad and his family live halfway so we visited them on the way there and back to break up the journey. Before arriving at the park we drove through some lovely towns and villages and when reaching the coast, we were incredibly pleased to see how beautiful beaches were. The beaches, after all were the main reasons we were holidaying here. My hubby often went bodyboarding throughout his childhood in South Africa and over the last few years has really been missing it so we decided to go somewhere where the waves are the most consistent in the UK, Croyde Beach.
Saunton Sands beach, just around the corner from Croyde Beach.
We arrived later than expected and the office was closed. We called the number for out of hours and were directed to collect our keys and holiday pack at the security guard from the entertainment arena across the car park. The security guard was so helpful and directed us to our caravan. Upon arrival to say I was delighted was an understatement. The caravan we stayed in was the Buckland Caravan, it was immaculate and incredibly practical in
terms of layout and storage space. I also loved that the beds in the single rooms weren’t fixed to the caravan itself. Being the mum of a toddler who isn’t used to sleeping in a bed without bed guards meant we could push them together to make it into a double so she wouldn’t fall out.
The kitchen was equipped with all you could need and the caravan itself also included things you would use every day in your home such as clothes horse, hoover, dustpan etc and the TV and DVD player provided were ideal for entertaining late in the evening.
The 1st day Grant rushed off to hire his bodyboard and wetsuit and we all went to the beach. One of the huge benefits to this site is the beach is not just ‘close by’ it’s literally on your doorstep. When you have kids there’s an abundance of items you have to take with you, it can be exhausting getting everyone and the million bags and picnic basket you need to your chosen spot. Having the beach across the road was just bliss and the beach itself was immaculate and stunning. The sand is golden and clean and when the tide is out the beach is quite big, meaning on a busy day there’s still loads of room for everyone. There are high grassy sand dunes on the edge of the beach, a total must for a good view and great fun for adventurous explorer kids! Down at the beachfront you will also find toilets and a shop for all your beach needs and a café.
Throughout the holiday we intended on doing lots of sightseeing nearby but in all honesty the majority of it was spent on the site or the beach.
The site has a park at the top of it, surrounded by lots of outdoor space and an amazing view of the site and beach. We were lucky enough to be there when the travelling water park festival visited our site. They had a stage set up, food van and several activities to do including a massive inflatable water slide that ran right down the hill beside the park. Needless to say Deedee and her friend couldn’t get enough of the endless fun on the water slide.
There’s a swimming pool on site here which I was very impressed with. It had clear separate areas for children of different age groups and swimming abilities which is always nice. Especially when you want to splash about with your younger children, you don’t want older boisterous kids playing right beside your tot. Means everyone is safer this way. There’s also a flume and a strong current feature for the older children and adults. Now if you’re looking to exercise and do laps you’re out of luck I’m afraid, this is not the pool for you but if that’s the case you should be out swimming at the beach in the lovely fresh sea anyway! There is however an open outdoor area beside the indoor pool for any sun worshippers hoping to catch a tan while their kids play.
The facilities on site included reception, a handy laundrette, a surf shop, a café, chip shop, swimming pool, convenience store, arcades, entertainment arena with bar and shop and a restaurant complete with those all-important big screens and soft play areas.
The restaurant offers the usual wholesome grub, lasagnes, burgers, pizzas, chilli, roast chicken etc and has a good separate kids menu. There is an outdoor eating area with some sea views and kids play area too which is ideal for those hot days.
The activities and entertainment they put on for the younger kids is well planned and equipped for a variety of ages. Meeting Sid and Lizzie for the younger kids is incredibly fascinating. It’s brilliant to see so many little faces light up when they appear. We couldn’t get Amber off the dance floor at the end of the kid’s parties, she loved shaking her booty in the evenings. What I also liked about this park is that they didn’t take every opportunity to sell you something. Yes, you can buy the Lizzie and Sid soft toys in the shop (which we did) but they didn’t ram it down your throat or charge you ridiculous money for a photo. It was free and all very laid back and family friendly. The staff were great and every single one of them I spoke with was so helpful and really encouraged all the kids to join in. When with us, Amber at times can be a very assertive little madam but in situations like these where there’s a lot of other children or people she can be quite quiet and shy. The staff zoned in on any kids who seem rather shy and help them to participate which is often what Amber needs.
Apart from the water festival day my teen didn’t really participate in any of the activities as she’s at that awkward age but she was still very happy hanging out with her friend around the park or arcades, grabbing bites to eat and swimming. To be honest it was just great to get the kids out in the fresh air and not looking at a screen.
We did take the teens out to go horse riding one day. There are stables nearby which looked great but we chose one just 6 miles away, Shelley’s Riding School as it offered a beginner’s trek at a more competitive price. Their website describes them as a ‘small and friendly yard situated on the edge of Braunton’ and it is exactly that. After parking you have to walk up a path you’re not sure if you’re supposed to be on but it’s the right one and after a few minutes you find yourself at the riding school. Look out for the huge pinecones on this path – I took some home to make Christmas decorations with later in the year.
Shelley was lovely and took good care of the girls and made sure they knew everything before taking them out on a trek. The girls got so much out of it and I think it sparked a new interest for Deedee. I’m now looking at local horse riding lessons around our area.
There was once upon a time where I’d be counting the pennies and trying to figure out what is best to spend my money on but as teens these days know little other than technology I’m at the point where I’d pay anything just to see her get out and about a bit more rather than just staying in her room; snapchatting with her friends and doing each other’s hair and make-up oh and shopping of course!
On our 2nd last day the hubby hired wetsuits and body boards for the whole family and got us all trying it. The teens loved it. I was utterly hopeless but had some seriously good fun. Felt like I was a kid again and can totally see why Grant loves and misses body boarding. So I think it’s going to be our holiday theme going forward. Finding the best bodyboarding beaches to holiday at.
We all had a truly wonderful holiday here and I wasn’t upset in the slightest that we weren’t abroad in the end. When on that beach it really did feel like we were overseas anyway. We were blessed with really good weather and I also noticed that despite being beside the sea, the site wasn’t very windy, making relaxing outside a great pleasure.
The accommodation the site provides is a mixture of camping with tents and mobile caravans, static caravans, lodges, apartments and holiday homes. It just so happens my hubby’s work colleague was staying there the same week we were. They are regular visitors but were staying for the 1st time in the apartments (right on the beach front, in fact, practically on the beach) and they too were delighted with their accommodation. We didn’t go inside the apartments but I could tell Grant was rather jealous they had a direct view of the sea to keep an eye on when the waves were looking good to bodyboard on.
Whilst I’m describing the holiday from our family perspective I would say it is an all-rounder for most. We saw lots of groups or couples of all ages too (including a few 55+ going to the beach with their body boards). It’s probably not the ideal holiday if you’re looking for a clubbing experience but if you enjoy the outdoors it’s ideal. From memory everywhere on site seemed to be wheelchair friendly too.
My only constructive criticism about my experience would be the Parkdean website, nothing to do with Park Ruda but the booking system they use on it. The caravan’s that are non-smoking have a non-smoking icon. This doesn’t mean you are booking a non-smoking caravan, only that there are non-smoking caravans available within this range. I find this totally misleading. Thankfully when booking I also emailed and requested they make sure it’s 100% non-smoking as my last experience (with another holiday company) was unpleasant when they gave me a stinking caravan. As it turns out when I booked with Parkdean online and chose my non-smoking caravan I hadn’t been allocated to a specific non-smoking van in that range and I had to pay a little more to upgrade to another van which was non-smoking. I wouldn’t have found this out had I not emailed separately to make double sure. I think having the option to specify when booking if you want a non-smoking or not is very important to customers.
I mentioned before that we spent most of our time at the beach or on the site but we did venture into the beautiful village of Croyde and the town of Barnstaple for a browse. In Barnstaple we found a ‘Warren’s Bakery’, the chain of ‘The Oldest Cornish Pasty Maker in the World’ and just had to have a pasty which was delicious.
If I were to book again I’d definitely book a 10 day plus holiday as there are a lot of local attractions and sights we would have liked to have visited but the time seemed to slip away from us, as we just enjoyed the beach and relaxing around the site so much. If we go back I hope to hire bikes and do the popular Tarka Trail, Exmoore Zoo and ‘The Big Sheep’ to name a few local attractions. I also must visit Clovelly, a beautiful village known for its pedestrianised cobbled stoned main street and the donkeys. They also hold the GoldCoast Ocean Festival here, something my friend has been to and thoroughly enjoyed it and certainly something I’ll consider too.
To summarise, taking into consideration the park, its staff and facilities, the very decent clientele it attracts, the location and beach, local amenities and beautiful surroundings I have to give this park a full 10 out of 10. I wanted to book another holiday there after the 2nd day of our stay. I did enquire about caravan sales there but they didn’t have any available for sale at the time. I think that speaks volumes about the park.
It’s every bit of an amazing, peaceful and adventurous holiday you could want.