Our first impressions of Butlins Minehead were positive. On arriving, we were directed to a car park especially for people staying in the Gold apartments.
The different car parks weren't very clearly labelled but we managed to park and go to check in. The staff were friendly and helpful and even though it was busy as everybody seemed to have arrived as early as possible to check in, we were seen quickly and soon found ourselves in our apartment.
Our first impression of the apartment was that although it looked lovely, it was a lot smaller than it looked in the photos online - when we lay down on the beds, our feet poked over the end even though I am not particularly tall at 5'6. However, the decor was bright and welcoming and the bathroom clean and modern.
The major disappointment was that the non -smoking apartment smelt of stale smoke. We then found that there was cigarette ash on one of the kitchen chairs. After mentioning it at Guest Services, someone was sent into our room to try and get rid of the smell and disinfect the chairs. The woman at guest services was very apologetic and sent someone up to our room very quickly. This helped but it's very hard to get rid of the smell of smoke so by the morning the smell was back.
We were booked in for Premium Dining, breakfast and dinner. The Yacht Club which is the restaurant we were assigned to is open 4.30 to 7.30 for dinner and 8.30 to 10.30 for breakfast. We were surprised that it closed so early for dinner, though it is perfect timing for families with small children. We noticed when we arrived at the Yacht Club that other guests who hadn't booked a dining package were able to use the restaurant after 7.30 which is particularly good if you're self-catering and are fed up with cooking!
The restaurant is self-service and there is loads of choice for dinner so there really is 'something for everyone'. Starters is salad or soup; main course has different options every night but there is usually at least some sort of roast meat, a pasta dish and a noodle dish with pudding being a variety of cakes, and warm puddings such as sticky toffee pudding and ice cream. There is also a comprehensive Baby & Chidren's Menu for the little ones which you can order from as well as a microwave to warm up baby milk.
Most of the food was ok but the veg always seemed overcooked and, later on in the evening, some of the food looked as though it had been sitting out for quite a long time. Breakfast was much nicer than dinner with a choice of fruit, cereals, pastries and cooked breakfast. We were however disappointed by the pancake station as the pancakes were brought out cold. It would be much better if they were maybe cooked to order? The restaurant staff was efficient and cleared the tables quickly - sometimes too quickly as our drinks were cleared away between courses.
The main food shop for people self catering is a Spar which is not very big and doesn't have a lot of choice. It's probably better to bring your own food if self catering and just use the on-site Spar to top-up. If you don't want to eat in any of the restaurants then there is a fish and chip shop and a couple of pubs.
The main entertainment area in Butlins Minehead is the Skyline Pavilion which has a main stage, bars, shops and an amusement arcade type area. The Redcoats always seem to be putting on some sort of show on the main stage for the smaller children with lots of interaction and dressing up and there is also a puppet show a few times a day. You can get free internet access in the Pavilion if you have a laptop or internet phone. The toilets in The Pavilion are kept clean but they don't have a separate baby- changing room. Instead, the baby changing table folds out into the basin area of both the male and female toilets. Nice to see Dads not being left out. Incidentally throughout the site there are hand sanitizers like the type you find in hospitals.
Just outside the Pavilion are two more bars which both have a stage and put on a variety of entertainers every evening - singers, DJs, illusionists.... you name it. Children are welcome all evening in both bars. There is Bingo twice a day and Karaoke every evening in one of the pubs.
There is an Ofsted inspected nursery on site at Butlins Minehead. Children from 3 months to aged 8 can be left in the nursery which is run in sessions and you pay per session. Billy's Young Star Nursery has lots of fun activities to keep the kids entertained and is reassuringly run by qualified nursery nurses and assistants.
Splash Waterworld is very popular throughout the day. Walking to breakfast in the mornings at about 9.30, people were already queuing to get into the pool which opens at 10. The pool is really good fun and has a few different slides,
a Ã¢Â€Â˜Lazy River', Jacuzzi and quite a big Baby Pool. There is also a large outdoor paddling pool which was packed, as you would have expected, on the one hot day we had. Towards the end of the day the pool emptied a bit and the queues for the slides were much smaller with only a few people waiting. This might not be the case in school holidays though.
The pool had separate male and female changing rooms as well as a Family Changing area. It was good to see that each of the family changing cubicles has a red changing table for babies. The pool area was generally clean but the floor of the changing rooms could get slightly messy at busier times of the day. There always seemed to be a lot of lifeguards on duty which made the pool feel quite safe. One downside to the pool is that is closes at 5. It would have been nice if it were open later so that we could swim after dinner. Swimming is great for tiring out the little ones too!
Outside the Skyline Pavilion is a funfair where all of the rides are free Ã¢Â€Â“ great news when you're trying to work within a budget. There
were never very big queues for the rides. As well as the free rides there are some extras that you have to pay for like the Go-Karts and Bumper Boats. Other things which you are charged to use are the High Ropes course, mini golf and bike hire. Most of the extras were a reasonable sort of price except for the high ropes which seemed a little excessive. If you wanted to do the whole course it would cost Â£25 which probably makes it cost-prohibitive if the whole family wants to have a go.
The actual town of Minehead is a few minutes walk from Butlins. It is full of tourist gift shops and tea rooms with plenty of places to buy an ice cream. One shop which deserves a mention is Roly's Fudge which sells the most delicious fudge and the fudge is actually made in the shop. Just outside Butlins is a big, sandy beach. When you leave Butlins you get given a card which you need to return when you come back in meaning that you can only wander round the Butlins site if you have paid to stay.
We had a lovely stay at Butlins Minehead and there was always something to do. The only thing that would have made it better would be if the pool, funfair and other Ã¢Â€Â˜daytime' activities were open later as some days it felt like we were trying to cram everything in before it closed at 5.