Bluestone Review: An Eid Holiday in Wales
Bluestone Review: Eid Weekend away
Following the arrival of our children, we were yet to take our first family holiday as a family of five. With Eid falling on a Friday, it was an opportune time to plan our first family adventure and combine it with celebrating Eid away from home. We returned home after a wonderful weekend in Bluestone and it will forever hold a special place as our first family adventure. Here’s our Bluestone Review
Arrival at Bluestone & Celebrating Eid on Holiday
As any Muslim parent will attest to, Eid morning with young children is a frantic mix of sleepiness, excitement and panic about missing the last scheduled prayer at mosque. Follow this up with an uncharacteristically nightmarish traffic-filled journey through the Welsh valleys from Birmingham, it was definitely a welcome sight to see the entrance to the Bluestone Resort in Pembrokeshire late on Friday night! Despite its location, the route to the West Wales resort is well-lit and signposted and a surprisingly short distance from the M4.
Despite it being close to midnight, the security staff at the drive-through check-in desk was refreshingly up-beat and welcoming, and directed us to our lovely Gateholm (upside-down!) Lodge in the Knight’s Rest area of the resort. As we entered the lodge we were greeted by the most thoughtful Eid Mubarak decorations festooned across the hall and staircase, and upstairs in the living area. It was such a meaningful touch, and really made us feel welcome and guaranteed it would be an Eid to remember for us all. Needless to say, it was a lovely surprise for the children the next morning, though unfortunately, the balloons didn’t survive the three of them for long!
Bluestone Review: Family Friendly Accommodation
Bluestone has a range of accommodation available for visitors from apartments to cottages to a range of log cabin style lodges. From all the different holiday parks, Bluestone offers the widest range of different sized accommodation and one which lends itself for breaks for larger groups and families.
Our lodge was located in the north-eastern corner of the resort, which did unfortunately mean that we didn’t have panoramic views of the countryside, but rather looked on to other houses and the road. The space was great for a family of five though; there’s a master with ensuite bathroom and two more decent sized twins plus a family shower room. The upside-down nature of this house means that all the bedrooms and bathrooms are actually on the bottom floor, with the upstairs devoted to one large open-plan living area comprising of a modern kitchen, dining room and seating area. The dining table seats eight and the sofas can comfortably fit 5/6 people. The kitchen comes with the standard fridge with freezer box and oven and hob that you would expect, plus a dishwasher for those less keen on the suds and scourer.
As with all aspects of this resort, the accommodation is definitely built with families in mind. There are stairgates at the top and bottom of the stairs, a high chair and a cot bed included in each lodge, a designated nappy bin, and plenty of plastic cutlery and crockery, which is a relief for those of us with especially accident prone little ones. As ours are particularly young (all three are 5 and under) we would have benefitted from having child-locks on the kitchen cupboards, which are all floor level, as it didn’t take long for our youngest explorer to locate the pots, pans and glass bowls, and head directly to them whenever our backs were turned.
The upside-down design of the lodge also meant that once naptime comes, you are suddenly painfully aware of every footstep and thud coming from the living room overhead. It also meant, that, because the windows only have a single curtain (rather than blinds or netting), those in hijab would have to keep their scarves on downstairs, which is overlooked from all aspects, or keep the curtains shut all day (as we did), which is a shame.
Bluestone Review: What the accommodation includes
Other things to note about the accommodation; the house comes well equipped with plenty of towels, extra sheets and pillows and all the cooking appliances and crockery you need. There is also a small cleaning pack with washing up liquid, a sponge and some dishcloths. However, there are some things we expected would be provided as standard that weren’t, such as toiletries for the shower, cooking staples that you always forget to bring (oil and salt or example) along with tea, coffee and sugar. The pans that are provided are a good size but they aren’t non-stick, so if you plan on frying food it may be worth bringing your own.
Our biggest gripe with the accommodation though, and don’t judge us, was the limited TV options. With young children with early bed times, we’re pretty much house-bound past 8pm and having something good to watch whilst on holiday is something we look forward to doing together as a couple. The TV is digital, but doesn’t have even some of the basic Freeview channels, let alone movie channels or catch-up options. There is a DVD player but no DVD rentals on-site and the standard WiFi that is available for free is not strong enough to stream from should you have come prepared with the iPad and Netflix in mind.
Bluestone Review: Activities available onsite
Where this resort excels itself is in the sheer number and diversity of activities available for adventurers of all ages. With just a weekend, and a typically wet Welsh one at that, we barely scraped the surface of all the exciting To Do’s we thought our adventurers would love.
Bluestone Blue Lagoon
First on the list, and undisputed highlight for the water lovers of the family, was the Blue Lagoon. This huge indoor water park boasts four flumes, a wave pool, a toddler area and an outdoor spa pool for the adults and its free to all guests at the resort.
Bear in mind that there are height restrictions though and if like us, you only have one adult who likes to get wet (I CAN swim, I just choose not to), then there are restrictions about how many children can be in your care at any one time. The changing rooms are all private family rooms and the centre also has a café and shop, which came in handy as our Car Packer in Chief forgot the swimming bag at home with all the suits and inflatables.
Bluestone Outdoor Activities
For the more aquatically challenged in the family (i.e. me), by far the highlight of the trip, and the reason to trek halfway across the country to the far west of this island, was the beautiful scenery. There are a number of woodland walks to choose from and we tackled the Green Route around the Steep Ravine which was surprisingly buggy friendly with some spectacular forest views.
The route alone provided our little adventurers with much to look out for, with decorative bug sculptures hidden amongst the trees, lots of information boards of minibeasts, plants and animals to try and spot, and even a bug hotel. According to the activity list though there are plenty of other things going on in the forest for both children and adults alike. Ranger walks, a treasure trail and various woodland workshops are all available (though you may have to book in advance) and for older children and adults, why not enjoy the panoramic views at bird’s eye level with either the High Ropes, Tree Climbing or even the 60ft Zip Wire!
Bluestone Indoor Activities
Despite the weather forecast, Sunday brought a grey and rainy day, so it was a perfect opportunity to explore the indoor Adventure Centre. This huge building houses a massive indoor play area with activities for toddlers all the way up to hard to please teenagers. Wooden climbing frames, mini golf, an arcade area, a high ropes sky trail and abseiling and climbing wall are sure to fill the hours of any wet day, and the on-site Wildwood Café means you can even refuel with lunch without leaving the centre. Again, the chicken was halal, although only for the adult menu.
When the kids, or more likely the parents, have had enough of the noise and hubbub of the play area, you can head upstairs to the quieter soft play Circus Zone for younger children (5 and under). This was a great room for our younger two explorers (aged 2 and a half and 10 months), and even our five-year-old was happy building a fortress with the jumbo Lego pieces. There is also a Messy Room available and a crèche and nursery facility but these do need to be pre-booked and paid for. The Adventure Centre is also the central point for a lot of the advertised workshops and Mini Rangers activities.
One of the Family Rangers activities advertised is the Tawny Tails interactive performance with Gavin the Hobbit. As a hardcore LOTR fan, this immediately went down well with our eldest adventurer and the somewhat unstructured pirate-themed tale was a hands-down success with all the children, with bubble, snow and smoke machines sending them into gales of hysterical laughter. At £8 per child, the kids, if not the adults, definitely got their money’s worth. Do note that you should book early to avoid disappointment as there are limited spaces.
Bluestone Review: Restaurants and Amenities
Having worked up an appetite with all the swimming and walking, we headed to the Village which is the delightfully quaint centre of the resort, with pastel-shaded cottages and shops centred around an outdoor playground. The playground itself is a wonderful idea, with activities for all ages, as it keeps the little ones suitably distracted whilst the inevitable discussions ensue as to where to eat that evening. There are three restaurants in the village, the Oak Tree, The Knight’s Tafarn and the Farmhouse Grill. We chose the Oak Tree and were pleasantly surprised to find that the Italian menu served halal chicken. The food arrived quickly and went down well with the hungry kids but don’t expect fine Italian dining. There is an upstairs outdoor terrace which is great in good weather if you prefer not to sit close to the alcohol being served.
The Village also has a selection of shops available with a grocery store, a gift shop, cafés and a chippy stall.
Bluestone Review: Getting around Bluestone
Getting around the campsite 500 acre with three young children and their associated baggage requirements without a car (the site is a car-free zone with exception of unloading and loading) requires either strong legs (for walking or cycling), or the newly discovered joys of the Buggy. The electric buggy cars area available for hire and are the perfect way for getting around the site easily, with bonus points for their child driving simulation potential.
There are plenty of charging points all over the site, including next to the accommodation so you needn’t worry about being caught out with a flat battery. It does cost £30 for 24 hours of hire, but having given ours back a few hours late, we didn’t face any additional charges. Alternatively, you can ride bikes, or hire bike trailers to get around or jump on the buggy bus that comes at regular intervals and stops all around the site.
Bluestone Review: Checking out
We were booked in from the Friday to the Monday which allowed us to check out whenever it was convenient for us on the Sunday night. As most parents with young children will have discovered, nothing quite beats being lulled to sleep with a long motorway drive home, so with the kids fed and dressed for bed we left the site at 8pm to face the long journey home. The check-out process is the epitome of simple – just drop in your lodge’s key card in the outdoor bin at the exit barrier and your away.
Bluestone Review : Our final thoughts
All in all, it was a brilliant weekend away for Eid. The whole family thoroughly enjoyed themselves and it was lovely to celebrate Eid in the beautiful British countryside and away from the hectic-ness of the city. Having the stunning countryside right on your literal doorstep as well as a host of activities to occupy young minds and bodies in bad weather was such a treat. We could have easily filled an entire week with just the activities available on-site at the resort, let alone in exploring the beautiful beaches and surrounding countryside of Pembrokeshire.
We visited as a family of five with three very young children – who although were well catered to, didn’t get to make the most of the wide range of fantastic activities available to children over 8, such as the zip wire, axe throwing and clay shooting, rock climbing and water activities. We would definitely look forward to a return to Bluestone, but maybe not until the children are a bit older and can really make the most of the fantastic opportunities available.
We were guests of Bluestone for this stay, but all the information above are our unbiased thoughts.