This summer, we were lucky enough to win a competition to stay in a brand spanking new Bailey Unicorn Cartagena at the Hillhead Caravan Club site in Devon.
The competition was run by the Caravan Club to come up with ideas for the Meek family’s 2015 list of 100 summer activities. If you haven’t heard about the Meeks check out their blog. They are living the touring dream! Our winning suggestion for their list was making friendship bracelets for people they met on their travels. I’d love to hear from anyone who got one! Anyway, we decided to add our bonus break in the Cartagena to the beginning of our summer holiday, which was also taking us to Essex for two weeks in our Tin Box.
It was strange preparing for a holiday in a touring caravan that was not our own. How on earth do people fit all their stuff and children into one car? But we were very excited to find out what the Cartagena was like. We had also read up about the Hillhead site and knew it was very family friendly. Check out my review.
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A bit about the Bailey Unicorn Cartagena
This four berth caravan is one of eight, top of the range Bailey designs with maximised floor space, large kitchen worktops and longer seats. Essentially, there’s loads of room.
The layout was not a million miles away from what we are used to in our Vanmaster Applause – the main bed is just in a different position.
Bailey bill this as a ‘four season’ touring van with an upgraded Alde central heating system, a user friendly digital control panel and an washroom radiator. There’s also a Truma 100 watt solar panel fitted as standard to boost your battery when you’re not on mains electric. Right up our street!
Like the other vans in the Unicorn range, the Cartagena has the AL-KO ATC Trailer Control System, AL-KO Secure wheel lock and a TRACKER Retrieve Stolen Vechicle Recovery system.
For music fans there’s a DAB Radio/CD/MP3 player with USB port so you can connect tunes from your smartphone or iPod.
The Cartagena is a twin-axel van and weighs 1554kg unloaded. You would need a large car to tow it. Check out The Caravan Club’s guidelines for matching caravans and tow cars. If you like your stats and facts there’s plenty more in the online brochure.
We loved the spacious feel of this area and assumed the Cartagena was a much wider van than Tin Box until we checked the manual. It turns out there’s only an inch in it. The perceived difference is made by the huge vertical window at the front, the long sofas and a flat roof. The worktops were also lower than we are used to, giving a feel of extra space. The seating area would comfortably accommodate six adults. I liked the furnishings, which were purple, grey and beige. Mr Tin Box wasn’t so excited by them. He also left a bit of a dent in the seats after a week of use – he’s not the smallest of chaps. Thank goodness we have sprung seating in our own van.
There are bed slats that pull out between the two front benches to convert the seating into an enormous double bed.
We didn’t use this as it would have been far to big for Tin Box Tot. She was very happy having her bed made up on one side. While we were still up we put her to sleep on the fixed bed and then transferred her to the front later in the evening. We are used to this routine in our own caravan. Tin Box Baby slept in her pram top, which we placed on the floor. There was plenty of space for her and we were still able to walk by. We could have fitted a full size travel cot into the space.
The kitchen area also felt big. There was enough room for someone to wash up or prepare food and for another to get past.
The kitchen come equipped with a Truma four ring gas hob, grill and oven with microwave above. The sink has a detachable draining board and there’s an extra section of worktop that flips up over the seating to maximise the food preparation space. There’s a bottle rack in a cupboard behind the worktop, and good sized cutlery draw and cupboards below.
On the opposite side of the van, the 190 litre Dometic fridge freezer had plenty of room for a week’s worth of chilled supplies and ice lollies.
The island bed is a good size and retracts during the day to make it easier to shuffle past to the bathroom. However, caravanners of generous size may still find it a bit of a squeeze.
Below is a picture of the fully extended bed which gives you an idea of how tight things are. As a result the Cartagena is perfectly suited to sleep a couple and two children or guests as long as no one needs the toilet in the night.
There was plenty of storage. I wasn’t sure if we were going to fit everything in to begin with but was pleasantly surprised when we began to unpack.
Above the bed are two lockers with a shelf and to either side is a half wardrobe with a draw and cupboard underneath. Set into the corner of the opposite wall in the bedroom is a floor to ceiling storage unit with shelves and a cupboard below. Above the end of the bed are two shallow lockers – I initially thought these were just for decorative purposes but did manage to fit in some of Tin Box Baby’s rolled up bedding. We stored a week’s worth of clothes and essentials in the cupboards with room to spare. We also stored the suitcase we used to transport it all out of sight under the fixed bed.
The Cartagena has an end bathroom – something of which I’ve always been a fan because they generally have more space.
The Cartagena’s bathroom has more room than the one in Tin Box and a larger shower cubicle. The only pinch point seems to be the toilet where, if you have longer legs you find them knocking into the door or sink depending on which way you face the pivoting toilet bowl. There’s a cabinet under the sink and on the side wall above the toilet – plenty of room for toiletries, towels and spare loo rolls. There’s also a built in laundry basket by the sink. This is a great idea for short trips away. We managed to fill it in three days and had a bit of difficulty lifting the laundry bag out to empty it.
Our favourite bits
We loved the space and the fact it felt like a much wider van
The large vertical window at the front brought in loads of light
The water, toilet and waste points were all on the offside of the van so if we did have an awning up it wouldn’t have interfered with these
The large fridge freezer gave us all the chilled storage we needed
We already knew the benefits of the Alde heating system as we have it in Tin Box, but the new digital control panel is a great improvement for the usability of the system.
Need to know
The Bailey Unicorn Cartagena retails at £23,135
It’s total width is 2.28m
The maximum technically permissible laden mass (the van and everything in it) is 1717kg.
Disclaimer: we stayed the the Bailey for free but I wasn’t asked to write a review. I’m also not a professional caravan reviewer. My views are based on three years of caravan ownership and what works of us as a family.