Review of Bluestone National Park Resort, Pembrokeshire, Wales
I recently went to Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire, Wales, as part of their Blogger programme for a midweek break and I was really delighted with the whole experience.
Bluestone has become very popular in the 9 years since it opened. I was surprised at how busy it was at the end of January and was advised that it is over 90% full all year round.
It is set in over 500 acres of woodland in the heart of Pembrokeshire. The site has been entirely purpose-built, although you would not think so. It has been created in a way that is very sympathetic to the landscape and parts of the Village look as if they have always been there.
Bluestone is very accessible from the M4 and the M50 and most of the last part of the journey is dual carriageway and good A-roads. Remember that there is a toll to pay if you cross the Severn Bridge, going from England into Wales.
I went with my husband Greg and we stayed in a two bedroom Ramsey log cabin designed for four people. It had a double room with a large, very comfortable bed and an en-suite bathroom with shower. Bed lined and towels are provided and everything was crisp and clean when we arrived.
The second room was a twin room with a large wet room shower. Both bathrooms had a hot towel drying rail.
There are no toilet cleaners available in log cabin and non for sale in the shop. This is because Bluestone has its own very delicate water management and ecological system, so they have very specific products which are used in cleaning. Ask at reception if you require toilets cleaning and someone will come and do it for you.
The Ramsey lodge has the bedrooms on the ground floor and the large, open-plan kitchen/ lounge upstairs, so that you can enjoy the views over the resort.
The lounge had comfortable leather sofas and was fully equipped with TV.
There was free wifi, which was more than adequate for us. It was a bit slow at times, but then wifi in most rural areas can be a bit patchy. If want to watch films and videos, you can purchase a wifi upgrade for your stay.
The kitchen was well equipped with everything you could need. It has a dishwasher, but no washing machine. The cooker is an electric, induction type cooker.
In the kitchen was a small pack of bin bags, washing up liquid, dishwasher tablet and cloth. You can buy all of these things in the well-stocked Village shop.
Additionally you can buy Welcome Packs of milk, bread and other essential supplies.
The water tank and central heating control are in a cupboard inside the front door, along with coat hooks and some room for shoes. It would have been nice to have had a bit bigger drying/airing cupboard, especially for muddy walking boots in winter.
There is a parking space outside the log cabin, although this is really just for unloading. The Resort is a car free zone and there is a large car park at the top of the resort.
You can hire a golf cart style buggy to get around the resort or there is a free mini bus service. You do run a bit of a risk of getting run over by a golf cart buggy, especially at night, where some of the bends down into the village are a bit steep!
We were at the upper end of the resort, on top of the hill, approximately ¼ mile down to the village centre, so our legs got some good work outs! There are plenty of wide footpaths, which are easily accessible for just about everybody.
The site is clean and well maintained. Bluestone are very keen on recycling. There is even have a bin in the kitchen for separating out recycling waste and normal rubbish and plenty of places around the site to put rubbish and recycling. It is an extremely environmentally-friendly place.
There is a well-stocked shop in the Village that sells just about everything you could need, including fresh bread and pastries.
Restaurants and Cafes
There are several restaurants and cafes, catering to all different tastes. We had an evening meal in the Knights Tafarn, which offered a good selection of family-friendly, pub-type food. The food was good and reasonably priced, with good sized portions and the service was quick and friendly. We were there on the Tuesday evening, when there was free live music from 8.30pm. The singers were very good and inspired many of the children to get up and dance. There was also a children’s entertainer on hand to help if necessary.
Earlier in the evening, there had been a spectacular light show displayed on the outside of The Knights Tafarn.
On Thursday morning, we indulged ourselves with delicious home-made cakes, ice-cream and coffee in the Ty-Coffi café, which is located in the centre of the Village.
There is a gorgeous spa, offering a range of treatments, which we did not have time to use on this occasion. There is a small café in there, serving traditional afternoon tea, but only if you use the spa.
Blue Water Lagoon
As a guest of Bluestone National Park Resort, you have free access to the Blue Water Lagoon, which is the water park. The pool is designed in such a way that it looks is like a beach with a very shallow entrance and then getting deeper. The wave machine really gave the sense of waves crashing on a beach, which was great fun. There are four large tubes which start at the top of flights of stairs and twist around to end up back in the pool.
We sampled three of the tubes, two of which are enclosed all the way down to the pool at the bottom. The third one goes outside and opens up on two occasions. At the second point there is an outdoor area that you can scramble into. It was quite a cold shock to find myself out there in January! I am not normally the biggest fan of tube rides and I found that tube to be quite vigorous and felt a bit thrown about with it.
I was glad to relax in the refreshing Jacuzzi.
All weather activities
There are over 100 all-weather activities, some are free with your stay and others are an extra charge. We did not make use of the Indoor and Outdoor Activity centres or the children’s play areas.
There is something for every age group and for every type of holiday that you can desire to create.
There is plenty of information in the booking office in the centre of the Village.
For half term and holidays, Camp Smokey Woodland Adventure Centre is open for high ropes, zip wires and outdoor barbeque-style cook-outs.
Judging from the rules on the wall, I can imagine there would be a rip-roaring good time had by all when it is open.
There is a large playpark area in the village for children and even an oversized throne for the Queen of the Castle.
Our Walking and Photography and Experiences
This area is a walkers’ and photographers’ paradise! As soon as I saw the 3 huge folders of walks and cycle trails in the area in the information centre, I was in my element!
Bluestone is a great base for exploring this beautiful area of West Wales. It is part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and is within an hour’s drive of the coast.
During our stay, we did three main walks.
1) We followed the Nature Trail around the Resort.
2) We went to St Bride’s Bay and followed part of the Welsh Coast Path.
3) We went on the Guided History Tour offered for free by Bluestone.
There are numerous walks around the Bluestone Resort itself, which are of various distances. They are all well signposted. Some, including the walk around the lake, are wide, flat footpaths, which are suitable for everyone, including those with wheelchairs and pushchairs. Some, such as the trail through the woods to the Iron Age Fort, are steeper and muddier and may not be suitable for everyone.
We started with a walk around the lake, followed by an amble along the Nature Trail through the woods, which led us past the Fairy Village, up over the top to the site of the Iron Age Fort, along past Camp Smokey are and back towards the Blue Lagoon at the top of the resort. We covered almost 5 miles and still did not see all of the resort.
St Bride’s Bay
We drove to St Bride’s Bay, which is about 20 miles from the resort and spent the day wandering along the rather windswept coastal path. Greg wanted to set himself up to capture a sunset over the bay and to take pictures of the crashing waves.
We came across a little bay where the path comes down to the beach, so Greg stayed there for a while and I walked a further two miles along the Coast Path. There was spectacular scenery in every direction and I found myself stopping every two minutes to take photographs. I was mindful of the time of the tides, as we had to cross the beach at St Bride’s Bay to get back to the car park.
We had our afternoon picnic sitting by the bay, gazing out to sea – beautiful!
Free History Walk
Bluestone is located is a part of the world that is steeped in history, myths, legends, ghosts, witches, magic and mystery and the History Walk Guide, Terry, really brought that to life for us. On the site is the ruins of Newton North Church, parts of which are thought to date back to the 1100s. It is believed that this site has long been a place of pilgrimage, as there appears to be a well or a spring close to the church.
Terry was incredibly knowledgeable about the fascinating history of the area and we could have listened to him for hours.
There are plans to restore the Church over the next few years and open it up fully, so that should be very interesting to see what is found when they do a proper archaeological survey on the site.
There are also the ruins of Castle Coch located on the edge of the resort, which we did not have time to visit on this occasion. That will be on the to-do list for the next time.
Free Night Time Light Shows
In addition to the light show on the front of the Knights Tafarn, there were two other evening light shows. One was the Woodland Walk Night Show and the other was the illuminated Dragon.
The Dragon is made of woven wicker and is lying on the grass on the slope next to Newton North Church. He is cute by day and even more spectacular by night. You can walk inside the Dragon and all the branches are illuminated with twinkling lights. There are even authentic sound effects that sound like the dragon is breathing!
Woodland Walk Night Show
This is a magical walk through the woods, which starts with the illuminated foxes at the entrance and finishes at the Fairy Village at the bottom of the trail.
Bring your torches and hunt for the dragon pictures. When you find them and shine your torch on them, you are rewarded with a disco-dancing snail, lights that streak up and down the trees and dung –beetles that fart!
It is entertaining for both adults and children, as you are never quite sure what you are going to find next. There are large spiders’ webs and amazing light shows, all made out of ecologically friendly, recycled materials, including lamps made out of old bottles.
It is a fascinating show. It is well-thought out and very cleverly done.
It culminates in the Fairy Village at the bottom, where there are lots of beautiful little houses that are built in trees and out of the rock face. When the houses are it up, you can see a sweet shop and the items of a curiosity shop, which you could not see when you looked at the Fairy Village in the daylight. This is “Make-A-Wish” time for little children and adult kids.
It was brilliant.
Looking forward to the next visit
We really loved Bluestone National Park Resort and would love to go back. We could easily make it a base for several weeks of walking and photography.
Thank you for a fabulous trip.
For information on Bluestone National Park Resort, please go to http://www.bluestonewales.com