IT IS early December, and it has just started snowing.

There are giant ancient trees all around us, in a truly spectacular woodland setting, and it suddenly feels like a lot like Christmas.

Only I’m also sat in a heated outdoor whirlpool.

My daughter grabs my hand and drags me away from the bliss of the heavenly warm water, and toward the thrilling dips and dives of Wild Water Rapids just a short swim away.

As we slip and slide along the ride, past snowmen, twinkly lights, and other festive décor, snowflakes falling around us, it occurs to me it is going to take considerable bribery to ever get her to leave Center Parcs Longleat’s Winter Wonderland experience.

I can’t blame her. A water baby from day one, the huge, and recently upgraded, Subtropical Swimming Paradise is definitely her favourite part of the 400-acre village site, which features rolling hills and breath-taking natural beauty.

The main wave pool is heated to 29.5 degrees Celsius all year round and decked in green tropical plants and trees. There is also a play area for toddlers, and slides for older children. The adrenaline soaked Tropical Cyclone, a two or three-person raft ride with a gravity-defying drop, and Typhoon, a two-seater ride with drops, swings and speeds of up to 45km/ph, were added just last year.

You can also try snorkelling, something called Aqua Jetting, and hire a cabana, complete with TV, refreshments and loungers.

My wife is also a fan, having just joined us from a luxury session in the site Aqua Sana Spa, which has up to 25 hot and cold spa experience rooms to try and trained therapists provide a wide choice of treatments. The Decleor Mind and Body Energiser treatment she had was, she said, both relaxing and revitalising.

In fact, reflecting on it now, relaxing and revitalising sort of summed up the whole trip. There was not a second to spare, such was the variety of activities on offer, but the whole experience felt like we had been transported to a Lapland-like retreat for us to immerse ourselves in Christmas merriment.

My daughter loved every minute of the magical weekend getaway, which also saw her meet Santa in his woodland workshop, take part in a fun-filled elf academy, and enjoy some Christmas cake decorating.

The Center Parcs Longleat site is enormous, but easy to get around and wherever you looked, from trees, to walkways, restaurants and bars, there were sparkling festive lights.

This was particularly the case as Santa’s Woodland Workshop, where Christmas trees abounded, a set of singing reindeer belted out Christmas carols, and you could feed some real life sleigh-pulling counterparts.

Meeting Santa was a highlight for my little one, who came over all shy for a split second. Credit to the young elves who made sure Santa knew her name beforehand and had subtly checked what she most wanted to find under the tree come Christmas morning. She was also delighted to walk away with a thoughtful present and picture to remember the occasion.

Speaking of elves, the three hour-long elf-in-training academy she enjoyed later kept her entertained making Christmas crafts and decorating delicious treats, complete with a special graduation ceremony at the end.

It also meant her mother and I could relax in the spa and with the football in a nearby sports bar respectively, safe in the knowledge she was safe and having a brilliant time.

After a full day we retreated to our lodge, which offered space, privacy and seclusion.

The modern base, featuring spacious open-plan living, comfy sofas, a log-burning fireplace, private patio and fully-equipped kitchen with modern appliances had all the essentials we required to make ourselves at home.

On other evenings we ate out, and particularly enjoyed the popular Huck's American Bar and Grill, which offers classic American and Mexican favourites, a children's buffet, large indoor play area and Apple Macs for older children.

Also housed on site are well-known chains like Bella Italia, Strada, and Las Iguanas, as well as two contemporary gastro pub’s, a Starbucks, and Pancake House.

The sites Sports Café also served up some tasty dishes, with numerous flat screen TVs showing all the best live sports.

And, conveniently placed next door is the Jardin des Sports, which houses many of the more than 200 activities available to try out, including mini golf, pool, table tennis, arcade games, roller blading, a climbing wall, tennis and badminton.

Outside, there is a cycle centre to hire bikes, a lake for water sports like paddle boarding, high ropes among the site’s most towering trees, and a zip wire for real daredevils.

The lake was also the setting for a spectacular firework display which capped off our stay.

A little more than two hours from Newport, if you are looking for a magical break to get you in the Christmas spirit for later on in 2018 you will not do better.

Of course Center Parcs has activities and holidays to suit all ages all year round, with unlimited entry to the fantastic subtropical paradise included in the cost of all stays.

For prices and more information see