We spent part of Easter weekend at Pontin’s Brean Sands. The resort is located close to miles of beautiful golden sandy beach stretching between Brean and Burnham on Sea. Brean and Berrow Sands are prime locations for UK holiday makers yet Pontin’s has a reputation that precedes itself. Tales of woe dominate local media pages during the summer months and diabolical Trip Advisor reviews – accompanied by at times stomach churning photos – adds up to a lot of sad face stories. So is Pontin’s Brean Sands as bad as its reputation and has it improved?
Gallery of photos
We are still waiting for Pontin’s to respond to our 2017 complaint after a previously sour two-night stay. Due to an unfortunate lack of public transport on public holidays in Brean – no buses at all on Good Friday, Easter Sunday or Monday – we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle trying to come home after a glorious week at Golden Sands resort just a stone’s throw from Pontin’s.
It really was with the greatest of trepidation that I made the decision staying a night at Pontin’s could be one of those so bad it’s funny adventures we could laugh at in the future. I’m not sure how many years it will take until I’m able to laugh, but I’m not ready to do so a week later.
Is Pontin’s as bad as its reputation? I think its worse. We are a council estate family from inner city Bristol. We’ve seen things going on outside the window and in the communal corridors that would leave most parents clutching their metaphorical pearls. We’re not fancy, we don’t ask a lot and being from the lower income bracket, cheap and cheerful suits us fine.
But there are lines. I draw these at violence that might physically impact on my children and filth. This is where Pontin’s immediately becomes a problem. We literally walked in through the gates and I had to pretend not to see a group of men try and pick a fight with me for no reason at all. Having seen people brawling with hammers outside our window in St Jude’s, you grow used to violence when you live In an area inhabited by vulnerable people with high support needs and additction. But it was strongly apparent at Pontin’s that there were plenty of people without these needs who seemed to thrive on conflict, violence and ensuring the balloon goes up at every opportunity. I couldn’t reconcile this edgy level of collective simmering anger with being on holiday. It had the vibes of people who had drunk way too much alcohol being ready to explode after their team lost the football.
It all sounds improbable and over dramatic written down, but it is exactly how it was. It’s quite hard to stomach seeing parents scream in young children’s faces that they will ‘******* knock you out if you don’t shut up’. We never ventured near the pub or evening entertainment, which seemed to spill out people threatening to ‘go and smack her one’ over some perceived slight or annoyance.
Around seven cars had their tyres slashed the night before we arrived. I wondered if this was some fancy story or rumour, but one of the families affected by this has since posted about their experience on Trip Advisor. With photos.
You are not allowed to check in as and when you arrive ahead of being able to access your accommodation, not in the sensible way Butlin’s manages it. You have to wait until 4pm which then triggers a stampede worthy of The Lion King, in a manner which made the Equality Act for disabled people weep.
It was apparent quite quickly, when we were able to access our accommodation, that it had not been cleaned since the previous occupants had left.
The room was a two-person room with a kitchen area, a bath (no plug) with shower over head. There was a table and two chairs and a TV.
The mattresses for the two beds were minging and I did debate whether to simply burn the sheets I had bought from home the next morning. I actually felt like I wanted a forensic suit to go over everything I was wearing lest anything I owned was contaminated by Pontin’s,
The bathroom in fairness was reasonably clean on top of the obvious lived in mess from the previous people. I was not amused the next morning by the stone cold shower, which I think was probably my final straw.
Overall, I think we got off lightly with the accommodation. The people next to us had been forced to move something like five times. Being right over to the far side next to the wall it also felt somewhat sheltered from the antisocial behaviour which carried on into the early hours.
Our room could have been decent after a deep clean and new mattresses, but I feel this is probably more down to the luck of how the previous bookers looked after it.
We did manage to track down a cleaner who apologised for how we had found the room and set about sorting out some of the issues. I highly doubt the issues with the room are the fault of the staff and more likely to be the company not investing in staff capacity, accommodation improvements and overselling more units than the resort staff can turn around.
I also worry about people who say that Pontin’s is fine after a good clean. Firstly, the bare minimum of a holiday should be turning up to clean and safe accommodation. It should not be an unwritten rule that to stay at Pontin’s you need to be prepared to clean the room. And if even after that is done the run down absolute state of the resort if fine to tolerate, well that’s really sad. It’s not cheap and cheerful, it’s a depressing mess that needs closing down, a serious amount of work, standards and investment. Most likely a proper inspection by Somerset’s Environmental Health officers. Yet this is unlikely to happen because people put up with ‘cheap and cheerful’ because the location and the beach is so lovely. Pontin’s has a captive market which the endless bad publicity seems to do nothing to slow down. The company who owns it – Britannia Hotels – is missing a trick by not selling ‘I survived Pontin’s’ merch.
Were there any good points to the holiday? Yes there were. The people in the room next to us were absolutely lovely. Chatty, friendly and weren’t afraid to summon help, check out issues for us and help us locate where we could buy electricity from.
The cleaner who came over to sort out the mess left behind was also lovely. With an endlessly cheerful manner, he washed up the murder knife in the sink, cleaned the floors and emptied the bins. I seriously hope the staff on resort are in a good union because it cannot be fun working in this kind of environment.
Pontin’s Brean Sands could be marvellous. The location is fantastic but the resort has had it. It needs money, love, care, maintenance and management. We didn’t complain. There is no point in doing so. Pontin’s knows what it is and is clearly not interested in changing its business model. I knew what I was getting into when I made the two-night reservation and left after 19 hours.
We’ve filed it under ‘Never Again’. It’s not so bad it’s funny. It’s just so bad you might cry tears of relief when you leave.
To read our 2017 review: https://chopsybaby.com/magazine/pontins-brean-sands-review/