Like most people, our international adventures experienced something of a blip as a result of the coronavirus pandemic during 2020, so during the school summer holidays we instead opted to stay in the UK. We visited Butlins Minehead, as well as exploring the beautiful coastal and countryside regions surrounding it. This first post will cover the basics of Butlins in the pandemic:
We stayed from 31st August to 4th September 2020, which was the last week of the school summer holidays. Choosing this week was considerably cheaper than any other week of the holiday period, and for a gold standard apartment with two bedrooms we paid approximately £400.
Putting aside the parent’s point of view for a minute, Butlins is a paradise for small children! There is a fun fair, huge swimming pool, stage shows featuring all of their favourite characters, sports, a circus…and it’s all free! (or at least, all included within the price). The boys loved it and had the time of their life!
The apartment was clean, but simple. We had two bedrooms: one of which had a double bed and the other of which had two single beds. Each had plenty of storage, with wardrobe and drawers for all our stuff. The living room and kitchen diner was open plan, and although it was small it had everything we needed: two sofas (each was a two seater), a coffee table and a small TV comprised the lounge. There was a dining table with four chairs, and the kitchen had a sink, oven, four hobs, microwave and dishwasher.
The bathroom didn’t have a bath, which I know can be a concern for parents with smaller children who prefer not to shower. But you can opt for accomodation that does, if that’s a dealbreaker for you. There was also a small balcony with a wooden table and four chairs, where we sat and played cards in the evenings.
Housekeeping wasn’t offered during the stay, due to the restrictions of the pandemic, but the door was sealed after it was cleaned before we arrived, which felt reassuring.
The biggest and most obvious change was that you had to wear masks at every indoor venue. Unfortunately a lot of people were ignoring this rule completely for indoor shows, which made us feel very uncomfortable. By contrast, and new for 2020, Butlins had introduced outdoor theatre shows: the seating was all 2 meters apart and this felt both safe and well organised.
We saw almost all of the shows available outside, and the kids watched the Skyland Gangs offering twice: this was by far their favourite show of the stay. On the subject of the entertainment and shows: this is all pre-booked via the Butlins app. If you don’t have a ticket, you can join the stand by line, but entry is not guarenteed. Frustrating if you couldn’t get the tickets you wanted, but I much preferred the new app system to waiting in line to get into a venue, and I hope it stays.
On previous Butlins stayed we had headed to the pool whenever we fancied. This time, we had to pre-book 1.5 hour long slots via the Butlins app. Top Tip: Book these as soon as you’re able, as slots fill up quick! Additional slots are then released on the day: we managed to swim three times during our stay. On the subject of swimming, you are encouraged to arrive at the pool “swim ready” to minimise the amount of time you spend in the changing rooms.
Because it is situated outside, you are not required to wear face masks when on the main fairground. The turnaround time is slightly slower, but this is because every occupied seat is cleaned after each ride. It was incredibly reassuring to see! What’s more, rows were being left between guests on most of the rides, to ensure that social distancing rules were met. Overall, this felt both fun and safe.
Top tip: Visit the fair ground on arrival day. Whilst everyone else is getting their bearings or unloading their luggage, you will have the whole fairground pretty much to yourself!
The indoor toddler fairground is located indoors and so adults are required to wear facemasks when taking their children on the rides here. Again, social distancing was maintained with floor markings, and the whole experience felt very safe. The famous Billy Bear statue is also located right outside the toddlers ‘little star’ fairground.
We didn’t have a dining plan for this trip: we were being cautious and wanted the option to cook for ourselves if the restriction levels didn’t feel safe. For the dining options we did try though, we had nothing to worry about. Like everywhere else in the UK, we wore our facemasks until seated at the table. All of the tables were well spaced apart. And there were also one way systems to guide you around the restaurant, so there was no risk of accidentally bumping into someone you shouldn’t.
We ate in the Firehouse Grill, and the traditional fish and chip restaurant. Ludos Italian was closed, but they were offering takeaway pizzas and they were our favourites. The pizza was amazing, not just for Butlins standards but by all standards! We ate it both in our apartment and in the main Skyline: you are allowed to remove your facemasks in the Skyline if you’re eating and drinking.
My favourite thing about Butlins Minehead? You just have to walk out of the main gates and you are right on the beach. An expansive beach with stunning views, the water here is both warm and shallow meaning that you can walk out into it for miles. Because it is such a large beach it is also rarely crowded, leaving plenty of space for social distancing, playing, and feeling like you have the whole place to yourself!
Having now visited all three of the Butlins resorts, I would suggest that Minehead is certainly showing its age: the swimming pool is certainly in need of the same kind of upgrades that have been experienced in both Bognor Regis and Skegness. But that doesn’t mean that the resort is without its charms: it feels very much like a traditional seaside experience. And if you love to be on the beach as much as we do, I would suggest that Minehead is the best choice for the beach alone!
You can book a stay at Butlins Minehead or any of the other Butlins resorts via their official website.