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My Easter Week Holiday Camp Experience

Grannies Heilan Hame from Parkdean, near Dornoch, Scotland

Grannies Decking View 2

With images of gorgeous beaches, sunshine and fun holidays, Parkdeans Grannies Heilan Hame boasts an entertainment schedule that will keep the kids amused and happy for days on end.  We’ve been here before and I have mixed feelings about it, but for the sake of the kids, I psych myself up once a year or so for my personal hell which is the holiday camp.

In previous visits, we’ve either been in cheapie accommodation or taken our own van.  At this time of year, it’s usually been freeze in April in a cheap van, or keep warm in our own van but sacrifice on space.

This year, we splashed out.  Our own caravan hasn’t been dewinterised yet and I refused to go in the cheap freezing accommodation that we’ve experienced before.  It was miserable being cold for a whole week.  The cheaper caravans say gas fire in lounge and heaters in bedrooms, but in reality, if it’s snowing and cold, they don’t even take the edge off in the bedrooms.   Three years ago we went to Dornoch and were lucky enough to get the last heater in a hardware shop to top up the heat (it was really bad snow in April that year).  We didn’t go up for the next year.

I was a little worried as we popped off to stay in the most expensive caravan Parkdean were renting out.

The lounge was comfortable and the kitchen was about the size of the one in our last house, so that was all good.

Grannies Caravan 1

Grannies Caravan 2

On first impressions, I sighed a relief at the central heating in the van, the huge fridge freezer, the lovely clean smelling beds, sheets and pillows, a decking with patio and chairs and an unforgettable sea view.  Actually, it was more than a sea view as we were literally just a few feet away from the breaking waves when the tide was in.

Grannies Heilan Hame 3

Grannies Beach

When the tide was coming in, the sea was very close indeed.  Literally about 20 feet from the decking.

Grannies Beach Tide Coming In

Was the accommodation worth it?

To me, it was. I spent quite a while just watching the waves, the sea and I’d forgotten how much I used to take a sea view for granted when I was growing up.  Our first night was windy and snowy and I loved watching it over the waves while nice and toasty in the van. I’d have to say the view was my favourite thing of the whole week.  I grew up next to the sea and spent a fair while offshore, so the noise of the sea was calming and aided sleep for me, but it kept everyone else awake as they’d never experienced the roar.

Grannies Heilan Hame 1

The kids liked the arcades and I managed to avoid going to the entertainment for a few nights and just curled up in front of the view with a hot drink and my kindle app for company. That’s my idea of bliss.

Middler loved the Sid and Lizzie kids entertainment, but he seemed to be much more aware of the size difference between himself and the little ones bopping away on the dance floor. He wanted to join in with the little ones as that’s where he is emotionally but his growing awareness of his difference is becoming more obvious.   The evenings are what evenings are in entertainment centres.  A bit of singing, some wobbly sozzled folks, a bit of kids shows and some disco stuff in between visits to the arcade.  It’s not my cup of tea, but the kids love it.

The kids did enjoy running about and the arcades easily swallow more change in an evening than most people earn in a month, so they had to be rationed as an activity.

Being right on the beach, middler could potter among the rocks in front of us when the tide was out and be in complete safety.

We could watch him from the van and shout if he got too close to the water.  It was perfect.  He was a little overwhelmed with going down the steps on his own, and was back at the van every 5 – 10 minutes to make sure we were still watching him.

Littlest and elder spent much time playing footie at the goals behind the sales caravans and made friends with kids from Embo who walked through to use the park.

Eldest met a girl from his year at school and arranged a date for the first week home.  How they grow up so quickly I have no idea, but it didn’t stop him helping his brother and digging for hours in the sand.

Grannies Heilan Hame Digging

We didn’t eat in the entertainment centre as we made food in the caravan most of the time unless we were out and about.   We did use the fast food place once, but it wasn’t terribly good.   I think we suffered on the eating out score this week, but the restaurant we visited in Ullapool more than made up for it as that was excellent.

I didn’t like the swimming pool last year as it was filthy (old photos on Instagram if anyone wants to see those) so we didn’t venture in this time round.  There were a fair few improvements to the bar and the entertainment centre looked in much better condition than it was last year.  There were some more things in the kids play area and the space for kids to play in around the vans and at the park and beaches knocks the socks off the space they have to run around in on the Nairn site.

The arrival sheet said that beds would be made up on arrival as a new service, but it wasn’t done.  I didn’t read that until after I had made the bedding up, so it was no bother really as I wasn’t aware they should have  been done.

The view and the placement of the van this year really made it worthwhile for me.  I’d have been happy to be there without the entertainment centre, but it did come at a hefty price of £499 for the week to get a caravan with double grazing, central heating and a great view.

Would I go back – maybe not next year as I’d like to do more of the West of Scotland next April, but yes, I would.  I’ve been spoiled view wise this time round.

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Rainy Day, Long Drive & Brewers Fayre (in Elgin)

To brighten up yet another rainy, miserable day in the Scottish school holiday season, we decided to take the kids for a  nice long drive.  Heading off in light rain, we got as far as Nairn when we felt the wrath of Mr Raindrops.  We carried on to Inverness, but the rain beat us back, and we headed back down the road.  It was getting late, and was about 6pm before we got back out onto the Aberdeen road.

Stopping off at the Parkdean (Holiday Camp?)  in Nairn where we saw a sign for a “caravan exhibition”, we were disappointed to find the holiday park whose exhibition was simply the few static caravans that are always out for sale.  Moving to the front door, we decided that we would stop off and have something to eat in their restaurant.  The kids ran to the door, expecting to be able to go sit down, and then we saw the signs on the door saying that we wouldn’t be welcome and would be asked to leave as we were not owners or paying holiday guests.  Shrugging our shoulders at the unfriendliness of the welcome of the “caravan  exhibition”, we moved on and decided to spend our money elsewhere.

Carrying on through torrential rain, and puddles half across the road, we reached Elgin, and briefly flirted with the bowling alley.  We were gobsmacked at the prices for letting the kids go play in the play frame for such a little town £4.40 per child.  We played a game of air hockey, dumped a couple of pound in the bandits, and then moved on again as the place was quickly filling up with teenagers.

We spotted the Brewers Fayre from the side of the road, and we decided it would be the perfect place for a stop of.  It’s been a while since we ate in a Brewers Fayre, and to be honest, I was not very impressed with the food on the last occasion I visited one in Aberdeen.  With a heart half down my sleeve, we all piled in, and I expected dross on a plate, dressed up as food for the kids “supper treat”.

It was too wet for the outside play area to be of any use, and the inside play frame was tiny, and only really suitable for younger children.  As we were late to eat, there were few children in the restaurant, and the boys just went in and played anyway.   Brewers Fayre are one of those places where you decide what to eat at your table, and go to the desk to order.  It works out fine, as you don’t feel the pressure to have your order ready to place within 20 seconds of sitting down, and before you’ve even got the kids jackets off.

Two children’s portions of chicken nuggets, and a childs pizza decided, the adults looked over the menu.  There seems to be many different deals they put on for different times of day, and on Thursday night, it was curry night.  There were about 5 or 6 different currys to choose from.  I chose a korma with nan bread and rice.  The deal was a curry and a drink for £6.99.  That’s pretty good value.

Hub chose a half chicken, and the meals really didn’t take long to arrive at all.  I went back to reception with the bill, as we had asked for coke for the kids, which was down on the menu for 75p.  They had charged us the full standard  price for a pepsi as they had run out of their bottles of coke for the kids.  Hub had ordered the food and he hadn’t thought anything about it.   It was when we looked at the bill, we spotted the price of  the kids drinks was £5.25, where it should have been £2.25.

The girl behind the till was friendly, but not prepared to do anything about the overcharge.  She just kept stating that they had run out of the kids coke, so they had charged for a full price pepsi from draft (which is more expensive).  Mhhhm.   Not a great answer I have to say.   I asked her what she could do about it and that it was poor service.   As far as I am concerned, if the kids menu states a coke at 75p with their meal.  I don’t care if its bottled, canned, or draft, but a coke for 75p is what I expect.  NOT a coke for £1.75.

I also asked her if there was a complaints procedure, or a form I could fill out to feedback on it.   I was told there is no complaints or feedback procedure.   At this point, I asked her if there was someone else I could speak to, and she finally mentioned the Manager.    I think they need some more customer service training.

Fair play to the manager, he came out and immediately refunded the £3.00 extra charged for kids cokes, and on I went to get my meal.  The food was fantastic.  I don’t know if Brewers Fayre in Elgin has a good chef, or sources good ingredients, or whether Brewers Fayre food has improved in general, but I have to say it was lovely.

Kidlets were well impressed with their puddings, which were much improved versions from similar types that we have had elsewhere.

The price was reasonable at £36.72 for

– 3 kids meals with puddings, and drinks
– 2 adult meals with a pint and a diet pepsi
– hubs extra portion of chips and onion rings

If we lived closer, I would be tempted to visit the Elgin branch more often.  It might even make me revisit the local Aberdeen one.  All in all, the food, peaceful evening, and lack of noise and distractions for my boys who need calm as much as possible  – made for a pleasant end to the day.

Sadly, after leaving at 10.30 pm, we then had a hair-raising journey back through teeming sheets of rain.   Back to reality with a bump, bump, bump.