Bluestone's 10th Birthday

A Decade Of Free Range Fun

July 2018 is an extra-special month at Bluestone because it marks ten years since we opened our doors and welcomed our first guests. It's been a long journey from that day in 2008 to now and we have worked hard to turn this slice of Pembrokeshire into the thriving, unique and beloved resort Bluestone has become. 

Earlier this year we announced the exciting news that a second Bluestone resort would be opening on Holy Island, Ynys Môn and that achievement is proof of how far we have come in just ten years. We will be celebrating the momentous occasion with a range of events on resort, so keep an eye on our Into The Blue Blog which will be sharing all the exciting details. 

Here's a look back at everything we have achieved over the last exciting decade and our plans for where Bluestone will go next.


The Very Beginning

When Bluestone’s founder William McNamara was nine-years-old he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He didn’t know he was going to build a luxury resort in the rolling Welsh countryside, but he knew he had the ambition, drive and will to make a better life for himself and his family. 

His father had run a farm, producing Pembrokeshire new potatoes alongside a herd of dairy cattle, and William worked the fields and milked the cows.

first dig

"In 1984 milk quotas were introduced and changed the way we farmed forever," recalls William. "I knew that I needed to do something else. I came up with a plan for a theme park."  

Five years later Oakwood Theme Park opened - a leisure destination that could compete with the theme parks in England. 

"The weather hampered the venture, For one, if it rained in high season we could lose tens of thousands of pounds - and sadly despite Pembrokeshire being the most beautiful place on earth, it’s a long way to come for a day trip."

So William went back to the drawing board in 1996, and the plan for a luxury year-round resort began to take shape.

Becoming Bluestone 

William took the decision to leave Oakwood in 2002, selling his share in the business to start a new venture. 

He wanted to create a destination that spoke passionately about Pembrokeshire to the rest of the UK and beyond. It would fit seamlessly within the National Park - show off the unique, breathtaking location, provide local people and businesses with a living, all while protecting and sustaining the local area. 

The idyllic resort would be filled with wooden lodges and nature trails, activities children and adults would enjoy, a village filled with local Pembrokeshire produce and restaurants. 

village

There would be a year-round indoor water park that locals could use and would be powered in the most environmentally sensitive way possible, with groundbreaking biomass heater (there’s now two of those - the second providing 65 lodges added in 2016 with heating and hot water). Crucially, the resort had to have activities to entertain guests throughout their stay and they would be able to explore the wider area.

bluestone site

It would all be built at the site of the old family farm - today the Village sits right in the middle, and William’s office is in the old barn.

Bluestone: Day One 

On July 18 2008 Bluestone National Resort, Pembrokeshire officially opened and the first ever guests arrived. We have been open every single day since and welcomed nearly one million guests through the resort gates.




10 Years On 

The pride a decade on from the resort’s opening reverberates throughout the Bluestone team, the people that were determined to create a place that would give thousands of families an experience they believe everyone deserves.  

From the thrills of the Blue Lagoon, the Adventure Centre and the Steep Ravine to the quiet contemplation of the nature trails, the meadows and the Lake - Bluestone has truly delivered an evolving, natural eco-resort that shows off the best of West Wales. 

kayaking on lake

The hardwork didn't stop after Bluestone opened its gates either. The resort has continued to evolve and grow and while the business never stands still, perhaps its greatest quality is that it wants its visitors to stand still.  

"Bluestone is about going back to basics and bonding as a family," William claims. 

"It is not about 21st century smartphones.  

"It’s about being in the countryside, it’s about looking at dark skies. It’s about bringing people together and uniting them and helping them spending time with each other - even if that’s just listening to the sound of the trees while you walk through the woods."  

At the heart of the resort is a little community created simply from scratch.  

village

"The Village is my favourite place at Bluestone. It was always going to be the centre of the resort. I wanted it to have a pulse - I wanted an energy there. People often can’t believe there was simply nothing there. They assume it must have been built from the ruins of an old settlement or a ghost town of some sort. But no, we created that energy - a place of togetherness - in the middle of a plain old field."





How The Last Decade Has Unfolded: 

September 2008: The award-winning Well Spa - inspired by the Pembrokeshire coast - opened 

2009: The nature trail to the ever-popular Camp Smokey opens, and we introduce Caldey Connect lodges. 

camp smokey

Later, the sports centre begins its transformation into the Adventure Centre. 

We’re recognised with a five star rating by Visit Wales. 

2010: The Bluestone Foundation is launched, and the high ropes and lake activities begin. 

Later in the year, guests are invited to the first Kingdom of the Elves - now a major annual attraction. 

2011: The groundbreaking Adventure Centre opens in all its glory and 60 new lodges are built. 

We plant 35,000 native trees to mark the Queen’s Jubilee. 

Axe Throwing

2012: The Tournament Field opens and the first Play Park is built in the Village

2013: The Circus Zone opens in the Adventure Centre, while the founders secure a management buyout. 

We start working with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park to educate our staff about Pembrokeshire - the first tourism operator to do so.  

2014: The Sky Wires course opens to daredevils in the Steep Ravine, rock climbing starts in the Adventure Centre and the Blue Lagoon launches new interactive play. The Boardwalk opens to Camp Smokey and the Farmhouse Grill is born in the Village.

Steep Ravine 460

2015: The Circus Zone is transformed and guests sit down in Ty Coffi for the first time. The Farmhouse Grill gets a makeover.

2016: Wiseman’s Way, Templar’s Court and Castle Close are completed as we introduce the highly popular St David’s Lodge. In the meantime, 30% of the shareholding is passed to employees. 

2017: The new Play Park opens in the Village along with the Oak Tree restaurant and we hold our first Winter Lights festival. 

ranger hq

2018: Ranger HQ opens by the Lake and we begin work on the groundbreaking new SkyDome project, set to open in 2019. 

In May we unveil ambitious plans for a second resort, Bluestone Holy Island Resort Ynys Môn in North Wales.

Bluestone Monopoly  

To celebrate Bluestone's 10th Anniversary, we are launching our very own version of classic board game, Monopoly. The limited edition game will be available on resort from July 16th or can be purchased and placed in your lodge ahead of arrival. Pre-order yours today and celebrate this exciting milestone!

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  • monopoly

How we kept (and keep) our environment in balance

Thousands of people visit Bluestone every year to experience life in the countryside with their families. We believe that being surrounded by nature and being in woodland has a wealth of benefits and over the past decade we’ve tried to achieve both to educate families to enjoy nature while also learning how to protect and nurture nature. 

"Often people regard the economy and the environment to be in a boxing ring with one in each corner. It’s one or the other," says William. 

ducksbypond

"We disagree. I believe the more money we make the more we can put into managing woodland and nurturing nature. 

"For example - we’ve just created our Ranger HQ to educate families about the outdoors and we have a full time sustainability manager who is in charge of the delicate balance we maintain between the resort and the environment it’s set in. 

"A third of a million trees and shrubs have been planted in past 10 years. It’s no longer the ‘ecological desert’ the experts said it was all those years ago.”

Part Of The Fabric Of Local Life

The importance of supporting local suppliers and businesses, employing and helping local people was ingrained in Bluestone from the start.  

That’s why, as the business had steadied and matured, the directors chose to give 30% of it back to employees, with 500 becoming shareholders in 2017 as a rewarded for their hard work. 

Beyond it’s staff though, Bluestone is part of a wider community.

PB 470

It spends millions in the local supply chain every year, supporting hundreds of jobs outside of the 750 employed on resort. Central that ethos is food and drink. Farming and fishing is part of Pembrokeshire’s identity - part of William McNamara’s identity - and showing off the county’s produce is part of the resort’s appeal both to guests and locals.  

He said: "It’s absolutely fundamental and embedded in our ethos. I set out to create a business that I wanted to be proud to call my own - I’m a farmer at heart after all.  

"To me, it doesn’t matter if bringing in frozen food meant a greater return to the bottom line. It’s irrelevant. And I think that’s what marks us out against our competitors. Food is very much in vogue. People want to eat local food and fish and they want to know the back story. I respect that."





The Future

With the ambitious SkyDome development on the horizon and the prospect of a second resort in North Wales, Bluestone never stops looking forward.  

"A business can never stand still," finishes William. 

"My desire is to leave a great business that is still growing - not a good business. It is not necessarily about expanding physically - yes I’m very much looking forward to SkyDome and another resort but they are the only trends that indicate we’re doing a good job.  

"Whether it’s our guests’ experience, the quality of the food or the well-being of our dedicated staff - we always want to see something about Bluestone improving. There’s more than one way to measure a business."

As we look forward to the next decade of Bluestone, learn more about our exciting projects: 

SkyDome Holy Island Resort



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