Review: Andrewshayes Holiday Park, East Devon
Despite the fact that Bristol is actually very close to much of the South West coastline, it's not often that I venture outside the city to get some sea air. So I was really pleased to be invited to stay at Andrewshayes Holiday Park in East Devon, just a 90 minute drive from Bristol, and only a few miles from the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast, a part of the UK I've wanted to explore for ages.
On a recent sunny Friday afternoon, we picked the kids up from school and made our way down the M5 for our weekend break. Andrewshayes is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the edge of the Blackdown Hills near Axminster, and it is a really easy drive from the city. There are stunning views of the hills from the park, which has been run by the same family for the past 60 years, and it is this relaxed family feel which is evident as soon as you arrive.
Despite some weekend traffic on the motorway, we still arrived at the park before 6pm and we made our way to the friendly reception to collect the keys to our home for the next few days. You can park your car adjacent to your caravan which is really handy when unloading, and although I wasn't used to this (having stayed at places like Bluestone where cars are not allowed to remain next to accommodation) it wasn't a problem at all, as I hardly saw any cars move around the park during our stay.
We were staying in a Beech 2 bedroom static caravan which is a luxury 12ft wide model with double glazing and central heating. I have to say that I had no idea what to expect, having not stayed in a caravan since my teenage years. But as soon as we opened the door and stepped inside, I was really impressed. The light grey decor was very modern, and everything felt clean and fresh. There was a really good-sized carpeted living area, with a huge corner sofa bed, coffee table, TV, and doors which led out onto a decked balcony with some outdoor furniture.
The kitchen had everything you could possibly need, including kettle, fridge freezer, microwave and a full-size oven. There were plenty of kitchen utensils and crockery/glasses provided, along with a small welcome pack of washing up liquid, a washing up brush and tea towel. Immediately opposite the kitchen was a small dining area with a table perfect for a family of four to eat their meals at, which we did!
Along a small corridor were the two bedrooms - one was a cute twin room with single beds for the kids. My tall 11 year old had no problems fitting into his bed and both boys slept really well. The other was a double room with an en-suite toilet and a proper dressing table area (hurrah!) which was a real bonus as I find that this isn't often provided even in hotel rooms. Bed linen and duvets were supplied, but we did have to make up our own beds (this wasn't a particular problem, and you can pay a little extra if you want the beds to be made up for you prior to your arrival). Both bedrooms had clever built-in storage space and there was plenty of room for everyone's clothes.
Opposite the boys' bedroom was the family bathroom and this was sparkling clean and very modern. The shower was fantastic - again, much better than some hotels I've stayed in! You do need to bring your own towels with you.
Everyone that stays on site has access to the covered heated swimming pool which was lovely, plus a games room (a big hit with the kids!) and a toddler soft play area. There was also a handy shop for essentials, plus a bar and cafe which we didn't use, as we ventured out every evening during our short break, but it was nice to know that it was there if we needed it. I'm sure we would have used it if we'd been staying for longer. There was also a nice children's play area with climbing frames, swings and a see-saw right next to the bar, ideal for letting the little ones run around as you enjoy a drink on a warm summers evening.
Some of the accommodation is dog-friendly, including one of the Beech caravans, so you can bring your furry friend with you if you wish. Dogs are allowed on leads throughout the park as well as in the bar. There is a dedicated dog exercise area, as well as access to a woodland area for walks. The park grounds are very well maintained and lovely for everyone to stroll around, with amazing views towards the Blackdown Hills. The atmosphere is laid back - this is definitely somewhere to come for a quiet, relaxing holiday. It's not an 'in your face' resort at all, although there is seasonal entertainment in the bar, including quiz nights, kids and adult bingo, and live music on the weekends.
However, due to it's excellent location and close proximity to the Jurassic Coast, we spent our evenings out of the park as we explored the local area. First on the agenda was the pretty town of Lyme Regis, just a 14 minute drive away and over the county border in West Dorset. We spent a lovely few hours exploring its historic Cobb and harbour, playing on the amusements, and admiring the gorgeous views of the sunset from the beach. (Unusually for this part of the coastline, there is a small sandy beach at Lyme Regis, as well as a much larger shingle one).
We were lucky to spend a whole day in the town of Seaton, which is just over 6 miles south from Andrewshayes. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch at The Terrace Arts Cafe (100% vegetarian), before exploring the rest of the town which was holding The Great British Seaside Weekend when we visited. We enjoyed looking at all the stalls which were set up in the centre and by the town hall, listening to some acapella singers, and watching over 100 amateur cyclists dressed in vintage clothing and riding decorated bicycles around the town. Due to all of the festivities, we didn't have time to travel on the famous Seaton Tramway but we definitely want to do that next time we visit.
We also visited Beer, one mile west from Seaton. A bit of a hidden gem, this seaside village recently came 6th in a poll of UK seaside resorts by Which? members. It was fascinating to explore the shingle beach which is lined with fishing boats bringing in their daily catches.
Sadly, our relaxing weekend came to an end all too soon, and it was time to pack up and head back to the city. We had felt very comfortable in the caravan throughout our stay. It was the perfect size for a family of four and I think what impressed me most about the interior was the quality of the fixtures and fittings - everything felt very new and you would never know that you were actually staying in a caravan. There were no issues with anything during our stay, and it was nice to have more space than a hotel room provides, especially as my boys are now older and need a bit more room to move around!
Verdict: Andrewshayes is a fantastic family-friendly holiday park, within easy reach from Bristol. Perfect for a relaxing weekend break, it has totally changed my view of caravan holidays. We loved our 2 bedroom model, but there are also 3 bedroom versions available for bigger families (some with hot tubs), and new luxury lodges are due to open shortly. There are also pitches for camping and motorhomes, as well as glamping pods. This is a gorgeous part of Devon, ideal for exploring both the coast and the countryside, and Andrewshayes is an ideal comfortable and convenient base.
Disclaimer: We were offered 3 nights complimentary accommodation in a Beech 2 bedroom caravan, in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and photos are my own.