Butlins Bonanza

By | Category: Travel destinations

Redcoats, buffets, bingo, bungee trampolines…  it’s fair to say that Butlins has suffered from something of an image problem. But this season, the budget seaside holiday camp has had a huge new lift with the opening of the £20 million Ocean Hotel. CD Traveller reports…

Butlins Ocean Hotel Snow Cave with guestsRightly or wrongly, Butlins has gained a reputation for hi de hi, happy campers, dodgems and drunken louts since it first opened in 1936. Fast forward to 2009 – the year of the staycation – and Butlins has gone all upmarket. Sure the shows, skyline pavilion packed with arcades and self catering chalets are all still there but crucially they have been joined by the design conscious and, dare we say it, stylish Ocean Hotel – which is how CD Traveller found ourselves holidaying at Butlins’ Bognor Regis resort.

Being self confessed Butlins snobs, several members of our party remained sceptical about our destination – “A luxury hotel at Butlins? Please!” – right up until we reached the resort. Step inside the 200 room art-deco style Ocean Hotel though, and opinions of Butlins will be forever changed.

Tropical fish are projected onto the floor of the lobby floor and a spiral staircase leads up to reception where floors accentuated with splashes of fluorescent pink, green and yellow and white walls await. Then there’s the lifts which are like mini nightclubs; disco tunes from the Jackson 5  and Sister Sledge blare out from all four corners encouraging guests to throw a few shapes  en-route to their rooms –reinforcing that while Butlins has had a facelift, it hasn’t lost its sense of fun.

And so to the rooms. We stayed in the spacious Neptune room (two nights from £260) which can comfortably accommodate up to five people. An aesthetically pleasing mix of pinks, purples and lime greens, the Neptune room has all the amenities you would expect (vast beds, tea and coffee making facilities, an ironing board et al) and more: a private balcony overlooks the South Downs while you’ll find a flat screen TV and DVD player not only at the end of the adult bed, but also in the brightly painted children’s den. The bathrooms don’t disappoint either: there’s a rainfall shower and divine Dead Sea toiletries from the spa.

Yes, you read right, spa. An hour or two hidden away in a seriously good spa should feature on any holiday itinerary and the Ocean Spa has a brochure full of tempting treatments aimed at everyone. A two hour session starts at £19 and includes use of the hydro spa hot tub, relaxation pods, steam room, sauna, disco showers and snow cave – one of only two  in the UK – where you can roll around in the white stuff ( providing you can cope with temperatures of around  -18°C!) Teens can go for the ‘Marshmallow Medley Facial’ and their mums can book in for the ‘Beauty and the Beach’ session which uses seaweed and sand to cleanse and exfoliate the skin. Meanwhile, men can follow in the footsteps of metro-sexual Monsiuer Beckham and plump for the ‘Premiere League Massage for Men’ (£29) whereby you watch classic football goals while your body is pummelled and pounded!

Butlins has also experienced a victory in the culinary arena. You can still pile your plate high with greasy fries and traditional British stodge if that’s what floats your boat, but you can also build your own pizza and watch it cook in the clay oven at Kaleidoscope Bar & Restaurant, or order an affordable fillet of sea bass, confit of lamb and Chateaubriand from the a la carte menu before watching X Factor finalists take to the stage in the Skyline Pavilion.

But Butlins hasn’t completely moved away from its Redcoat roots. The  famous ‘Reds’ are still there as are other ‘traditional’ attractions such as a swimming pool with slides, bouncy castles, Bob The Builder’s house, a bowling alley, adventure play area, funfairs, gaming machines and cinema –which should keep the kids occupied and entertained for a couple of hours at least.

Beyond Butlins, there’s the charming seaside town of Bognor to explore and enjoy while just 20 minutes drive away is Arundel, with its fairytale castle, Chichester and West Wittering. However with so much fun and luxury on your doorstep, it’s hard to leave the hotel.

To book a break at Butlins call 0845 070 4730 or visit www.butlins.com/hotels

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