For the first Christmas ever, we went for a little festive stay to Bluestone National Park Resort in Wales. In this blog post I will share my honest review of what it’s like to stay at Bluestone in-between Christmas and New Year and I will review all the activities and facilities we used on our stay including Kingdom of the Elves.
Our first Christmas holiday to Bluestone
I’ve never been away at Christmas before, so I was super excited. I’d quite like to go away for Christmas itself, for a whole week or perhaps even two weeks – ideally a 3 night stay in Lapland for all the festive stuff and then a week or ten days somewhere nice and hot away from all the festivities and to soak up lots of vitamin D! That would honestly be my ideal Christmas holiday break.
I’d mentioned to my husband Ben that I’d like to go away for Christmas and he’s never been keen. We’ve been together almost eight years and he’s always wanted to be at home for Christmas. This year, however, was different. Before now he always wanted to have Christmas Day at home too, but this year we were all vegans and there’s a country pub not far from us that had an entire vegan menu for Christmas with choices too, so I only had to ask him once if he fancied Christmas lunch out this year and he agreed!
It was almost the same with the holiday.
I said I wanted to go away this year and although he wasn’t convinced to go away for Christmas Day itself, he did agree to go away in-between Christmas and New Year which was perfect as Bluestone offered a 3 night break from 27th to 30th December.
Next year I’ll aim for a week and so on. I might even convince him to go away for the whole thing!
For me, personally, it’s the best time of the year to go away. I am self-employed and need to work every working day throughout the rest of the year. When we went on our other holidays in spring and summer this year I couldn’t switch off as I had to keep checking my emails and work in the evenings, even staying up until the early hours to get stuff done. Although I can’t totally stop working, even at Christmas, I can relax more and just check in every now and then as it’s my quietest time of year with most offices closed for the festive period.
Review of Bluestone resort and accommodation
Our family accommodation at Bluestone – 2 bedroom Daisy Cottage
We are a family of four and at the time of going Bella was six years old and Reuben was three years old. For a three night festive stay in a two bedroom cottage we paid £419 which I thought was a really fair price. In fact, I think it was a lot cheaper than what I was expecting to pay. We went to Center Parcs in the summer and it was a LOT more than this – £1200 for four nights. I thought we’d pay a lot more for a festive break at Bluestone considering it’s the Christmas holidays and they have some Christmas events on, such as Kingdom of the Elves for which we received tickets with our booking at no extra cost. I might compare this holiday slightly in this review to Center Parcs as it’s a very similar set up and the only other place we’ve been that is similar.
As the price was so great I was expecting us to have a pokey little cottage, but I was pleasantly surprised. Our cottage was based in the ‘Village’ so right next to all the restaurants, shops and play parks which was ideal for little legs. It wasn’t in one of their woodland lodges which I expect is where most people stay when they come here.
The cottage was very spacious for all of us and not pokey at all. It was decorated to a high standard with very minor wear and tear. The children’s room, especially, was very impressive. They had a custom made bunk bed, fun woodland bed covers, a cool balloon ceiling light, owl lamp and fox mirror. There was also plenty of space for them to play in the room. The bunk bed had a trundle bed below too so a family with a third child could also stay here.
Our bedroom was ginormous and could easily be split into two bedrooms! We had a huge bed with plenty of space around each side. There was then a large space in our room with wardrobe, desk, chest of drawers and still plenty of room to swing a cat! There was a baby cot supplied and the cot would have easily fit in the space, so a family of four could even fit in this cottage if they have one baby.
Ben found the bed too hard and uncomfortable, but I found it just fine! My only complaint was the pillow was really lumpy and so I’ll take my own next time.
The upstairs bathroom was ginormous too. It was perfectly clean and the shower was warm and had a good pressure. We were only supplied with one towel each, so next time I’ll take a few extras. I didn’t this time as I thought we might be supplied with plenty, but at Bluestone they offer extra towels as an extra so you can pay for more if you wish. The same with toilet roll – there was one roll in each bathroom and you’ll need to supply your own, otherwise if you pay for a maid service then they’ll replenish the loo rolls for you. This was one difference to Center Parcs as at CP they gave us more than enough towels (more than one each) and a whole bunch of toilet roll to see us through our stay. It wasn’t a problem though – I just thought it might be the same and hadn’t bothered to research before we went. A quick pop to their onsite shop and we had more loo roll 🙂
Downstairs was a large open plan kitchen, dining and living room. There were plenty of kitchen cupboards, crockery and utensils for our stay. We took some food with us and did a mixture of eating some of our own meals and eating out for others. There was plenty of space to put all the food we had taken with us. There’s a fridge with a freezer box, so just don’t take lots of freezer food!
For the children they had even provided plastic plates, bowls and cutlery. We had a lovely chunky oak dining table and four chairs. There was a high chair in the room too – this accommodation was definitely aimed at families with young children and they’d covered everything.
The living space had two sofas, a coffee table and a TV. It was fine. The only thing I would have added was a lamp in the corner of the room to make it cosier when watching TV in the evening and some cushions to the sofas.
There was a downstairs toilet too that was perfectly clean and I loved the hand soap that was free of SLS and parabens, so even I used it! I only use natural beauty products so usually avoid the toiletries in hotels and guest houses, so this was a nice surprise.
Overall we were amazed by how large and well equipped our accommodation was. The children loved their holiday bedroom with the fun bunk bed!
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WiFi at Bluestone
There is free WiFi around the entire resort which you can simply log into on any device. You need to enter your name and email address to connect. It’s not the fastest, so it’s really only good for browsing. You can buy premium WiFi which is faster and allows you to stream TV and play games if you need to do this whilst away. I expect if we come back for a week in the future we will pay for the extra WiFi, especially if I need to work properly and also if we want to watch Netflix in the evenings. For our three night stay we just used the free WiFi connection and it was fine for me to keep an eye on work emails and browse the internet.
Phone signal at Bluestone
Both Ben and I had no mobile phone signal at all at Bluestone. I’m on Tesco Mobile and Ben is on Vodafone. It’s not really a problem as it’s great to have a break from the mobile phone, but it could be a problem if you want to go your separate ways and meet up at later times, etc. You’ll just have to be super organised if you can’t rely on phoning each other! There’s also an emergency phone number and guest services phone number provided in the welcome pack, but there’s no phone in the accommodation and so these numbers aren’t much use if you have no mobile phone signal either. Thankfully Ben and I can text via WiFi, but I know this isn’t possible for everyone.
All the staff were really friendly and welcoming. We even had staff hold doors open for us and speak to us as they passed us around the resort. Those dressed up remained in character even in passing. They couldn’t have been more helpful and many of them were great with the children – interacting with them and playing with them at each opportunity.
Our accommodation was very clean and I couldn’t find barely anything to fault it – just a couple of crumbs in the cutlery drawer and one tiny piece of cobweb above a light, otherwise everything was spot on and there was nothing I’d complain about. This was probably helped by the fact the cleaner’s name was left in our cottage along with a comment card, so we could have left a comment directly aimed at them if anything wasn’t perfect!
The rest of the resort was also very clean and tidy. I’m not sure if I noticed any rubbish around at all when out and about. The Adventure Centre did get a bit messy by the end of the day on the floor and around the seating areas, but that’s to be expected!
The Blue Lagoon Water Park
Ben took the children to the water park whilst I did some writing in the café. It’s open to staying guests exclusively between 9am and 12pm and then it’s open to the public for the rest of the day. My uncle who has been here before recommended we use the pool first thing in the morning as it’s so quiet during the exclusive hours, but we had already pre-booked activities both mornings, so Ben took the children after lunch one day.
I asked Ben for his thoughts seeing as he was the one who took the children:
Ben – ‘Even though we went outside of exclusive hours, the pool wasn’t too busy so that was great. I had a bit of a bad start as I got the kids ready, got undressed and realised I’d left my swim shorts at the cottage. Oops! Had to get the kids and myself re-dressed thinking we’d have to trek back to the cottage, but luckily they had some swim shorts I could buy in the shop at the pool.
Shorts drama over and we got to the pool. It was a little smaller than I was expecting, but luckily it was quite quiet, but I can imagine it getting packed out in busier times.
The pool was great for the kids. There’s a really little kids area with lovely warm water, a medium kids area and then areas for more confident swimmers. We went round the lazy river which the kids loved and they also enjoyed the wave machine.
There are also lots of huge slides and flutes, but I couldn’t go on them with the two kids in tow, but they look great fun!’
The Adventure Centre
There’s an amazing indoor wooden adventure playground for children of all ages in the Adventure Centre. It has climbing frames, tube slides, a soft play, bouncy castle and mini golf. This is all free for guests to use. There are also a couple of paid activities such as the high rope walk, climbing wall and also some coin operated rides. There’s a little digger which was £1 and the first thing Reuben went on when we arrived! We didn’t pay for anything else though and there’s no need to pay for anything at all as there is so much for the kids to do for free. Bella and Reuben were ecstatic the whole time – running around playing on everything!
For us adults there’s a café upstairs, but you can bring drinks downstairs near the play areas and sit on a comfy sofa whilst the children go wild.
There’s a land train that leaves the village at every quarter to and quarter past the hour. We only got it back from the swimming pool to the village once, but it would have been great to get it all the way round the resort to enjoy the ride with the kids and have a look at the whole resort. It would be better if you knew when it would arrive at each stop, so if it said every 10 minutes or something as we didn’t have a clue how long we needed to wait for it.
We had a couple of spare hours in-between activities and lunch one day, so we were able to take a walk through their nature trail. They had set up some amazing things to see which looked like they were lit up and would have been brilliant to walk through in the dark. I’d booked activities each evening so we didn’t get to see this part at night time, but I imagine it would have been very magical. There are a few walks through the woods and we walked half of the red route before the children were ready to walk back. If we’d been here longer then we would have done all the routes and more walking. There are also woods on the other side of the resort to their own nature trails which you can walk to and explore, but we didn’t have time.
Review of restaurants and vegan food at Bluestone resort
We did take food with us, but we also took some spending money to eat out. We had breakfast in our cottage each morning and then either cooked our own lunch or dinner or went out to a restaurant for one of these meals. We are all vegan so eat no animal products. I had checked with the resort when booking that they had vegan menus, so I already had printed out the vegan menus they had available. It wouldn’t have been a problem if they hadn’t as we’d have taken all our own food, but amazingly they had three vegan menus across their eateries.
Oak Tree Restaurant review
On the first night we decided to go for pizza. After driving for a few hours to get to Bluestone (well, it should have been 2.5 hours, but we had to make a couple of stops for the toilet at service stations and got stuck in a bunch of traffic) we didn’t fancy cooking and so treated ourselves to pizza at the Oak Tree Restaurant.
I’m going to say that this was possibly my favourite vegan pizza I’ve eaten out so far! We all love pizza and we’ve had some great pizzas in restaurants before, but I think this one was perfect for me. It was a stone baked base that tasted really fresh, as did the toppings. Ben and I had the mushrooms, onion, artichoke and tomato pizza each. The kids each had a margherita pizza. They all came with vegan cheese and it was a really good one! Vegan cheeses are so hit and miss, but this was delicious and creamy.
We also had the vegan dough balls to share which came with a pot of vegan garlic butter – yummy!
The staff were all great and they checked we had everything we needed several times, but not in an overbearing way.
We had some chippy chips on the last night and I wasn’t blown away. They were OK, but nothing like what I think ‘chippy chips’ should be – chunkier chips. They were thinner chips, very well done. Ben probably liked them more than me, but I love proper chunky chippy chips that aren’t crispy.
There is a café, coffee house and a couple more restaurants that we didn’t use during our stay so I can’t comment on them, but we’d definitely return to the Oak Tree restaurant if we went back. I had also printed two other vegan menus before we arrived for two of their other pubs/restaurants, so it’s great to see there are plenty of options for vegans.
Reviews of bluestone activities and shows
Activity review – Woody Wild Worksop – Christmas Lantern
I took Bella on her own to the Christmas Lantern Workshop as I thought Reuben at age three might be a little too young. Bella is six and she absolutely loves crafts! Using pieces of willow and bending them (and fixing them with lots of tape, of course), Bella made her very own willow lantern.
We went outside to collect pieces of foliage from the trees and ground to decorate the lantern by twisting them into the woven willow. To finish it off Bella was given some fairy lights with a battery pack to wrap around the lantern. It looked amazing and Bella had a great time creating her lantern and enjoying a craft for one hour.
I’ll definitely book a craft or two if we come again as Bella loves crafts and even Reuben might be old enough to be interested in crafts next time.
Activity review – Kingdom of the Elves – Sugar Plum Land
We received free tickets for the Kingdom of the Elves event with our booking which was a great extra treat, especially as we were attending just after Christmas.
It was awesome!
When we arrived we were given a wrist band and the children could play in the huge adventure playground until our wristband colour was called. Bella was given a lovely set of rosy red cheeks. When we went through the kids were given their very own Elf outfits which they got to keep!
They really had gone to town on this interactive theatrical show. Every room was decorated so well and the actors were brilliant – in character all the time. We caught the Elf Express from the pa-rum-pum-pum-pum station and journeyed through Ginger’s Kitchen, Sugarplum Garden and Nutcracker Ball where colourful and animated characters were waiting for us to do various activities with the children.
We went on a train journey full of bubbles, snow and smoke effects to get to Sugar Plum Land. Then the children decorated gingerbread men, danced and played games with the Sugarplum fairy, then finally met the queen and king at the Nutcracker Ball.
The whole thing was amazing and Bella was fully immersed in the experience.
I was worried that the event would be the same each year, especially if we planned to come back next year with the children, but looking at some reviews of the event last year in ‘Elftopia’, it was different. I’m so pleased to see that if we come back next year it won’t all be exactly the same!
Activity review – Workshop with Santa
Another great activity which Bella especially enjoyed, but Reuben was in a funny mood and didn’t want to sit on the cushions with the other children or colour in a reindeer t-shirts – as ever, three year olds are unpredictable!
We were taken into Santa’s Worksop by Elf Jingles and the children seated on large cushions. Santa was missing from his chair and then we heard the jingle sleigh sound and a thud on the roof! Two boots appeared in the chimney and then Santa appeared!
Santa read the children a story about his reindeer Dasher and then the children each decorated a tiny white t-shirts with colouring pens. Once finished they queued up to see Santa and received a reindeer toy the perfect size for the t-shirt they had just decorated.
The room was amazing and Bella had a great time, her only complaint being it was too quick, so perhaps they could add something extra in – maybe a Christmas song or dance with the elf before Santa came just to add one more part to the experience so the children can spend a little longer in Santa’s Workshop.
Activity review – Snow White Panto
All I’m going to say is if you love panto then I’m sure you’ll love this, or if you are a child I’m sure you’ll love this! For me, I’ll only book it again if the kids want to go!
Bella’s angry face apparently!
Overall thoughts of our festive break at Bluestone, Christmas 2018
Overall we had an amazing time, but it was just too quick! We left on the Sunday morning at 9am, even though checkout was at 10am and we could have stayed until 3pm in the resort. We decided to get back as we had a ton of washing to do and a 2.5 hour to 3 hour drive to get home and it was drizzly. So we did cut our stay short a little.
We had arrived mid-afternoon, so really had two and a half days at the resort, which was mostly taken up with activities in-between eating times!
The activities we did were great and the children had an amazing time. They wanted to stay ‘forever’ apparently and were disappointed to leave. The meal at the restaurant was yummy and highly recommended.
It all went by in a flash and there was so much we didn’t see. Each evening they had activities such as carol signing around a Christmas tree, a countdown to New Year with games and activities and a parade. We didn’t see any of this as the children were either getting ready for bed or we were at a booked activity. We heard the carols from our cottage and they sounded great. I’m sure the children will love to take part when they are older on a future visit.
We also didn’t venture into the other woods which I’d love to do on another visit, as well as visit the local beach which looks stunning in pictures.
The children never got to play outside on the playgrounds as it was too wet, so another thing for the future!
As you can start to see there was so much more for us to see and do, but we would have needed a longer break to fit it all in.
What we had booked, with the four activities, was great for a short festive fun break for the kids and I’d do it all over again, maybe just minus the panto!
I’m really impressed with Bluestone and I will definitely be rebooking. I’m already bugging Ben to find out what he can take off work next Christmas so we can return again, hopefully for a week, but at least for another three night stay.
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