Bluestone National Park Resort twixmas holiday review + Kingdom of the Elves

For the second year running we stayed at Bluestone National Park Resort for a ‘twixmas’ break.  That’s the days after Christmas and before New Year if you didn’t know.  I didn’t!

In this blog post is my Bluestone 2019 Christmas review and photos.

I wrote a pretty thorough and honest review of Bluestone last year too. We did do things a little differently this year as we stayed in a wooden lodge instead of a cottage in the village.  We also decided not to book any activities.

Last year we had two activities each day (for the two full days we were here) and we didn’t fit much else in.  With kids we were restricted with eating times, especially as Reuben was only three last year.  So our days were pretty much: breakfast, paid activity, lunch, paid activity, dinner, bed.

We didn’t get to explore the whole site and grounds or the woods or trails that are accessible straight from the resort.

For our trip at twixmas 2019 there was also a new feature to the resort – the ‘Serendome’.  We heard all about it last year from the staff as it was to open in summer 2019.  It’s a huge outdoors dome.  A see-through roof in the forest to bring the outdoors in.  New activities and play areas for the kids to explore!

Read on to discover everything we got up to on our 2019 Bluestone twixmas holiday.

Bluestone National Park Review

Bluestone National Park Resort twixmas holiday review + Kingdom of the Elves

Friday – arrival day at Bluestone

We arrived quite late on our arrival day.  As always, we were trying to have a budget holiday so decided to arrival after check-in.

You can arrive at the park at 11am to use the facilities before your accommodation is ready, but we waited until the check-in time of 4.30pm so we weren’t tempted to spend money on lunch and drinks in the resort!

We had lunch at home and then planned to leave for the three hour drive.  We left a little later than expected and then had a problem with my car!  We were half hour into the drive when a car behind kept flashing me.

We pulled into the next garage and the car from behind pulled in to let me know my brake lights were constantly on!  They couldn’t tell when I was braking, so this was pretty dangerous especially as we were taking the fast, winding country roads and needed to brake lots for corners.

It was also going to be dark soon and I obviously had the kids in the back.

Ben had a look and pulled out every fuse, but we couldn’t see anything wrong, so decided to drive back home and switch cars so Ben would drive instead.

We eventually arrived at Bluestone at around 6.30pm, so two hours later than originally intended, but on the positive, there was no queue and we drove straight to the check-in booth and were in our lodge within minutes!

The Lodge

When we stayed last year we had a cottage in The Village, but this time we chose a wooden lodge as it was the cheapest option this time.  The cottage was great last year as it was next to everything in the centre of the resort, but this year the kids are older (7 and 4) so a lodge was fine, even if it was further away.

If you have younger kids then the cottages are totally set up for them with a lovely kids bedroom, more space, a bath and a central location.

We arrived in the dark so didn’t see the outside of the lodge on arrival, but the inside was very spacious in the main living area.  It’s an open plan living, dining and kitchen room.  There’s lots of space and it has everything needed for the stay such as crockery and cutlery.

There’s a fridge with a small freezer box, so don’t bring lots of freezer food!  We knew this from last time, so knew to bring fridge food and fresh food.

The fridge could have done with a little extra cleaning on the inside, but other than this, the lodge was very clean.

To keep things cheap we didn’t plan on spending any extra money at Bluestone.  We packed as much food from home as possible and thermo flasks so we could carry coffee with us if needed.

Our only costs were therefore the cost of the holiday itself and the fuel for the journey.  The food we took was from our usual weekly food shop, so no extra expense was spared.

We only stayed for two full days (and a morning and evening), we had Kingdom of the Elves included, swimming, nature trails and adventure playgrounds, so we knew we’d have plenty to fill the days without needing to book any extra paid activities for our short stay.

You can read my review of Bluestone last year to see the paid activities we booked and what we thought.  Last year we did a craft, met Santa and went to the panto!

Last year it didn’t leave us any time for anything else, so we decided not to book anything extra this year and we were also on a tighter budget of £0 spending money!!

Anyway, the accommodation.

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On arrival the floor of the lodge was sopping!  The cleaner must have totally over watered the floor and not mopped well at all.  There were pools of water all over the place which we quickly spread around as we brought all our food and belongings in.  We couldn’t take our shoes off as it was so wet and we were just making the floor a mucky mess with our shoes on traipsing it all around!

We unloaded and when Ben took the car back to the carpark he popped to the check-in booth and said we needed a mop.

Within ten minutes someone was at our lodge and they mopped up the excess water.

It wasn’t a huge problem and they sorted it really quickly.

The check-in lady was so friendly and also the maintenance/cleaner who came to mop up the water.  They were really cheerful and enthusiastic, interacting with the kids and they seemed genuinely friendly.

I remember the staff being great last year too, so on arrival we were really pleased to be met with such helpful and cheery staff.

The lodge was fine, other than the pools of water!

Ben and I had a double bedroom with a lovely clean bed which was comfortable.  The kids had a twin bedroom.

The bathroom has a wet room shower which was the only disappointment.  In the cottage last year we had a bath with shower, but the lodge just has a shower.  That’s totally fine, but as it’s a wet room type shower everything in the bathroom gets wet!  There is a shower curtain, but the water gets over the entire floor.  A proper shower enclosure would be better.

My only other recommendations for the lodge would be a clock on the wall in the kitchen and a full length mirror in the bedroom.  Also, a mop!


Saturday – day one at Bluestone

Bluestone National Park Resort twixmas holiday review + Kingdom of the Elves

Blue Lagoon

On the first morning we went to Blue Lagoon which is the swimming pool at Bluestone. Last year Ben took the kids and I stayed in the cafe to write.

This year we all went swimming and it was great!

We arrived around 9.30am, maybe a little later as we forgot our passes. I remembered we were given tickets for Blue Lagoon when we checked in. But I remembered once we’d walked all the way there!

Ben ran back and got them, so me and the kids took some photos whilst waiting.

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There’s no photography allowed in the actual pool inside.

It’s a wave pool, small lazy river, four big slides, two kids splash areas and a hot tub outside.

It was nice and quiet when we arrived, but getting pretty packed when we left at 11am.

The best thing is it’s so warm! I think it’s the warmest pool I’ve ever been in.

Normally I don’t enjoy swimming with the kids so much as they want to go in the shallow water or splash pools and I spend the whole time freezing. Not this time!

It was like a warm bath temperature and so we didn’t get cold at all. Plus this year Bella can swim and Reuben was happy wading in as deep as he could go, so we weren’t freezing in two inch splashing water like we’re used to!

Swimming is now going to be a lot easier as they’re older and starting to swim. We just need to teach Reuben and they’ll be off!

They have a wave machine which the kids loved. It probably came on every 15 minutes or so. We went around the lazy river a few times and Ben went on three of the slides.

The kids didn’t want to get out (a first when we’ve been swimming with them), but we had to get out for lunch!

Lunch

We made pasta and veg with pesto at our lodge. A quick and easy one-pot meal to make on holiday with minimal washing up.

Also a good meal to fill us up before exploring!

There are also restaurants on site and cafes, including a cafe at the swimming pool, if you want to eat out whilst at Bluestone.

We took plenty of food from home to last the duration. The lodges are all self catering so perfect for cooking your own food if you want to keep spending costs low.

It was good to not have any planned activities so we could relax, take our time and venture out when we wanted to. Perfect.

The Treehouse & outdoor playground

We decided to see if the nature trail was still there after lunch. We’d explored it last year. It’s a path through the woods with lots of arty things to look at.

On the way we stopped so the kids could play in The Treehouse and outside playground. Last year we didn’t get a chance as we were too busy and the weather was bad, but luckily this year it was dry.

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The Treehouse is a collection of small wooden huts joined together by slopes and even a tunnel for the kids to crawl through.

Oh, there’s a willow dragon on the way from our lodge which you can walk inside.

Nature trail & red trail

After a quick play we headed to the nature trail which we were pleased to see was still there. I think it even had some new art installations from last year.

We walked around half of the nature trail and then followed the red trail all the way around to the woods where we came back into the resort.

We hadn’t planned to walk the trail right then and it was super muddy for the kids trainers, so if you plan it then make sure you’re wearing wellies!

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I love that we can escape for a walk in the woods directly from the Bluestone resort. It’s so easy to get into nature when it’s on your doorstep.

Adventure Centre

With Reuben being four this year and settled in at school, he is so different to the three year old he was last time we came.

He’s a child now, rather than a toddler, and could really get stuck into playing in the huge wooden adventure playground in the Bluestone Adventure Centre.

There are some play areas outdoors, but the best is the ginormous wooden playground indoors. It’s huge and has lots of wooden structures to climb, curvy tunnel slides, ball pits and even a bouncy castle!

The kids absolutely love it and could probably run around this play area all day without getting bored!

After walking the trail we went to the Adventure Centre so they could run around, jump and play before dinner time.

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It was as I remembered it last year, but the sofas had gone and instead is a collection of picnic benches and large outdoor chairs for seating.

Even though it seemed busy, we managed to get a seat whilst the kids ran around.

Dinner

We ended the day with dinner in our lodge. To save cooking from scratch as we are on holiday after all, we bought some Tesco plant based meals which we just needed to heat in the oven. Butternut mac, spag bol and cottage pie. All vegan and delicious!

The lodge is fully equipped with all cooking facilities if you want to self cater.


Sunday – day two at Bluestone

Blue Lagoon

First thing we returned to Blue Lagoon. It opens at 9am so we arrived bang on to enjoy it at its quietest.

This time I went down three slides which were a lot of fun!

There’s one that goes outside and you can stop off in two pools before continuing down the slide!

We spent around 1.5 hours at the pool before going to the lodge for lunch.

Lunch

We had an early lunch at the lodge of beans on toasted pitta breads.

Our Kingdom of the Elves was booked for 1pm so we needed to make sure we were all fed and watered with plenty of time to spare.

Taking our own food and drink meant we saved a small fortune compared to eating out each day.

After lunch the kids had a play in the Adventure Centre whilst we waited for our Kingdom of the Elves slot.

Kingdom of the Elves – Who Stole Christmas?

This is what I thought would be the highlight of our stay and it was good, but I think last year was better.

I’m not sure if it’s just because it was new to us last year, but I think the script and performance was more slick last year and the Sherlock Holmes part in particular dragged on a little.

Bella remembered this from last year and had been looking forward to it all year!

They got to be the Elf.B.I and got some cool detective hats and capes to keep.

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Luckily it was a different story to last year so it wasn’t exactly the same. The kids enjoyed it, even if they were a bit shy and climbed to us for most of it!

The set up and actors were great, super enthusiastic and always in character if you saw them outside of the Kingdom of the Elves.

Serendome

The Serendome was brand new for us this year! They had sectioned off the area when we came last year and told us all about it.

It opened in July 2019 so was well established for our trip in December 2019.

It’s a huge dome, or the largest umbrella in the UK as the Bluestone brochure calls it, with lots of activities underneath.

With its open sides, it makes you feel outdoors, but under shelter so you can play whatever the weather.

We loved the new Serendome!

What a great idea!

I bet it’s amazing in the summer, especially on really wet days, but when it’s still warm.

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There are lots of areas for the kids to play including a sandpit, water play, building areas and a small park.

We actually broke our £0 spending and had a drink each from the bar and shared some chips!

It was a novelty to order from the sort-of-outside bars. It almost felt like being at a festival whilst in the Serendome.

There’s a bar, food huts and an ice cream parlour. There’s a gift shop, lots of places to sit and also some paid activities like a climbing pole and high ropes activities.

There is also an amphitheater which I think is where the panto was this time.

We didn’t go this year, but you can read about the panto we saw last year at Bluestone.

It is obviously a bit nippy in the winter in the Serendome as it’s no different to being outside, except you’re undercover, so wrap up warm.

Another great and jam packed day at Bluestone with plenty for the kids to do for free!


Monday – Bluestone check out day

Check out is by 10am on departure day and you’re able to drive cars to lodges from 5.30am.

Other than the arrival day and departure day, you can’t drive around Bluestone and must leave your car in the car park. This makes it much nicer and safer to walk around.

And of course encourages people to hire bikes and buggies to get around!

We save the money and explore on foot, but I expect in the future once Reuben can ride his bike then we’ll all bring our own bikes.

Or we thought the kids can even bring their scooters and me and Ben can jog around!

Bluestone National Park Resort twixmas holiday review + Kingdom of the Elves


Suggestions & improvements

Having been two years in a row, we do have two suggestions and improvements to recommend for Bluestone!

Better bathrooms in the lodges would be good. Of course we only saw ours, but it needed updating and maintaining. The toilet seat was loose, as was the toilet roll holder on the wall. The shower curtain was hanging off and the shower floor tiles were black in places. I didn’t want to stand on them and showered after swimming instead, at the pool. The wet room style is also a pain with kids and the whole floor getting soaked after a shower. I’d change this design.

Better WiFi! The complimentary WiFi just didn’t work at all for us, anywhere in the park. Quite a pain as we had no phone signal at all either!

There is a chargeable premium WiFi too. We didn’t get this, but perhaps just make it all chargeable only and make it work!

Better than holding on and hoping the complimentary WiFi might work.

As a ‘luxury’ resort, it would be good to include WiFi for everyone.

There is also only a limited number of premium WiFi access, so it’s not guaranteed even if you want to buy.

I’d also like a full length mirror in the bedroom and a mop to clean up the floor if we need to.

That’s it!

Not much at all and we know our bathroom was fine last year, so we might have just had an overlooked one this time. It’s 1 Pentre Ifan if you’re reading Bluestone!


Final thoughts

Our second time at Bluestone was as great as we expected!

It’s a great place for young kids with a lot of free activities if you’re visiting on a budget and plenty of extra paid activities if you’ve cash to splash.

We would return again, but we have decided to do something else next Christmas as we have our fingers crossed for a winter sun destination.

Bluestone are also only offering a two night twixmas break next year instead of three which is a bit short. It must depend on the days everything falls on over Christmas and vary each year.

I also feel we’ve really explored Bluestone now and it’s time to see other places for now.

That said, I would like to return to see the Pembrokeshire coastline as I haven’t seen any of it yet and being a National Park it must be stunning!

So who knows, we may use Bluestone as a base in the future to explore the Pembrokeshire coast!

The kids would definitely love to return again. There’s so much for them to see and do without a moment of boredom. It definitely feels aimed at young primary school age children.

The staff are all super friendly and Kingdom of the Elves and Christmasland is a must whilst children are young enough to immerse in its magic.

I’m so pleased we spent two twixmases in a row here. We have a bunch of happy memories!

 

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