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Bluestone Wales review: Celtic magic transformed

Bluestone Wales

You might be forgiven for thinking that Wales is an unglamorous holiday destination. Picturesque, yes; welcoming, undoubtedly. But probably without the pizazz that makes overseas breaks that little bit special.

However, Bluestone Wales, a five-star family resort set in 500 acres of the rolling Pembrokeshire wilds, holds a lot of the magic that is particular to Wales; and it’s cleverly reinterpreted, so both children and adults can unleash their inner Celt.

Bluestone Wales

View over Bluestone’s Village

Here are some of the highlights of our mid-week break.

Nature and free-range fun

Bluestone Wales

Bluestone is set in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, with ‘free range fun’ as one of its marketing slogans. With 300 different-sized self-catering lodges, cottages and apartments, you don’t feel as though you’re completely out in the wilds, but there is a calm, quiet air to the place. The roads are car-free (except for disabled and service vehicles), and we felt extremely safe while pedalling around on our hire bikes.

Bluestone Wales

Me and Gwen, cycling round the lake. I love the Scandi feel to this shot!

 

I’d advise anyone who visits to choose cycling as a way to get around the resort. There are golf buggies for hire, but it was an awful lot of fun whizzing around on wheels that weren’t motorised (having said that, the ascent from our lodge to the Blue Lagoon and Adventure Centre was a big thigh-trembler….). We hired a tag for Austin to ride on behind D, and a carriage for Gwen. Both were new experiences for them, and the excitement still hadn’t worn off by the end of our stay (‘Mummy! Daddy! Can we go out on our bikes yet?’ ‘*Groan* It’s only 6 o’clock in the morning….’).

Bluestone Wales

Austin on his tag

 

Bluestone Wales

Gwen in the carriage

 

Bluestone has reached Level 5 of the Green Dragon Environmental Standard, and the resort’s activities make the most of its natural life. Gwen spent a lovely hour with Grandma, beast hunting along a nature trail (a worm and beetle were found, but woodlice managed to evade capture).

Bluestone Wales

Bug lodge at the lakeside, using natural and recycled objects to create a welcoming home for creepy crawlies

For the kids

Bluestone Wales

Treetots, the play area in the Village

There was a lot to keep the children happy.

Bluestone Wales

Austin tickles the Hobbit on the Magic Village children’s adventure

By day the resort’s entertainers played fairies, cowboys, elves and pirates; in the evening they could be seen entertaining the adults (we ran into a transformed cowgirl-turned-jazz-singer in the Knights Tafarn on our evening out).

Bluestone Wales

Fairy hunting in the Magic Village

Woodland creatures (a ladybird, bee, snail and hedgehog) met guests at designated times each day, to lead games of hide-and-seek, hokey-cokey, and counting to ten in Welsh.

Bluestone Wales

Meeting Huwie Hedgehog at Camp Smokey

The children’s activities were exemplary. The ‘adventures’, where children (in age-specific groups, starting at four years old) explored the resort’s wilds, were a nice take on childcare. We didn’t feel in the slightest bit guilty sending Austin off with rangers on the three-hour Mud Mystery, hunting for a dragon’s egg. There was also a creche, and activities for the under-fours (who had to be accompanied by an adult).

Bluestone Wales

Austin and the dragon’s egg, at the end of the Mud Mystery

The Blue Lagoon water park was well-designed for people who enjoy a leisurely splash or a whizzy ride down chutes. Our favourites included the lazy river, which took you from one end of the pool; outside (surprisingly bearable given the March chill – the water was lovely and warm) and then back in the other side.

Bluestone Wales

More for the kiddoes than us (I’ve overdosed on indoor play centres since becoming a parent), the Adventure Centre was an impressive space where the children could loaf around in ball pools, scale the multi-level climbing tower, jump around on the bouncy castle, get creative on the Lego wall, and play a game of mini golf. For the older children there were high ropes and a very high swing.

Bluestone Wales

The food

Bluestone Wales

Camp Smokey

Bluestone catered for a wide range of tastes. After a relatively unpromising start at the Wildwood Cafe in the Adventure Centre (the customer service was excellent; the menu uninspired), we were pleased to discover Camp Smokey, a gorgeous cabin in the forest, which served real ale and barbequed food with an American flavour. You could even toast marshmallows over the fire.

Bluestone Wales

Bluestone Wales

Scampi and chips at the Knight’s Tafarn

On our final day we enjoyed good-quality bar food at the Knight’s Tafarn, but the culinary highlight was the Oak Tree Restaurant, which D and I visited on its opening evening. The food was Welsh-Italian fusion; I had a starter of grilled peppers and salt cod (bursting with flavour) followed by a Welsh beef bolognaise. This was incredible – unsurpassed by any bolognaise I’ve tasted, even in Italy. If you do visit Bluestone, and consider yourself anything of a food-lover, the Oak Tree is a must.

Bluestone Wales

The Oak Tree Restaurant sits above the Knights Tafarn

Accommodation

Bluestone Wales

Our home for the four-night stay was a four-bedroom Dinas lodge in Forest View. This was near The Village (where the shops, spa and a few of the restaurants are housed); it was also, as the name suggests, on the edge of a wood, with a winding path that took you along one of the resort’s nature trails.

Bluestone Wales

Woodland nature trail

With a large dining/kitchen area as well as a lounge, the wooden lodge (all on one level) had enough space for two families of four. For us, it was perfect; Grandma and her partner (who live nearby) came to join us for one night, and there was plenty of space for moving people around when our two excited young children (five and three years old) had difficulties in dropping off to sleep.

Bluestone Wales

Part of the lounge area in our Dinas Lodge

Although the lodges were built recently (Bluestone opened in July 2008), the traditional dark wooden furniture gave a classic feel, and pictures showing local scenes (available to buy from the Village Central information centre) brightened up the spring-green walls.

Our lodge was well-equipped, with two fridges and a dishwasher; no washing machine, but Bluestone offers a laundry service. If I was quibbling, I’d say it would have been useful to have our own machine, given the amount of clothing changes needed for two small children. But, on the whole, we were delighted with our accommodation.

Bluestone Wales

Bluestone lodges vary in size, from two to four bedrooms

The history, spa and activities for adults

Dave and I both listed Terry John’s history walk as one of our favourite experiences; as for me, I came away from the Celtic Spa experience feeling as though I could wrestle tigers. These deserve their own post, which you can read here.

What do you look for in a family-friendly holiday in the UK?

 

Disclosure: we were given a four-night mid-week break at Bluestone Wales for the purpose of this review. All views are my own.

If you want to find out more about things to do in this part of Wales, check out my feature on things to do in Pembrokeshire.

 

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37 Comments

  • mama syder
    April 7, 2015 at 7:15 am

    I love Wales although I haven’t been for years. This place looks fab. love the look of Camp smokey! x

    Reply
  • Sabina
    April 7, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Bluestone looks like our sort of place, we are definitely happiest when outdoors.

    Being part Welsh I absolutely love Wales and particularly this area we have stayed with family in recent years.

    Great review and nice to hear the accommodation is big enough for large families such as ours.

    Reply
  • Louise Edwards
    April 7, 2015 at 9:53 am

    What beautiful photos – this place looks amazing. I love Wales and this place looks perfect for an outdoor loving family like us. My kids would go wild for the Lego wall! x

    Reply
    • Nell
      April 8, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      The Lego wall was one of their favourites. They had a ball with the outdoor activities too – we live in Central London so they don’t often experience the wilds!

      Reply
  • Michelle
    April 7, 2015 at 9:58 am

    I have never been to Wales, and really need to rectify that! Bluestone looks gorgeous, I especially love the photo of the fairy hunting! x

    Reply
  • Clare Mansell
    April 7, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Wales is a great holiday destination! We had a wonderful trip to the Brecon Beacons a few years ago, the scenery was stunning. As for Bluestone, I have seen a few posts about it and it seems to look better and better as the year goes on!

    Reply
  • Izzie Anderton
    April 7, 2015 at 10:53 am

    So happy to hear that you had a fabulous break at Bluestone. We were lucky enough to visit in January and loved it!

    Reply
  • Stephs Two Girls
    April 7, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Fab pics – we love Bluestone too, especially the Lagoon and Adventure Centre! 🙂 x

    Reply
  • Erica Price
    April 7, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    It looks like a lovely place to visit – I’d love to go some day.

    Reply
  • Globalmouse
    April 7, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    I love your photos, they make me want to visit right now!! It looks great and like they’ve thought of everything!

    Reply
  • Victoria
    April 7, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    we are going next week, cant wait!

    Reply
    • Nell
      April 8, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      Say hello to Camp Smokey for me!

      Reply
  • Lucy Dorrington
    April 7, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    I am pleased to hear that there is lots to do for older children. My son is nine and it does get harder to keep them busy as they get older!

    Reply
  • Sylvia @ Happiness is homemade
    April 7, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Wales is beautiful! Still on my list of places to visit (it’s quite long!). It looks like you had so much fun out there 🙂

    Reply
  • Nayna Kanabar
    April 7, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    What a wonderful place to visit, I like holidays like these and will surely check them out.

    Reply
  • Sarah Bailey
    April 7, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    This looks like such an amazing place, we are off in June and I cannot wait to experience it for myself. x

    Reply
    • Nell
      April 8, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      Ooh have a wonderful time there. I bet June would be the perfect time to visit.

      Reply
  • angela hamilton
    April 7, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Beautiful. I would love to visit Wales and when I do I would visit Bluestone

    Reply
  • Michelle
    April 7, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    We went there lost year, it’s a fantastic place for the kids xxx

    Reply
  • Ruthy @ Minibreak Mummy
    April 8, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Wow this looks fantastic! Absolutely perfect for us, as we love the outdoors. I’m hoping we can go next year.

    Reply
  • Kara
    April 9, 2015 at 6:42 am

    We loved it when we visited but didn’t explore as much as we would have liked as it was so wet

    Reply
  • Penny A Residence
    April 9, 2015 at 7:28 am

    First time I have really got a sense of the architecture and what the place looks like from a post about it, it really is pretty and scandi in places as you say!

    Reply
    • Nell
      April 9, 2015 at 5:41 pm

      Thanks- the views really were beautiful, very typical of the region.

      Reply
  • Nikki Fraser
    April 9, 2015 at 8:03 am

    It looks like a great holiday 🙂 I love the tag along picture, he looks very pleased with him self.

    Reply
  • Stephanie
    April 9, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    It looks idyllic – and every little girl (and big ones too – ahem!) should go fairy hunting 🙂 #timetraveller

    Reply
  • chickenruby
    April 9, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    I love Pembrokeshire, although its been a 3 years since I’ve visited there even though my family are in Wales

    Reply
  • Sarah Ebner
    April 9, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    Oh my goodness, what a great place. And the history walk too – sounds fab!!

    Reply
  • Nikki Thomas
    April 9, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    What a brilliant review. I think Wales is a wonderful holiday destination. I have heard wonderful things about Bluestone but it is quite pricey. It is on our list though and we hope to go in the next year.

    Reply
  • Zena's Suitcase
    April 9, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Bluestone looks amazing. I love your review, you’ve really brought to life the outdoor setting. It looks perfect for an active family

    Reply
  • Mari
    April 10, 2015 at 6:27 am

    There is so much to say, what a fabulous place with so much to do. The LEGO wall is genius, I’ve not seen that before at a holiday resort. I love the lodges and Camp Smokey looks my perfect place to visit.
    Thank you so much for linking up with Time Traveller, I have really enjoyed seeing Bluestone Wales.

    Reply
  • mummy Tries
    April 10, 2015 at 6:36 am

    Sounds like you all had an absolutely amazing time Nell! I’ve heard nothing but great things about Bluestone x

    Reply
  • Erica Price
    April 10, 2015 at 8:00 am

    I can believe Wales to be pretty magical. It’s where we go for holidays most often.. I love your pics of Bluestone – looks wonderful.

    Reply
  • Emma
    April 10, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    What a fantastic place to stay, Wales is so beautiful isn’t it? It’s great to have a name of a family friendly place to visit for the future! 🙂

    Reply
  • Ryan Costello
    April 11, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    We love Wales and we love Bluestone. Glad you did too. Looks like you had a great time 🙂

    Reply
  • Jaime Oliver
    April 12, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    We would so love to visit, we have wales on our must visit list this year so will have to look harder at this place x

    Reply
  • Cherished By Me
    April 12, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    What an amazing place, it looks so beautiful and absolutely full of things to do. The smiles on their faces at the riding, so so lovely. 🙂

    Reply
  • Fritha Strickland
    April 13, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    ah love Bluestone! we are off there next month, can’t wait! x

    Reply

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