We’d talked about heading to Bluestone in Wales for a while – especially after my best friend who just happens to be to be Welsh – recommended it.
And, boy am I glad we just took the plunge and booked in about a month before we went! Its been the highlight of our year so far.
At first I was worried about booking this sort of ‘package’ style holiday where you are trapped on a site with entertainment, themed dinners and no escape! But, it seemed like the perfect family holiday destination.
I found the online booking easy – you could quickly see all the types of rooms and dates clearly. Then you’re confronted with a whole list of extras, which at first seems very daunting. Booking in for dinners and activities etc. really feels me with dread.
But, after reading through the website and what was on offer I realised booking beforehand actually alleviates any holiday stress. As it meant we could plan our time and what we wanted to see and do. Which in turn made it all the more enjoyable and relaxing.
Weird, but it really did.
First up I booked the log-cabin style Ramsey lodge. This offered upside-down living – the family space is upstairs and the bedrooms and bathrooms are downstairs. This of course was perfect for nanny – who joined us to keep Miss Marnie company!
I then booked Miss Marnie in for a few messy play sessions, a spa morning retreat for Mr VIB and I and a Carvery Sunday roast. I also pre-booked a buggy cart to get us around the resort (I highly recommend this) and a welcome hamper (from £16.95).
We arrived Friday mid-afternoon and after parking up (the resort is car free) we collected our buggy and headed to our lodge. Although, at first the cabins appear to be on top of each – they’re actually far enough away from the neighbours to enjoy an Al-fresco bar-b-que or family supper at your own picnic bench in peace.
The pre-booked hamper meant our breakfasts, snacks and drinks were sorted. I’ve never really done self-catering holidays – so, I guess I will get better at this and start to pack my own foodstuff like my mum does! (I remember holidays to Spain with boxes of PG tips being packed amongst my swimsuits).
After a quick unpack and a Welsh cuppa we headed out to explore. We quickly found the cute little village – this is where the bakery, pub, main restaurant, small supermarket, shops and tree house play ground are. The Well Spa is also near here.
We then headed to the Granary Bar for the Children’s Hour. Each evening from 5-6pm there’s a free session for kids includes singing, dancing, games and other kid-friendly crafts. At first I thought Miss Marnie was too young – but she soon found some (older) friends and was having a fab time.
It also meant us adults could sit back, watch on and enjoy a glass of something cold – although be warned there is a little adult participation involved. I had my shoes hidden and had to do a loser dance! Thankfully, I just twisted Miss Marnie around (AKA our little kitchen dance) and was let of the hook! Normally this sort of thing would freak me out – but I guess you really do change when you have kids!
On the Saturday Mr VIB and I were booked in for the Spa Thermal Experience – a morning retreat from 9am-11am for £20 each including a fruit smoothie (or champagne in the evening Sun Down package from 4-7pm). It was lovely – the spa wasn’t too overwhelming or intimidating for the man in your life.
The six thermal rooms including saunas, steam and salt rooms sure did wonders to help those knotted shoulders relax. The outside pool, relaxation areas and Elemis products in the showers were all a treat too. Miss Marnie meanwhile took nanny to the park!
Saturday afternoon Miss Marnie was pre-booked into a messy play session (£7 per child). The theme was Space. She got very messy – to the point were it was easier to strip her to her nappy! (She also managed to get me covered too!)
All the kids had fun playing with the various paints, powders, balloons and toys. The staff were friendly and fun and even did some balloon modelling and face painting. We had also booked her into the next day for a Zoo themed session.
To squeeze the most out of our Saturday we then headed to the Blue Lagoon Waterpark. Free to Bluestone guests – it was one of our major highlights. The fun filled, tropical water-park includes rapid rivers, water flumes and a special area for babies and tots. There’s also an outside hotpot.
Miss Marnie has been a little off swimming pools of late so I was anxious on how she would be in such a huge swimming baths. Let’s just say we couldn’t get her out at all – we stayed for well over 2 hours. And, made plans to go again the next day. (I think if we’d been here all week we would of gone everyday – it’s great for adults and kids.)
Sunday we took it a little easier. We hit the park before our Carvery lunch (which filled us up way past teatime). The restaurant was very relaxed and the food was plentiful and hot. Not the best Sunday roast I have ever had – but great value for money, a good choice and great options for toddlers and kids too.
I really wanted to visit Camp Smokey – it’s new to Bluestone but feared the steep broad walk downhill may be too much for nanny and Miss M – so they headed back to the lodge for a nap. Camp Smokey is a ‘campfire themed’ bar/restaurant and at the heart of the thrilling actives like the zip wires and high ropes.
We stopped for a drink and some S’mores (an American campfire tradition of chocolate, marshmallows and biscuit). Yes – I felt very sick afterwards but at least I had the walk back up the hill to burn of the calories (or that’s whats I told myself!)
Our last evening at Bluestone was spent zipping around in our buggy – where we stopped at the lake to show Miss Marnie the ducks, a quick play in the park and a few drinks and bowls of chips in The Knights Tafarn pub before bedtime.
All-in-all an action packed yet extremely relaxing mini-break. I have to add it’s the first time ever I was tempted to pop into the reception office and book us in for another break (and use the ‘book your next break’ discount). I have never done this on holiday – I prefer to go to new places and book nearer the time.
But, something about Bluestone made us all feel like although if we came back again – even though it would all be the same – it would all be different! There’s so much to do and lots of places to visit nearby that you really can have a ‘planned’ holiday that feels free at the same time.
The Bluestone ‘free range’ holiday message is evident everywhere – and we can’t wait to return.
* Book a buggy if you’re not up for walking everywhere. Not only are they fun and a novel way to get around – although nowhere is very far (within 5-10 mins to walk.) There’s plenty of buggy parks and recharging points around the resort. Costs from £75 – and remember to take your driving licence.
* Don’t be put off with the booking system. Go through each section and decide what you’d like to do before adding to your itinerary. Booking in for meals is really to ensure you get the time you want as they do get busy (although am sure you can just turn up but you may just have a wait which with little ones isn’t easy!)
* Take beach/pool towels for the Blue Lagoon. We forgot ours and had to buy some at the pool (only £4 each) but still a bit of a pain – as how many do I have at home? I remembered Miss Marnie’s tough…
* Take flat shoes or trainers you will be walking alot and especially if you visit Camp Smokey (as it’s down some wooden broad walks in the heart of the woods.)
* Be sure to use the Adventure centre. All indoors – so perfect if rain strikes. This is where the messy play sessions were held – but there is also an indoor rock climbing wall, mini golf course, climbing frames, bouncy castles, a soft play/sensory room and for the grown ups free WiFi and a bar.
* Don’t overdress. It was very relaxed at Bluestone – I wore jeans, flat shoes, casual Tee’s and cosy knits most of the time. Leave your brollies at home too – as there are big umbrellas already in the room for you to use.
* We didn’t use it but if you really wanted to kick back – there’s a laundry and housekeeping service available.
To read another review of Bluestone click here.
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.