For those who haven’t been yet, Bluestone is what you might describe as the Welsh cousin of Centre Parcs, but as one dad clarified: ‘Centre Parcs on a more manageable scale.’ That is, if you have multiple children under 5. If, like my husband and I, you’ve been hesitant to attempt a holiday overseas, Bluestone offers a brilliant alternative.
I should say at this point, we weren’t offered an incentive for this post; thanks to four consecutive annual holidays and amazing customer experience, we’ve picked up a few tips along the way. On our most recent trip, we found ourselves sharing them with other parents, and thought it would be helpful to share them more widely.
To start, these are just some of the reasons why we keep going back:
- It has a licensed soft play: yes, the under 5s can play in well cushioned safety while you sip a glass (alright it’s a plastic cup, but still) of Pinot or a cold pint.
- It’s home to Wales’ spa of the year: Granted you might not be able to enjoy it as a couple like you used to, but a few hours alone while the children get quality time with the other parent is an absolute luxury – I’d highly recommend the bamboo massage. You might even feel like you’re abroad in the outside hydrotherapy pool.
- No one judges you: when your kids are having a meltdown, when you’re feeding your baby ice cream, when they’re chucking food about; everyone is in the same boat. Having been pregnant or feeding a small baby for the last 4 years, I’ve never felt as though I was missing out like I might have done in Spain.
- It’s 1.5 hours from Cardiff: That’s it, no rest stops needed. Just load up the iPad movie, stockpile the snacks and enjoy a short transition to a welcome retreat.
- There’s always something new: Bluestone never stop investing in the resort or their customer service. Last year there was a brand new Village Hall (the Busby Bee show was a big hit) and a fish and chips trailer, this year a huge new wooden adventure playground – you can even get a drink from the Knight’s Tavern opposite to enjoy in the playground!
- The wildlife: There are rabbits everywhere, a beautiful lake with baby ducklings, moorhens and frogs. Development Dad’s ‘forest table’ tradition has made Bluestone breakfasts really special as we get to watch woodpeckers, robins, sparrows, finches and squirrels appear right outside our lodge.
- It’s well equipped: Not many people know this, we didn’t to begin with, but Bluestone provide the following free of charge for the duration of your stay, if you ask!
- A clothes airer – really handy for drying out towels
- A cot bed mattress – friends of mine have previously padded out their travel cot with bedding as they’ve not been aware of this.
- A baby bath – fits in the shower and doubles up as a really handy laundry sink. Even if your kids are ok with showers, the head is unadjustable in the lodges.
- Extra highchairs and travel cots
- A hairdryer (for a small deposit)
Activities around Bluestone
There are too many to list, but these were some of our favourites:
- The aforementioned soft play, upstairs in the Adventure Centre’s Circus Zone; the kids absolutely loved this place and yet a few of the parents we met weren’t aware it existed. There’s also a great under 5s soft play area, bouncy castle, lego wall and crazy golf course.
- The nature walk: In September this is a great spot for blackberry picking, so take Tupperware. The short trail was easily managed by our 20 month old, although you can take buggies. They’ve just built a little fairy forest and the patches of fairy sparkle dust are a lovely touch. At the end of the trail is Camp Smokey’s fire pit where you can toast marshmallows. We had some with us, the monster size ones; in hindsight, toasting them in front of all the kids with regular sized marshmallows was a bad move. I’d recommend buying the ones from the restaurant.
- The Blue Lagoon swimming pool: go early during the residents only sessions – it gets busy. The baby pool has little rock pools and lots of toys to keep them busy (means you can take turns on the big flumes). Inflatable baby seats or rings are a fun way to float around the lazy river as a family.
- The village coffee shop: they have colouring activities for kids and we stopped here a few times for tea and cake or ice creams.
West Wales has so many great places to visit, but these are our favourite:
- Folly Farm Adventure Park & Zoo: They take Tesco Clubcard vouchers and have a great ‘Boomerang’ offer whereby if you return within 7 days you get half price admission. There’s so much to do that we always go twice. Seeing all the animals is a fantastic experience, and educational… I’m not sure our daughter was convinced by our explanation that the giraffe was just ‘giving the other one a piggyback’ though. The vintage fair with 50p rides and huge undercover adventure zone is brilliant for rainy days and there are loads of outdoor playgrounds too.
- The local beaches: Tenby and Whitesands at Saint David’s are just stunning. It doesn’t have to be great weather to build a sandcastle/ boat on the beach or go rock pooling.
- Our lodge veranda looked out over the forest so we enjoyed a few evenings sharing a bottle of wine outside – non-alcoholic bubbly when I was pregnant (available from Sainsbury’s). You can also take disposable BBQs. On the colder nights we’ve done our own cheese and wine evenings, which make a night in feel a bit more special.
- Bring some DVDs for movie nights; after being spoiled by our Sky subscription, terrestrial TV was a big let-down.
- Bluestone do have babysitters bookable 72 hours in advance, but our son would never have forgiven us if he’d woken up to find a stranger there. There are also daytime creches and lots of bookable activities the 4 and overs can do on their own as well.
Things to bring with you
- Extra bin bags, dishwasher tablets and teatowels
- Condiments like salt, pepper and tomato ketchup.
- Laundry detergent and Vanish spray for emergency washes (they do have a laundry service available as well)
- Long pieces of ribbon/ similar to tie cupboard doors together in the kitchen
- Plastic plates, bowls and cutlery for the kids (the restaurants don’t have small cutlery either so take some to pop in your bag)
- Proper bowls for cereal; theirs are really shallow
- A stool for the kids to stand on to wash hands/ use the loo
- A small hanging airer for swimsuits
- Plug covers
- Bed sheets for travel cots
- Vacuum pack bags to sort clothes into – use instead of suitcases to make packing/ repacking easier
- Flip flops for the spa – they don’t do slippers anymore, but they do sell flip flops for £2
We’ve only ever stayed in a Caldey lodge in Forest View – we love it as it’s all on one level and quite secluded. It’s the oldest type of accommodation so has started to look a bit tired, but it’s due for a refurbishment in 2018. Friends have stayed in the cottages or Ramsey lodges and had a great time too – although, apparently, the upside down living arrangement can hamper plans for quiet lie-ins when you have young children thundering overhead. They do have stair-gates though.
We’ve never booked a golf buggy, but they are a great way to get around with little ones and older relatives. We prefer walking as find it good exercise, but I’d recommend taking a trike or scooter for the little ones. There’s a free shuttle bus every half hour from all the main spots, so we jumped on that a few times. You can also hire bikes and trailers.
We always book a click and collect slot from Tesco in Haverfordwest. Development Dad picks it up while I unpack at the lodge, and it means we can stock up before moving the car to the car park. Bear in mind the freezer is tiny, but there is enough room for fish fingers! The village store has all the essentials and a good selection of wine, but as you’d expect it’s a little pricier than the supermarkets. There’s also a 24 hour milk vending machine.
We’ve eaten out at the Knight’s Tavern, Farmer’s Grill and Camp Smokey – Camp Smokey is by far our favourite but the kids’ portions are huge so they share. The Knight’s Tavern also shows live sports.
I did end up having to do a quick trip to A&E after my son sprained his leg and the on-site first aider advised us to rule out a fracture – ironically he started walking again fine as soon as we were seen! But Withybush Hospital is just a 15 minute drive away. Bluestone provide leaflets with directions and let us keep our car on site till the next morning.
Notwithstanding our Mexican honeymoon, we have genuinely had our best holidays at Bluestone and have loved watching our children enjoy it more and more as they get older. We will no doubt be going back for many years to come.