Everyone has an opinion on Butlin’s, even those who have never been there.
There aren’t too many people who grew up in Sheffield and didn’t visit the Skeggy resort as a child. Then came a time when we were all obsessed with going abroad, but I get a sense things are turning.
Well, Butlin’s was certainly packed with families having an amazing time and not giving a hoot that the weather was bitterly cold.
There are still lots of Sheffield families who visit regularly and we literally bumped into friends from the city while there. I’m sure the same is true for many.
My smallest son had been ecstatic at the mere thought of going to Butlin’s. He’d seen the ads and knew he would love it .. he was absolutely right.
It is completely designed for families and the staff are 100 per cent child and stressed-out parent friendly. There is so much for children to do it is hard to know where to start.
Fortunately the teenagers in our party took control of the planning and on day one they studiously examined every activity available during our stay. They filled in the forms for our own guidance, booked in on things that needed booking and felt very pleased with themselves. Of course, we never followed what they’d planned - but it was a good way to get your head around the entertainment.
Everyone’s favourite activity was swimming. The pool has been completely overhauled since I visited many years ago and it is fantastic. There were just two problems. The first was the age restrictions on some of the wilder water rides. This delighted the older kids and distressed the littlest, who is by far the bravest member of the family and has little regard for health and safety.
The second was a shock, quite literally, to my own system. I should have known something was afoot because of that glint in the children’s eyes as they led me to a water slide we could all go down at the same time. It was wide enough for lots of people but I didn’t realise, until it was too late, that the open slide is outside. It is a very slow mover, in fact you often have to pull yourself along on your stomach. Very entertaining if you don’t mind feeling rather like a beached whale ... and being outside wearing only a wet swimming costume.
I’m sure the whole experience is different in summer and, even in winter, we braved that slide many times. There is a great outdoor wet area which was closed for obvious reasons, but looks like it would be great fun when the sun is out. We did also step onto the beach, but only for a few minutes because of the very same reason.
Danger Mouse was one of the big attractions for my six-year-old. He was spellbound by the stage show and desperate to have his photo taken with the characters at the end.
He also loved the Mr Men shows so much he was happy to watch one twice.
Being able to go on fairground rides without digging for cash was another winner. At first the children couldn’t quite believe they could go again and again on as many merry-go-rounds as they liked. The dodgems were the top pick though. The very best of seaside entertainment for everyone from grandparents to small tots, as long as you don’t mind laughing through the bumps.
Our main gripe from the whole holiday was the enormous queues which formed ahead of the main shows and even the photo shoots. The issue is simply one of scale, there were so many people you were bound to end up with a wait or struggling to get a seat with a good view. We stayed in gold accommodation and it ticked all the boxes for a family. There was plenty of room and the kitchen had everything you needed. The apartment was fairly basic but did the job considering the wide range of ages. In all honestly we didn’t actually spend much time there, other than to sleep. There were far too many exciting things going on elsewhere.
Despite having the option of self-catering, the restaurants are also perfect at catering for fussy youngsters.
The eateries which can be included in the main packages are serve yourself buffets and the quality is better than you might imagine. The salad bar was always well stocked and food was fresh.
Certain items were made to order and there was so much choice it was quite difficult to chose on the first night. There were certain dishes which repeated each day, but also plenty of new things. The curry was great but so was the lasagne. Of course, the roasts were amazingly popular ... as was the ice cream machine.
Breakfast offered everything you can imagine from fresh pastries and pancakes, full English, cereal or fruit and yoghurt. My personal tip would be to try the omelettes which are cooked in front of your eyes. The youngest in our party just wanted to consume sausages and then get back to the entertainment, which you can’t really blame him for even though I prefer to rush slightly less.
There is a sense of adventure on such a big site and there were lots of corners which we didn’t discover until near the end of the week. Butlin’s Skegness really is enormous.
However, there is no way of skipping past the amusements. I am very wary of gambling in any form but do have delightful memories of the 2p slot machines with my gran. You know the ones where your coin pushes more over the edge ... hopefully. It turns out these are just as much fun in 2018 as they were in 1988. My greatest concern about the possibility of coppers disappearing for good is now ... what will happen to the slot machines? Disaster!
If there is one thing Butlin’s has above the vast majority of other holiday venues it is that everyone is there for the family. I felt slightly jealous seeing three or four generations revelling in each others company, although I’m not sure my own mum would have enjoyed it so much.
No matter what, there is always somebody there with a smile and helping hand, visitors and staff alike. Kids have strops but nobody looks as you disapprovingly, the atmosphere is somehow far more sympathetic that in the wider world. As all parents know, that is truly priceless.
An Easter school holidays break at Butlin’s Skegness starts from £86pp for four sharing silver self-catering accommodation. Easter breaks feature an exclusive live show from Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity, as well as a host of other shows and attractions, plus fairground and Splash Waterworld. Visit www.butlins.com