**Disclosure – I was invited to Bluestone Wales for a midweek break in return for this honest review. All opinions are my own. This does not affect the integrity of this post.**
This post is about the magical, chilled, friendly, chilled, welcoming, adventurous, did I mention chilled? 5 days we spent at Bluestone National Park Resort .
We arrived around 2:30pm on the Monday and checked in whilst still in our car. A traffic light style system calls you up to the check in window where the staff handed us a welcome pack with our entry key cards and premium wifi code that hubby had purchased, along with a copy of the Village Voice. We parked up and headed straight to the golf buggy hire as this was also the nearest loo’s and nature was a’calling. I’ll talk more about the golf buggies later.
Before I could finish in the loo, hubs had completed the gold buggy pickup so we thought we’d take it for a test spin on a mini tour of the site. We located our lodge which we would be able to access at 4:30pm (or 3pm for other lodge types). You are allowed to bring your car onsite to unload and load up on check in and checkout day but otherwise it must be stored in the car park.
George was loving the golf buggy but we felt after the long journey he needed to stretch his legs in the treehouse play area. The treehouses are fab for children of all ages to explore and overlook the newly refurbished adventure playground which was colourful, clean and great quality. It was lovely to see families congregate here whilst the little ones ran round dizzily deciding what to play on next.
We were staying in a Caldey Lodge in Bartholomew rise not far from the lake. Our two bedroom lodge came complete with an open plan kitchen, diner, lounge with tall ceilings to add to the feel of space. There were french doors which opened onto a patio area with picnic table and bike rack. Off of this lounge area was the twin and master double side by side with the bathroom with shower and large heated towel rail.
The lodge was comfy, cosy and the heating worked a treat. What struck me most was the high quality of everything. Heavy, solid wood furniture in the bedroom and dining area. Strong and decent cooking and kitchen utensils which were all well kept and sparkling clean. It felt like a home from home. (It was actually better than my home!)
Having had spinal surgery when I was a teen, I’m pretty fussy about the beds I sleep in. Don’t get me wrong, I can sleep anytime anywhere,but if I don’t sleep in the right bed then my body can suffer for days. At home we have a half sprung/half memory foam mattress with a feather down topper. It’s my ideal bed and sadly I always miss it when we are on holiday. Bluestone’s mattresses however were absolute bliss. Due to having a toddler that likes me to be near, I spent time in both the twin bed and the double and both were equally comfortable. I literally could have stayed in their beds all day ( if I wasn’t being dragged out at 6am by George every morning)
A unique perk of Bluestone is the ability to be able to hire a golf buggy for either a day or the duration of your stay.The golf buggy is a great novelty and it helps a lot with a toddler in tow. Our trusty steed for the week was number 77 Lili-Mai and we had great fun taking it in turns to whizz round on her.
A warmer time of year we might be tempted to walk more or hire bicycles and trailers but we are so glad that we had the golf buggy as a semi refuge from the rain. It meant we could get from A to B quicker without turning up drenched. Little tip: take extra towels/tea towels for wiping the seat dry which (thanks to Welsh weather) you may find yourself doing half a dozen times a day.
You can also take your own bikes and there’s also guest transport to help you get around the resort with designated bus stops. If I am honest though, the site was not as vast as I’d expected. It’s easily walkable and only marginally hilly in some places. The paths are continually being maintained, with staff filling in puddles and holes with gravel on a regular basis.
Top tip – if you aren’t from Wales, make your peace with the weather before you visit. We went expecting nothing but rain so that anything else would be a bonus. Plus, Rainbows!
Food and Drink
This is mine and hubs favourite part of holidays. We love eating out and trying different eating establishments so we wanted to ensure we tried as many of the onsite restaurants and cafes as possible.
In the end the only places we did NOT try were:-
- The Knight’s Tavern which I popped in to use the toilets and the atmosphere was pleasant and very similar to that of a pub that serves food. It’s the lower end of the budget of the restaurants onsite.
- The Oaktree restaurant which is a pizza / pasta restaurant but on the first night George wanted to be in the lodge so we got takeaway chip shop food from…..
- The Chippy which was nice but I have had better and the staff there lacked a welcoming persona. The fried halloumi is worth a try.
- Farmhouse grill – The second time we planned on visiting the Oaktree we actually changed our minds as we couldn’t resist returning to the Farmhouse Grill for the second night in a row. I’d recommend booking a table here to ensure you get seated. You can tell it’s freshly made using top notch ingredients. To quote their menu;
“Using quality local ingredients to instil a sense a place“
Staff are so attentive. Hubs was massively impressed on our second night when someone accidentally smashed a glass at their table and before you barely heard the smash there were already two members of staff dashing to the table with a mop and broom.
Checkout piccies of what we had below.
The children’s menu is fab and is a world away from the typical chicken nuggets and chips but still appealing to children. The ‘kids platter’ was such a perfect dinner for him with so many of his favourites.
- We also ate twice in the Ty Coffi cafe. Once for a breakfast, (they do a mean beans on toast which went down a storm with George) and their panini’s are great too. There was so much more we could have tried. It was often very busy in there so they definitely could do with a few more staff as the ones there seemed rushed off their feet which meant they didn’t really have time for ‘service with a smile’. t didn’t prevent us from returning though. Their hot chocolates and sausage sandwich are the best way to warm up after a hike through the vast forest.
- Bluestone also have a cafe, Caffi Môr, within the spa which I sadly didn’t try, along with a camp style rustic woodland diner which wasn’t open for the season of our stay.
Things to do
There’s such a vast timetable of activities to do at Bluestone, from shadow puppet shows to baby yoga and massage, 4×4 safari driver experience round a track or a host of tree top activities at the steep ravine.
Explore the forest
We chose to check out the Winter lights enchanted walk in daylight and continue on into the forest where we squelched through mud and then washed our boots in the stream. The forest towards the steep ravine is full of really tall, narrow trees, which when the wind blows creates a creaking noise as the trees all knock together. We enjoyed standing still for a while and listening to this noise, before pretending the trees were going to come crashing down and racing up the hill. George loved this game and natures own sound effects added to the feel.
We also spent a fair amount of time playing at the playground which we nicknamed the Teletubbies playground due to the green hill feature.
We tried the shadow puppet show which was great and the village hall decor is magical. It involved participation and dancing from the kiddies rather than a sit and watch puppet show.
If booking via the website you can find a brief description for each activity but I didn’t use this, preferring to book at the booking office after we got a feel for our surroundings. The show was great and top marks for the effort put in by the staff.
When we had enough of being outside we visited the Blue Lagoon swimming pool. They have something for everyone. Slides, wave machine, pirate ship spray area, lazy river taking you outside and an enclosed baby and toddler splash zone where balls float on the water, they can explore walking round an artificial rock pool, squirting gadgets and basketball. This area has a lockable gate to prevent little ones wandering off towards danger.
The Blue lagoon is also open to the public but it wasn’t overly busy when we went mid morning (residents only) and there was room for everyone. There are also designated photo points where you can use your camera without capturing unknowing suspects in your shot.
The adventure has something for all ages and brings the fun inside. The under 5’s circus zone is completely in another area of the building and features a bright, clean and colourful soft play area, mini ride on car on a track, giant building blocks, and baby gym and balance equipment.
The large main area of the adventure centre downstairs contains masses of wooden climbing frames in a tree house style. Some reaching up the ceiling easily 20 feet in the air. There are free ride on trikes available and a bouncy castle, help yourself to a game of mini golf or play some games at the amusement arcade. There’s also a mechanical digger to dig a large pit of sandy stones and bookable wall climbing for adults and children alike. A mezzanine platform allows you to grab a coffee from the Wildwood cafe whilst the madness ensues downstairs.
Seasonal dinner show
On our final night there we’d booked ourselves into Merlin’s Magical Dinner show. This was in the Wildwood Cafe situated in the adventure centre. Here we had a set menu of roast dinner and desert. This was brought up on a big serving plate to our table where we helped ourselves. Meanwhile the staff were extremely attentive, asking if we needed any more potatoes, gravy etc.
Before and after dinner the staff entertained us by putting on a show in the areas around our tables. There was magic, music, comedy and some audience participation from the children too. This really was an unforgettable dinner experience.
Winter lights parade
The dinner experience over, we all wrapped up warm ready to march in the parade through the site. The parade was led by a 12 foot Merlin wizard whilst a member of staff banged a drum and encouraged us through the cold, night with chanting and singing. The children ran and flashed torches and various items they had made at bookable groups that week.
We all gathered in the courtyard at the Knights tavern where the staff and Merlin took to the balcony to guide us as we watched the light how featured in my video below. They then sang into the evening whilst the crowd sang and danced along. It felt like such a wonderful community vibe and no one was in a hurry to be anywhere.
Check Out my youtube video to see more of the light show
People tried to warn me I would be cold in Wales but I didn’t anticipate HOW cold. I lived in 3 layers all week. I’d defo buy thermal undies if visiting in Winter again.
Having said that, our stay has totally changed my outlook on going out in bad weather. I’ve never been too fussed as I’m a football supporter but Bluestone has really cemented the ideal that whatever the weather, fun can be had.
Hubs and I have already said we would love to return in the summer, maybe with friends or family. I think travelling from Essex is aa long way for a mid week break so I’d prefer 7 days in future. I’d love to checkout the local sites and beaches too as we didn;t leave the resort this stay.
This is a place where you can return again and again and never tire as every activity differs. I’d also love to try one of the upside living lodges, offering fab views of the Welsh countryside.
If you like the sound of a stay at Bluestone, checkout prices and availability on their website http://www.bluestonewales.com/