Alton Towers Resort opened their new accommodation – The Enchanted Village – this weekend, offering guests the opportunity to enjoy the Woodland Lodges and Luxury Treehouse for the first time. TowersTimes spent the night in the new village to discover all that the resort’s latest accommodation had to offer.
Situated to the east of the Alton Towers Hotel, the Enchanted Village has been constructed on what was formerly an empty field which had previously been used as the location of the ‘Field of 100 Screams’ scaremaze. The Woodland Lodges are situated in clusters, with the centre of each cluster being occupied with a different piece of play equipment to help occupy younger guests. Each lodge also has its own decking area, complete with seating, allowing guests to relax outside of their own room when the weather allows. On the opening day on Saturday, many guests made the most of the sunny weather, sitting with their lodge doors open, relaxing in the sunshine. All of these little features helped in creating a community feel, with a much more relaxed atmosphere, and a feeling of space – something which contrasts to the sometimes hectic feel and atmosphere of the resort hotels. The Village also includes its own dedicated shop which sells a range of essentials and souvenirs as well as sandwiches and soft drinks as well as alcohol. Through the centre of the Village runs a main roadway, with pathways running off to the lodge clusters. What is perhaps a little disappointing aesthetically is the contrast in surfaces on these roads and paths. The central road has been laid using black tarmac, which is in stark contrast to the more sympathetic, neutral coloured gravel on the cluster pathways. It would have been nice to see this gravel coating used throughout all the surfaces to help maintain consistency with the woodland theme. Some areas of the Village did seem to be unfinished, or had elements which didn’t quite seem to fit with the overall theme. A number of the roads had rough edges, as opposed to being properly edged and the main road to the accommodation did not have a separate footpath all the way along, something which may be of concern to parents and young families. This main road also appeared to have been designed to be one way, however the sign for this was not evident until part way down, resulting in confusion for many drivers. There also appeared to be confusion surrounding the parking arrangements for guests. Parking for the Woodland Lodges is located in the former overflow car parks. On approach, there is only one small sign indicating where to go and many guests missed this sign resulting in several cars parking on the grass in front of the accommodation. There appeared to be a lot more fencing around the Village than was needed, which in places gave a rather enclosed feel, especially where the fences came in close proximity to the lodges. After dark, the Village had minimal lighting, meaning in some areas it was difficult to navigate your way back to your accommodation. Although all lodges are equipped with and external light, these only remain on for approximately 10-15 seconds. This minimal lighting could potentially cause issues with any night time evacuation of the area. The accommodation map also indicates a ‘Fairy Light Tree’ which lights up in the evening, however this was not lit up over opening weekend. When it is added, it will certainly help add to the evening atmosphere.
Guests begin their stay at the Enchanted Village by checking in at the Welcome Desk situated within the Crooked Spoon building where you are greeted by staff wearing quirky Fable Folk hats. Guests staying in Luxury Treehouses check in at the Alton Towers Hotel, from where they are driven by buggy to their Treehouse. Each Lodge contains a double bed in the main room, with a smaller room containing a bunk bed and truckle bed leading off from it. This bunk room is separated from the main area by a curtain, meaning parents can put young children to bed and still enjoy the rest of the lodge without having to worry about disturbing them – something which is more difficult in the hotel rooms. Each lodge is also equipped with a flat screen television, offering all the regular channels and a small choice of pay per view films. Room service is available, with guests able to choose from a selection of pizzas, chips, ice cream, and soft and alcoholic drinks from 6-10pm to be delivered to your lodge. The lodges do have limited storage space and perhaps could do with some additional shelving to help provide space for larger families to keep all of their luggage. Noise levels around the lodges vary, with some close to the treehouses able to hear guests enjoying the hot tubs in the evening, and the rear bunk rooms in the lodges near the main road able to hear traffic driving past. During opening weekend a number of the lodges did experience some issues, with one having no working lights, one having an issue with the toilet, and another missing a mattress. Fortunately, it appeared the Resort had made provision for potential issues, with those guests affected either provided with what was missing, or being moved lodges swiftly, although it is slightly disappointing that the issues arose in the first place and checks were not carried out before the lodges were allocated. The Luxury Treehouse are set back from the Woodland Lodges, behind a large grass bank providing a more secluded feel. At one end the Treehouses are accessed by a footpath which originates from behind the Village Shop, and at the other a large gate – although this gate appears to be open to allow access at all times. Once again, the main surface used for the roadway is black tarmac, which does somewhat take away from the overall impression, being in contrast to the natural wooden materials used to construct the Treehouses and walkways.
A new daytime entertainment programme has been devised especially for the new accommodation. Commencing at 4pm each day and designed to target younger guests, the activities include nature trails, treasure hunts, games on the ‘Village Green’ and archery. Led by enthusiastic staff, who actively encouraged participation from parents and children alike, the activities proved to be very popular and allowed children to explore the Enchanted Village in a fun, safe and supervised way. Although there was a fantastic programme of daytime entertainment, this did not continue into the evening. Despite the website promising ‘fabulous entertainment whilst you dine’, there was no entertainment provided – despite there being some provided on the press and media night. This lack of evening entertainment in the Enchanted Village could potentially result in additional pressure being placed on an already, at times, crowded Alton Towers and Splash Landings Hotel as families opt to spend the evening in one of the two hotels to sample the entertainments.
The Crooked Spoon provides the new dining option within The Enchanted Village. Offering an a la carte service, the new restaurant provides breakfast, lunch and dinner. You are strongly advised to book for both dinner and breakfast (although for breakfast you also have the option of having a continental breakfast box delivered to your lodge, eating at one of the two hotels’ restaurants, or eating breakfast at Towers Street Bar and Grill), as the restaurant does get extremely busy. The walls inside the restaurant are decorated with custom newspapers, posters and picture frames, all referring to the mysterious Fable Folk which inhabit the village. Custom music composed by IMA Score also plays in the background – it is a shame that The Crooked Spoon is the only place in the Village where you hear it. Service in the restaurant on opening night seemed somewhat confused. It wasn’t clear how you were meant to order your meal, with some orders being taken at tables, and other people being told to order at the bar. However, this is something which could easily be rectified by guests being informed of the order procedure as they enter. Many diners had long waits for their meals, with some waiting over an hour for starters. Whether these long waits were down to inexperienced staff, or operational issues isn’t clear. When the food did eventually arrive it proved to be good. Hopefully the issues experienced on opening night can be resolved to create a much better dining experience.
Overall the Enchanted Village is a positive addition to the Resort’s accommodation line-up, which will prove to be popular with young families, especially for the more laid back community feel it manages to create. It is a shame some areas don’t have quite the finish they deserve, however, although the opening weekend did have a number of teething issues, in particular in the Crooked Spoon with service, once things have settled the Village will be a lovely place to stay, and a perfect alternative to the hustle and bustle of the Resort Hotels.
Did you stay over in the Enchanted Village opening weekend, or are you planning a stay later this year? Discuss your thoughts on Alton Towers Resorts’ latest accommodation over on the Attraction Source Forum. Make sure you keep an eye on TowersTimes for the latest news on all the developments at the resort.