Heading for a well deserved break doesn’t always mean hopping on an aeroplane to a European city or the calls of a sandy beach abroad. Until the age of 14 our family holidays were regularly to the beautiful homegrown resorts of the British Isles. Nestled in the south of Wales, Pembrokeshire is a place we frequented quite regularly. Come the summer, the entire family made up aunties, cousins and grandparents as well as immediate family (and the dogs) would pack up our cars and suitcases and the 12 of us would embark on the 4 hour journey down to Tenby for a fortnight at a caravan park to partake in daytrips to the beach, strolling around the picturesque town, eating ice cream, making sandcastles and crabbing in the rock pools. I have nothing but fond memories of those times, they’re tied to my childhood and the feeling of carefree days. Pembrokeshire holds a special place in my heart for this reason.
Located just 25 miles from the seaside town of Tenby, Bluestone National Park Resort is home to 500 acres of rambling woodland to explore and experience some free range, wholesome family fun whilst taking in the fresh air of the surrounding greenery. Bluestone is popular with families and couples alike and the resort has everything you could possibly need to go back to nature to relax and unwind. They encourage muddy boots, early morning walks, being at one with nature and drinking gin under the stars (perhaps that last one is just me?)
Getting to Bluestone Wales
If you’re driving to Bluestone it’s pretty smooth sailing. Pack up the car with your necessities (feel free to stop at a supermarket on way for food provisions) and make your way to up the sweeping drive way to pick up your check in pack. As there are no cars allowed in the resort itself, you have to unload your wares into one of the luxury lodges and then park your car on one of the secure resort car parks for the rest of your stay. To get around the sprawling resort, you can hire a golf buggy for 4 persons max at the price of £20 a day or £80 for the week. As my party of 5 don’t drive, we backed up our suitcases and hopped onto not one, not two but three trains into the nearby village of Narberth, approximately 20 minutes from Bluestone. This did mean an approximate journey time of 8 hours but with a good book, the countryside passing us by and a few trains gins come the midday mark by the time we arrived in a sunny Narberth station just before the check in time of 4:30pm, we were good to shower off the journey and explore.
The 20 minute taxi journey from the station costs approximately £20 and will drop you off at the check in station at the resort itself, there’s also a town bus which you could hop onto but for the sake of a few quid and considering the weight of my suitcase, the friendly local taxi service was a god send. They’ll also arrange with you a trip into nearby Tenby for £25 each way for a minibus.
Forget camping, caravans and holiday homes that have see better today. Free range fun doesn’t have to equal soggy bottom sheets and pitching your own accomodation. Bluestone offers luxury lodgings. With wood lodges designed for larger groups on the outskirts of the main village (the hub of the resort) and holiday cottages and studios in the pastel painted village for couple getaways or “babymoons”. Bluestone is somewhat like the Welsh answer to Kellermans from Dirty Dancing and you’ll feel every bit like Baby Houseman strolling through the lamp lit walkways in the still of the night.
Our lodge was situated on Preseli View, aptly named as it’s position gave a beautiful outlook onto the hills of Preseli and was centrally located to the best bits of the resort including the village, the Blue Lagoon and Camp Smokey. Grassholm lodge sleeps upto 8 and comprises of four bedrooms and three bathrooms, one en-suite, spacious living room with a large living and dining area leading onto a large patio (with aforementioned view) and is perfect for evening get-togethers or al fresco lunches (crack out the gin again!). When Bluestone say luxury, they mean it. They know that the best thing to come home to after a long day of becoming reacquainted with nature is oversized tubs and beautiful showers to help you unwind for the evening. The lodges are beautifully decorated with feature artwork in all lodges from local artists, expansive kitchens with all the mod cons and large, soft beds made with crisp cotton for a good nights sleep. The lodges come equipped with digital TV’s, DVD players, WIFI, fresh linen and towels, fridge freezer facilities and if there’s anything you’re missing, guest services are just a phone call away to furnish you with an iron or hairdryer.
The heart of Bluestone resort is the The Village and is the hub of dining, entertainment and guest services. Situated next to the bakery, guest services are on hand to arrange activities during your stay and provide any much needed information to make your stay a more comfortable one. There are 7 dining options for your stay, from meat and fish at Farmhouse Grill, evening dining and Sunday lunches at The Oaktree to The Chippy van which serves beautiful fish and chips for both lunch and dinner, there’s something for everyone. We ate at The Oaktree one evening and headed down to the village pub, The Knights Taffern which hosts evening entertainment (we won the weekly quiz!) alongside bar food and a well stocked bar which stays open till late.
Our favourite was Camp Smokey. A shack situated deep in the woods of the resort surrounded by trees and give a real “outback” feel. Food is simple (you’re talking chilli, hot dogs and burgers off of a BBQ) but is a lovely experience consumed beside the open campfire with a tankard of beer (for the grownups!). We also roasted marshmallows on the open flames of the campfire
If you’re not looking to eat out, the village shop (Newton Stores) stocks everything you could need for the week and is where we headed straight after check in to stock the fridge with milk, butter and food for breakfast as well as a selection of alcoholic beverages. You can order your food shop online prior to arrival and the staff at the resort will arrange for this to be stocked in your accommodation for your arrival which is a lovely touch.
Bluestone Resort itself is packed to the brim with indoor and outdoor activities if you’re looking for activity packed getaway to just kick back. The Steep Ravine, Adventure Centre and Blue Lagoon offer fun for guests of all ages are all accessible within the resort. Activities such as tree climbing, zip wires and archery prior to arrival or via guest services when you arrive (these do come with an additional cost).
We chose to kick back and relax for the majority of our 4 night stay, aside from a couple of visits to the tropical themed Blue Lagoon (believed to be theonly biomass heated Water Park in the world) with its chutes, flumes and outdoor pools where I chose to believe I was a mermaid for the afternoon, exploring the resort and a day trip into Tenby. Oh, and did I mention the consumption of gin?
Our trip into Tenby cost us appx £25 each way via the local taxi firm and luckily for us the sun shone in our favour. We enjoyed breakfast overlooking the beach at Dennis’ Cafe, dipped our toes in the waters edge watching the waves crash and break into foam before moving up into the town for a few drinks, a copper coin based whirl in the amusements and a delicious meal at The Mooring.
After looking at Bluestone online prior to our visit I was worried that Bluestone was aimed more towards families with a young brood to entertain. You’re not going to find an all night rave, but if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re best off heading to Blackpool than Pembrokeshire. What Bluestone delivered was a relaxing break in a beautiful rural setting and homely comforts which I’d most definitely return to.