You may – or may not – remember that last summer I was an ambassador for The Caravan And Motorhome Club’s Big Little Tent Festival (BLTF). As part of this, we were given the opportunity of a family press trip to one of their UK club sites. As we don’t have a caravan or motorhome – my dad still won’t let me borrow his! – and didn’t fancy camping with a toddler, this narrowed down our options to a caravan at Hillhead Caravan Club Site near Brixham in Devon.
I remember going to Devon as a kid – often in a caravan – but haven’t been in years. The closest we’ve come to the area as a family is Dartmoor last year, when we stopped in a static caravan, then a hotel, in the Tamar Valley area. We really enjoyed it and found plenty of things to do, so I was pretty confident we were going to enjoy our four nights in the English Riviera in a Bailey of Bristol Unicorn Barcelona caravan. Below, you’ll find my review of The Caravan And Motorhome Club’s Hillhead Caravan Club Site, the Bailey Of Bristol Unicorn Barcelona caravan and the things we did in the surrounding area:
Hillhead Caravan Club Site
“Set in the heart of the countryside and just a stone’s throw from the beach, the site is a wonderful location to relax and enjoy all that the outdoors has to offer. The stunning sea views and surrounding cliffs make for excellent walks, cycle rides and nature trails. The site has plenty of facilities to keep the whole family happy and the neighbouring towns are only a short drive away.”
From looking at the reviews before we went, Hillhead is regarded as one of the best sites within The Caravan And Motorhome Club network. On arrival, it certainly lived up to that reputation with plenty to do for the family (including dog) and a really nice, friendly atmosphere. We were there during early May, so the site was pretty quiet and there were very few other kids around due to being off-peak..
In terms of ‘vital statistics’, the site is 22 acres in size and has 256 pitches (243 touring and 12 camping). There was a mixture of pitches – including hardstanding and grass – and it’s open to both members and non-members. We received a friendly greeting on arrival and were shown to the caravan by one of the wardens – more on the caravan in the next section. First, let’s have a look at Hillhead Caravan Club Site.
Toilet And Shower Facilities
Hillhead had everything you’d need and expect from a caravan site. There were two toilet / shower blocks which had separate showers, toilets and shaving areas. These were cleaned daily and were in great shape – so much so that we didn’t use the toilet / shower in the caravan.
In addition, there were also a number of Family Rooms and Baby & Toddler Washrooms if you needed a bit more space. We were given a key for one of the Family Rooms, but ended up just using the normal showers in the toilets. Despite not using them, they were a great idea and make the site very family friendly.
The toilet / shower blocks also house laundry facilities (washing machine and tumble dryers), with a separate dishwashing area just outside. We didn’t use these, but they looked to be in good condition and it was nice to have the option.
Nicos Entertainment Complex
Not far away from our caravan was Nicos. This was the main entertainment hub on site and was based around a courtyard which had plenty of tables, chairs and patio heaters. As you went in, there was an onsite shop on the right which sold a variety of things such as bread, milk, newspapers, toiletries etc.
Next, there was also an amusements with a range of arcade games and slot machines. Toddler L enjoyed trying everything out, particularly the coin operated Noddy car and Postman Pat van outside which cost 30p – I’m used to spending £1 on these normally!
The restaurant and bar was next. We didn’t actually eat here as we cooked in the caravan, but it looked nice enough. It was clean, there were plenty of tables and it looked a pleasant place to spend a few hours. In the evenings, they had entertainment in here, ranging from bingo to quizzes to music, but being the parents to a toddler means we can no longer ever go out!
Finally, Nicos had the swimming pool area which consisted of a kid’s pool and main pool. Unfortunately, it hadn’t yet opened – it was due to open at the end of May and we visited at the start of the month. It looked good from what we saw and our stay coincided with nice weather, so it was a shame Toddler L couldn’t try it out.
Play Area, Games Field And Dog Walk Field
When not exploring the local area, somewhere we spent a lot of time was the play area. This looked pretty new and was very well equipped with things for all ages. In fact, it was better than a lot of play areas you find at your local park.
Next to the play area was the games field which had a football pitch, as well as the dog walk field which was a separate fenced off area for dogs to be let off the lead. Walking a little further took you to another field with great views down to the sea and along the coastline.
We really enjoyed staying at Hillhead. It had all of the facilities we wanted and it felt a really welcoming site. It was a shame that the swimming pool wasn’t yet open and that we weren’t yet into the kid’s entertainment season, but Toddler L still had a lot of fun at the arcades and particularly at the play area. Having stayed at a lot of campsites when I was growing up, I was hugely impressed with Hillhead and it felt very different to the campsites of old.
Bailey of Bristol Unicorn Barcelona Caravan
“The Unicorn Barcelona is one of the best-selling caravan models from Bailey of Bristol. The Unicorn range is the most luxurious and popular of the three caravan ranges that Bailey produces, and the Barcelona layout is a particular favourite with customers thanks to its permanent double bed, separate end washroom, spacious and fully-equipped kitchen, plus a large front lounge with feature window.”
First, let me set the scene. This was our first caravan holiday. As mentioned, we’ve stayed in a static caravan (twice), but not a towed trailer which comes complete with ‘fun’ jobs like emptying the chemical toilet and refilling the water barrel. As someone who spent many holidays in a caravan with my folks, this was fine with me. However, the missus was a little trepidatious – something not helped by telling her that there was no TV!
On seeing the caravan – which was parked in a quiet corner of the site – the vast majority of her apprehension vanished. The caravan looked brand new and came kitted with pretty much everything we needed, e.g. bedding, towels, pots, pans, washing up liquid etc.
The first thing I noticed was how light spacious it felt. A caravan is never going to be massive, but I was impressed with the space on offer. For instance, you could comfortably walk passed someone who is standing at the sink, the seating area would comfortably fit six adults and it wasn’t a squeeze to get into the bathroom despite their being a permanent double bed. In addition, there were three skylights and large windows – particularly the front, central window.
We had a pretty decent caravan growing up, but this was really luxurious compared to that. Apart from the aforementioned ‘missing’ TV it had all the mod cons you’d look for. For instance, there was a microwave, combined oven, grill and hob and large fridge / freezer, DAB radio and programmable heating system. There’s also so much storage space – something which is really important when you’re holidaying with a toddler. The clever design means that every little bit of space has been turned into some kind of shelf, drawer, cupboard or cubbyhole.
One of the things I liked the most was the double bed. This was situated near the back of the caravan and was permanently in place. Obviously this should have been for the missus and I, but Toddler L ‘stole’ it from us. As she’s used to being in her own room at home, we try to replicate this where possible when away. As such, we gave her the double bed as we were able to pull across a dividing partition to separate her from us at night. We then slept on the bed which is created by sliding the slats in between the settees and turning the cushion upside down. The bed wasn’t to the standard of The Ritz, but it was comfy nonetheless.
The bathroom was at the back of the caravan and had a toilet, sink and shower. It was the full width of the caravan and much bigger size than ours was when I was a kid. However, with the toilet and shower block a few minutes walk from the caravan, we chose not to use the bathroom for anything other than brushing our teeth and acting as a suitcase storage room. I’m not quite ready to empty a toilet yet!
All in all, the caravan was comfy, spacious and had everything we needed – definitely the type of luxury caravan we’d stay in again.
Things To Do In The Area
We found that Hillhead Caravan Club Site was well located for quite a few different things in the local area. Most importantly for us, these needed to be both toddler-friendly and dog-friendly. Here’s some of the stuff we got up to:
Six miles up the road, you have the sea side town of Paignton. Our first visit saw us park near the harbour and made our way to the Esplanade. We then walked a bit further and found a pretty cool outdoors playground along the front called the Geoplay Park. We spent a fair bit of time here as Toddler L enjoyed the toddler area, sand and water area and teen play area. Even better it was free!
On our second visit, we went for an evening walk along the South West Coast Path. We parked on the road near Roundham Gardens, then made the scenic walk over Roundham Head. This gave us views over towards Torquay one way and Goodrington Sands the other. Toddler L particularly enjoyed the colourful beach huts we found on our adventure.
Just under nine miles up the coast is Torquay. Our first stop was to Babbacombe Model Village – a four acres miniature village and railway with over 400 buildings and a population in excess of 13,000. It was £10.95 per adult, under threes were free and it even allowed dogs, which probably meant Dax felt bigger than he has ever done before. Portraying English life and culture over the last six decades, there was plenty to look at, including the celebrity mansion, castle with fire-breathing dragon, Stonehenge, the Shard and many more.
That’s not all though. The model village also had a 4D cinema, gardens, Alice in Wonderland themed mini golf, remote controlled boats / cars you could drive, a tearoom and shop. What’s more, if you validate your ticket before you leave, then you can make a free return in the next seven days. It was a pretty cool place to visit and Toddler L had fun looking at all the different things.
After this, we also went into the centre of Torquay and had a look around. After giving Toddler L her first proper experience of seaside fish and chips, we had a walk from the car park at Living Coasts (a zoo and sealife aquarium), via the harbour, across the bridge which moves up and down for boats, along the seafront and over towards Abbey Park.
Berry Head & Brixham
Just a couple of miles up the road, you have Berry Head National Nature Reserve and the seaside town of Brixham. Berry Head is a coastal headland which housed an Iron Age hill fort and is now home to a nature reserve on account of the rare and threatened species living there. We parked in the car park and made the 15 or so minute walk along the coastline and to the tip of the land. From here, you get some pretty awesome views across Torbay.
Next, we made our way over to Brixham and stopped at Shoalstone. We’d hoped to go swimming in the outdoor seawater swimming pool which looked out over the ocean, but unfortunately it hadn’t yet opened for the summer. Still, we had a wander down to check out the rock pools on the beach, then walked over to Brixham Breakwater – a half-a-mile structure designed to protect the harbour from the waves. This was a nice walk and gave some cool views. We then drove into Brixham, parked up, had a wander and ate a sneaky ice-cream as Toddler L napped!
Goodrington Park & Goodrington Sands
On the way to Paignton, we found Goodrington Park where we stopped off for a chilled out few hours. Here, we found a number of different things available to do – crazy golf, boats, pedalos, go karts, a bouncy castle slide, a play area, open grass and a particularly seaweedy beach. Obviously we didn’t do everything, but we checked out the park, went on the bouncy slide, wandered on the beach and flew a kite. A nice place for a lazier afternoon.
About 45 minutes away on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, we found Canonteign Falls – the highest man-made waterfall in England. Entry was £7.50 per adult, with under 5’s (and dogs) being free. We decided to walk up to the top of the waterfall, which was a pleasant – but reasonably steep – ascent up the 70m Lady Exmouth Falls. Along the way, we saw Clampitt Falls, walked up the 90 Victorian steps, then found the secret garden and the Victorian Fern Gardens. At the top, we were greeted with spectacular views across Devon and Dartmoor. It was worth it, although I think the missus’ legs were pretty knackered after toddler-wearing all the way up and down!
We came for the waterfall, but were surprised with what else we found at Canonteign Falls – particularly for Toddler L. For instance, there is a bee garden, lakes with ducks and swans, two giant bunnies and a cafe with plenty of books and crayons. There’s also a mini assault course with various obstacles, a zip wire and a children’s play area with trampolines. We planned to be at Canonteign for two or so hours, but ended up spending a good chunk of the day there.
South Milton Sands
Just over an hour away, there is National Trust’s South Milton Sands. Obviously this is doable for a day trip from Hillhead, however we went there as we were going on to a second location in Cornwall for a few more nights – as such, this was en route. We made our way down some very narrow country roads and were surprised to find a very cool looking beach. South Milton Sands is a sheltered bay which has rockpools, sand dunes, a long, sandy beach and the iconic Thurlestone Rock archway. What’s more, dogs were welcome on the beach.
As it was a week day, we basically had the entire beach to ourselves which was awesome. We spent a good few hours on the beach as Toddler L played with the sand, made sand castles and collected shells. We then had lunch at The Beachhouse Cafe which overlooked the stunning scenery. We had posh fish finger sandwiches which were nice, albeit a little on the pricey side at around a tenner each. Still it was a great location to chill out.
We had a great few days away in South Devon and definitely plan to return in the future. Staying at Hillhead Caravan Club Site was a pleasure – great location, clean and tidy, friendly staff, nice facilities and stuff for the kids. We also found a lot to do around the area which suited both toddlers and dogs. This included the seaside towns of Paignton, Brixham and Torquay, the great views at Berry Head and the model village at Babbacombe. A little further afield, we found the highest man-made waterfall in England at Canonteign Falls and the stunning beach at South Milton Sands.
N.B. This review was written by me (Dave) and represents my honest opinion. We were provided with a complimentary four nights stay at Hillhead Caravan Club Site with the purpose of writing an honest review. All activities etc were paid for by ourselves.