At the heart of historic Sherwood Forest lies the original British Center Parcs — an oasis among the trees for relaxation and all-action fun in equal measure.
The village first opened in north Nottinghamshire in 1987 and in the last 30 years has constantly evolved to meet the needs of its guests.
It was the massive offering of activities, restaurants, walks and cycle routes — all built around the Village Square where the subtropical swimming paradise is based under a dome — that attracted my wife, two young children and I.
And let’s not forget the latest feather in the village’s cap, the newly-revamped Aqua Sana spa which, at a cost of £3 million for the upgrade, is stunning and cutting edge.
What’s more, with the kids still at school just 30 minutes away on the first day of our Friday-to-Monday break, there was a chance for my wife and I to sample this incredible revamp.
And all I can say is wow! We were able to enjoy the three-hour ‘forest spa’ session, giving us the chance to explore the six spa zones with 25 different experiences.
Now Aqua Sana Sherwood Forest is virtually unrecognisable from its previous incarnation where experiences faced into a central open-air pool.
It now makes the most of the forest beyond and nowhere better does it do this than with the stunning treetop sauna which sits ten metres high among the canopy of the pine trees.
Zones include the Nordic Forest, Volcanic Forest, Hot Springs, Treetop Nesting, Forest Immersion and Treetop Escape.
Within these are the volcanic steam room, Nordic snug, forest glade steam room, outdoor hot-tubs and even rainforest showers.
And don’t forget you can sample a meal in the Vitale Cafe Bar, all enjoyed in your complimentary white robe.
Plus there is an extensive range of treatments and pamper packages on offer.....but more on that later because that was reserved for the Sunday of our break.
Our home for the long weekend was a three-bed Woodland Lodge, stylishly decorated and complete with everything we would need....including a secluded patio complete with barbecue stand.
But after a quick hop off-site to collect the children, and collection of our mountain bikes hired from the convenient Cycle Centre, there was only one place we could head — the subtropical swimming paradise for a late-night swim.
It was perfect for my youngsters, who are both strong swimmers, so two hours of the wave machine, rapids and flumes and they were ready for some rest.
A family grocery pack, pre-ordered and delivered to our lodge before arrival, meant Saturday could begin with bacon, sausage and eggs....and then it was off to enjoy a game of ten-pin bowling at the Leisure Bowl, which overlooks the main pool.
A cycle around the stunning village was then followed by lunch and a few games of pool at the brilliant Jardin Des Sports with a countless number of TV screens for sporting events, including a huge projector, a second bowling alley, arcade games and area for badminton where my daughter and wife were also able to enjoy rollerskating.
After that it was back to the pool for a Starbucks waterside and then more rapids, slides and a few trips down the Grand Cascade, which takes a route outside the building in a giant inflatable for four.
To complete a hectic day, it was time to sample some Italian cuisine at the Bella Italia restaurant in the Village Square — bellissimo!
On the final full day, it was time for a change of pace and return to Aqua Sana where I was able to enjoy one of the treatments reserved for men — a Decleor deep tissue back massage and facial.
It was heaven-sent for dealing with some back issues I had been having and the facial left me feeling revived. The masseuse also was able to advise on a skin regime. A green tea in a relaxation garden was the perfect sign-off.
In the meantime, my son was able to try out aqua jetting where you take hold of a Seadoo and hold it underwater. As you turn it on, the motor propels you forward allowing you to twist, turn and dive like a sea creature.
More cycling, swimming and fun followed throughout the day — including a visit to the on-site sweet shop Treats, the gift shop and the fully-stocked Parc Market for more essential provisions.
It was then off to the Foresters’ Inn for our evening meal where the menu included fantastic sharer plates, Thai curry, steaks, burgers and a range of desserts — a perfect finale to another busy day.
Center Parcs truly is a wonderful experience and one which you can tailor to your needs and shape to the pace you desire. A wonderful weekend that we would highly recommend.
For more information and details of price and availability, visit www.centerparcs.co.uk. Alternatively call 03448 267723.
Online you can check out the range of accommodation, Aqua Sana, restaurants and facilities and also the other Center Parcs sites at Whinfell Forest, Elveden Forest, Woburn Forest and Longleat Forest.