When I heard the name PGL, I immediately had flashbacks to being 15 and school friends raving about their parent-free activity holidays at the popular UK centres.
PGL is famously known as 'parents get lost', after all. It actually stands for Peter Gordon Lawrence, who started the company 60 years ago. I'd never been on a PGL holiday, but had heard all about them. So when I was invited to review their new family adventure breaks, I was definitely up for it.
With two children aged eight and ten with endless energy, this was the holiday we needed - and a UK staycation during these tricky months amidst the pandemic was spot on.
PGL have 10 centres across the UK with breaks ranging from one to seven nights. Their holidays are brilliant as everything is included: all activities, accommodation, food and evening entertainment is pre-arranged for you so you don't have to plan anything (every parent's dream). They even hand you a daily schedule with all your time slots booked in when you arrive.
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The beautiful Wootton Creek by PGL's Little Canada centre
We opted for a four-night stay at PGL's Isle of Wight centre called Little Canada. With its wooden lodges and waterside location on Wootton Creek, near Fishbourne Ferry port, you really do feel like you're staying in a mini Canada.
Myself, my husband Andrew and our children Brandon and Zara arrived at the centre by car late afternoon on a Wednesday and were immediately struck by the peaceful location. Yes, we were still in the UK, but after the ferry journey – which was fun in itself – we all felt like we were abroad.
The minute we pulled into the car park, our family holiday rep Jake walked to our car to say hi and gave us a personal tour of the centre. What a warm welcome!
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Our children Zara and Brandon with our family rep Jake
The kids loved Jake from the start; he was friendly, fun and full of enthusiasm for PGL's many activities. One of the best things about PGL is the many fantastic instructors, who love to chat and play with the kids. They really do make the holiday special.
Our home for the holiday was a cute wooden lodge looking out onto the pretty creek.
It had everything we needed – a double bedroom, room with bunk beds for the children (cue the battle over who goes on top bunk), bathroom, tea-making facilities (essential) and porch to sit and watch the world go by. One of our favourite things to do was to watch the beautiful red squirrels play in the adjoining woods.
Cosy cabins with a great view!
We found we were rarely in our cabin due to the busy activity schedule, meal times and socialising so it really was a place to sleep. That's how a holiday should be though!
The PGL food definitely put smiles on our faces – literally a child's dream of all their favourite meals with ample portions and tasty puddings. For the parents, it's amazing not having to cook or worry if your kids will like the food, as there's so much choice.
Our two loved their daily fry-ups and croissants at breakfast and they certainly made the most of it. Eating so well at brekkie, you'd think it impossible to be hungry again by noon – but after two physical activities, trust me, you're starving.
Lunch and dinner were delicious homecooked-style meals with everything from fajitas to and bangers and mash, to macaroni cheese or pizza. There's always a sandwich bar as an option for lunch and a salad bar for both lunch and dinner. It was a sad time leaving the PGL canteen!
Brandon and dad having fun abseiling
The activities are what PGL is known for and Little Canada has almost 30 to try.
For someone with an extreme fear of heights, our first activity – the trapeze – was quite the challenge, but I was determined to overcome my phobia, so it was full steam ahead.
Climbing up a high wooden pole, stepping onto a ledge and jumping off to grab a trapeze swing was an adrenaline-fuelled start to the holiday. Yep, I was terrified, but I did it!
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Zara and her new friend Ella on the giant swing!
We were paired with another family (hello Una, Burak, Essyn, Maya and Ella!) for all our activities and it was wonderful getting to know them as we took on each challenge.
From abseiling to the giant swing, zip wire, the vertical challenge and Jacob's ladder (see photo below) we did so many exciting activities together. The children impressed us all so much with their strength and bravery.
Safety comes first at PGL and we were all strapped into secure harnesses checked by our instructors.
Andrew tackling the vertical challenge
There were a few hilarious moments along the way – we'll never forget doing the muddy obstacle course blindfolded, all together in a line holding onto a rope! We must have looked ridiculous, but it was such fun.
There's the chance to learn new skills too such as rock climbing, archery and kayaking, which we did from a nearby beach in the sea. It was a brilliant experience and our leader kept things fun with a game of 'kayak battleships' involving chucking tennis balls into one person's kayak while they dodged the balls – best game ever.
The tricky Jacob's Ladder challenge
We all learnt some survivor skills out in the woods: making fire, whittling sticks with a knife and building shelters – fantastic life skills. And what can I say about Aeroball? The game that combines basketball and trampolining. Genius.
Zara enjoying a game of Aeroball
The PGL reps kept us all entertained in the evenings as well as the days, offering good all-round family fun.
Early evening, the kids would be running around the site playing games or on treasure hunts. One night the challenge was to package up a water balloon to protect it from a fall – if it survived, poor Jake was the target. The kids loved that one!
Zara trying her hand at archery
Later in the bar (yes, a bar, thank you PGL) there's a nightly activity from 9-10pm, which featured everything from a Mr & Mrs quiz to a Taskmaster challenge or Musical Bingo. The fun never stops. Add in a pool table, dartboard, ping pong tables and ice cream cart and you have very happy children. There's also an indoor kids' lounge with giant board games to keep them busy.
We really didn't want to go home! It was such a fun-packed break full of challenging activities, most of which we'd never done before and all with a great sense of achievement.
Thanks to PGL, my lifelong fear of heights has pretty much gone, which is remarkable. We made lovely new friends, had so many laughs and would thoroughly recommend it to other families.
With our new PGL friends!
The summer holidays are nearing the end, but you can still book a last-minute family staycation with PGL (ranging from 1 to 7 nights or an Activity Day if you're short on time). The breaks also run on weekends and half terms, plus children under five go free on all PGL holidays.
PGL offers great outdoor, activity-based adventure holidays that all the family can enjoy. You can book you and your family onto a last-minute break this summer here, with prices from £916 for a two-night stay for a family of four.