Bluestone National Park Resort Review (with a Toddler!)
We’ve just got back from our very first trip to Bluestone National Park Resort, taken in the beginning of January 2019.
My husband and I run our own business that is very busy over Christmas, so rather than a relaxing Christmas and New Year we have to deal with longer hours, more hours, more customers (who often have very specific demands and time pressures themselves) and even on Christmas Day we have to go in to work for a few hours! We decided to take a few well deserved days off in January for a short break to relax – well, as much as you can relax when you go on holiday with a toddler anyway! As we learned on our 10 day Scottish Highlands trip last summer, driving on holiday with a baby or toddler can be extremely challenging. This time we chose to take a break at Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire, West Wales!
I want to mention that Bluestone National Park Resort does run a bloggers program where they invite families on to the resort to experience it in exchange for a review and social media sharing. I’m not (yet) lucky enough to have been chosen for that – so our first experience at Bluestone National Park Resort was completely paid for by ourselves, including all extras. Since I read so many helpful reviews before taking the plunge, I wanted to share my Bluestone National Park Resort review with you as well.
Finding Bluestone Resort & Checking In
We left Cardiff at around 1pm to coincide with our son’s nap time (a sleeping toddler is the best type of toddler for a car trip!) which means we got to Bluestone National Park Resort around 3pm. It was easy to find using our Sat Nav but I would definitely recommend driving as it’s a little bit out of the way and would be quite difficult to access by public transport, especially with lots of luggage. There was a very small queue on arrivals of about 5 minutes and as we’d pre-registered our guest details on the website it took literally 1 minute to check in at the drive-through and then a couple of minutes to explain the site to us and we were off! Well.. off to the main car park anyway.
Our Bluestone National Park Resort lodge (Caldey) was available from 4:30pm which I think is a little late in the day especially in the winter when it’s already dark when you’re unloading the car and getting settled. That being said, you can use the facilities around the site from 11am in the morning so we parked up the car at 3pm on arrival and then spent 90 minutes in the soft play and playing mini golf. If we’d got there in the morning I would definitely have headed to the swimming pool! I don’t think it’s worth paying extra to use the accommodation earlier though, as all you’re going to do is drop your bags off and head out to the facilities anyway, but it is definitely worth packing your swim stuff and a change of clothes in a separate bag so you can let the kids run wild and burn off some energy before getting into your Bluestone lodge.
Our Caldey lodge at Bluestone Resort – Carn Menyn 20
Since we’d booked a golf buggy (our experience at Center Parcs has told us we need one with a toddler in these large resorts) we really didn’t care about the location of our lodge. We picked the cheapest available and left it up to chance. I felt fairly confident that even the most basic of accommodations would meet our needs. We could have chosen an exact location, but considering it almost cost as much to do so as hire the golf buggy, it seemed like a waste. If you’ve got a golf buggy then it doesn’t matter how far away you are as it’s all just a 5 minute zoom-zoom away (plus driving around is super fun!) By the end of the week our son was yelling “vroom vroom” and “beep beep” as we drove around – and we have a toddler who is speech delayed, so this was great!
Our lodge was located in a quiet forested area about 5-10 minutes walk from The Village called Carn Menyn number 20. If you’re in this area I’d say it’s 15 minutes walk from the Adventure Centre and 20 minutes walk from the pool – up a hill too! In the buggy this was a fun couple of minutes so we had no stress about getting around at all. The lodge was very quiet even though we had adjoining neighbours and the rear garden backed onto hedges and forest which was absolutely teeming with birds and wildlife.
If you want to keep kids busy you could buy a book – or print out a guide – of garden birds, water birds and wildlife. Some of the garden species we saw included sparrows, starlings, blackbirds, crows, robins, coal tits, great tits, thrushes, wrens, dunnocks and my favourite part, a woodpecker who visited every morning. On the lakeside there were gulls, ducks, moorhens and quite unusual considering the size of the lake, a cormorant. On top of that there were plenty of chunky squirrels and we spotted a rabbit as well – I’m sure they are in great abundance in the summer! An inexpensive pot of bird seed and another of duck food will go a long way and really help the whole family engage with nature, but try not to feed the ducks bread if you can avoid it!
Our Caldey lodge at Bluestone Resort was a two bedroom open plan affair with plenty of space. A travel cot was provided and would have fit in either bedroom. As with any accommodation, they don’t supply a cot sheet so make sure you bring your own. A thin mattress is provided which was ample for my son, but we brought his toddler pillow. Everything was clean and it contained all the things I could want for a break away from home. I read in some reviews there was no hairdryer so packed my own, but there was in fact one in the bedroom drawer anyway. Even though we were traveling in winter, the heating was extremely effective – in fact my husband cranked it up to max and we were soon boiling as it was far more effective than he’d anticipated!
There are two things I’d like to note if you’re going to Bluestone Resort and staying in a Caldey Lodge on holiday with a toddler. The first is that all the kitchen cupboards are at perfect toddler height which had my son in the dishwasher before we’d even got the luggage into the lodge! There are no wall cupboards, so no where to store anything you don’t want little fingers getting into and the cupboards do not have child locks. This means you really can’t leave a toddler alone for more than 3 seconds if like mine, they love opening cupboards unless you remove anything you don’t want them touching and just have it on the counter top. Far back. I did feel this was a bit of a flawed design from someone who does not have a toddler at home! The second is that the bathroom is a wet room with a shower and not a bath. This was fine for my toddler at 20 months who absolutely loves taking a shower with daddy, but if yours doesn’t like showers you may want to book one of the larger lodges with a full bath, or you could take an inflatable sit in bath for little ones.
If you don’t have a toddler then I really can’t fault it! Even with the cupboard flaw, we were happy with our accommodation and felt it was excellent value for money. We wouldn’t hesitate to book a Caldey lodge again and would be very happy to be in the same location.
The Activities and Facilities at Bluestone Resort
The main draw for us was the open trails, forests and nature that was on our doorstep. This is what we wanted – a true break from the city, from the internet, from social media, from work. Just us as a family in a beautiful setting, talking, laughing and making memories. You could easily spend a week here just going for walks and enjoying the setting and the wildlife. Just be aware that if you take a winter break like us you’re going to need some waterproofs and wellies!
The Blue Lagoon Swimming Complex
There’s plenty to do as well though and we absolutely loved The Blue Lagoon which is the swimming complex. Unlimited entry is included in your stay and since William loves the swimming pool, we made sure to make use of it every single day and felt like we had excellent value from that. The Blue Lagoon has loads of changing rooms, a swim shop and cafe. It’s got one main wave pool which connects to the lazy river which flows outside. I was a bit worried that going in January would be too cold – but the water is incredibly well heated, so even with a baby or toddler you will have no problem with the temperature. It’s got a baby pool complete with balls, slide, toys and rock pools and then a bigger toddler/pre-school area with water jets. There are four slides, which I declined to go on – but my husband went on every single one twice each day and loved them. There are also hot tubs indoors and outdoors. We spent about 2 hours here every day.
There’s also this cheeky Lego scuba diver at the entrance which my son loved!
We went at various times of the day – 5pm, 10am and noon. It was the most busy at noon and was very quiet the other days. My husband never experienced a single minutes queue for the slides which is awesome – as he sometimes has to wait 10 minutes to go on our local one. Being able to sit pool side as a spectator was a bonus as it meant I could get the toddler dressed and have some snacks and ice cream from the snack bar whilst daddy went on all the slides and sat in the hot tub (nice for some!)
One thing I will note is that I noticed the child policy is that children under 4 have to be accompanied by adults 1:1. This means if you have two under 4 you will need both parents present, and if you have three kids then you may not be able to use the pool all together at all, so that’s worth bearing in mind for larger families.
Other Free Activities
Other free activities that we went on included the soft play area in the adventure centre – small, but good fun for half hour and the mini golf. Playing mini golf with a toddler is quite hard. We gave it a go, but it was more “chase after a small human running away with your ball” game than golf, but it was very quiet and usually empty. There was a guided trail walk which was interesting and informative, and we spent quite a bit of time walking around the lake and looking at the water birds.
Finally, as we were there in the winter, the Winter Light’s were active. This trail was absolutely amazing – loads of different lights and exhibits set up in the forest, complete with fairy homes, magic mushrooms, spiders, snails, foxes, owls and more. It really was a beautiful atmosphere and a great walk. Since those going in the winter don’t have as much time to cram in all the outdoor activities, this is definitely a good bonus. Just wrap up really warm!
There are so many activities to do that you really should spend some time on the website in advance. You can book them as soon as you’ve booked your holiday and you do need to book as some things fill up quite quickly. The website lets you sort by age range and type of activity and gives dozens of options every single day. We only booked two activities for our toddler, a Woody Wildlife show (Buzzby the Bee) and Messy Play.
The show was quite entertaining (well, for pre-schoolers anyway), with lots of singing, dancing and interactive activities. It was very packed though and my toddler found the noise and amount of people a little overwhelming. It was £3 each so we spent £9 in total – not bad for an hours interactive entertainment.
Messy Play was much more his style as there were only 8 children in the group – so there were more play stations than children for this activity. There was arts and painting, clay, a kitchen station with all sorts of slime and oats, a water play area, a ball pit and bubbles. This was a very enjoyable – and definitely very messy! – hour that we thought was excellent value for money at £8 for children (no charge for adults).
Otherwise there’s a wide range of things from archery and sports tournaments to arts and crafts to rock climbing.
The Food at Bluestone Resort
We ate out a few times as although we were trying to be budget friendly, I also wanted a bit of a break from cooking! We ate out at the Farmhouse Grill where a spicy burger, a slab of succulent pork belly, a portion of onion rings and a (rather large!) child’s meal plus two pints and a soft drink came to £45 and at the Knight’s Tafarn, where Fish and chips, ham egg and chips and sides of seasonal vegetables and onion rings along with three soft drinks came to £35. We also had lunch on the final day before driving home at the Wildwood Cafe, which came to £20 for the three of us. On the whole we found the portions big, the food tasty and whilst the menus were pretty simple, they offered us plenty of choice for pub-style food. If you’re a cider fan I recommend trying the local craft bottled Taffy Cider which is medium dry and full flavoured.
We also bought a few essentials in the shop, which has a limited – but perfectly adequate selection of basics. If you’re doing a self catering shop, I’d recommend either doing a Tesco shop online (yes you can do that!) or stopping somewhere on your way in to stock up for the week. On the whole I’d say the prices for food and drinks on site were around 20% higher than you’d expect to pay off site. It’s not going to break the bank for a treat, but a family eating out every day would soon add up so it makes sense to make use of the self-catering facilities.
The Bluestone Resort website does have menu’s for all the eateries, so you can easily see if it suits and thus plan how much food you bring with you accordingly.
The surrounding area of Pembrokeshire
There is so much to do in the surrounding area if you want to go off site – which is ideal for longer holidays. In this trip as we were only there for 4 nights and it was our first visit, we didn’t go off site, but if you’re there for a full week, have older children who want to explore or have been a few times, the local area has loads to offer.
From beautiful towns, to beaches, castles, zoos and rollercoasters – I’ve compiled my top ten reasons to visit Pembrokeshire. You should find plenty of ideas for things to do with the family there!
Bluestone National Park Resort is Eco-Friendly
I’m an eco-conscious mum. That means I try to be aware of my impact on the world around me, and where possible, try to minimize it. Whether it’s cutting down on plastic use, using disposable nappies or buying organic cotton, making greener choices is really important to me. It’s hard to balance a busy life, convenience, kids, money and the environment – but I do think we can still make a difference!
Bluestone National Park Resort is a conscientious holiday resort. It means they’ve managed to do their best to combine luxury, convenience and be environmentally friendly. You’ll see solar panels on the roof tops and they ask you to leave the tags and toiletry bottles to be re-used, whilst recycling bins are provided with clear labels and bags already in them ready to be used. They use the Green Dragon Environmental Management System to measure and monitor their impact on the environment. They also run something called the Bluestone Foundation, which helps the local community and establishes environmental, economic and social projects in Pembrokeshire.
By encouraging people to walk or use buggies, car emissions for the week are low and the buggies are charged through electricity so are emission free. The Blue Lagoon is heated through eco-friendly energy.
I felt reassured that this was a resort that like me, was Eco-conscious – looking at the ways in which they could improve and trying to minimize their impact on the environment whilst also providing all the modern conveniences that we love.
The negative bits
Well, nowhere is perfect! I had a fabulous time but I will talk about the negatives so you can decide whether it bothers you or not. As previously mentioned, the check in time of 4:30pm is quite late and will put you in after dark in the winter unless you pay extra, which only gets you in at 3pm. For those on a budget, the restaurants and shop on site are a bit more expensive than off-site and it will add up if you use them a lot and although there are a lot of activities, the prices for a large family will definitely mount up quickly if your kids want to do multiple things. That’s entirely optional though and we managed a budget break without a moment of boredom.
Towels for the pool aren’t included or available to rent, if you forget, you’ll need to buy one at £4, your passes are just paper print outs and the lockers take £1 coins which feels rather outdated after going to Center Parcs where the lockers and entry are all activated with your wristband/keycard so you don’t have to carry change. I hate worrying about carrying multiple tickets and things that can get lost easily.
Finally, the mobile signal is not great (it was okay with Three (one bar) but absolutely much non existent with Virgin) and the WiFi was poor at best – but we didn’t pay extra for the “premium wifi” as we were only going to be there for 4 days and could live without it. It was enough for me to check my email and send a few pics to my mum, but if you’re planning on watching any Netflix or uploading video, you’ll definitely want to upgrade.
When can we go back to Bluestone Resorts?!
Those are really the only negative things I can say about Bluestone Resort, so on the whole I’d say it was a roaring success for us! Those of you with toddlers will know the joys of going on holiday only to be met with tantrums, refusals to walk anywhere, lack of sleep and having to pack 62 suitcases just for one incredibly tiny human being. Sometimes going on holiday with a toddler feels like it’s not worth the effort – but Bluestone is perfectly set up for families, even with little ones and it was our first break away that was tantrum free! Absolutely no drama! We will definitely be returning and would 100% recommend it to families who want a relaxing holiday with plenty of family-friendly activities on offer.
I’m already eyeing up some potential dates in our calendar for warmer months when we can take advantage of the beautiful Pembrokeshire beaches as well, but don’t be put off by cold weather or rain, just pack the right clothes and there’s still loads to do!