At the beginning of last month we were invited to stay at Bluestone National Park resort in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The last time we went on holiday was when we went to Center Parcs last May so we were well overdue a break away! So we loaded up the car, packed up the kids and set off on our mammoth drive to Wales.
This is going to be quite a long and in depth review of our stay so if you haven’t got the time to read it all now then you can watch this little video of our stay instead…
The journey was relatively stress-free, even though it took us seven and a half hours to get there! We were coming from the north west, it takes about 15 minutes to get on the M6 at Preston from where we live and then we were off. We decided to stick to the motorways even though it would make our journey a bit longer, just because you never know when you might need to stop with two small children and we wanted the convenience of stopping at motorway services.
We made it as far as the M50 before we stopped for lunch, and then only had one quick loo stop later on. The boys were superstars for the whole journey which made life a lot easier. One benefit to Bluestone is that, although it is about as far into Wales as you can go, it’s not actually that far from the end of the M4. Even once the motorway ends it’s a decent A road. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re almost at your destination and then it taking another hour or more on tiny roads to actually get where you’re going!
We arrived at Bluestone at about 4:30 pm. There was a short queue to check in (you stay in the car and drive up to a window to check in) but it moved quickly and within 10 minutes we had the keys to our lodge and a map to go and find it. Bluestone is car-free, except on Mondays and Fridays when you can drive to your accommodation to unload and pack up your car.
Our lodge was easy enough to find. We were staying in a Caldey Lodge which is the smallest lodge at Bluestone although there are smaller studios and cottages. The Caldey is a semi-detached lodge but we didn’t hear any noise from our neighbours the whole time we were there.
The door opened onto a small entrance hall which had enough room for our coats and shoes and we could just about squeeze the buggy in to which was great when we came in from the rain. There was then a large open plan kitchen/ dining/ living area. There was plenty of room for the boys to play, we could all fit round the table (and I was pleased to see a highchair provided as standard – the same IKEA one that we have at home!). The two leather sofas were comfy enough and the boys were happy that there was CBeebies on the TV.
The kitchen was well equipped, including a dishwasher and microwave. The halogen hob took a bit of getting used to but was easy enough once I read the instructions! We ate all our breakfasts and all but one of our evening meals in the lodge and it had everything we needed. My only tip if you are planning on cooking in the lodge a lot would be to take your own sharp knife – I have never stayed in any self-catering accommodation yet that actually provides a sharp knife!
Off the main living space there were two bedrooms, a double and a twin, and a toilet/shower room. There was also a mysterious locked door but I’m guessing that housed the boiler and cleaning equipment. The bedrooms were very comfortable and had everything we needed. I was pleasantly surprised to see solid wood furniture in the bedrooms and throughout the rest of the lodge – it’s usually cheap IKEA style furniture in these kind of places.
The boys were sharing the twin room. There was a travel cot provided as standard which Gabe actually slept remarkably well in, and it was easy enough to move the beds to the sides of the room to make enough room for the cot. We also brought Toby’s bed guard from home. As I suspected the beds were quite high and I knew he would end up falling out without it so something to bear in mind if your little one uses a bed guard at home.
Another thing which I was really pleased about was that there were plenty of plug sockets and all in sensible places too. I know that might seem like a strange thing to mention but we’ve had trouble on other holidays when we’ve been trying to plug in the baby monitor, Toby’s Gro clock, plus all our various phone chargers and so on.
Initially we were slightly concerned at how close the TV and living area were to the boy’s bedroom. Our children are not known for being the best sleepers so we were a bit concerned about waking them up if we tried to watch TV in the evening. But actually we needn’t have worried. We actually managed to watch a film every night (there’s a DVD player in every lodge) and didn’t wake the boys once.
There is free wifi in all the lodges at Bluestone which was great as there wasn’t much phone signal. The free wifi was fine for catching up on social media and checking email, but I also upgraded to the premium wifi so I could do some blogging while I was away too. If you are wanting to stream TV or watch films online then you will probably need to upgrade too, but for general use the free wifi did the job with no problems.
There were electric heaters throughout the lodge and they did a great job of keeping the place toasty all week. There was also a heated towel rail in the bathroom which came in useful for drying our things after swimming.
My only complaints about our accommodation at Bluestone (and they aren’t even complaints really) were: the lack of sharp knife which I’ve already mentioned, the fact that no clothes airer was provided (although I think you can borrow these from guest services if you ask), and lastly that I didn’t think the kitchen was very baby friendly. To be fair this is only going to be a problem if you have an inquisitive toddler like me – because the kitchen is entirely open plan there is no way to keep a baby or toddler away from the cupboards. Obviously this is just the design of the lodge but it wasn’t helped by the fact that there are no wall cupboards so all the plates, glasses etc are at perfect toddler accessible height and we spent the whole time we were there on constant guard to try and make sure Gabe didn’t break anything.
But as I said, these were really only minor gripes and on the whole I was very impressed with our accommodation. It was spotlessly clean too!
Food and Drink
There are quite a number of places to eat and drink at Bluestone. You could go for a week and have pretty much every meal somewhere different if you wanted to. While we were there we had lunch at the WildWood Cafe, dinner at The Knight’s Tafarn, coffees, cakes and ice cream at Tŷ Coffi, and a last lunch at Camp Smokey. Of them all I think we enjoyed our meal at Camp Smokey the most – there’s something about a pulled pork sandwich within smelling distance of the camp fire that you just can’t beat!
I have to admit that we weren’t really blown away by any of the other dining out options we tried. They were all nice enough but nothing really stood out. Eating out at Bluestone isn’t cheap either, as is to be expected at these kind of places. It wasn’t outrageously expensive but we definitely saved money by eating most of our evening meals in the lodge.
Some of the restaurants have dining and show packages on offer too. We really wanted to go to the one at Camp Smokey but it didn’t start until 6:30 pm and unfortunately that is just a bit too late for our boys to be eating and then staying up. There was another one at the Farm House Grill which also sounded great but that was at 3 pm which also seemed a bit of an odd time to be eating!
There is also a small but reasonably well stocked shop in the village centre too. We only really used it for milk but it seemed to have most things you might need.
Bluestone is the kind of place that you can do as much or as little as you like. We made the decision not to pay for any extra activities but there was still plenty we could do that was included in the price of our stay.
The main included attraction has to be the Blue Lagoon Waterpark. We went swimming twice during our stay. Both times we went in the morning, as the pool is open to the public in the afternoons and we thought it might be busier then. It seemed like a lot of people had the same idea as us though as it was fairly busy in the Blue Lagoon both times we went. It didn’t feel crowded though, and as virtually everyone had pre-school children we didn’t need to worry about any big kids running around.
Gabe has never been swimming before and it’s been a while since Toby went. They both really enjoyed it though. Gabe seemed most at home in the fenced off baby and toddler area, whereas Toby loved playing in the waves with his daddy and going outside round the lazy river. There are several flumes as well – Barry managed to get a go on one of them while I watched both boys in the baby area but I can imagine they would be a great hit with older children.
Getting changed for swimming and dressed again afterwards is never going to be stress-free with two small children but there were plenty of family changing rooms which made life easier. My only suggestion to improve the experience would be to have some bigger lockers. Two adults and two kids need a lot of stuff for swimming and we ended up having to use two or three lockers every time.
The other thing that it is worth noting about the Blue Lagoon is that it is right at the top of the hill, and it’s quite a trek with small children and all your stuff. A lot of people had hired golf buggies which obviously makes life a lot easier. If you don’t go down that route though you can make use of the shuttle bus which runs around the site every 15 minutes or so. We did that on the first day and it got us to the top of the hill in no time. The second time we went up though we had just missed a bus so decided to walk up. To be fair it would probably only take 5 or 10 minutes on your own but at a three year old’s pace it was more like 20!
After our first visit to the pool we went to the Adventure Centre where we had lunch at the WildWood Cafe. Barry then took Gabe for a walk so he could have a nap and I stayed and played with Toby. He loved the bouncy castle the most I think. There is also a small soft play, a bigger wooden climbing/play structure, a small mini-golf course, a few arcade machines and fairground type games and a climbing wall. I was pleased to see that all of this was free apart from the arcade bits. It was very quiet when we were there but I can imagine it gets very busy on a wet day in the school holidays! The Adventure Centre is also where you will find the creche although we chose not to use it during our stay.
On our last day at Bluestone we took a walk down the nature trail which starts near the village centre and makes its way down to the Steep Ravine and Camp Smokey. The Steep Ravine is where the high ropes course and zip wire is. We also saw one of the Bluestone rangers taking a group of parents and children off on one of the nature discovery walks while we were there. The nature trail starts off going through the ‘Light Thingy’ (more on that in a minute), and then there is a choice of two loops. We took the shorter one along the stream and up to Camp Smokey and it was the perfect distance for little legs.
There are loads of activities going on at Bluestone, you could do something every hour if you wanted to I think. With little children though we didn’t feel the need to pay for lots of extra activities. There was plenty to keep them occupied as it was.
We made use of the small play area in the village centre while we were there, and Toby loved the big willow dragon just up from there. There is now a new play area next to the original one and from what we could see of it being built it, it looked brilliant. It was just a shame we were a week too early to use it!
The last thing that I have to mention is the ‘Light Thingy’ – this is on every night from dusk until about 8pm I think. It includes a sound and light show in the village centre outside the Knights Tafarn. We saw this the night we ate i the pub and Toby thought it was absolutely brilliant. The Light Thingy then continues along the nature trail.
You are welcomed by two enormous foxes and then there are all sorts of giant bugs and beasties and it ends with the fairy village. It is buggy accessible too if you want to take the little ones. When we were there it rained every night except the last one so I think everyone had gone then and it was pretty busy but we still managed to see everything. It is definitely worth making the effort to see it.
There is loads to do in the local area if you want to venture off site. We only had one afternoon out when we went to Tenby (in the rain).
I would definitely recommend it for a visit, there are a few different beaches, lots of cafes and little shops, and it was a lovely place for a wander. We did end up driving round and round trying to work out where the best place to park was but otherwise it was a fab afternoon out, and the boys loved playing on the beach in their waterproofs.
We had a great stay at Bluestone. We were there from Monday to Friday and I think with a toddler and a preschooler that was longer enough. If you have older children (and are prepared to spend some extra money) then there is plenty for them to do to fill a whole week. Bluestone is inevitably often compared to Center Parcs and although it is a similar kind of place it is nowhere on the same scale as Center Parcs. It is smaller, and I think that makes it feel a bit more friendly. There are none of the chain restaurants that you get a Centre Parcs but I think that is a good thing really.
For us, the only thing that could have improved our stay were if a little bit more thought had been put into the timings of some of the activities and shows. While we were there I don’t think I saw more than a couple of children who were over four. Everyone had babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers but as I have already mentioned some of the things that we would have liked to do just weren’t at suitable times, and I imagine we weren’t the only ones that had the same problem.
Having said that we would definitely go back to Bluestone. It’s somewhere you could keep going back to and it would be different every time as the children get older and are able to take part in more of the different activities on offer. Although having just had a quick look on the website it seems that the prices jump massively during the school holidays, as you might expect, and that might sway our decision to return once the boys are at school. If you can manage a term time holiday though then Bluestone is a great place to stay and Pembrokeshire is a beautiful part of the country to explore.
Thank you so much if you’ve stuck with me this long! I would love to hear your experiences if you have been on holiday to Bluestone.
**Disclosure: We received our stay at Bluestone free of charge. However, as always, all opinions are my own.