TRAVEL REVIEW:: Butlins still bursting with best of British fun for a fab family holiday
In this day and age of economic uncertainty and European holidays potentially facing disruption, the dreaded B-word is never far from people's minds, even when it comes to choosing a break.
Brexit has certainly made many rethink their choices when it comes to getting away from it all, but there's one B-word that you can always rely on and which all the family can agree on.
And that's Butlins, now rapidly approaching its ninetieth birthday at the forefront of British holidaymaking.
When Sir Billy Butlin opened his first camp in Skegness back in 1936, he could scarcely have believed that his vision of an all-in family holiday packed with fun and entertainment would still be going strong in 2019.
But it is - and what's more, it's as good - if not better - than ever before.
Having already sampled Butlins' other camps at Bognor Regis and the previously mentioned Skegness, this time we packed up the car and decided to make the long drive south to the final one on the list, Minehead.
As a keen fan of 80s ska pop legends Madness, I know this is where legions of Nutty Boys and Girls head each autumn for the group's annual musical extravaganza, and hits such as One Step Beyond and It Must Be Love helped the journey pass as we rattled down to Somerset.
And although it might be a fair old run down to the south west from these parts, its certainly worth it.
As we swept into the camp, happy, friendly and welcoming staff made the check-in process a doddle.
Within a matter of minutes, we'd left the car behind for a thankful breather and headed to our accommodation - a very swish, stylish and above all, funky and modern seaside apartment, new for this season.
Complete with their own parking space, these one storey homes deliver the perfect blend of summer cheeriness and comfort. Bright, bold colours, plenty of space to move about and everything you need to make your holiday go smoothly.
Microwave, toaster, kettle and of course that holiday essential for anyone with kids - WiFi.
And of course, comfy beds with big fluffy pillows to rest your head on at the end of each busy day. But we weren’t there to take it easy.
If you've got visions of Butlins still being about chalets and 'hi-de-hi' and all the rest, think again.
While the family ethos still firmly remains, the clean, colourful camps have changed beyond all recognition - and accommodation blocks like the seaside apartments are helping to drive forward that change.
After settling in, we set about discovering the camp - and there's lots to discover, as there always is.
With two teenagers in tow, it was places like Hotshots, complete with bowling alley, pool and snooker tables and even a foot pool table (pool with footballs) that appealed.
At the beating heart of every Butlins camp is the Skyline Pavilion, a huge white tent packed with entertainment and attractions. Of course, the Funworks arcade still has appeal, even if some of the younger, kiddy type shows don't, but for the younger members of the family, there's fun and games from the ever present Skyline Gang and TV favourites like the Teletubbies and Mr Men.
Of course, it's not all about the kids.
There's a wonderful family bar called The Beachcomber to relax and watch the world go by, or The Inn On The Green, which as its name suggests, overlooks a huge expanse of lawn where you can sit and catch a few rays in a traditional deckchair - or simply stare in awe at the exploits of the more energetic members of the family on the nearby climbing wall and aerial ropes course.
While so much of Butlins is about burning off calories (my two spent many hours booting a football around the all-weather soccer pitches) at the other end of the scale, it's about eating, drinking and being merry too.
Fortunately, again, you're spoilt for choice. The all-inclusive package includes breakfast and dinner - and we took ours in the Yacht Club, which is just a short stroll from where we were lodging.
Breakfast was the full works - everything from bacon and eggs, kippers and porridge to toast, coffee, cereals, croissants and fruit while by the evening, there was a vast array of great meals to choose from - everything from your traditional meat and two veg to Chinese and Indian themed dishes, alongside child friendly fare such as burgers, chips and beans. In short, something for everyone.
And that's not to mention the camp's own fish and chip restaurant, a branch of Burger King and a fashionable new chicken restaurant called Firehouse which was always packed out when we passed.
For many, the highlight of Butlins is a trip to the Splash Waterworld indoor swimming pool and huge queues throughout the week were testament to its popularity.
Flumes, slides, huge pools to splash in and even an outdoor pool for those adventurous enough make it a noisy, exhilarating experience.
There’s always something going on at Butlins, and not always the time to do it in, such is the vast array of entertainments and attractions.
There’s the family fairground, complete with go kart track, the camp’s very own cinema, sporting pitches, an adventure golf course, pedal karts and so much more.
Whatever the weather, whatever the interest, whatever the age, there’s always something to do at Butlins – and you’ll never tire of going back time and time again.
Forget Brexit, if you want a B word that you’ll never get bored of, Butlins is it.
Three nights (Friday to Monday) in a silver self-catering apartment sleeping four people at Butlin’s Minehead resort during the school summer holidays starts from £375, while four nights (Monday to Friday) is from £500. The price of the breaks includes use of the Splash Waterworld pool, the traditional fairground, live shows from the likes of Stephen Mulhern*, Diversity*, Paddington, Teletubbies and Mr Men Little Miss – as well as a wide range of other daytime and evening entertainment and attractions.
For more details go to www.butlins.com (*dependent upon the date of the break).