Eyebrows were raised when American superstar Britney Spears revealed she was to perform in Blackpool later this year.
It’s certainly hard to imagine the (hit me) Baby One More Time singer staying in one of the popular seaside resort’s countless B&Bs.
But just out of town is the North-west’s only five-star holiday village which I’m sure would suit Britney – and in particular her two children – down to the ground.
Ribby Hall offers the kind of accommodation she would be more accustomed to, from a range of luxury cottages to Scandinavian pine lodges with hot tubs.
Situated in the picturesque village of Wrea Green, there are even secluded villas sleeping eight, 12 or 14 people should Britney want to keep the paparrazi at arm’s length.
Post-show she could unwind with a treatment at the village’s adult-only Spa Hotel, which has been awarded five-bubble status by the Good Spa Guide.
And her boys will enjoy the adventure playgrounds, the new £1.6m leisure pool and all the activities on offer, including archery, climbing and mini-golf.
My family and I stayed at Ribby Hall over the first May bank holiday weekend and we can vouch that the facilities are fit for an A-lister like Britney.
In fact, they’re so good even a diva like Mariah Carey (who, almost unbelievably, is also playing Blackpool this summer) would struggle to find something to complain about.
Yet you don’t need her mega bucks to holiday there.
We stayed in a part of the village called Fisherman’s Reach, a group of 21 detached cottages set around a well-stocked pond (fishing permits included).
It’s hard to believe the attractive, pastel-coloured cottages, with high-pitched roofs, were the first homes to be built at Ribby Hall some 21 years ago.
And once inside, our three-bedroomed (one with en suite) cottage appeared brand new, with modern, clean fixtures and fittings throughout.
The kitchen / diner had trendy lighting, marble surfaces, a washer-dryer, a dishwasher, a Nespresso machine and high-backed leather chairs.
And our lounge had a large L-shaped leather sofa facing both the massive, wall-mounted TV and the folding doors which opened on to the patio.
The rattan furniture on the patio was perfect for soaking up the beautifully landscaped gardens, where our kids could play and feed the friendly ducks.
Of course, what most impressed the children about the cottage were the (adult-sized) bunk beds.
The extensive daytime entertainment programme includes messy play, baby ballet, football, mini gymnastics, mini fencing, Segways, water zorbing, body zorbing and arts & crafts.
Over the weekend, Cerys, aged seven, and Owen, three, made rocky road cakes together, while the eldest also played Laser Tag and the youngest tried out a balance bike.
They loved the playgrounds, the two soft play areas, the boating moat (with the very low ‘drawbridge’ to negotiate) and especially the new leisure pool.
The pool has slides and splash lagoons suitable for all ages, plus loads of tipping buckets (and on our visit the water was wonderfully warm).
A 48m interactive chute measures your speed, gives you a choice of music to listen to (naturally, I chose the James Bond theme) and takes your photo.
For grown-ups, there are hot tubs (from where you can keep an eye on the children), a sauna, steam room and separate 25m pool for getting in some lengths.
If you don’t want to get wet you can grab a drink from the Starbucks and relax alongside the pool in the Tiki Hut viewing gallery.
Other ways to get active at Ribby Hall include the gym, the tennis, squash and badminton courts, the par-three golf course, aqua aerobics and the three miles of woodland trails.
In the evening, children can join in the party games, dancing and bingo with Dizzy Duck and Cyril Squirrel, while there is also over-18s entertainment.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Ribby Hall has its own educational and interactive zoo, called Wild Discovery, where we all helped prepare lunch for the lemurs.
There are sheep, pot bellied pigs, birds, an alpaca, reptiles, bats, otters and meerkats, although the cutest was the baby wallaby poking out from its mother’s pouch.
There are plenty of places to enjoy food and drink – The Bar & Grill; The Tea Room; Papa John’s; The Island Clubhouse; Harrison’s Bar and The Brasserie within The SPA Hotel (grown ups only).
We particularly enjoyed dining al fresco at The Tapas Bar & Restaurant because our kids could explore the adjacent play area and sandpit while we finished our drinks.
If your kids like to be let loose on vast expanses of sands then the beaches at Lytham St Annes are only a ten-minute drive away.
Ribby Hall guests benefit from discounted tickets to Blackpool’s many attractions, including Madam Tussauds, the Sealife Centre and the town’s iconic tower.
After checking out, we opted to visit Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and in particular a fairly new section called Nickelodeon Land, inspired by the kids’ TV channel.
There are rides based on Dora The Explorer, Spongebob Square Pants, The Rugrats, The Backyardians and The Wonder Pets, among others.
But the biggest thrill for our kids was meeting their Paw Patrol idols, Chase and Skye, making it the paw-fect end to great long weekend.
‘’Can we go back,’’ the kids pleaded on the way home. Well, that would be nice. Ribby, baby, one more time!
Nickelodeon Land at Blackpool Pleasure Beach
- Adrian Caffery was a guest of the privately owned Ribby Hall Village, which has 175 luxury self-catering cottages for 2-6 guests, six idyllic pine lodges for 4-6 people and three larger bespoke properties each in their own private grounds. There is also The SPA Hotel offering a choice of 38 luxury rooms and suites. All accommodation comes with central heating, bed linen, towels and wifi. A four-night midweek break (arriving July 16) in a 6-berth Poppy Cottage costs from £749. A four-night midweek break (arriving July 30) in a 6-berth Sapphire Cottage, costs from £1,184. Call free on 0800 107 0336 or click on http://www.ribbyhall.co.uk
- The Blackpool Resort Pass allows one visit to six attractions (Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Nickelodeon Land, The Blackpool Tower Eye & 4D Experience, Madame Tussauds, Sea Life Blackpool and The Blackpool Tower Dungeon) over seven days and costs £57.50 per person. Click on http://www.visitblackpool.com or http://www.blackpoolresortpass.com
- .Britney Spears will take to the stage at Tower Festival Headland Arena, Blackpool, on September 1, the day after the Illuminations switch-on. The show will be based on her Piece Of Me residency, which ended on New Year’s Eve after four years at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Mariah Carey’s only UK concert in 2018 will be at the same venue on August 24.
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