Haven is a holiday firm with 35 parks around the coast in England, Scotland and Wales catering for families with self-catering caravans to stay in, swimming pools, kids’ clubs, day and evening entertainment and many other features. We recently had the chance to go to their Devon Cliffs site near Exmouth in Dorset and were lucky with the weather and had a very enjoyable 4 night stay.
The park is huge with many facilities and options spread over a valley going down to the sea. The layout has been done in such a way as to give as many sight lines to the sea and to show as few caravans at once as possible. The result is a low number of cars on the road and the large park feels compact and friendly.
Most of the accommodation at Devon Cliffs is made up of stationary caravans or mobile homes, although there is a small area which allows you to bring your own caravan or motorhome. The caravans range from Standard to Platinum on eight different levels of different sizes and facilities. We booked into a Standard caravan with three bedrooms that could handle up to 8 people. There are also specific adapted caravans available with different facilities in different caravans.
The thing to remember about Haven is that while they own and run the park the caravans are for the most part individually owned and hence are not uniform. They all start off similar but are sold and then diverge in use and refits and therefore what we got might not be quite what the person in the next caravan over gets.
Location also plays a role and the prime locations are near the beach, with a sea view or near other facilities are obviously more convenient. We stayed in Juniper Close and had a lovely partial seaview from the lounge window over the play park and were less than a 5 minute walk from the pool, entertainment hall, sports grounds and shops and a 10 to 15 minute walk from the beach. It is possible to ask for a specific area and for an extra payment Haven will try to accommodate you.
The standard caravans are what you would expect from something space constrained and not suitable for indoor wheelchair users. Almost all caravans have two or three steps to reach the front door and are flat if somewhat narrow indoors. Adapted caravans are available, see details here.
Devon Cliffs has a number of facilities available. Some of these are free to access such as several play parks or the shops but most need an entertainment pass. This is included with some packages or as a stand alone extra. There are also a number of extra activities which can be purchased via vouchers bought in blocks or at a slightly higher price individually.
Free facilities include:
– standard outdoor play areas
– adult outdoor gym equipment
– beach access down a long steep ramp to a beautiful private sandy beach
– picnic areas with standard picnic tables
Facilities included with the entertainment pass:
– Indoor and outdoor swimming pools with slides
– Childrens soft play and entertainment area
Extra paid activities include everything from a treetop adventure, beach activities, archery, mini golf, bowling, table tennis and a number of kids club activities. Most of these are restricted by age and by time – for example before the summer holidays they focus on pre-school children and in the summer holidays are available in groups for all ages.
In the evenings there is a range of entertainments mostly focused on the kids or of particular themes with some special events like a Gareth Gates concert in July.
Haven is a part of the Bourne Leisure group which also owns Warner Leisure Hotels and Butlins. Haven operates 35 good size parks throughout the UK. All the parks have a basic level of facilities with landscaping, pools, entertainment and a family friendly atmosphere being the aim. Haven does not own the individual caravans which are usually privately owned or timeshared but coordinates their cleaning, maintenance and the overall park facilities.
Prices direct from Haven are variable depending on season from a minimum of around £100 for a basic caravan upwards for more in demand times and higher spec caravans. They can be purchased direct from the Haven site or via a wide range of resellers.
Depending on where you purchase from there may be extra service costs and possibly optional laundry and entertainment pass costs.
Haven holidays are regularly discounted and are often the cheapest and most efficient way to get a beach holiday in the UK. There are also several regularly run voucher systems such as Sun Holidays that offer a limited choice of dates for a much cheaper cost £9.50 per person per week. There are a number of restrictions on these but if you play the system right it is possible to get amazingly good value breaks.
Included in the price
Depending on the exact package that you get the level of access and facilities can change greatly. The most basic packages booked through a reseller do not include bed linen or access to much of the entertainment, but if you book direct from Haven the chances are this will already be included.
Travel season: Autumn, summer, spring – Park is closed November to March
Accommodation: Tiered from Standard to Platinum – 8 levels.
Location: South of Exmouth, here
Booking: Booking via Haven website, phone or via resellers
Check-in Time: Dependent on Caravan level – Platinum 1pm, Prestige 2pm, Deluxe Plus, Deluxe 3pm and Superior, Standard Plus and Standard at 4pm
Check-out Time: 10am
Temperature: All caravans have a gas fire in the living room, and Deluxe Plus and upwards have heaters in all rooms. Windows can open in all caravans.
The sleeping arrangements vary between the different levels of caravan but we found that single beds are less than half the width of a standard single – small adults can probably squeeze in, but it is not recommended. There is a standard size double in the master bedroom and the pull-out couch is large enough for adults. There is ample storage space for clothes and all your luggage.
Curtains throughout were quite thick, but again are variable between different caravans even of the same level. If you have photophobia or small children bringing your own blackout blinds is a must.
The duvets and pillows were of good quality and very warm with extra duvets in the main bedroom cupboard. The mattresses were medium, not too soft, not too hard and provided a pretty decent night’s sleep. Our felt great and the beds made no squeaking sounds and were sturdy and comfortable. Only one set of pillows was provided (one pillow for each sleeper), so if you need more, bring your own. Bedding is provided for an extra cost on many packages when booking or bring your own covers and cases.
Shower and dressing
The bathroom was compact as you would expect in a caravan and would be difficult for an assistant to help in. The shower has a small door that has to be closed when showering and there is no shelf in the shower meaning that bottles need to be placed on the floor and that you need to bend to pick them up. The toilet is a standard one with a top mounted button push and standard seat. The sink is shallow with a single mixer tap and a wall mounted cupboard and mirror above it.
The bathroom is provided ’empty’ so pack everything that you might need from loo roll to towels, hand soap, shower and beauty products.
The kitchen is compact with a standard single sink with mixer tap, a standard gas oven, grill and hob, extractor fan, toaster, kettle, microwave. Work surfaces are at a standard height but the microwave is higher needing me to lift items to about shoulder height to put into the microwave.
We found the oven poor and have done so at most similar places. It’s usually fine for a spot of cooking, but often has only a single shelf, doesn’t heat up fully with a poor door seal and takes longer to cook food. It’s a much better plan to base your cooking around picnic meals, frying and a bit of grilling.
The kitchen is equipped with the basics – a couple of serving dishes, a standard frying pan, saucepan, a grater, chopping board, cutlery, glasses, plates. These are usually set to the number of people the caravan can support – for example a caravan that sleeps six would have six glasses, six mugs, six knives and forks and so on.
We would recommend bringing an oven tray (we didn’t have one, this is not unusual), a spatula and a non-stick frying pan and don’t forget washing up liquid, kitchen towels, tea towels, washing up sponges.
The fridge has an icebox integrated with a single ice cube tray.
If you want to work at Devon Cliffs it is possible to use the dining table as a desk and there might even be space to bring your own chair if you needed to. Mobile phone connectivity was poor throughout the site as it sits in its own valley. Wifi is available for 15 minutes a day per device for free and at cost beyond that. I found the service poor and even after paying for a 24 hour block had difficulty getting online even with good signal.
The number of electric plugs varies per unit but is not high in general ours had the following: 1x lounge, 3x kitchen, 2x in all bedrooms (one next to bed and one next to mirror).
It is accessible to anyone with a mild-moderate visual impairment, including the blind and those who experience visual symptoms, like photophobia (light sensitivity), eye strain or colour blindness.
The paper map is as clear as it can be for the complexity of the site and on the ground everything is well signposted in clear contrasting color signs with braille labels.
It is accessible to anyone with a moderate – severe hearing impairment, including the deaf and those who experience auditory symptoms, like tinnitus or hyperacusis (sound sensitivity).
Some areas of the park – in particular the amusement arcades, swimming pools and evening entertainment may be too loud for anyone who has mild to moderate hyperacusis but these can be avoided at the busy times.
Input and touch
It is accessible to anyone with a mild – moderate upper body impairment and those who experience symptoms that affect their hands, wrists and shoulders, like a tremor, fatigue, reduced dexterity or precision.
Movement and mobility
It isn’t accessible to anyone with a moderate – severe mobility impairment, including wheelchair users and those who experience physical symptoms, like severe fatigue or chronic pain. The standard non-adapted caravans all have steps to enter and are too small to use wheelchairs inside. The adapted caravans avoid this but the site itself is somewhat of a problem. Haven have done all they reasonably can to mitigate this with ramps and alternative routes but the site is very hilly and steep in places and this will cause some difficulty for those with impaired mobility.
Some social interaction is required – its a holiday park with a lot of families, noisy children and people running in all directions. This is not a holiday for those who want to get away from people.
There are no specific allergens to be worried about at Devon Cliffs. If you are sensitive I would recommend bringing your own bedding and don’t forget the sun screen!
Haven Devon Cliffs is a very good example of something being exactly what it claims to be – an economic family friendly break by the sea. The beach is beautiful, the entertainment loud, a play park and activities always just around the corner and the pool large (if somewhat cold!). Haven is aimed at families with small children and delivers. If you have small children or just want a British beach getaway, Devon Cliffs is a great choice. Recommended.