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I wish I could be writing another great holiday review here, but sadly my holiday at Haven's Craig Tara holiday park was a big let down.
Craig Tara is located in Ayr, Scotland, on the old Butlin's site.
Until my holiday at Craig Tara, I had never stayed at a Haven holiday park before, as I had a great holiday at a Hoseasons holiday park back in 1990 and have booked with them many times since. However, I had often wondered what the '£9.50' holidays are like - you know the ones I mean - which are advertised in the national papers a couple of times a year, where you collect the vouchers. I finally got round to collecting the vouchers for myself and my partner and set about deciding where to go. You have to choose 3 options and we decided on Craig Tara as our first choice. Mainly because we love to visit Scotland and have never been to Ayr, where Craig Tara is situated, but also because it looked fantastic in the Haven brochure.
I filled in the form and sent it off. I received a letter back saying our 1st choice was successful, and we had booked a four night break in September. The total cost was £58 as we upgraded our accomodation, which isn't bad for a 4 night break. There was the option of paying extra for more upgrades, insurance and the hire of bed linen, but as we had insurance and decided to take our own bed linen as travelling by car, we were satisfied with our booking.
On arriving at the park, we thought it looked fine, situated right on the coast. We parked in the car park outside the reception building and went inside at 4pm which was the check-in time stated on the booking form. There wasn't many people about, just a small queue of around six people waiting to check-in, and a group of twelve pensioners at the check-in desk. I realised they were having a heated discussion with the staff member on duty, and it quickly became apparent they were not happy! I overheard them demanding to see the manager, and complaining about their accomodation. Another staff member appeared and they began to complain about the filthy accomodation they had been allocated, and were asking to be moved. The staff were explaining the park was full and they could not be moved, and did not seem very concerned about their complaints. After around 10 mins or so of complaining and getting nowhere, they decided to leave, refusing to stay at the park, and ordered taxi's to come collect them. By this time, I was feeling a little uneasy, wondering what our accomodation would be like.
When our turn came to check in, we were given our keys to a chalet. I explained to the woman behind the desk that we had booked a caravan, to which she informed us that they reserve the right to change the accomodation if necessary. She went on to say that the chalet we were being allocated was superior to what we had booked, and was also much warmer than the caravans anyway as there would be a heater in the bedroom. "The caravans are freezing!" she said.
We also were requested to pay £5.50 each for 'funworks passes' which gained you admission into the clubs and entertainment. So armed with keys, passes and park map we headed off to find our chalet, which was located at the bottom of the park. On pulling up outside (be quick if you want to grab a parking space as there aren't enough!) my heart sank. The chalets were in rows of two storey's with metal steps leading up to the second storey, which reminded me of fire-escapes! Our chalet was on the ground floor.
On entering the chalet the first thing I noticed was the smell - it was a damp, mouldy smell and quite strong! The second thing I noticed was how dark it was in the hallway, (even turning on the light did little to brighten it ) and how shabby it all looked. The chalet consisted of a small open plan living room/diner/kitchen, a small bathroom, and two small bedrooms.
The living area :- The carpets looked dirty and badly stained and there were also some dubious looking stains on the sofa. The windows were dirty with finger marks and smears on them. they looked as if they had never been cleaned for a long time. There was a small portable TV in the corner of the room. We noticed a puddle of water on the floor in the kitchen coming from the fridge, the roller blind was missing from the kitchen window and there was no curtains at this window either. The kitchen was basic with a few cupboards containing the basic plates and cups etc.
The bathroom :- very small with a toilet, sink and shower. The shower was very small and there was an art to getting in and out of it, as it had a folding door. I had to breathe in with my back up against the back of the cubicle! I am average size, so couldn't help but wonder how someone larger than myself or pregnant would manage! Getting the toilet to flush was another procedure we had to master. I was just getting the hang of it at the end of the holiday!
The bedrooms :- one double and one twin, painted a hideous turquoise colour with red & yellow curtains which were hanging off the rails. The quilt and pillows were dirty and stained and I was so pleased I had taken my own! The mattress looked ok apart from a couple of holes in it.
The lighting inside the chalet was very poor - one light in each room with a very dim bulb in. They probably didn't want it too bright as it hid the dirt a little!
We decided to stick it out because we weren't planning to be in the chalet much anyway and were tired after travelling. Although since returning I have read many reviews online for this place where people have said they returned home after a few hours or a day.
The site itself was quite large and a pathway lead down to the small beach, which had a lovely view of the Heads of Ayr. However, the beach was quite dirty also with litter and seaweed strewn around. There was an indoor swimming pool which we did not visit after overhearing a family talking about the mould growing in the pool and how cold the water was! There were some go-karts and a couple of rides for the kiddies which were quite expensive. Two clubhouse's are on the site. One of which is mainly for families with young children, where they can meet Rory the Tiger ( though judging by what I witnessed I don't think Rory liked children very much!) and the other had entertainment on each night after a bingo session. The entertainment was pretty poor, and the club itself was cold, the carpets stained and the table-tops sticky. The toilets also were not very clean and a couple of them were flooded. To get to either clubhouse you have to walk through amusements, which is where I think they make a lot of money. There were machines for the children where they can win tickets which can be exchanged for prizes. The prizes just looked like goods you can buy in your local pound shop, although you would probably pay out around £5 - £10 to win enough tickets to exchange for a prize! I also noticed staff selling raffle tickets at a pound each in the club. The prizes were stuffed toys taken from the machine in the amusement arcade!
Drink prices were expensive, but you do expect to pay more. There was a Burger King which closed early at night and a Fish & Chip Shop which did not open until 8pm. All it served was fish and chips, which were edible but I would not go overboard about them. There was a restaurant, but this also closed early. We noticed the restaurant for people who had gone half-board, and this too looked shabby. On the plus-side there was a well-stocked shop and the prices seemed quite reasonable.
A lot of the staff employed at Craig Tara were young and mostly foreign. Probably students working for minimum wages. None of then seemed happy, looking quite fed up most of the time. The entertainments team did their best though and I gave them 10/10 for their enthusiasm. I mentioned earlier that we had paid £5.50 each for passes to gain entry to the entertinment complex, but we may as well have not bothered as we were not asked to show them at all during the week.
Usually when on holiday, I always feel sad when it is time to return home, but on this occasion I was looking forward to leaving. I don't think I could have stayed any longer. The good points about the holiday was the fact we only paid £70 in total. I did look at the brochure prices and have read reviews were families have paid £800 a week to stay here in summer! Also Ayr itself is a nice place, and there are some nice places to visit, which is why we decided to stay after our initial disgust on arriving at our chalet.
I am not a fussy person and I am not hard to please, but I do expect when going on holiday to stay in clean and comfortable accomodation.
The whole experience has put me off Haven, and I won't be booking anymore holidays with them, and will stick with Hoseasons. I did write a letter of complaint to them but did not receive a reply. I do wonder how they manage to stay open! If you doubt me, then read all the reviews on TripAdvisor.co.uk. I wish I had read them before I went!
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