Ever wondered what Lake Como and Wemyss Bay have in common?
David Dalziel reveals all
Family holidays can be tricky. You can book somewhere luxurious you think everyone will love, but if there isn’t anything to keep the kids entertained, the break can quickly turn sour. Or, you can spend a fortune and head off on a theme-park vacation and end up exhausted from all the queuing and adrenaline-fuelled activities.
What we have found over the years is the kids don’t care what the surroundings are like or where they are, as long as they can have fun. Oh, and a swimming pool is a must too.
So with that in mind, we booked a week at Parkdean Resorts’ Wemyss Bay Holiday Park during the October break last year.
Despite originally hailing from Ayrshire, I had never visited this part of the west coast, so we loaded the car in Aberdeen and made the journey “doon the watter” as the Glaswegians might say.
Despite the miserable weather, driving along the narrow coastal road from Greenock down to Wemyss Bay brought back memories of the similar roads that hug Lake Como in Italy – the water lapping close to the road and the spectacular, mountainous scenery.
On arrival at the park, we had to climb a fairly substantial hill to reach our check-in area, and I grew excited at the prospect of the amazing views our caravan might offer, looking over to Bute and Arran in the distance. Sadly, our caravan was tucked away at the back of the hill with no sea view, but the views from the lucky caravans at the summit must be worth paying extra for.
After settling into our small but cleverly constructed caravan, it was time to explore the park. First stop, as always, was the swimming pool. It was a great size and perfect for our two rascals. The older one being able to show off his solo skills and the younger one having a baby pool to splash around in safely and also being able to stand in the shallow end of the main pool. It was a hit.
Also a hit were all the extra activities on offer at the pool – for a very nominal charge – including water zorbing and pedalos. Charlie and Beth had a hoot doing both, and the friendly staff added to the fun of it all.
The obligatory arcade visit was next on the itinerary, and this would prove to be a favourite haunt over the course of the week, with the children playing games to win tokens to spend on our last day. Amazingly, Beth was happy with her tub of coppers which she would gleefully pop into the coin-drop machines, while Charlie tried his hand at racing games, air hockey and a fun virtual roller coaster.
But the star of the show in terms of entertainment was the kids club team and their range of activities. The Starland Krew, as they were known, never seemed to stop and offered an array of fun games and competitions to keep children of all ages entertained. From cup decorating to lantern making, crazy dance competitions to alien hunting, they had everything covered. And we visited the club every night to try to win more points and see which team would be crowned champions for the day – the Seagulls or the Lizards. Great fun and the kids loved it.
You can order food in the entertainment area as well or, if you fancy a more relaxed atmosphere, there is the option of Livingstones next door. The same menu is available in both areas, and we enjoyed our meals, choosing from pub classics such as fish and chips, burgers, lasagne and chilli nachos.
When the weather is nice, there is a great patio area outside with spectacular views over the sea to Dunoon and Bute, the peak of Goat Fell on Arran also visible on a clear day. The perfect spot to sit with a drink and watch the ferries come in and out of the busy little port at the foot of the hill.
And that is where we headed on a perfect autumn day when we took the ferry over to Rothesay, on Bute. We could not have chosen a better day to travel as the sky was blue and the sea completely calm. The views were incredible, and as we neared our destination I was lucky enough to spot porpoises leaping in and out of the water as they followed our boat.
We took a drive around the island to explore and passed a number of grey seals basking on rocks, enjoying a rare glimpse of the sun. We stopped at little beaches where the children collected shells and stones, and we tried our hand at stone skimming – with little success but lots of laughs.
All that skimming worked up an appetite and we settled on a hotel in the centre of Rothesay where I enjoyed some tasty mussels, but I couldn’t help thinking the town is missing a trick by not having some proper seafood restaurants down by the water’s edge. As pretty as the island is, its buildings have seen better days and could do with a good spruce up to turn it into a real tourist hot-spot. But we thoroughly enjoyed our visit nonetheless and were treated to a cruise back in darkness with lights twinkling all around us.
Another good day out was to the award-winning Vikingar in Largs, a fun educational centre that celebrates the area’s link to the Vikings – the Battle of Largs in 1263 (I hadn’t heard of it either). After an amusing and informative tour of her longhouse by Thora the Red (real name Lesley McCormack), we watched a dramatic film about the battle and then explored the Viking Hall of Knowledge. The children enjoyed it so much we had to buy them Viking helmets and swords then watch them fight each other for the rest of the holiday.
And no trip to Largs would be complete without a visit to the renowned Nardini’s ice cream parlour for some delicious sweet treats, despite the chilly weather.
Sadly all good things must come to an end, and all to soon we were back at the arcade testing the patience of the lovely lady in the prize shop who had to deal with two very indecisive children choosing what to spend their 3,000 tokens on. After that, it was time to head north again after a holiday packed full of super memories. Eight-year-old Charlie summed up the mood when he said: “I want to stay. Can we come back again? Every single year as a family tradition?”
I dare say there is a very good chance we might just do that.
Wemyss Bay Holiday Park, Renfrewshire, PA18 6BA
Call: 0330 123 4850
Parkdean deals: spring – arriving Monday, March 12, for four nights, priced at £99 (saving £20), staying in a two-bedroom Drummond caravan which sleeps six. Summer – arriving Saturday, August 25, for seven nights, priced at £399 (saving £70), staying in a two-bedroom Campbell caravan which sleeps six.