SOMERSET: Butlin's Minehead

Harriett racing her gokart lr

By Tim Saunders

Overcoming fear and having fun.

That is what eldest daughter Harriett achieves during our stay at Butlin’s Minehead. Which is not something we are expecting. She really wants to drive a go-kart but the trouble is she’s scared so she wants to be a passenger while I drive. The problem is now that she’s thirteen and nearly as tall as me she can’t be a passenger and so must drive herself. What to do?

“I really want to go on the go-karts, Daddy,” she says. “But I’m so worried – I don’t know which pedal is the brake or accelerator and what happens if I crash?”

Oh, she’s a little worrier. After about twenty minutes of watching the go-karts race round the track and a little convincing from Daddy, Harriett finally takes the plunge and stands in the queue for the single go-karts. When her time comes, she takes her seat at the wheel with some trepidation but it’s not long before she gets into the swing of things and is really enjoying being in control. So much so she even manages some pretty skilful overtaking. When her race finishes she announces, “I love that and want to do it again!” Well, that’s a result.

We all love the go-karts and I discover that with the double karts it’s possible to keep your foot down on the accelerator all the way round the track if you take the corners correctly. Having a passenger weighing the car down is particularly helpful here and Henry’s a good passenger once he gets over the fact that he isn’t tall enough to drive one himself. I try the same method in the single-seater kart and feel the rear end sliding on the bends, which results in me slowing down a little.

Our holiday at Butlin’s - the home of family entertainment - by the coast in Somerset, allows us to do things that we wouldn’t usually find the time to do. We play American pool. There’s a really competitive spirit in our family and Henry tries hard to win. He’s only eight and so it’s difficult for him to handle the pool cue alone but we overcome this hurdle by him using my hand as the cue guide and it works well. We then go bowling and I win a game!

Holidays allow us to forget the norm and indulge. Butlin’s is a bit of an expert in this department. At The Deck restaurant – with its five star food hygiene rating – we all enjoy unlimited buffet breakfasts and dinners. There is such variety it is possible to enjoy a range of cuisine. For instance, Caroline has a red onion and cheese omelette made before her eyes. The children have pancakes and I of course cannot resist the full English breakfast, but also try the kippers. There are cereals and a continental choice. As part of our Premium Dining package unlimited juices and various coffees are included. The children really enjoy the independence of choosing their own food and getting it themselves. Dinnertime is another extravaganza of choice. There are serving stations for grill, pasta and wok to name but a few. The variety ensures that even picky eaters like Henry will find something they like. He loves the pizza, chips and the fruit. My eyes light up at the noodles and I have to try the chicken and vegetable chow meins as well as the egg fried rice. On our final night, Caroline spies a roast dinner and a leg of lamb being carved so I go for that. The desserts are works of art, too. There are meringues, Eton messes, carrot cakes and plenty for the chocolate lover. As a very amateur cook myself, I am impressed with the standard of the offering easily comparable to decent restaurants. It’s such a luxury to be presented with good quality food and not have to worry about preparing it yourself. Plus the staff are happy, helpful and chatty, which is good to see. There’s very much a holiday vibe where everyone wants to enjoy themselves.

The clock is always ticking and that fear of missing out looms so there’s little sitting around. The swimming pool has to be visited. With no change for the lockers we trustingly leave our clothes, towels and shoes in three separate lockers and they are all there when we return. We haven’t been swimming for sometime, yet the children take to it like little fishes once again. Even Henry has enough confidence to swim for quite a way. There’s a wave machine and thrill seekers love the three different flumes. We go on the lowest, least frightening and Henry is in paradise. As we stand at the top of the flight of steps we watch the dingies being delivered on a chain type system. When it’s our turn we sit in one, Henry in front of me – clutching the straps and we’re pushed forward. There’s clearly a drop down the flume but from where we’re standing we can’t see how much of one. We quickly discover. This is screamingly, breathtakingly steep and the effect is similar to one that I experienced inside a barrel rolling plane! Frightening. I can’t wait to get off. For me, it’s two hundred metres of water torture! But Henry loves it.

This heart-stopping feeling can also be found on the Chair-o-plane ride in the fairground. “Can we go on it Daddy? Can we?” Henry and Heidi chant.

Caroline and I look at each other questioning, must we?

“What about you, Harriett?” I ask, hoping that she might save me.

“I’ve done that before and am quite happy to watch thank you!”

Thanks Harriett.

So, Caroline and I accompany our fearless little rascals and strap ourselves in. Soon we rise up and go round faster and faster. So fast Caroline closes her eyes and I wonder whether my big breakfast will actually stay in my stomach. Henry and Heidi are in seventh heaven. After a few minutes the world stops spinning and thankfully we stumble off on to solid ground.

As part of any stay the fairground rides including the dodgems, helter skelter and the gallopers are all included.

The children have a go on the trampolines and Henry and Heidi do somersaults.

We’ve all had a go at archery before and it’s lovely to be able to try this once again as a family. The training is very good and to begin with I’m atrocious but following expert guidance, by the end I am nearly getting a bullseye. It’s a great activity for all the family and helps to hone that hand eye coordination.

Keen footballers Henry and Heidi play in the football academy and have a good kick about.

This type of holiday gives the children independence and helps to grow their confidence while giving parents a little break.

We watch three shows: Summer Night City, The Masked Singer Live and Jack and the Beanstalk.


Summer Night City

In 1974 Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo so it’s timely that Butlin’s is celebrating this success with its very own special tribute in 2024.

You never really know what to expect when seeing a tribute act but we are blown away by the sheer strength of this hour-long performance. There is really high quality singing and dancing and dazzling costumes as well as some pyrotechnics. All the hits such as Voulez-Vous, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Money, Money, Money and of course Summer Night City, feature. There is a huge amount of talent on the stage and even though I am not an ardent Abba stalwart I can really appreciate the hard work that has gone into creating this show, which would not look out of place in a London theatre. It is faultless and truly uplifting. The performers clearly love what they do and are smiling away throughout the show, which is simply infectious and we leave walking on air. We’re certainly impressed – even little Henry, who admits to not liking Abba music – and I think Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who founded this internationally acclaimed group back in 1972, would be, too. Heidi (11) is so inspired she wants to join a dance group.


The Masked Singer Live

This show is quite a surprise for us, especially to Harriett who has watched it before and knows how it works. She’s hoping that A-Ha’s Morten Harket will appear. The thing is I can’t actually tell you what happens because we’ve been sworn to secrecy but needless to say we see some celebrities. And it is fun guessing who they are. There’s quite a bit of singing so you won’t be disappointed and the audience features on the screens at the front of the theatre. The compère keeps the panel and the audience in order.


Jack and the Beanstalk

This is Butlin’s pantomime and is on a par with the best in Britain’s theatres. Strong performances all round and it’s lovely to see eldest daughter Harriett (13) chuckling away at the silly jokes. This is a feel good production that includes plenty of fun and frolics and we all enjoy the “We better sing it again” sketch. “It’s behind you,” we all shout.


All this activity is pretty exhausting so it’s good to know that our luxury chalet is just a stroll away in West Lakes Village, which is modelled like a Norwegian resort with some wonderful trees and set against the backdrop of Somerset hills. Inside, there are comfortable beds and light and airy décor, which includes historic advertisements. There’s a bathroom and an additional lavatory. The well-appointed kitchen makes self-catering easy. I enjoy sitting out on the deck in the morning with a cup of tea and watching the wildlife. Ducks and moorhens come up to me. I do enjoy watching the ducks fly past and land in the lake. At certain times a steam engine choo choos past.

“You’ve got the best seat in town,” smiles a fellow holidaymaker as he walks by with his daughter.

Yes, it’s pretty special by the lake, watching a heron making his way carefully around the edge, and if you’re very lucky at night, you might spy some rabbits like my rabbit mad daughters do. “Oh look, Sorbet and Brulee’s relatives are here,” they say thinking of their own pets as they go on a night-time rabbit watch.

Opposite the resort is a sandy beach. There’s certainly a lot of fun to be had at Butlin’s and we’re sad to leave.

In summary we particularly appreciate the freedom and independence a Butlin's break gives the children – they can roam free without parents worrying – and the high quality entertainment that you would usually have to travel far and wide for.


In 1936 Billy Butlin opened his first park in Skegness. It didn’t take him long to become synonymous with the classic British holiday. In 1964 he was knighted and he died aged 80 in Jersey. Today, there are three Butlin’s resorts in Minehead, Bognor Regis and Skegness. The resort operator is synonymous with the famous red coats – these are frontline staff who skilfully sing and dance through to DJing.

Facts at a glance
We stay at 6 Gloucester, West Lakes Village
Premium Dining
All Action Passes for go-karting, pool, bowling and trampolines
VIP Early Access for shows
Football for Henry and Heidi
Archery for us all
Shows: Summer Night City, The Masked Singer and Jack and the Beanstalk
For more information visit:
Tim Saunders on Facebook
Tim Saunders on Twitter
Tim Saunders on LinkedIn