Do you remember your first childhood holiday? Mine was to Butlins at Pwllheli, I remember my dad being so delighted when we had a seven-day holiday bed, breakfast and evening meal at the holiday camp for the bargain price of £10.00 for myself, mum and dad. Even back in the seventies, this seemed a real bargain.
Seeing the continental flags flapping away on arrival at the camp entrance, the huge splash of colour everywhere and the free fun fair all felt like I had arrived in another world.
Hafan y Môr
More than thirty years on we returned to what is now Hafan y Môr which translates from Welsh to English as Haven by the Sea. What I had not really noticed too much when I was younger was the magnificent scenery that had not changed in the intervening years. The Welsh mountains seem to drop into the sea along Cardigan Bay, on a clear day you can see the top of Snowdon rising above all the other mountains.
When they say that this is Haven’s most scenic park they are not joking. The views from the walk that goes from the park centre out to the headline are comparable to any I have witnessed when holidaying in the Greek Islands. The Llyn Peninsula where the park sits has its own micro-climate and tends to get mild and sunny weather.
The park has changed immensely since we stayed on the site all those years ago; our 50s style chalet (with toilet block adjacent) had been swapped now for an ultra-modern caravan with all the amenities that would put some modern homes to shame. My, how things had changed.
Caravans, apartments and lodges now make up the choices of accommodation at this family-friendly holiday park. Caravans range from the Saver to the top-of-the-range Signature. Our Silver caravan came with central heating, three large bedrooms, kitchen and lounge area along with our own veranda with outdoor furniture. Eating breakfast outside every morning as the early morning birdsong broke as the sun shone down from a cloudless sky was blissful.
The centre is mainly aimed at young families though many use it as a base to explore the many attractions in the area such as Criccieth Castle, the Ffestiniog Railway, Port Merion and bustling Porthmadog. All are within easy reach.
There are plenty of activities on-site though, enough for you to fill every day of your holiday. The indoor pool has slides and a wave machine, I went on one of the guided Segway tours around the park – our young guide was professional, polite and helpful – just like all the other staff we met during our stay. Hearing Welsh spoken along with English from many of the staff brought a continental flavour to the holiday experience.
Those daring enough can try ‘The Jump’ which is basically a big drop off the top of a huge wooden tower onto a soft bean bag type area. It looks worse than it is, within seconds of admiring the stunning coastline I was back on terra firma wanting to do it all over again.
The excellent training that Haven gives their staff never faltered. When we could not get the hot water boiler to function in our caravan, after a quick visit to reception an engineer was knocking on the caravan door within thirty minutes.
Night time entertainment is on tap at the entertainment complex (think tribute acts, good singers covering well known hits) along with a family areas and drinking places, Eating places included Papa Jon’s, Burger King and a new Slim Chickens restaurant. The more traditional Coast House served bar meal classics which felt you were having a proper meal as opposed to the fast food joints.
The scenic Rock Garden is still there from all those years ago though sadly it seems to have fallen into an area of neglect – with a bit of TLC this could be an asset again to the park as it is southerly facing and in a tranquil spot- palm trees grow, rhododendrons flourish in the mild climate and the gardens are in a sun trap.
Reluctantly it was time to leave after three excellent days at Hafan y Mor. The stresses of the modern world had seemed far away and we all felt relaxed and refreshed. My mum and dad are no longer here though it was reassuring to discover that even with a name change, a huge investment and scenery that is as beautiful as ever, the site definitely is a Haven by the Sea.