We have recently returned from a family holiday at Bluestone Wales and despite being struck down with an awful cold the whole time we were there, it was a lovely week. The children, especially 4-year-old Miss Belle, loved it. She has declared that despite visiting both Spain and Tenerife the past few years, Wales has been her favourite holiday! When I was offered the chance to visit Bluestone I leapt at the chance. Despite living in Norfolk and knowing the drive would be mega, I’d heard great things about it from two friends who have been. For us, it is six hours in the car! So we broke the journey and stopped over half way going there and coming back. On the way there we visited Matt’s cousin and his family so it was a great excuse to catch up as we don’t see them very often.
First impressions of Bluestone Wales
As you approach the site, you’re obviously in the lovely Pembrokeshire countryside, with rolling hills and gorgeous views. Sadly it was pretty grey for us that week, but mostly dry, so it didn’t really put a dampener on the week. You pull into the park and drive up to barriers where someone is there to greet you and give you your pack with keys, map, and swimming tickets. You have unlimited access to their indoor waterpark, the Blue Lagoon. The site is a bit like Centre Parcs, in that you park your car and can only bring it to your lodge at a certain time. This I presume is to keep cars off the roads, as at other times it’s just pedestrians, cyclists and the golf buggies you can hire. We packed our swim bags separately and took these and the changing bag and headed straight to the Blue Lagoon.
After an hour or so swimming and a quick visit to the Adventure Centre, Matt went to get the car and I walked with the baby up to our lodge. We were fairly close, in Preseli View and our luxury lodge was an upside down house, Gateholm. The bedrooms are downstairs and the living area is upstairs so that you can enjoy the view.
Even on a grey day the view from our lodge was pretty lovely!
Our lodge had three bedrooms and two bathrooms, which was perfect for us as Miss Belle and Little Man had their own rooms. A travel cot is provided but you need to remember to take a cot sheet. The beds were comfy and the bathrooms were kitted out to a really nice spec. The heated towel rails were great so we had enough space to dry our swimming costumes although we did take two sets just in case one wasn’t dry!
Again the kitchen has all the facilities you could need. We cooked two meals and had two meals out. Matt went to Tesco nearby in the evening after we had got the children to bed to pick up our food for the week. Washing up liquid and a few dishwasher tablets were provided along with a tea towel and then one loo roll in each of the bathrooms, so we took some more of our own, and a few extra tea towels and kitchen spray. There’s a handy shop in the village where you can stock up with things if you forget. There’s also obviously a TV and a DVD player. I wish we had taken a couple of DVD’s as there wasn’t much on the TV but it meant we could read our books and just relax once the kids were in bed.
What’s included for free?
Bluestone is a luxury resort where the focus is on kids having “free range fun”. Anything goes, whether it’s inside or outside, as long as it’s fun. There is a huge choice of bookable activities you can add to your booking from climbing, to high ropes and zip wires, or den building in the woods. In terms of the activities that are included, there are plenty. These were our highlights:
The Blue Lagoon
Like I’ve said, Miss Belle swam in the fabulous Blue Lagoon every day. As both the baby and I had bad colds, we only swam there the day we arrived and once later in the week. I’m so gutted I couldn’t have spent more time in there. There’s a wave pool, a lazy river, lots of slides. (Miss Belle was too small for these, but Matt and I had a go on one – I felt like a big kid!). And there is a really lovely baby and toddler area, with a small side, balls, fountains and jacuzzi type bubbles. Little Man absolutely loved it in there! The water was lovely and warm and everyone was having so much fun. It’s the first time I’ve really appreciated that this is, indeed, as friends have said, all that children want. Miss Belle just wanted to swim every day.
The Adventure Centre
The other place we visited every day, was the Adventure Centre. This included mini golf, a bouncy castle, (the first thing Miss Belle dived on!), wooden indoor climbing with lots of slides, a soft play area, and an indoor high ropes area, for those over 6 years.
Miss Belle has never been that adventurous with slides so we couldn’t get her down the covered ones but she had great fun showing her little brother how to do the ones in the soft play zone. For him, as he’s not crawling or walking, he could only really enjoy the ball pool, but he was happy enough! I think the whole Adventure Centre is more suitable for toddlers upwards really. But he was happy enough!
There is beautiful scenery everywhere and many people take their own bikes to Bluestone. We took Miss Belle’s bike which she got for her birthday and if she’d been slightly more advanced on it, that would have been great. I saw a few little ones zipping about on balance bikes having great fun. Sadly for us it was a bit of a waste taking it because she only went on it a few times. She was just too tired. This is something to think about. Even just swimming and going to soft play wiped her out, so when we asked her to cycle too she found it too hard to pedal up hill, so we ended up pushing her. But, there are plenty of walks you can do without a bike, either down by the lake or into the woods.
Of course, Bluestone wouldn’t cater for kids if there wasn’t an outdoor play area too. There is a lovely park in the village, another toddler area, and a treehouse with different games in for kids to explore.
Our favourite part of the holiday was visiting Camp Smokey. This is an area of the site which just seems extra nice, with high trees and a real forest feel. There are nature trails and places for outdoor den activities. But we walked down there to have a hot chocolate and make S’mores! Ok, so not technically included, but it wasn’t a lot of money, and the experience was great. I have a feeling if we ever go camping Miss Belle will be demanding we make these again!
In terms of other bookable activities, I chose one – the Buzby Bee show for under 5s. This was an interactive type show about the seasons and how bees make honey. I should have known that Miss Belle probably wouldn’t be that up for it. So whilst she did indeed sit on Daddy’s lap at the back of the room, me and Little Man enjoyed the show. He was most taken with the floor that lit up! At just £4 a head for the kids for an hour, it’s really reasonable. The other (slightly more outgoing!) toddlers in the room seemed to enjoy it. And even Miss Belle said she liked watching her brother meet Buzby at the end. She just didn’t want to get involved herself – typical!
The Well Spa!
Despite feeling rotten with my cold I’d already booked the Preseli Hot Stone Massage on Thursday afternoon. When you book a treatment you also get two hours access to the thermal spa. The spa includes two saunas, two steam rooms, a salt room, an ice pod (both of which I’ve never been in before!), experience showers, an outside hot whirlpool, and a relaxation room. Having found what I thought is a pretty good spa in Norfolk, this one has now trumped it. And I agree with my friend who told me before we went, that it’s the best spa she’d ever been in. I enjoyed sitting in the rooms, helping clear my fuzzy head, and totally relaxing. I could have stayed longer in them… And I was 10 minutes late for tea!
Which brings me onto the food. We ate at both the Farmhouse Grill and the Oak Tree, a pizza place. We enjoyed both our meals, but I think I probably enjoyed our meal at The Oaktree more. My burger was really nice but the brownie I had for pudding wasn’t anything special. It didn’t feel home-made if you know what I mean. At the Oak Tree my pizza and my hot skillet cookie were both delicious! It’s also good to know you can have takeaway from the Oak Tree too. Both places we didn’t find too pricey, but they’re not mega cheap either. My burger was £11 and made from local ingredients, and my pizza £10.50. As I wasn’t feeling tip top (have I mentioned that?!) it was great not to have to cook for two nights.
Finally, our other major highlight of the week was experiencing the Winter Lights. The Winter Lights are between January and the end of March. They turn a wooded area into a magical enchanted walk. The lights started at about 6.30pm so we went after dinner on the last night. Both children loved it, and the attention to detail was fantastic. There were tiny fairy homes built into the mountain side, to miniature houses and wonderfully bright butterflies. There was no extra charge for this, and I’m so glad we went. Both our children thought it was fabulous and Little Man kept signing star as he looked at the twinkly lights.
Overall we had a lovely week, in a place that truly does cater exceptionally well for children. Having experienced a similar holiday when Miss Belle was 18 months, I can honestly say it’s much more worth it as they get older. They can just do more! In my opinion children aged 3 or 4 years upwards get the most out of it. I have been asked if you could go to Bluestone for a week without spending extra on activities, and honestly, you could. The one activity we booked, the interactive show, was really more of a benefit and more enjoyed by the baby. Our 4-year-old would have been happy to just swim and play in the soft play area every day. And maybe have the occasional hot chocolate or S’mores! We were going to visit the nearby seaside town of Tenby or go to Folly Farm, both of which are offsite, but because I was suffering with my cold we didn’t. And it made no difference. I’d love to go back and if we do, then perhaps we will visit these places another time.
Thank you so much to Bluestone Wales for inviting us to stay. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a family holiday in the UK.