It has taken me an embarrassing length of time to write this post, but we’ve been busy with chicken pox, a trip to Norfolk, Peppa Pig-induced tantrums and the retrieval of pyjamas from the toilet. That’s my excuse anyway.
Bluestone Country Park
Once the Easter holiday busy-ness (and the school holiday prices) had calmed down we took ourselves off to West Wales for a 4 night stay at Bluestone Country Park. For anyone with little people, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Think Center Parcs – country living, family activities, indoor swimming and softplay, and outdoor free range fun – only better.
Bluestone is relatively new (2007 I believe) although it felt newer than that; we stayed in a 2 bedroom cottage in the centre of the village, and for our little Monday to Friday stay it felt like a home from home, but without the housework.
Free range but not car-free
Check in for your accommodation is 4:30, although you can use all the facilities from 11 on your day of arrival. We didn’t arrive until the last minute – we spent the day at nearby Folly Farm which is well worth a visit too, as it’s not every day you get to see giraffes, lions and penguins in the Welsh countryside. Bear can also report that there is an adequate array of ramps at Folly Farm. Yes people, ramps; the same ramps you see every day when the pavement before you slopes up or down, but at Folly Farm they (apparently) warrant a full-on meltdown, kicking and screaming fest and general mardiness. Hurrah.
You can drive to the door of your lodge or cottage, unpack and then all cars are to be back in the carpark until the end of your stay. With a toddler that is anti-pushchair and totally against holding hands (it’s so not cool, apparently), this was a major attraction for us. We decided not to hire a golf buggy to get about and opted to make the most of the decent weather on foot instead. However, it didn’t feel quite as ‘car free’ as I think even Bluestone hopes for. There are so many golf buggies driving around, as well as works vans driving to and around both the current accommodation and the buildings that are being built for later in the year, that you never felt like you could just amble in the road (which is what I like to do when – and only when – I am on my holidays).
Ice cream (and other essentials)
We were right in the centre of the village, staying in the Iris cottage. There’s a pub, a few restaurants, a bakery and a village store selling most things that you’d need – including ice cream. Which I always need.
Unlike Center Parcs, the prices aren’t ridiculous for the shop-bought stuff either; even on our jollies I begrudge paying 4x the price for a loaf of bread just because I can’t be arsed to trek to my car, navigate my way out of the park and negotiate country roads to find a Tesco. But Bluestone seems to have nailed it; they accept you’re a captive audience once you’re all parked-up and settled in, but that you’re far more likely to treat yourself to an ice cream (or whatever, doesn’t have to be ice cream) if it’s at a ‘home from home’ price.
Swimming, softplay and rogue poos
The swimming pool is brilliant – warm changing rooms, warm water, clean everything and loads of lifeguards on duty. There’s a wave machine, a load of flumes and all the usual makings of a non-leisure centre pool. I went to a Center Parcs resort 5 years ago and there was a poo on the changing room floor. Now, I’m not saying that this was a staple part of their swimming pool offering (I even have a feeling it wasn’t meant to be there in the first place), but I am pleased to report that no poos were found unattended at Bluestone. Good times!
Since Christmas they’ve added an indoor softplay which, despite the park being pretty full, seemed quiet every time we visited. And we visited a LOT. There’s the actual soft play area, then a load of stuff to climb on, build, drive around and generally keep Bear happy for hours. There’s air con and they serve a decent coffee – both major bonuses when it comes to any soft play outing.
There’s plenty of other stuff – a spa, zip wire and tree climbing shenanigans, all sorts of children’s classes, clubs and activities – which will make Bluestone an ideal local(ish) holiday for us as Bear gets older and, well, able to climb trees, master a zip wire and engage in other non-ramp-related stuff. While she’s a toddler, though, there is still more than enough to keep her entertained and us relaxed.
Our next visit
Will we be back? Yes – definitely. The prices are pumped up considerably in the school holidays, so we won’t be back then while we aren’t restricted to term times, but we would love to go back in the Autumn.
To be honest, with West Wales being less than 2 hours away we’re unlikely to consider a Centre Parcs over Bluestone, but if you’re planning on a UK holiday road trip that isn’t so child orientated that you’re bored rigid (or so adult-geared that there’s nowt for the little people to do), then Bluestone comes highly recommended by me (and Bear, who, between the ramps at Folly Farm and the hills of Bluestone, was in paradise.)