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The changing face of caravanning made Cumbria a delight

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Caravanning in Cumbria a just van-tastic.

Caravanning for me, the mere mention of the word conjures up images of muddy fields, austere shower blocks and endless nights being kept awake by the sound of rain battering against metal.

It also brings back spine-chilling memories of chemical toilets and beds so narrow it’s comfier to sleep on the floor.

In fact, as a teenager, the only pleasure I ever got on a caravanning holiday was when I bumped into someone who’d chosen to stay in a tent.

They were, I used to convince myself, the only people on earth more miserable than me. But, boy, has my opinion changed.

It took just three days at Holgates’s award-winning site in Silverdale, Cumbria with my wife Kara and our three-year-old son Ewan to convince me that caravanning is a million miles away from the wretched doom-fest it once was.

The decision to hire a caravan or luxury holiday home as Kara insisted on calling it was not borne out of some masochistic impulse.

After reading great things about Silverdale on the web, Kara genuinely felt it could provide us with a base for a family holiday to remember at a reasonable price. I had my doubts but, as ever, she was right.

First things first, the site itself one of six run by Holgates in Cumbria and Lancashire is picturesque beyond belief.

Situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty amid 100 acres of woodland and countryside, it overlooks the sweeping vista of Morecambe Bay.

On-site the management really leave no stone unturned when it comes to providing for families.

Tucked away from the 13 holiday homes for hire and the 350 owned caravans are two adventure playgrounds and a pitch and putt. There is also a games room, a soft play area and a well-stocked shop and laundrette.

But the pice de rsistance for children and their parents is the leisure centre which includes a heated swimming pool, sauna, steam room and fully-equipped gym.

OK, so the pool was heaving every time we were in but at 17 metres it was big enough to cope.

Wining and dining is also something the park does well and most people’s tastes are catered for in the restaurant.

Yes, it was busy, too but that’s one of the nice things about Silverdale. While there’s always a good buzz about the place, you don’t have to walk far to escape the hubbub and we often enjoyed our meals on the quiet outdoor terrace.

One of the other more peaceful areas is the adults-only bar where a pint of lager costs £3.15 and a gin and tonic £2.70. Off-site there’s even more to keep families busy.

The pretty village of Silverdale is only a short walk to the south and Arnside is less than two miles to the north.

It’s also just a 30-minute drive to ancient Cartmel home to the incredible L’Enclume restaurant – and Grange-over-Sands.

Each day, after our morning swim, we set off for one of the many family-friendly attractions nearby. It really was a struggle narrowing down where to go but our first trip took us to the South Lakes Safari Zoo, about 30 miles away in Dalton-in-Furness.

Here visitors can wander amongst emus, interact with free roaming lemurs and watch as giraffes, tigers and lions enjoy feeding time.

On the second day we took in the excellent Lakes Aquarium which sits on the banks of Lake Windermere at Newby Bridge.

The otters, in particular, were a big hit with Ewan as was the glass tunnel that put him face to face with diving ducks, huge carp and perch.

Our favourite trip though was to Greenlands Farm Village, just down the road from the caravan park in Tewitfield near Carnforth.

Originally a working dairy farm, it diversified in 2009 to offer families a taste of the countryside.

Ewan loved riding on the donkeys, feeding the lambs and stroking the new-born collie pups. But what really made his day was the young volunteer who took the time to walk us around the farm, explaining all about the animals on show.

After each trip we really couldn’t wait to get back to our caravan. That wasn’t because we hadn’t been enjoying ourselves quite the opposite, in fact.

It was much more to do with the quality of the accommodation. Our shiny new Swift was nothing like the mobile shoeboxes I remember from my childhood. This one was more like a suite in a five-star hotel.

Not only did it have a spacious living area with open plan sitting, dining and kitchen, it also had French doors leading onto a beautifully decked veranda.

On top of that there was a stylish en suite double bedroom as well as a twin room with a toilet and shower beside it.

It meant Ewan had his own sleeping quarters which, as every parent knows, makes for a better night’s kip for all. Perhaps the only negative about the caravan park is the lack of decent broadband.

Sad as it may seem, not being able to check emails or download newspapers left me feeling cut off from the outside world.

Oh, and the weather was pretty grim, too. But, to be honest, I’ve come to the conclusion there’s something reassuringly cosy about rain battering against a caravan like machine gun fire as you snuggle up on the couch. There, it’s official, I really have turned into my dad.

Holiday home

Holgate’s offer three, four and seven night stays in their luxury holiday homes for hire with prices ranging from £184 for a weekend break in early January to £799 for a week in August. Tourers and campers are charged from £33.50 per night. There is an array of options for those in the market for their own caravan. A top-of-the-range Swift Chamonix comes in at just under £60,000 while a lower spec Swift Arnside costs £27,500. Call 01524 701508 or visit for details.

Day trips

For more information on Cumbria and the Lake District visit To find out about South Lakes Safari Zoo call 01229 466086 or visit Information on the Aquarium of the Lakes is available at and 015395 30153 while Greenlands Farm Village can be contacted at and 01524 784184.