Weekend Break Review By Mumsnet Surrey

By Cherry Forrest Bluestone View From Top of Hill

mumsnet40 miles beyond the end of the M4 (such an easy journey) lies the well-signed treasure that is Bluestone, deservedly taking its place in the beautiful Pembrokeshire National Park.  Though you’ll know all about this before you arrive, because the email communication leading up to your holiday is frequent and gets more exciting the closer you get to your arrival date.  I loved receiving the comms with the countdown to our stay and the helpful PDF guides to help plan your stay, book activities and explore the area.

The first thing that strikes you about the holiday resort is the level of service from every staff member you encounter - everyone we came in to contact with was really happy to help us with any aspect of our holiday.  They are an honest staff, happy in their jobs and genuinely want to help you.

The second big thing is that Bluestone is not a secluded holiday resort, unlike its biggest rival. It is part of the communityMumsnet Local and actively promotes the surrounding area and attractions. Once you’re parked up you don't feel that you have to stay on the campus to get maximum value, you can treat it as a home to return to after exploring the nearby Welsh coast and countryside. However, we chose to stay on site during our Fri-Mon mini-break as it offered us everything we needed.  The views of Pembrokeshire that you get from travelling about the resort are wonderful, so I would be tempted on a second visit to go further afield.

Our accommodation was a tranquil lake-side lodge on Bartholomew Rise, with two ensuite bedrooms (one ensuite with a shower over bath and one wet room) and upside down living to make the most of the view.  It was smart, spotlessly clean, had thick curtains to block out the light and came very well equipped with stair gates, a high chair and every kitchen utensil you could think of (including a whisk and a measuring jug so we could have our Saturday morning pancakes!). There is no washing machine thankfully (who wants to do washing on holiday?!) but there is a laundry service on site so if you experienced particularly bad weather and got all muddy you needn’t run out of clothes.
View of Bluestone Lake From The Lodge

There was heaps of storage in our lodge (including a large cupboard in the lounge that Stanley commandeered for his toys) and dark wood quality furniture throughout.  We were welcomed to our lodge by a bottle of white wine which was a nice touch.  The comfy beds (two twin, one double), big plump pillows, crisp white sheets, heavy duvets and large fluffy white towels felt like hotel living.  Lying in bed with a morning cup of tea, drinking in the view through our french doors that open out to our private patio area overlooking the lake, was the perfect start to every day helped only by the lovely sunny weather. 

A few minor details to note.  Mobile phone reception is poor, but there is free, reliable WiFi all around the resort.  We had a recycling bin as well as a normal bin in our lodge, but no food waste bin which I thought unusual.  Cars are only allowed on site for loading/unloading on change over days, otherwise they’re parked on the resort boundary (sounds further away than it is) which means the roads around the site are safe.  We would recommend paying a little extra for early check-in.  Check-out is 10am but you can use the resort facilities until 3pm.

Our soon-to-turn 5 year old son was treated to a few hours of unaccompanied independence at two organised activities for 4-7yr olds over the weekend, Mud Mystery on Saturday at 1pm followed by Buccaneers on Sunday at 10am.  It felt strange at first without him in a place that is full of families, but it gave us a few precious hours off to relax in the pub garden and cafe area reading our weekend papers, a rare treat spending time as a couple again.

You know when your child is happy if they don't even look back to say bye and this is exactly the start the friendly activity leaders gave the children in Mud Mystery, excitedly engaging them from the moment they arrived.  Three hours of outdoor fun was had down in the woods, getting their faces painted (though you can opt out if you wish), solving clues as a team to find the lost egg of the Welsh dragon and then decorating it with lots of paint and glitter.  Food and drink was included and Stanley spoke highly of his burger and beans down at Camp Smokey!  He came away full of beans (literally!), proudly clutching his certificate and the egg he had decorated, having made some new mates that he was pleased to run in to at various times across the weekend. 

His second adventure away from us was on the Sunday at Bluestone Buccaneers - two hours of pirate adventure in search of clues in the woods to find missing treasure.  The children were each given a small packet of sweets to take home (the treasure they found), a certificate, an impressive model balloon sword and a bandana.  Stanley was disappointed when we came to fetch to him as he was having so much fun!  Much as every parent looks forward to their child rushing up to them because they’ve missed them, you know they’ve had a lovely time if they think you’ve arrived back too early!  He was singing pirate songs for the rest of the break and even sang his favourite in ‘show and tell’ time when he went back to school, ending in ‘a bottle of rum to fill my tum and that’s the life for me, ah ha’ (*sung in a pirate fashion with actions).

We sampled nearly all eateries on site (not quite making it down to Camp Smokey, the BBQ area in the forest with a real camp fire), including a licensed Wild Wood cafe on entering the site (handy if you’ve just arrived with a hungry family bursting for the toilet), a bakery with cafe, a village pub, a grill and an Italian (with a Welsh twist).  I must say that the service was excellent everywhere we ate, the food arrived quickly, it was always piping hot, the portion sizes were spot-on and the toilets were very well maintained.  Every menu offered a good variety of dishes without being too lengthy, was sensibly priced and children’s activity/colouring sheets were provided by all.  It is recommended that you book ahead which you can do at any time at the information point in the middle of the village, where they collect a £5/head deposit that is deducted from your bill.  Here are our thoughts on each one we tried:

The Wild Wood cafe has a really exciting atmosphere and is set up like a giant tree house set around a large tree with twinkly lights; it has a varied menu including a healthy lite bites option.  This was our first Bluestone experience and it really put us in the holiday mood. It is located in the Adventure Centre so the excitement only mounted when we let Stanley exit the cafe ahead of us and from the first floor landing he was able to take in for the first time the soft play area, the mini golf, the bouncy castle, the shooting range, the Lego wall and most of all the wooden adventure playground with its huge towers, bridges and tunnel slides.  His eyes lit up with excitement, he couldn't quite believe where he was!  During our stay we returned here several times and Stanley particularly enjoyed the Lego wall (a collection of base plates joined together and wall mounted, covered with the names of Lego enthusiasts who had been there building that day using the multitude of bricks that are available in piles around the base), the mini golf and the bouncy castle.  Building Lego models on a wall, playing golf with your holiday mates and having unlimited time on a bouncy castle to perfect your flips is our boy’s kind of holiday! 
Lego Wall at the Adventure Centre
We were pleasantly surprised that the only things you had to pay for were the air hockey and shooting game (only £1 each) or the arcade machines (in a separate room which you can easily steer the children past if you wish). 
Air Hockey at the Adventure Centre

Smokey Joes Shootout Game
There are lots of sofas dotted about to set up camp while the children hare around and visibility is good across the whole floor with just one door in & out so you can allow them independence. Cleverly combined in the same area is the Big Four (The Swing, The Drop, The Wall and Sky Trail) which sadly Stanley wasn’t quite old enough to sample, the min age being 8 yrs.  Being inside means it’s not weather dependent but there are also outdoor versions high up in the tree tops.

Back to food now, the Knight’s Tavern pub food is your typical pie & mash, cottage pie, scampi & chips affair which is fine when you’re on holiday, though it would’ve been nice to see a soup or salad option.  It had a village pub feel inside with little booths perfect for families and knights helmets on display that children can experience.  Our food arrived very quickly and was gobbled up hungrily but we felt it wasn’t the same quality as the Wild Wood cafe. There are also tables outside and as the pub is central to the village you get a lovely holiday atmosphere as it over-looks the children’s entertainment tent (and play area beyond) where there is free entertainment and a disco every night between 5.30-6.30pm.  We did think this could’ve been a little earlier as we tend to eat around this time, but that’s just personal choice.  It is run by two lovely, bubbly co-ordinators who approached us around the resort to tell us all about it (and also engaged Stanley so he would feel familiar with them, which was a nice touch). 

The Farmhouse Grill menu was most appealing and the specials were really unusual, I chose a local dish with cockles and lava bread oatcakes.  Stanley particularly enjoyed his ice-cream which was served in a tumbler with sprinkles and sauce - we were equally delighted when he stopped half way through as it was enough for us two, too! 

The Oak Tree Italian was our favourite, perhaps because it was my birthday night out and also our last night there, but also because it has more of a special restaurant feel (though no less welcoming to children).  We liked that it included some Welsh additions to the traditional pizza, pasta, meat and fish dishes and the desert menu was very hard to choose from!

The accommodation and village (restaurants, supermarket, outdoor play park) are all located in one relatively flat area, easy navigable.  However, the Activity Centre and Blue Lagoon Waterpark are situated up high on the edge of the complex (in keeping with being part of the local community, the pool is open to the public at certain times so needs to be on the periphery). We’d recommend hiring a golf buggy (for £29/day or £80 for 3 days) if you have children under say 8 yrs old, as although the resort isn't huge (so bikes or walking are definite options) the hills are pretty unforgiving!  There are lots of well situated buggy parks with free charging stations across the park and buggies can be taken right up to where you park your car to help on moving in/out day.  Bike hire is also available and we saw a mix of bikes with covered trailer seats and tandem (tag-along) attachments for families.  Perhaps the answer is a mix of bike hire and buggy hire?
Riding The Golf Buggy at Bluestone

The supermarket is very well stocked including birthday cards and candles which I thought was a nice touch, very reasonably priced and nicely situated in the middle of the accommodation quarter.  It’s also close to the outdoor play area which meant I could leave the boys to have fun while I stocked up, coming together again for the short golf buggy journey back to our lodge.  I would advise going early in the day though, as the cooked meat selection and bread goes fast.

The only other shop is The Brook, selling a small range of mainly warm weather clothes in one end and a limited selection of pocket money toys in the other.  There are further pocket money spending opportunities in the Adventure Centre (a small range of pens, books, soft toys etc) and there is a decent supply of swimwear and accessories in the shop at Blue Lagoon.  But that’s it!  The resort is pleasingly uncommercial.

We had three happy trips to the Blue Lagoon, a domed glass roof water park with slides for the older ones that finish in their own mini pools (I think there is both a height restriction and a need to be able to swim to use these) but also two separate splash areas in shallow warm water, one of which is gated and designed for toddlers.  The main pool is lovely & wide and begins with ankle-deep gloriously warm water where you can walk through fountains, paddle, sit or lie comfortably with the little ones and then it gently slopes away to deeper water.  There are two life-guards positioned up high which is reassuring.  The wave machine operates every 20 minutes after two separate warning gongs, at which point most parents with younger ones head for the shallows where you can sit and enjoy the breaking waves, or alternatively head deeper for a more bumpy ride!
Waves at The Blue Lagoon
When the wave machine ends you can try the lazy river which gently carries you around a circuit with water cannons & fountains (avoidable if you have a child who doesn’t like to be splashed in his face!), an outside section where you can see how warm the water is by the steam rising up from it, a chill-out pool with seating, through some bubble jets and returns you back to the main pool again. We spent many happy trips down the lazy river with our little one’s water confidence pleasingly growing with each circuit.
Swimming In The Lazy River at Blue Lagoon

Pool side there are also rows of deck chairs so if some of your party doesn't fancy the water they don't have to miss out.  It does get very warm in there though and you can keep your shoes on but you need to wear the blue shoe covers provided, though it’s far easier we found to go bare foot.  There is a pool side cafe serving hot and cold drinks, cookies & chocolate bars and a small bar menu (burgers and chips etc) which also serves the first floor viewing area though you have to go down to order, there is no table service.  There are both family changing areas and also separate male and female areas if you prefer, with lockers (operated by £1 coins) close to the entrance to the pool and a (chargeable) drying machine that the whole family can fit in!  There are no inflatables to hire or use, so you’ll need to bring your own or buy some in the shop.

In summary, we had a lovely relaxed break with time spent as a family and also as a couple.  We wanted for nothing and we returned with smiles on our faces, lasting experiences in our memory banks and fresh Pembrokeshire air in our lungs.  So thank you Bluestone and until next time, because we know there will be a next time for our family.

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