Bliss at Bluestone: Our Review, continued…

The Village

After a much more rested sleep on the second night, we had a slower start to the morning. Eldest played with his new birthday toys and Youngest tried to run off with them all. The clever living space had two very large sofas around a coffee table and a television with freeview and guest info. Then off of this was a nook with a third smaller sofa and coffee table. This great layout meant we were able to create a little toy/play area off the centre of the lounge and keep all the new lego and wooden cars under control in the living space.

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 10.25.47Mid morning we headed off in to the Village. We had popped here briefly on the arrival day to collect some supplies and then to have dinner and Kids Hour but this was our first chance to have a good old snoop.

The Village Shop was lovely and had everything you might need (or might have forgotten to bring!) The nicest touch we found was that there were the big brands etc but when it came to the sausages, eggs and other fresh produce, they were all local suppliers and brands and they were delicious too. Off the Village shop is an off licence with a healthy selection of drinks, whatever you taste.

Also in the Village there was a toy shop, clothes shop and arcade games room. The Oakhouse Restaurant (which we sadly didn’t get to try with our jam packed visit) and the pub The Knights Tafarn. There was also a lovely bakery/coffee shop with fresh bread, cakes and pastries.

Outdoor Play and Tree House Park

SignThroughout the entire stay at Bluestone, enjoying the landscape is encouraged. Even little signs dotted about the resort make sure you know it is OK to run, jump and roll around in the fun their nature has on offer.

Despite the electric buggies you can hire to get around the resort, the fact the site was car free meant we felt at completely at ease to just let the kids enjoy themselves running around, rolling down giant hills and exploring what mini beasts may be lurking under shrubs and leaves. We even encountered a small cute long bodied creature whizzing across a path to the woods that I can’t say I have ever seen before, we think it was a stoat but being so nippy we never got a good chance to get a good look!

Outdoors

Aside from all play that can be done across the greens in Bluestone, there is also a fantastic chance for children to enjoy a more rustic and natural play frame in the Treehouse Park just off the Village. This brilliant play space kept our two entertained for well over an hour and a half (and they still had to be dragged away home for Youngest’s nap time!) The park has slides and tunnels but a variety of climbing and balancing pathway obstacles to get about and through.

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 10.26.02It is conveniently located not too far from the bakery, meaning my husband was ushered off to collect the coffees to enjoy whilst we watched the children play before getting stuck in ourselves!

Booked Activities/Messy Play

Messy CollageBeing our first trip to Bluestone and wanting to really explore the site for the review, we didn’t book in too many activities bar the Messy Play session. This fun activity was themed around a clowns birthday party and featured several sensory tables full of fun mess for the kids to really explore. Eldest and Youngest were both swayed by the ‘cake’ table, piled with cake dough, cocoa powder, sprinkles, mini marshmallows and flour, all for them to get their hands in and mix about. There was also face painting and balloon modelling happening too! A jam packed hour that we thought was great fun.

We booked this session in before we arrived at Bluestone on their simple and easy to use pre-booking system. Before your holiday begins, you’re invited to log on and browse the activities, spa treatments and meal bookings and purchase these prior to arrival if you want to. For us this meant we knew financially where we stood on the trip as dinners we’d prepaid for via this booking system and it made things simple to manage budget wise. You can still book in to any of the activities once at Bluestone if you prefer, by the visiting the manned desks in the centres or via the phone line on site. Another bonus feature is you can pre-book essentials to be in your lodge upon arrival or for continental breakfasts to arrive to your lodge if you’re not feeling up to cooking!

Woodie’s Wild Café and the Woody Wild Dinner Show

Woody treeThis was our final pre-booked activity/meal and I think a real highlight for the kids. Set in the brilliant Woodie’s Wild Cafe, which brings an enchanted forest style to a restaurant setting, is a live show for little ones. After being shown to your balloon adorned table, they start by inviting  all the children to come and sit on a huge pile of cushion in front of the stage, whilst Leaf the elf reads them all a story.

WoodyI believe there are 4 stories that get rotated through but our story was about Busby the Bee. The children sat entranced in the story and then were all off across the other side of the room to meet Buzby himself! There were some games and dancing with Leaf and Buzby before the platters of dinner arrived.

This was easy going children dining that I think even the fussiest of eaters would be happy with. Despite it’s simplicity, it was as always still very tasty. A big tray of chip, chicken goujons, corn on the cobs, Buzbysausages and baked beans were brought out for each family to enjoy. Then a scoop of ice cream and chocolate sauce for the kids and a brownie for the adults desert. After the meal, a little more dancing with Buzby before they had a chance to take a photo with him and then enjoy a blast of every pre-teens favourite Let it Go, fake snow included!

Circus Room

CircusRoomThis was the hidden gem for little ones at Bluestone. Upstairs in the adventure centre is the Circus Room. After asking on the front desk just what this was, we discovered it was a huge play space and soft play for under 5’s. This gorgeous room was very calm (as we were only one of 2 families in there!) but offered great fun for both Eldest and Youngest. There were rolling ramps, sensory tubes, smaller soft play frames and lots of fun circus themed touches likes tents.

Leaving Day

Cars are allowed back down to the lodges on the transfer day, so we got ours down promptly first thing Monday morning. Thankfully leaving day was the only day we had any rotten weather and so whilst a soggy one, packing the car up was still an easy process. You are asked to check out by 10am but that doesn’t mean you have to be off site at this time. Before checking out (simply dropping your key card through the letterbox on the way out and leaving your car back in the car park) we stopped by the Village to grab some chocolatey goodies for the grandparents and some mini bug viewers for the kids friends. By this point Eldest was quite tearful, he asked if he could please live in Preseli View Bluestone for ever, so to distract him and to enjoy every last minute of our trip we headed off once more to the Blue Lagoon. This was a great thing to do as the Blue Lagoon also has it’s own car park so it meant we could splash, exhaust the kids once more and load us all straight in for the journey home.

Our trip

The Bluestone park had so much more to offer than we even had a chance to experience. There were adventures like the zip wires, climbing walls and high ropes for older children. So many more activities to book in to that I couldn’t possibly list (although the adorable miniature 4×4 driving experience caught my eye for when eldest is 6!) and I didn’t even get a chance to try out the spa. I never encountered one staff member without a pleasant exchange and they seemed genuinely happy to offer help at any opportunity.

Whilst we were out watching the watermill at the Smokey Joe’s Shindig, a little girl and her dad were chatting next to us. The little girl had yawned and seeing this her dad asked if she was all worn out. This had upset her and she was promising that no, she wasn’t worn out. The dad reassured her being worn out wasn’t a bad thing and when asked what he meant, he said “It’s means you’ve had so much fun, more than you can fit in and more than you can possibly think of” That sweet exchange made me smile as it was true for us too. Our 4 days in Bluestone had been more fun than we could’ve possibly thought of.

If there was any lasting assurance that these opinions are all genuine and our feelings for Bluestone weren’t prompted by their generous offer of the stay, I should say that we’ve already booked to go back (using the Mumsnet Local discount of course!! Get yours with the link below, plus the chance to win one of 40 holidays on offer.) We’ve squeezed in another 4 day trip in early September before Eldest begins big school and we’re bound to holiday time tables forever more. So if you’re looking for fun for the little, not so little and big ones that is an easy drive from Berkshire, try out Bluestone. I have a feeling it is to be a family  favourite for us for years to come!

Win 1 of 40 holidays and grab a £25 discount code for Bluestone holidays: http://local.mumsnet.com/Talk/local_reading/2392441-WIN-1-of-40-breaks-at-Bluestone-National-Park-Resort

It is with much thanks to Bluestone for this wonderful opportunity to stay at their resort in an exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Photos are not to be copied or used for any purpose outside this review. 

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Bliss at Bluestone: Our Review

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!

Arriving

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!

Accommodation

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 16.30.44Many 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. Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 09.20.49The 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.

Adventure Centre

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.

AdventureCentre

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. Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 23.40.57

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.

Blue Lagoon

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.

BirthdayOnce 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. Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 09.35.10The 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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 09.36.14Youngest 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

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 09.43.52This 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!

Smokey'sDown 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.

BLuestoneWalking 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.

 

bluestonedusk

…. Part 2 of our Bluestone Review to follow soon.

Celebrating as our blog grows!

As we celebrate Mumsnet Reading and Berkshire now coming under the same Editorship, we have decided to relaunch this as a combined blog, offering all the fun to be had and found in Berkshire as well as Reading. However our site address remains the same http://www.mumsnetreading.com

If you would like to get in touch about starring in our blog, please do email us on berkshire.reading@mumsnetlocal.com and we would be happy to discuss our exciting opportunities.