Reviewed by Ian Ballinger
Call us foolish but we risked a family camping trip on May Day weekend – the earliest our family had ever camped. Our two girls, Amie (12) and Sophie (10), were with us, and, due to unpredictable British spring weather, it was with a little apprehension that we booked up this early season break at Cofton Country Holidays in Starcross near Dawlish, South Devon. As it was, we were very fortunate to enjoy dry warm weather, though the mornings in the tent were very cold and required sleeping in hats.
When I called to confirm the arrangements the day before we arrived I was surprised to hear that 240 guests were arriving for the weekend on the Friday. Our experience of camping before this break had been at simple campsites with few or no facilities. Cofton is nothing like those campsites, it is a resort in every way, but with camping facilities.
On arrival you enter the reception and are greeted as a guest, shown the map and get talked through the site. They ask questions to understand your party and your preferences in order to give you the best advice, then highlight the map according to their recommendations. The reception team are attentive and unhurried as they go through the site details. I could not have hoped for a better welcome.
The site is very well laid out to allow for family areas and quieter parts. The road network makes everywhere accessible but doesn’t intrude, which is very helpful.
We decided on Ten Acre Field as there are two play areas for older children within 2 minutes walk and a large toilet and shower block were in sight as well. The pitch areas are generous so there was plenty of space for a mig tent and vehicle + camping furniture, BBQ / firepit and anything else. This truly is premium camping.
In addition to the wonderful location there is entertainment and activities laid on in abundance. There were 3 or 4 things to do on each of the days we were staying, which is fantastic when you have children. The events team have done a great job to ensure a diverse mix of things to do in order to meet the preferences of everyone. Obviously that means that everything won’t be your taste, but that is no criticism of the quality of the activities provided.
Angelica and Sophie went to the street dance session and the instructor was the same guy that had been to Sophie’s school and was very good and we all enjoyed a family archery session with a fantastic team from Honiton who made the experience great fun (there was an additional charge £3 for children and £5 for adults for archery).
Other resort features:
Shop – very well stocked with food / games / camping essentials / newsstand.
The shop is very reasonably priced considering it is the only outlet for guests. Well done Cofton Country!
Resort complex – Pub / Restaurant / Cafe / indoor and outdoor pools / games arcade
I was initially impressed by the appearance of the complex. It is presented well, it is very comfortable and the staff are friendly and welcoming, but there are operational issues that may be down to new staff or a lack of training.
We returned the tea that we ordered with breakfast because it was tepid water, not even hot to touch. On returning the answer implied knowledge of a problem with that particular hot water dispenser. Why use it then?
We did enjoy the breakfast at the cafe on the Sunday morning and found a large choice at a reasonable price. Again, well done to Cofton for keeping the cost down when there’s a captive audience.
On the Sunday we attended the bank holiday party, which was particularly poor. My wife wanted a hot chocolate at 9.30pm but the bar couldn’t serve it and sent me upstairs to the cafe, where they told me the machines had been turned off. Also, the DJ was so lacking in motivation for his work, it was hard to watch. The majority of the banter and interaction was with the bar team and not the guests who attended. It looked like complacency of another season’s booking has set in, or maybe it was just a bad night.
Another great feature evident throughout the resort was that local suppliers are used where possible, everything from entertainment, food and supplies in the shop to the printing of the marketing materials.
One of the big turn offs of camping for people can be the washing facilities and toilets. I was so please when I saw the extensive provision for washing, with four separate shower blocks to cover the site and ensure no one has an unreasonable walk to get washed.
In other places we have camped the showers are paid for as you use them which is a chore to get plenty of coins. At Cofton the showers are part of the camping price and the individual cubicles are specious and well laid out with pegs and shelf away from the spray of the shower. The shower itself is powerful and as hot as you like, which was very enjoyable.
We would definitely return here in the future as we had a wonderful time. Nowhere is perfect and we observed those things, but they didn’t detract from the overall feel of rest and happiness we were all left with.
A special mention must go to, the events team for the variety of entertainment, the reception team for the welcome and help they offer and the marketing team for the promotion of the events and informing guests what is happening all over the site.
There are a host of ways to stay at Cofton and camping prices start from £14.50 per night depending on the season.
For more information, to view special offers, to request a brochure or to make a booking call 0800 085 8649 or visit www.coftonholidays.co.uk.
Cofton Country Holidays, Starcross, Nr Dawlish, South Devon, EX6 8RP | 0800 085 8649