ONE of the area's best-known holiday destinations has been sold.

Formerly owned by the Westlake family, the award-winning Sandy Balls holiday village near Godshill has been bought by UK holiday park operator Away Resorts.

It brings to six the business's portfolio of parks, which also includes the Whitecliff Bay complex in the Isle of Wight.

The purchase of Sandy Balls is the second acquisition Away Resorts has made since LDC backed the secondary buyout of the business in April 2015.

Sandy Balls is a five-star holiday village that offers accommodation including luxury woodland lodges, static holiday homes, camping pods and safari tents as well as fully serviced touring pitches.

Away Resorts has just celebrated a record year, with overall bookings across its parks rising sharply compared with the figure recorded in 2015.

The number of people taking a holiday in the UK increased from 64-per-cent to 71-per-cent, with domestic holidays proving more popular than a trip overseas. Buying Sandy Balls means the business now has an annual turnover of more than £40million and a workforce of 650 staff.

Chief executive Carl Castledine said: "Over the last eight years, we have built up a strong brand that has really hit the right note with UK holidaymakers.

"The demand for affordable UK holidays, particularly short breaks, is strong, and growing, as our record bookings for 2016 have shown.

"Sandy Balls has been a family-owned business run with passion and feeling for almost 100 years, so we are very mindful of retaining the essence of what makes it such a well-loved holiday village.

"It's in a brilliant location with excellent road links to make getting away on holiday relatively painless.

"The village is also award-winning, having won accolades for its conservation and management of the wooded areas and riverbank, including the David Bellamy conservation gold award (21 times) and Green Tourism Gold Award.

"Sandy Balls complements our strategy of providing our existing customer base with a range of very different types of holidays, avoiding the chainlike feel of our major competitors.

Sandy Balls has welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests to the village since opening its doors nearly 100 years ago.

Its name dates back to the reign of King Henry VII when "sandyballas" - domed sand and gravel outcrops on the site’s western boundary - first appeared on maps.