Having read quite a lot in the press about a couple of 'Craplands' it was with some trepidation that we made the 2 hour journey to deepest darkest Kent to go to Lapland UK yesterday. Situated on the Bewl Water Reservoir (which they don't advertise very clearly), you are ushered to a Big Teepee, where a couple of cheery elves await starry eyed children before they 'Time Travel' (Yes, really!) through a magical tunnel between England and Lapland, to be back again in time for tea.
To enter Lapland via a big Disney-esque gate, a loud shout of 'Let us in!' is required from the children before the grumpy Gatekeeper appears and lets them into the magical tunnel. On entering the dark tunnel you are met by trees which go from green to snowy white and are covered in twinkling lights. A brief stop to meet Mother Nature and then you are whisked via the fake, and noisy, snow machine (my 6 year old wasn't fooled) and then on to the first activity, toy making.
Met by some rather too quiet and unenthusiastic elves the children make a rocking horse head (a basic jigsaw) and then learn the elf's song, which I'm still humming now annoyingly. From here they go to the Ginger Bread house, to meet Mrs Christmas and a few more unenthusiastic elves who show them how to make a Gingerbread man before they are let loose with some sticky icing and hundreds and thousands.
From here there's a break for lunch, a limited choice of potted meals. Sausage and mash, Cottage or Chicken and leek pie - none of which appealed to the 6 year old. Orange squash was included but hot drinks were extra, and all around £2 a go.
After a wander round to see the real and beautiful reindeer in their enclosure and a mooch around a Samee Teepee it was our turn to go and see Father Christmas. Guided by an Elf, who knew all about the 6 year old, she took us up a snowy path to a wooden hut where Santa was waiting. This was were the day became really special, a better Santa I don't think I've ever seen. He was just perfect. Due to the magic of pre-booking, he knew all about the 6 year olds friends and hobbies. Before leaving the 6 year old was presented with a cuddly husky and we the doting, and by now broke, parents were given a book - 'The night before Christmas' as a special souveneir. The two quick 'elf-ficial' photos were an optional, £15, extra, of course.
After visiting Santa we made use of the ice rink where small, and big children, careered recklessly around smashing various limbs, teeth and cameras in the pursuit of 6.0 perfection.
Then it was time to go, leaving Lapland without the fanfare of our arrival, via a not so magical tunnel and off into the weighting 'daddies sleigh'.
And the cost of this magical day out £255, yes £255, for a family of 3. Now call me cynical but with all tickets, that's adult and child at £75 although a nice day out, I kind of expected a little bit more - around £90 would have taken us to Chessington. Whoever cast the elves needs a good kicking and next year, please, please invest in a PA system - they could barely be heard over the gaggle of squeeling children. The 'hot meal' was poor with not enough choice for the kids, and to not include a hot drink for the grown ups on a cold-themed day, is almost unforgivable. A little more supervision on the ice-rink would be wise, as would a larger pen for the Reindeer - two of whom were locking horns as we arrived to see them. The tally by my reckoning was around £350 taking into account the tank of petrol, gifts, souveneirs and the McDonalds required due to the poor food.
I could have almost gone to real Lapland for that!
Lapland UK is good and about as far and away from the nightmares you may have read about in the press as you could possibly get so dont be afraid or worry. But £350 good?, I'm not so sure.