A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to be invited to Butlins Minehead as part of their term-time weekend breaks. I’ve never been to Butlins before – actually, I lie. I did go to the Bognor Regis resort for a stag do one year, but that was a different kind of weekend to the one I’d imagine on a family holiday! As such, I was looking forward to seeing what a Butlins’ holiday was all about.
As the name suggests, the term-time weekend breaks take place over the weekend (check-in Friday, check-out Monday) during term-time. As such, they’re ideal for families like us who don’t yet have kids at school and have the luxury of an extended weekend away by the seaside.
Below, you’ll find my review of Butlins Minehead , including our accommodation in the new style chalets at West Lakes Village, the dining experience in the premium buffet restaurants and the vast amount of entertainment available:
Check-In And Arrival
After a long journey to Somerset, we arrived at Butlins Minehead just after 5pm. The fella on the gate told us that the Chalet Accommodation Office had just closed, so we’d need to go to the main check-in area just inside the complex. We parked up, went inside and asked to check-in.
Unfortunately, it appeared that we arrived at the wrong time. All of our information was over at the Chalet Accommodation Office, which unbeknown to us, was only open between 3pm and 5pm. As such, we were asked to wait for 15 minutes until someone brought all of our bumf over to the main check-in area. 30 minutes later, we were still waiting and slightly irritated – although we weren’t anywhere near as annoyed as another family who were in the same situation as us!
Finally, the person turned up with our folder of documents and an apology. This included things like our room cards, a resort map, our B-Line passes and a newly introduced bracelet thing to show that we should be on site. I’m not going to lie, the whole faff of check-in wasn’t the greatest start to the break. I realise that we turned up ‘at the wrong time’, but it seemed strange that the Chalet Accommodation Office closed at 5pm and that everything was done manually.
Accommodation – West Lakes Village Chalet
Our Butlins Minehead accommodation was at West Lakes Village in the new style chalets – Edinburgh 34 to be precise. To get there, we drove through the various car parks and to the edge of the site. We managed to pull up almost directly outside our chalet in the allocated parking – this was handy as I assumed that we’d have to lug our stuff from the main car park.
My first impressions of the chalets were very positive. Ours was the middle bottom in a block of six brightly coloured chalets. To look at, they reminded me a lot of some of the cool, modern-looking houses that you enviously admire when driving along certain parts of the coast. The chalets are actually set within landscaped gardens and around a lake – considering the usual hustle and bustle at family resorts like this, this had a very tranquil feel.
Entry is via a room card key like in the majority of hotels. Our chalet was a two-bed (three and four bed also available), consisting of a hallway, kingsize bedroom, twin bedroom, bathroom and open plan kitchen / diner / living room. I was hugely impressed with the inside of the chalets. It was modern, clean, colourful, family-friendly and had a lot of nice little touches – including a welcome note on the chalkboard.
The chalet had everything you’d expect from a self-catering apartment. The kitchen had a hob, oven, microwave, dishwasher, kettle and crockery, whilst the living room had a big L-shaped sofa, TV with Freeview and DVD player. The bathroom was also nice and looked immaculate – it had a bath with a shower over it, toiletries and towels.
The two bedrooms were decorated in a similar way and were located across the hall from each other. The second bedroom had two single twin beds, a desk and cupboard. There was enough room for a cot, but we let Toddler L sleep in one of the single beds. The main bedroom was very similar to the twin bedroom, apart from it had a kingsize bed, a TV on the wall and a safe in the cupboard.
There was also an outside veranda area accessible through double doors by the kitchen which had table and chairs for sitting outside. This overlooked a grass area, a nearby playground and some of the other accommodation. Our place was actually a Lakeview Chalet, but I felt that this was a very generous description considering we couldn’t even see the lake. It was a pleasant view, but I’d have been disappointed if we’d have paid extra for a view of the lake and been given this.
The one negative was noise from above – I think there must have been a family of elephants staying above us as every movement reverberated down to our apartment. It didn’t disturb Toddler L which was the main thing, but it was a bit annoying when we were trying to watch TV or when we’d gone to bed. This is obviously situational though – had we had more ‘considerate’ neighbours, this wouldn’t have even been a problem.
From our chalet, it was probably a ten minute walk (15 with a toddler) to the centre of the resort. This was actually a really pleasant walk which took us via open grass areas, over the lake via a bridge and passed the other areas in West Lakes Village.
Neighbour noise aside, the chalet and location was a lot higher standard than I was expecting and was on par with certain forest-based family holiday resorts – if you get what I mean. There really wasn’t much more I would have wanted or expected from the accommodation and I’d gladly stay there time and time again.
Food And Drink – Premium Dining Plan
As part of our stay, we had the Premium Dining plan included for the duration of the holiday. This meant that we had breakfast for three mornings and dinner for three evenings in the two premium buffet restaurants – The Yacht Club and The Deck.
The Premium Dining plan is an upgrade on the Food Court Dining Plan – in essence meaning that you get to eat in a nicer environment, have a greater selection of food and even have a few live cooking stations so you can order certain dishes. We didn’t go in the Food Court, but having seen it from outside, it looked a bit like a school canteen. The Yacht Club and The Deck certainly had a more premium feel to them, more on par with a normal restaurant.
The two restaurants at Butlins Minehead were adjacent to each other and we were warmly welcomed as we entered. The staff at the desk were some of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered as they swiped our room key. It turns out that you can actually go between the two restaurants – sitting in one does not exclude you from getting food from the other. We ate in both restaurants during our stay, but decided that we liked The Yacht Club the best. It was smaller, quieter, had nicer decor and just felt a bit of a nicer environment to eat. Nothing against The Deck at all, but it was nice to go somewhere not as noisy and full on.
In terms of food, breakfast was basically the same in both restaurants – English breakfast, pastries and cereal. However, The Deck has the added benefit of live cooking stations, meaning that you could also have things like fresh pancakes, omelettes and waffles. The choice and quality of food was good – it wasn’t that dissimilar to what you’d get for breakfast in decent quality hotels.
When it came to dinner, the food in the restaurants varied. The Deck featured plenty of different international dishes – Italian, Indian, American, Asian etc – whereas The Yacht was mainly a carvery and a Great British dish of the day. The Deck also had the live cooking stations, including made to order burgers and meats from The Chargrill and pasta dishes from The Pasta Bar. There was also a wide selection of deserts, including unlimited ice-cream. Unlimited hot and cold drinks are included too.
When it came to baby and toddler food, I was surprised to see that they had Ella’s Kitchen pouches included – I was very impressed with this. They also had child-friendly options for those not keen on the ‘adult food’ – be it fish fingers, chicken nuggets, burgers, chips etc.
The huge variety of dishes was awesome and meant that you weren’t short of choice, however we felt that the food was average. It was perfectly edible, but it was a bit bland and stodgy for our liking – although I’m more than happy to admit that we’re food snobs these days. If we stayed at Butlins again, we’d probably sack off the Dining Plans and instead make our own meals in the self-catering accommodation. I think it’s personal preference at the end of the day.
Food And Drink – Other Options
As we had the Premium Dining Plan, we didn’t eat at any of the other places onsite. There were quite a few food and drink options that we saw as we wandered around though – this included Traditional Fish & Chips, The Diner, Firehouse Grill, Ludo’s Italian, The Sun And Moon pub, Burger King, Scoop and Soho Coffee Co. The latter being where we’d stop off for Toddler L’s daily hot chocolate with marshmallows.
Entertainment – Live Shows And Planned Activities
On check-in, we’d been given a guide with all of the entertainment on over the weekend at Butlins Minehead. Having had a look through it, I was massively surprised at the range and amount of stuff available. I assumed there’d be a few evening shows and maybe a few activities during the day, but there was something on basically every hour from morning through to evening. It also covered all of the age ranges – there was plenty to do for preschoolers through to early teens.
As the entertainment guide was pretty overwhelming, the first thing we did was scribble out everything that was too old for Toddler L. This allowed us to choose from the shows and activities which were most suited for her and plan other things to do around these. When it came to planned activities, we did the Tots Football Coaching on both the Saturday and Sunday. This was held outside in the Activity Garden and saw a coach organise various football-based games with the kids.
Apart from a parent and toddler swim session and a paid for pottery painting, that was about it in terms of organised activities for under 5’s. For older kids, there were additional things like archery, shooting and fencing. That was fine though as there were plenty of shows and meet and greats to entertain throughout the day.
We went along to a fair few of these, including Billy and Bonnie, Skyline Gang, Teletubbies and Mr Men – all of which were targeted at younger kids and involved some kind of dancing, singing or story telling. These took place in the Skyline Pavilion, which is the main stage area within the huge tent. Within the Skyline Pavilion, there was ample space to sit down, be it on the floor, on deck chairs or at tables.
Toddler L is a very confident little kid, so she had no qualms in going to the front and joining in with the various things that were happening. Her particular favourite was the Billy & Bonny’s Tots Sing-Along where she sung and danced to nursery rhymes, plus took a particular liking to one of the red coats and followed him everywhere.
We also had a meet and greet with The Teletubbies, as well as The Skyline Gang. The sprog was particularly excited about meeting Tinky Winky et al.
In addition to the Skyline Pavilion, we also went to another room called Reds. Here, in the early evening, they had a couple of other bits of kid’s entertainment happening, including more singing and dancing in the Tots Disco, as well as Just Sing And Dance which featured Justin Fletcher on a screen on stage. Again, Toddler L had a lot of fun getting involved in what was happening and we enjoyed watching her. She even decided she was going to lead everyone else at one point.
All of the shows we watched were well put together, professional, entertaining and enjoyable for the kids. The quality of these live shows far exceeded what I expected and they were a good addition to the holiday.
Entertainment – Rest Of The Resort
Although there are the live shows and planned activities, there’s so much more entertainment around Butlins Minehead. I was genuinely flabbergasted at how much there was to do. I assumed that we’d get bored of being onsite at some point and go for a few hours trip somewhere nearby, but we just didn’t have chance.
One of Toddler L’s favourite bits was the Little Stars Playground. Created just for tots, this was an inside mini-fairground with numerous rides she could go on, including tea cups, planes and a train. Everything here was free, there was barely a queue and we visited at least four times during our stay.
Next to the Playground was the Little Stars Soft Play, which again was an unexpected bonus. This had plenty of different things to play with and was under supervision by staff. We were lucky to have great weather when we were there, but having these indoor areas would mean that the rain wouldn’t ruin your holiday.
Outside at the front, there’s also the main fairground and funfair, which features rides like a carousel, dodgems, helter skelter and waltzers. Again, all of these are included in the price. These rides are for older kids though – from memory, Toddler L could only go on two rides, which explains why there’s the separate tots fairground. Still, she had fun on the carousel and taking in the sounds and sights of the traditional funfair.
Although we didn’t actually go swimming inside Splash Waterworld, we did make use of the splash park outside. This was a long, ankle-deep pool with numerous things for kids to play. Toddler L had a great time in the pool and it was fantastic to see how her swimming lessons gave her the confidence to play in the water on her own. The fact that it was a nice weekend weather-wise helped massively.
There were numerous playgrounds and play areas all around the resort. Just outside the restaurants where we ate, we found a toddler play area which consisted of loads of Little Tikes things – houses, slides, castles, play kitchen etc. We spent AGES playing here over the weekend. Toddler L had fun exploring the different bits of outdoor kit and making friends with other kids her age. It was really nice to have a designated pre-school play area like this.
The majority of things at Butlins Minehead are included in the price, however there’s a few bits here and there that aren’t, e.g. mini golf, ten pin bowling and the aerial adventures climbing course. We decided to splash the cash on hiring one of the family fun bikes which cost £10 for 30 mins. Both Hay and I can remember going on these as kids with out respective families, so it was nice to take Toddler L on them – although it was bloody knackering!
We also paid a couple of quid to go on the ride-on motorbikes which Toddler L enjoyed. She wasn’t tall enough to go on her own, but I secretly enjoyed being on the back – I think my added weight was a disadvantage though as the other kids easily lapped us.
Not everything has to be 900 miles per hour though. There’s plenty of places just to sit around and chill out. For instance, we had a picnic for lunch each day on the deckchairs outside as we played ‘I Spy’ and Toddler L rolled down the hill.
As you can see, we did loads of different thing whilst at Butlins Minehead. Remember too that this is just the toddler stuff – there were even more things for older kids.
We had a great time away at Butlins Minehead. It was our first experience of a family resort like this where everything was onsite and it’s definitely something we’d do again. It’s not cheap though – for three nights in the new chalets with the Premium Dining Plan, you’re looking at £650+ for two adults and one toddler.
If you can justify the cost, I’d be pretty confident you’d have a great holiday. For me, a family holiday like this is all about Toddler L and she had an absolute blast thanks to the live shows and tots-specific activities like the tots fairground, soft play, splash pool and football classes. We really couldn’t have asked for more.
Our accommodation in the new chalets at West Lakes Village was particularly impressive. The chalets were really nice on the inside and had everything we needed for family-friendly accommodation. It was also great that they were at the back of the resort – close enough to walk to everything, but far enough away from the hustle and bustle of a busy resort. Personally, if we stayed again, we’d pay the extra to stay in West Lakes Village rather than do it a bit cheaper and stay in the older accommodation.
If we did visit in the future, I think we’d sack off the Dining Plans. It was nice having a wide choice of meals that were cooked for us on the Premium Dining Plan, but I think we’d have preferred to have cooked and eaten in our self-catering accommodation. We thought that the food was quite average, and at around £60 per day, we feel like it could have been better spent elsewhere. This is ultimately personal preference though.
All in all, we had a really nice time at Butlins Minehead and have some fab family memories. Toddler L loved joining in with the entertainment and we enjoyed watching her flourish. Good work Butlins!
Disclosure: We were provided with a complimentary stay at Butlins Minehead in exchange for an honest review of our experience.