Acorn Adventure – family holidays. 17 years ago my life changed forever when I started working for Acorn in France. Fast forward 17 years later and I’m back with my own daughter (an acorn baby) to holiday as a family. My dreams literally came true.
Acorn Adventure very kindly invited me to holiday with them in exchange for an honest review (also probably because I’m the best member of staff they’ve ever had – I think it’s a bit like my employee of the decade award too)!
If you don’t know anything about Acorn Adventure, they’ve been around for a long time, over 35 years actually, so they are very experienced. Acorn offer outdoor adventure trips for schools, groups and families in 9 different activity centres across the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Malta. You can find out more about Acorn Adventure family holidays here.
We visited their site in the beautiful Brecon Beacons; set in the shores of the largest natural lake in Wales and nestled in a beautiful National Park.
I thought I’d put my review in separate sections so each area is easy to come back to. Brace yourself, grab a cup of tea and here we go…
Booking and Arrival
After booking up our trip we received an information pack in the post (we were very excited that day). It tells you all you need to know and includes a very brilliant checklist so you know what to take. I phoned the office a few times asking questions and they are more than happy to chat so that you get the best out of your stay. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not sure about anything, feel free to ask me too.
On arrival day you can arrive anytime after 4pm (between 4pm and 5pm is advised). I really liked this as it meant we didn’t have to rush and could take the journey at our own pace. If you want to make a day of it, I know some other families arrived early morning and explored the local area until 4pm, there’s lots to do and a lovely cafe nearby.
As you pull into the site you are welcomed by Acorn Adventure staff and directed to your pod/tent (we stayed in the pods) and given a few bits of information that you need until the welcome talk later on.
You can drive your car right up next to your pod to unpack, and then drive it off again once you’ve finished (it’s a vehicle free site which is perfect for the children). There are a couple of car parks just outside the grounds of the site. I loved that we could do this as it meant we could literally pack the kitchen sink without having to carry it far.
There is a choice of accommodation at the Brecon Beacons site. You can choose from camping in one of their pre-erected Tented Villages, or for those seeking a little extra comfort you can stay in one of the pods on Lakeside Village.
We were given one of the pods. I lived in one of the Acorn tents for four seasons when I worked for them so I did feel a little sad I wasn’t revisiting that part of my life. Well, I only felt sad for a few moments because the pods are just awesome. Far more luxurious than I envisaged.
There are two different types of pod; the standard pod and the premium pod. We were lucky enough to be offered a premium pod.
It felt like a little home from home. Having our own toilet was probably the highlight, there’s nothing worse (for me) than trekking over to the toilet block for that early morning visit!
Our pod came with two beds (the premium pods can sleep up to 3 and the standard up to 4). I actually said to Olivia that the beds felt comfier than my own bed at home (it must be time for a new mattress!). You need to take your own bedding and pillows. We also had electrical points, a fridge, sink, tv, table and chairs and tea and coffee making facilities.
There is plenty of storage space under the beds and an outdoor storage box for wet clothing and shoes.
There are some picnic benches scattered around the village, but I’d recommend taking your own camping chairs if you’d like to sit right outside your pods. We loved having ours with us.
If we were to revisit Brecon I would definitely rebook one of the premium pods. Although Olivia played in one of the standard pods with a friend she’d made and she said she preferred it because it had bunk beds! Maybe we’ll have one each next time 😉
All of the activities are included in your stay and are led by qualified activity instructors. The watersports are complemented by dry land activities so there’s plenty of variety to challenge you.
The minimum age for activities at this camp is just five years old.
As we were staying in the pods we were close to the lake, which was the perfect (and most beautiful) location for the water sports. We enjoyed kata kanu, kayaking, canoeing, raft building and paddle boarding.
The dry activities take place just up the road (If you’re staying in the tents, this is where you’ll be); you can either take the car or a short (15 minute) walk through the village. Being out in nature and switching off, I had the intention to walk each time, but Olivia’s little legs (and eagerness to get back to the pods to play) meant we drove twice.
On the top site we enjoyed climbing, mission impossible and night line, archery, rifle shooting, catapult, high ropes and fencing.
We also had the hill walk, which started off from the bottom of our site. I found it really tough (my leg and back can still be delicate after my surgeries), especially as it was on the first day, but definitely worth it when we got to the top. The views of the lake and surrounding areas were stunning. The beer in the pub afterward was definitely worth waiting for too!
Yes, we managed all those activities in five full days! It is pretty full on, but great because the children are kept entertained.
There are two activities a day. One in the morning, one in the afternoon and then your evening entertainments after dinner. There was usually an hour or so to chill after lunch and the kids used to go off and play together.
We were really impressed with the level of instruction, safety and professionalism of the staff.
There were certain staff that definitely made the difference; shout out to instructors Nathan and Joel who had a wonderful way of noticing how to react to each child’s individual needs during sessions.
Just before the paddle boarding Olivia had quite a few tears and I could tell she was really scared. It was quite windy and she’d never done it before. Nathan guided her gently, encouraged her and let her take her time. By the end of the session she was laughing, smiling and standing up on her board – she even stood on mine and wobbled it so I fell off.
She overcame so many fears during lots of the activities and the delight on her face afterwards was amazing to see.
The high ropes was a brilliant one for so many, particularly the leap of faith. I loved how supportive and encouraging everybody was to each other, especially the children.
My favourite was the canoeing. We were lucky enough to have a really calm and sunny day, so the setting was idyllic. It felt very peaceful paddling out there. Well, until the kids splashed us of course!
During the evenings from around 7.30pm to 8.30pm staff would lead the evening activities. Sometimes parents joined in, sometimes they didn’t and sometimes we were banned by our children!
I actually really enjoyed getting involved and we had a good laugh. That said, I also enjoyed the night I didn’t join in and sat drinking beer instead. It’s all about the balance!
Most of the evening ents were outdoors; acorn olympics, scavenger hunt, camp fire and then indoors were the quiz, bingo and disco.
Making friends – (single parent holidays)
‘It takes a village to raise a child’
I realised why I love this famous African proverb so much this holiday. Being a parent is hard, being a single parent (especially on holiday) is even harder.
When you’re on holiday as a single parent you’re the one who has to do everything, there is no one else. Your eyes have to be constantly on them. For example, if you need the toilet while you’re around the pool, you take your child with you. When I’m camping I also hate to leave the tent in the middle of the night if I need the loo, it means leaving Olivia alone sleeping. Going to the toilet is just one of the difficult tasks!
Night times can be hard too. You’re alone with your child, when they go to bed, that’s it, you’re on your own (to be fair I don’t personally mind that, I actually love my own brilliant company – but know others that don’t).
‘It takes a village to raise a child’ means that the entire community helps to raise the child. The villagers look out for everyone’s child. Everyone looks out for each other.
This is what happens on an Acorn Village single parent holiday. And probably every Acorn Adventure holiday. The set up, activities and environment creates that atmosphere of support.
We made friends instantly. Olivia was gone within minutes playing with other children. The parents followed shortly sitting around the village with our beer, gin or wine!
I went for a shower while another parent watched Olivia. I watched other parent’s children while they showered, or read their book. We took it in turns watching our children play just outside the campsite. One lunchtime I even dozed off for 20 minutes!
Some parents preferred their privacy, so that’s available too, but if you’re a single parent and have worried about holidaying with your children, without wanting to sound cheesy, this is the holiday for you!
We made friends for life and we have already re-booked (along with five other families so far) to holiday together with Acorn again next Summer. We can’t wait!
All of your food and drink (tea, coffee, water, juice) is provided throughout your stay. If you’re staying in the tented village your meals are served in a marquee and if you’re on Lakeside Village in the pods there is an indoor canteen.
All of the food is freshly prepared, cooked and served by Acorn Adventure staff. They even clear away and wash up for you.
I think I put about a stone on in six days, the food at Brecon definitely exceeded my expectations.
There is a menu on display when you arrive and you are served breakfast, lunch and a three course dinner. There was always fresh fruit available in the canteen (I was impressed this was always topped up).
Sometimes there could be quite a queue whilst waiting for your food. It obviously went down quickly but I think it would have helped if tables were perhaps called up one by one so each table could eat together.
There were two hot options at every breakfast and the option of cereals, fresh fruit and toast. It definitely set you up for the day, giving you all the energy you needed for the adventurous activities.
Lunch was usually wraps or rolls with a variety of fillings. We were served the worlds biggest wraps and there was always an abundance of food. There was plenty of choice so there was always something for everyone.
Dinner was a feast of three courses (and a basket of bread rolls on the table); there was a great mixture of tasty and nutritious food throughout the week. My daughter can sometimes be quite fussy but there was always something she liked.
I noticed that when some children didn’t like anything that was on offer the chef would go out of his way to find something they did like.
I spoke to another Mum who was a vegetarian and she was really impressed with the offerings and said they couldn’t have done anymore.
10/10 for the food from us.
As we had our own toilet we didn’t use the toilet block. I spoke to the other families on our village who had mixed reviews. Some families felt the toilets were as expected and clean and some felt that they could have been cleaned and replenished a little more often. I was very happy with my own perfect little toilet in my pod!!
The showers were really powerful and hot (sometimes too hot for the little ones). I think the boiler went once while we were there, but the staff soon had it up and running again. The water doesn’t last very long at all so you have to keep pressing the button, but other than that I couldn’t fault the showers. I bought one of those big towelling robes to walk back to my pod in, it was much easier getting dry and dressed in there and saves any embarrassment of your towel falling down on the walk back to your pod!
What can I say about the staff! Well, none of them were as good as me when I worked for Acorn Adventure, that’s for sure, ha! Just joking (kind of).
Seriously though, we were blessed with some very skilled, passionate, hard working and friendly staff. All of them went above and beyond to make the holiday something special.
You usually get someone who looks after your Village (Village Manager). After doing that job for four seasons I know it’s probably one of the toughest jobs going, especially as you are instructing too. I tried so hard not to judge how our VM did things, but being me, I did, obviously.
Emily was our VM and couldn’t really have done much more for the children and adults. The canteen (where we ate) was always looking super clean and actually really lovely for mealtimes, the drinks and fruit were always topped up (it’s the little things!) and we were always kept in the know. She did a fab job of running the evening entertainments too! Thanks Emily.
This holiday allowed us to step out of our day to day digital lives and into a world of adventure and wonder.
A brilliant trip and one we are both missing everyday. I’d definitely go back to Brecon. But next Summer, it’s Acorn Adventure Spain and we’d love to go to the Ardeche after that! The Acorn bucket list begins…