Why Haven holidays are not for us lake with swans on

Why Haven holidays are not for us

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If you know someone who goes on Haven holidays then you may see their social media and think the holidays look fabulous. But then, social media is full of ‘perfect’ lives. Glorious, happy holidays to beautiful places.

When I share information about a place we’ve visited, it’s almost always positive because it’s a recommendation. Often, they’re places we’ve paid to go to and I share them so others can discover a place we love. Often we see incessant pop up ads on phone and believe that these are really worthy places to visit. But life’s not always like that. Sometimes we go somewhere and it’s not great. And that can be important to share too. So, this is what happened when we went on a Haven holiday.

Why Haven holidays are not for us lake with swans on

Why Haven holidays?

As the girls get older, we try to go on holiday to places where there’s plenty for them to do. That sounds logical, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. We’ve had some great holidays at Bluestone, which is geared up for keeping the children entertained and they love every minute of it. Outdoor fun, a swimming pool, an indoor play area, character dining. Every child’s ideal holiday.

A review of a UK holiday in Bluestone Wales - UK travel

During the Summer though, we like to spend at least some time camping. Being outdoors, bringing the dog with us and exploring a new area. We always enjoy a quiet campsite like Pencarnan Farm in Pembrokeshire and the girls love it too. But they also love the entertainment at Bluestone, so we decided to find somewhere that combined the two. Haven holidays seemed like the ideal solution.

Packing light allows you to explore the country including beautiful views like this one over the coast with daisies in the foreground at sunset

We decided to try Haggerston Castle Haven Holiday Park in Northumberland. It had an indoor swimming pool, a boating lake, children’s playgrounds, pony riding and loads of other activities. Camping there was really reasonably priced, we paid around £170 for five nights in the van with an electric hook-up. What could possibly go wrong?

What we liked about Haven holidays at Haggerston Castle

Well, it wasn’t all bad. Firstly, there was the location. We adore Northumberland and wanted to explore it some more after our visits to Kielder Forest and Lindisfarne Holy Island last year. It was our intention to spend most of our time on the Haven holiday park, since we’d chosen it because there was so much to do. But as it turned out, we used it purely as somewhere to sleep and explored the area instead.

Lindisfarne Holy Island is located off the North East Coast of England in the United Kingdom. It is a site of special scientific interest with stunning views, fascinating wildlife and places of historical interest to visit. The island is dog friendly and is a great place to visit for families with children to visit as well.

Northumberland is a rare gem in the British Isles because it has quiet beaches during school holidays like beautiful Bamburgh. Gloriously vintage days out like Ford and Etal are like a step back in time and it’s a short drive over the border into Scotland where we explored the stunning coastline around Tantallon Castle. In fact, it ended up being a very pleasant week purely because we were forced to get out and about.

Tantallon Castle and Seacliff Beach East Lothian Scotland - view through window of castle

As for the Haven holiday park itself, there was certainly a lot to do as promised. The pony rides were run by an external company who owned a riding school nearby. These were fabulous, the girls had a 20 minute walk around the Haven holiday park and the price included a photo of them on the horse.

The Haven holidays swimming pool was fine and Libby managed to go water zorbing. Both girls did an activity in the pool as well. My husband and the girls also hired a pedal cart for an hour which they enjoyed. All these activities with the exception of swimming came at an additional cost. There was a small soft play area that Libby enjoyed, but Lia wasn’t keen on it.

Why Haven holidays are not for us little girl on brown pony
Why Haven holidays are not for us little girl on black and white pony
Why Haven holidays are not for us little girl zorbing

What put us off Haven holidays

I’ll be honest and say that from the moment we arrived at the Haven holiday park, we knew it wasn’t for us. The campsite pitches were right next to each other. There was just enough space to park the van and put up our awning. The toilet and shower areas were nothing short of filthy. In fact, we ended up walking to a different toilet and shower block most days because it was slightly less filthy than ours.

The Haven holidays bar and entertainment areas were absolutely packed in the evenings. The girls did a talent show in there which they loved. However, that was the only time we went there because it was so uncomfortably busy, loud, dark and dingy that we didn’t want to go back. The only restaurant food available was fast food. Nothing healthy at all. The Haven holiday park was vast, I walked for half an hour without finding a way out other than the main entrance. That went straight onto a busy main road. So, unless you drove, you were pretty much stuck there.

Worst of all though, it didn’t feel safe. We’d hoped for the girls to have a bit of freedom. To be able to walk to the playground together with us keeping a loose eye on them. To take themselves to the toilet. Not too much to ask. In fact, we ended up staying with them everywhere they went. The play park was too far away from our pitch and across a road that was far busier than a normal campsite. The toilets were too dirty to let them go in alone. And worst of all, when Libby rode her bike to the toilet and left it outside, a child tried to steal it. If my husband hadn’t been watching, we’d have ended up buying a new bike.

Cycling at Sutton Bank National Park Centre little girl cycling in countryside

Would we give Haven holidays another try?

I’m all for second chances. But I don’t think I could be persuaded to visit a Haven holiday park again. When we went to the Hoburne Holiday Park in Somerset, it was everything we’d hoped Haven holidays would be. Quiet but not too quiet. Everything was clean, there was plenty of entertainment both on the site itself and off-site within walking distance.

Hoburne Blue Anchor caravans by beach at sunset

We also went to a completely different campsite in Yorkshire this summer. It was small, quiet and clean with very little entertainment other than a park for the children. They rode their bikes everywhere and went to play without us breathing down their necks. My husband and I knew it would be the sort of place we’d love, but we thought the children would be bored. In fact, we couldn’t have been more wrong. They had an amazing time and didn’t want to leave.

So, would we go back to a Haven holiday park again? I don’t think so. We’ve realised that what the children enjoy isn’t so far removed from what we want ourselves. Long bike rides, days on the beach, fun activities either on the campsite or nearby and a clean environment. Sadly, Haven couldn’t provide those basic requirements. And that’s why Haven holidays are not for us.

Haven Holidays | Haven Holiday parks across the UK are dog friendly and they attract visitors to their caravans and campsites. Aimed at families, there is plenty of entertainment for children and adults alike. Find out why we're not fans of Haven holidays despite the fact that we love UK travel with dogs and children. #UKTravel #camping #holidaypark #familytravel #familyholidays #dogfriendly

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  1. How nice to read an honest and balanced view. I would hate to go somewhere with dirty toilets and showers, and how awful that someone tried to nick the bike! I definitely wouldn’t want to go back there either.

  2. What a shame. I’ve never been to this campsite but grew up with Haven and felt very safe of on our own as kids. But then again that was a long time ago and I can see it going downhill like Pontins. Sorry you didn’t have a great experience and that was a lot to pay imo.

    1. That’s such a shame that it has gone downhill since the holidays you remembered. It does sound like it may be a problem with the individual park rather than all Haven parks though so I’m hoping that’s the case.

    1. Ahh sorry to hear you had a bad experience as well. It seems like it may be the individual park rather than Haven on the whole though so that’s positive.

  3. Thanks for the review Nat! I absolutely cannot stand dirty toilets/showers, it must have been awful for you! Lovely pony rides though! xx

  4. This is such an accurate account of Haven. Whilst we often go on a yearly basis, they’re literally a place to sleep and perhaps go swimming if we’re at a loose end. Most of the time we’re off site because of the reasons we mention. The only reason we go back is because it’s cheap and Flexible.

    There are often too many cars, the caravans are quite close, and the atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve only gone to a show once because it was too loud. Not fun at all.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Oh thanks Kate, I really appreciate your comment. Interesting to know that others have had the same experience. Such a shame because it has the potential to be really good.

  5. I went to Haggerstone Castle about 10 years ago with my eldest, never again. Yes there was lots to do like the pony rides, boat rides, pool etc but it was so busy and rather expensive on site. It seemed to be full of parents getting drunk and kids running wild when we went which put me off. We do really like the Berwick Haven site just up the road though, it is small and quiet and looks out on to the sea, it is just a short walk into the town centre too. I don’t think they offer camping though which is a shame. x

    1. That’s really interesting, I think my husband initially tried to book that one but they didn’t have availability – or maybe they didn’t do camping. Such a shame that the Haggerstone Castle one is like that, it has the potential to be good but the people seem to have no respect for it. I too found the experience of things being overpriced and parents getting drunk and not properly looking after their kids.

  6. Its refreshing to read an honest review, so sorry it wasnt as expected though. There is no excuse for dirty facilities and as for someone trying to steal the bike! I definitely wouldnt want to visit again!

    1. Thank you for your comment, I’m so glad you found the review helpful. And I quite agree, those things really put us off visiting again even if it was just as somewhere to base ourselves rather than to spend any length of time on the site.

  7. Hi Nat, what a refreshing review and there’s nothing wrong with saying it as it is. Not being a holiday place that appeals is one thing, but dirty toilets areas is totally different. There could be people who love Haven holidays, but would be put of by dirty loos and I know I wouldn’t go back (if it were for me)… If your girls love it then you have to stick to what you all love, freedom, wide open spaces and fewer people.


    1. Yes that’s true about the toilets. A few people have said that they like other Haven parks but I cleanliness is so important that it would put anyone off. And you’re so right, we’ll definitely be sticking to what we know in future!

  8. Really good to read a completely honest review. I have one to write up on Elveden Center Parcs soon, you have reminded me!!

  9. It is such a shame, that you had a bad experience, I can’t rate Haven highly enough. Admittedly I only go to the Golden Sands site (it is the closest at just 3hrs away). The site has always been clean and the staff great, some of the grounds staff even carry dog treats, so the site is a hit with the family dog too. I use the site as a base to explore the area but I also use the facilities on site. I have been to Hafan Y Mor in the past, and no, I wouldn’t go there again as it was full of chavs, but I love Golden Sands xx

    1. Ahh that’s great to hear, thanks very much for letting me know. That sounds like a really lovely site, especially how clean it is and how good they are with dogs. They should send staff from some of the other sites there for training!

  10. Hi, I’m very sorry you didn’t enjoy your Haven experience. We’ve been to three different Haven parks with our grandchildren, two of them were lovely and one was an experience I wouldn’t wish to repeat so I can understand exactly what you mean. Holiday parks are not really our thing so we get away after the school holidays to quiet places, just the two of us and the dogs.

    1. Thank you Lynne. Getting away outside of school holidays sounds idyllic! We have learned to choose quieter places now. The children really don’t need much in the way of entertainment as long as there is somewhere to play outdoors.