I’m sure you’ve heard us excitedly jumping up and down and repeatedly sharing the brilliant competition and fab discount on offer from Bluestone in Pembrokeshire, Wales on the sites and across our social media over the last few weeks (or if you’ve been hiding under a Mumsnet Berks shaped rock this last month then here is the link giving you a chance to win 1 of 40 holidays with Bluestone and every entrant also receives a £25 discount when booking! http://local.mumsnet.com/Talk/local_reading/2392441-WIN-1-of-40-breaks-at-Bluestone-National-Park-Resort)
Well the lovely people of Bluestone kindly offered my family and I the opportunity to come over and see why this is really quite an amazing competition and enjoy a little time over a long weekend in their beautiful holiday village!
Arrival was such a smooth operation that left us hugely impressed. The journey from the centre of Reading took just over 3 hours. A shockingly easy journey of getting on the M4, staying on and just heading West and sure enough finding ourselves in the stunning landscape of Pembrokeshire.
The children had slept most of the drive but having woken up 10minutes prior to arrival, Eldest was almost shaking with excitement. Of course in road trip fashion, he also needed a wee. So we needed haste as we checked in, and we needn’t of worried. As you arrive, you reach an island of pull up windows where a friendly member of staff checks you in, gives you a wallet of information, keys and details where to go.
Phew, checked in under 5 minutes and able to whizz Eldest to the toilet before things got messy. The lovely lady at the check in desk was also kind enough to chat to Eldest too through the whole experience, she was clearly well versed in excited toddler!
Many sequels of delight came from me and my husband as well as the kids as we reached the beautiful lodge that was to be ours for the 4 days. Number 6 Preseli View was a Dinas. One of the 9 varieties of lodge on offer at Bluestone, the Dinas had 4 generous sized bedrooms (two twins and two doubles). There was a shower room, a traditional bathroom and then a gigantic living space, plus an outdoor area.
The kitchen was crisply clean and loaded with all the equipment a family could need. It’s listed as a self catering break but from my previous experience of self catering this went well and beyond. The lodge was stocked with ample toilet rolls, a kitchen goody bag (including a mini washing up liquid, 3 dishwasher tablets, new cleaning cloth and replacement bin bags), every bed had sumptuous bed linen and pair of fluffy towels too.
We enjoyed the treat of an early check in (1pm vs the traditional 4pm) and so once our bags were dropped off and car returned to the car park (Bluestone operates a no car policy around the resort, allowing you to enjoy the freedom of the site safely. Disabled badge holders are the only exception to this rule) we set off on our exploration.
There was no slowing the kids down, they were dead set on the adventure centre and so that is where we headed first. If there was ever to be an overwhelming start to a holiday, this was it – the adventure centre had it all! Mini golf, an arcade, a lego wall and tables, soft play, slides, bouncy castle… I could go on. Upstairs was the WildWood Cafe and the Circus Room (which I’ll return to later!) Also in this venue was rooms for many of the booked activities for later in your stay.
The facilities were fab. Clean, safe and plenty of sofas for when a rest and drink was called for!
Kids Hour and Dinner in the Village
After wearing the children out in the adventure centre, we headed to the Kids Hour. This was down in the village centre, in a central marque. Two of the happiest ladies I have ever encountered, mesmerised the kids and got them all dancing and jumping about to fun music and games, whilst parents had a chance to sit back and relax with a drink at the benches. Sadly our two only managed half the session before weariness kicked in and we decided we better go and eat before they crashed out.
We headed over to the Farmhouse Grill in the village. We hadn’t booked but this wasn’t an issue. The food was actually incredible (I’m not blogger gushing here, it was amazing. I am still craving some of the beef grilled skewers with the garlic and herb sauce over chunky chips!) The staff were lovely and didn’t even bat an eyelid when a bizarre request for some grated cheese came from the toddlers came during their meal. They simply returned a moment later with a pot of cheese to a round of applause from the kids. They understood the often fraught dining experience with toddlers and offered to bring the kids meals out as soon as possible and then gave the children their scoops of ice cream whilst we finished our dinners that had arrived a little later. When Youngest began to fall asleep in her pudding, we headed off quick back to the lodge.
We had an awful nights sleep. This however had nothing to do with Bluestone’s luxuriously plump beds nor the deceptively thin but brilliant blackout curtains keeping dawn light at bay. No, the awful night’s sleep came from Eldest. The Saturday morning was his 4th Birthday and to which he was keen to begin celebrating at frequent points through out the night.
Once we were eagerly parted from the comfort of the beds, all the presents and cards had been opened and a birthday breakfast feast tucked in to, we asked Eldest what he would like to do for his big birthday. This was not a tricky question for him, as he had had his eyes on the Blue Lagoon in the brochure since the moment we knew we were visiting.
We’re luckier than some to have adventure pools like those in Windsor and Bracknell at our doorsteps in Berkshire, but this was by far one of the best pools I had been to with small children. To lead the way, there was ample family changing and all of which we encountered were spotlessly clean.
There was a generous sized main pool with a beach like sloping entrance, a fun infants rock pool with interactive play spaces, a deeper interactive splash zone, flume slides, a wave machine and a lazy river to enjoy. The flumes are fairly strict and operate a 1.1m height policy even for those riding on laps. This was something we knew about prior to the stay and ensured not to get Eldest excited about. It wasn’t an issue however as he was in love with the splash zone and pumping the teetering buckets to tip over my head at any opportunity, the forbidden flumes never even received a backwards glance.
Youngest was a joy scampering about in the rock pools but her affections lay with the lazy river. A soft current drifting you round a path that goes outside and under a few splashing pipes. Armbands on, her swimming confidence soared as she held my hands and followed me round in the flow of the water.
The pools are open from 9am for guests and then open publicly at 11am for nearby residents too. Whilst this sounds like a short amount of time, there was no great stampede at 11am of local residents, so it was never anything we felt pressured about arriving at 9am for.
Smokey Joes Shindig
This was one of the activities we had booked in online prior to our arrival. The online description is: “Let your wild side loose as you blow the leaves off the trees and party under the stars joining Smokey Joe in his woodland camp for a table topping, foot stomping knees up!” Which we decided sounded perfect for a (noisy!) little boy’s birthday dinner!
Down at the base of the Steep Ravine and the zip wires, is a fun BBQ ranch style restaurant. The shindig was a brilliant live music, family friendly BBQ meal that was an incredible way to celebrate Eldest’s birthday. The music does get loud though, it wasn’t an issue for our two (Eldest even dozed off at one point, despite our table being in the front of the stage!) but it might not be suitable for tinies or toddlers who don’t favour big noises.
The food was once again delicious, a giant plate of a burger, pulled pork, BBQ beans, salad and chicken skewers kept the family very happy. Then a scrummy apple crumble style cake for pudding. The beautiful surrounds of the woodlands fascinated the kids. They decided a troll lived under the trip trap bridge over the stream and were entranced by the movement and noise from the working watermill.
Walking home to the lodge that evening was breathtaking. The landscape of Bluestone is truly beautiful and seeing it at dusk was gorgeous. The rolling hills with charming glowing lodges nestled in and huge green expanses, I felt like I could be a million miles away, not just 3 hours from Reading.
…. Part 2 of our Bluestone Review to follow soon.