What is it? That we had to bring our hotel registration card to use the swimming pool. Josie, Tilly and I arrived at the pool without it and had to trudge back to our hotel room, where Duncan and the baby were asleep, to retrieve it noisily from the bottom of my bag. The woman at the pool reception told us that this rule was written in the hotel literature for ‘safety reasons’ but when I looked there was no mention of it.

Where? Some of the rides at the theme park have height restrictions, but don’t assume a ride is safe just because your child is allowed to ride on it! I took Clementine on the water flume and the entire time was scared to death she was going to fall off, even though I had my arms tightly clenched around her. Luckily, just after we boarded one of the young men working at the ride told us where to sit and moved us around. If we had stayed where we had originally sat – which another young guy seemed to think was fine – I am sure she would have fallen out as we advanced up the steep ascent.

Description: The hotel has a modern health and fitness club called Vitalia, which has a nicely-tiled pool suitable for children with fun water slide, as well as a more adult pool where grown-ups can do laps and get some exercise. Adults can also take advantage of the steamroom, sauna, whirpools and computerised and air-conditioned gym, which has modern equipment and offers a variety of classes. Vitalia has many different treatments and beauty rooms but it’s advised to book in advance.

We were in the area for only a short visit, so didn’t take advantage of much except for the hotel’s swimming pool, outdoor play areas and, of course, the theme park itself. However, there are loads of pubs in the area – including one down the road with a children’s petting zoo. But I assume most people come to see Camelot.

‘The best thing was finding sweeties and eating them,’ says Josie, six. ‘I loved everything. I loved all the sweeties especially and I loved watching the baby dinosaurs hatching from their eggs,’ adds Tilly, four, referring to a display outside a roller-coaster ride.

Camelot is in Charnock Richard, Chorley, Lancs, junction 28. For special Camelot short break offers at Park hall Hotel visit www.parkhall-hotel.co.uk or www.camelotthemepark.co.uk or call 01257 455000. Dinner, bed and breakfast ranges from L58 to L78 based on two people sharing, depending on season (up to two children stay free), cheaper for bed and breakfast only. Price includes entrance to Camelot, please check opening dates when booking. Entrance to Camelot only is L16.50 per person, or L56 for a family ticket of four. Children under 1metre tall are free.

We’d been to Disneyland, Euro Disney, Gulliver’s Theme Park and the Alice in Wonderland Park. And every Easter break, summer break and half-term, we grudgingly took our three small daughters to the local funfair near our home, spending 20 quid in 20 minutes on rides, slides and candy floss. But no matter how many theme parks or funfairs we visited, they kept on screaming for more. That’s how we found ourselves driving up the M6 to Camelot Theme Park, the largest theme park in Lancashire that prides itself on its medieval atmosphere. Josie, six, was hoping for a roller-coaster ride, while four-year-old Tilly loves anything that goes around and around. I was just hoping for some peace and quiet – hardly! [girls_in_themed_room.jpg] Checking in to the hotel I found my worst fear realised – we had been given the themed Basset suite, sponsored by the Basset sweet company. The walls were painted in lurid pinks, greens and yellows – all the colours of a box of All Sorts – and packets, rolls, bags, pouches and tubes of sweets were cleverly hidden around the rooms – underneath the pillows, in the bedside table drawers and on the wardrobe shelves. The children were in Kiddie Heaven – and I have to admit, it was cute. Even baby Clementine, not yet two, sensed the excitement and scrambled to find a little bag of her favourites, Dolly Mixture. But after five minutes of indulgence, I was in my own version of Parent Hell – how can you keep three kids on an even keel with literally mountains of sugar freely available everywhere? We managed to calm the kids down, partly by distracting them with the equally lurid bathtub, built with fluorescent pink glass tiles. I cleverly decided not to show them the Cadbury Room next door, and before they had a chance to say ‘hyperactivity’ had marched them outside to the sweet little playground (no pun intended), where they amused themselves happily before going for a quick swim in the pool. The hotel has 140 rooms and we stayed in what felt like a small, rustic wing accessible by a winding garden path. Our suite was more than comfortable, with a sitting room, two bedrooms and two baths. So comfortable, in fact, that we were reluctant to leave for dinner. Being American, I chose Sam’s Diner, which has a US theme. Unfortunately, the food was far from brilliant – even the girls’ hot dogs were overcooked, which, I know from experience, is difficult to accomplish. They loved their ‘cocktails’, however, while I diplomatically decided not to create an international indcident and send my badly cooked chicken fajitas back south of the border. Next morning we had a decent breakfast (I managed to stash most of the sweets in my suitcase) and set off for the Park. One of the hotel managers told me that in a few years’ time plans are to demolish it to make way for a new housing development, although the hotel itself is expected to be enlarged to accommodate the growth in the area. So we made our way to Camelot with a bit of nostalgia, and it did seem like stepping back in time to a Carnival-style playpark. There were lots of rides the kids enjoyed, especially the dragon roller-coaster, the log flume and some of the small kiddie round-abouts. Camelot is a lot bigger than it initially appears, even discounting some off-the-beaten-path places Duncan discovered, where dusty mannequins and broken rides stand forgotten behind clusters of trees. And the food court wasn’t that dire, although we did wish we had brought our own lunch. There were laughs when we watched the jousting match – even Clementine sat quietly with her mouth wide open – and tears when we visited the indoor playcentre at Merlin’s Playland only to find an incredibly strict 16-year-old park attendant decree that Josie was too tall to play in the small children’s playpark and Tilly too short to play along with the big kids. The girls liked Squire Bumpkin’s Farm, loved the Cup & Sorcerer ride, and were gravely disappointed they weren’t big enough to go on some of the more death-defying rides. Best of all, the weather was fab and the queues almost non-existent. [camelot_ride.jpg] All in all, everyone had a good time and we were in and out – and back to the hotel – within five hours. Calling it a ‘Land of Great Knights and Amazing Days’ might be going too far. But if you want to experience a kinder, gentler theme park, come to Camelot – before it all comes rolling down. (Wendy Sloane is the Travel Editor of entertainthekids.com. She dividies her time between writing and taking care of her three daughters, Josie, Tilly and Clementine.)


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