A Mid-Week Stay at Bluestone – Our Visit and Review

Regular readers of the blog will know that we have been to Bluestone several times in the past. But last week, we were kindly invited to experience a mid-week stay at Bluestone. We have always had a weekend break at Bluestone but since giving up my job to move to Portugal, a mid-week stay at Bluestone suddenly became a very real option.

So, with our new stylish cabin bag in tow, and plenty of warm clothes, off we headed to Faro airport for our return flight to Bristol Airport to experience our first ever mid-week stay at Bluestone.

A weekend break at Bluestone lasts 3 nights and 4 days but was really only the two weekend days for us, as we have always been travelling on the Friday and Monday. This time we were treated to a 4-night stay and enjoyed 3 full days at Bluestone. That said you can arrive early and use the facilities from 11am on the day of your arrival, and on your checkout day you can enjoy them until 3pm. You cannot check into your lodge early though so do be aware of your arrival time and plan accordingly. Check in time for accommodation is generally 4.30pm.a mid-week stay at bluestone

Day 1 of Our Mid-Week Stay at Bluestone

Due to our flight being delayed we didn’t arrive until 5.20pm and we headed straight for the Farmhouse Grill for dinner with our friends who were joining us for this stay.

mid-week stay at bluestone - tasty burger in the farmhouse grill restaurant at bluestone
A tasty burger in the Farmhouse Grill

I had booked this restaurant so that we didn’t have to think about cooking and could start to relax and enjoy ourselves. We had two sharing platters to start and they were enormous! Plenty of food that tasted delicious. Most of us ordered a burger while BattleKid enjoyed the chicken strips from the kids’ menu and L enjoyed a kids’ burger. The main courses were generous and tasty. However, as I’d eaten quite a lot of the sharing platter, I couldn’t finish my burger. In truth, the sharing platter could easily have covered us four adults.

While everyone else enjoyed some amazing looking desserts, I walked (in the rain!) to our lodge to grab some pictures and a walk-around video for my YouTube channel. The sacrifices we bloggers make in the name of our work hey! Shortly after I’d finished, the others arrived back in our buggy for the week, which I had pre-booked, so that we could all get unpacked and get the kids ready for bed. Following a catch up over a cuppa we all headed to bed suitably tired but happy to be back in Bluestone once again.

Day 2 of Our Mid-Week Stay at Bluestone

mid-week stay at bluestone - our buggy outside our Grassholm Lodge
Our buggy for the week helped us practice our Portuguese as Mai is the Portuguese word for Mum!

After a breakfast cooked from our Family Welcome Hamper, we got ourselves ready to head out of Bluestone to explore some of Pembrokeshire.

The Family Welcome Hamper has everything in it to start you off food-wise in your lodge. It can be really helpful if, like us, you are travelling from afar and either won’t get a chance to visit a supermarket, or don’t want to carry fresh food in the car. Including everything you need for a hearty breakfast, a cuppa and a few snacks too, it can work out as a great time saver.

mid-week stay at bluestone - Tiny streets in Tenby
Lovely little streets in Tenby
mid-week stay at bluestone - beautiful Tenby in Pembrokeshire
The gorgeous Pembrokeshire coastline

We decided to visit Tenby as the Battle Family had never been before. It had always been on our radar but somehow, we never got the chance. We were very lucky that the rain and grey skies we had that morning cleared by the time we headed out in the cars.

Tenby is a lovely little seaside town in Pembrokeshire and we had a lovely time wandering around the walled town and around the coastal head. We visited the RNLI boathouse and I visited a Boots for some supplies before we enjoyed fish and chips. Afterwards, we then drove to Barafundle Bay but I had to wait in the car while a certain little boy caught up on his beauty sleep.  

mid-week stay at bluestone - saying hi to the bwbach scarecrows
On our way to dinner at the Oak Tree Restaurant and we stopped to say hi to a scarecrow

Back at Bluestone, we visited the Oak Tree Restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately, we were a little bit disappointed to find it had changed from the last time we had visited.

The Oak Tree Restaurant had always felt a little more grown up than other eateries in Bluestone, one adults could enjoy even with the kids in tow. With an Italian inspired menu comprising fantastic dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, it felt like the ‘treat’ restaurant. This time around it was more of a set Italian menu with just pizza and pasta dishes, geared very much for families. Gone were the starters and variety of main dishes. That said, the food was still really delicious and was enjoyed by one and all. Even my main of olives and a salad (still full from my seaside fish and chips) was lovely. BattleKid certainly enjoyed his spaghetti and tomato sauce, even wearing some of it on his eyebrow. After dinner, and once the kids were in bed, we enjoyed our first board game for ages. And I won!

mid-week stay at bluestone - a salad at the oak tree restaurant at bluestone
My salad was really delicious!

Day 3 of Our Mid-Week Stay at Bluestone

I had been looking forward to this day at Bluestone. Why you may ask? Because as it was her birthday the following week, I had booked myself and S into the Well Spa at Bluestone. I had never visited before and it had been a long time since I’d had a spa day and both us mums were really looking forward to it.

We wandered down at 9am and enjoyed some of the facilities until it was time for our Celtic Combo. This 50-minute treatment involved a back massage and facial and boy was it enjoyable. My therapist Katy found knots in my back I didn’t know existed and the facial felt and smelled lovely.

mid-week stay at bluestone - The Well Spa of Bluestone
The Well Spa of Bluestone, a perfect place for mums to enjoy a few hours of relaxation.

After our treatments, we continued enjoying the facilities, even braving the rain to get into the plunge pool, before having afternoon tea at midday in the café. Once we were suitably relaxed and refreshed we visited the spa shop before going back to reality and our respective children. I cannot recommend the spa enough for mums, dads, couples and grandparents alike. And yes, we saw a few of them in there!

mid-week stay at bluestone - well spa plunge pool
The plunge pool of the Well Spa at Bluestone

After lunch we all went to the Blue Lagoon for some splashy fun. This is by far one of the best places to visit at Bluestone with kids. The boys thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the waves, the lazy river and the toddler pool. It was a struggle to get them out.

mid-week stay at bluestone - the blue lagoon pool
The Blue Lagoon of Bluestone

Back at the lodge we got the Dads to collect a Chinese from a takeaway in Narberth. Despite it only getting a 3.5* rating on Google, the food was hot, delicious and enjoyed by everyone. I really cannot understand why it has a low rating. Again, once the boys were in bed we enjoyed some board games but alas, it wasn’t my lucky night.

Day 4 of Our Mid-Week Stay at Bluestone

I was up at 7.15am to call Disneyland Paris to make our restaurant bookings for our forthcoming visit in December. Yes, you must book certain restaurants that far in advance! Then, once BattleKid and I were dressed and fed, I took him for a walk while BattleDad worked and the others got themselves up and sorted.

We started by having a walk around the lake and although it was cold, it was a dry morning. Around the lake we spotted the ducks, waved to the tractors and the men working on them. We also saw mushrooms, spotted a bug hotel and a scarecrow fishing in the lake.

living arrows - BattleKid looking out across the lake at Bluestone
Strolling around the lake at Bluestone

Then, we went on a Gruffalo hunt in the deep, dark, wood and found him hiding in a tree. We also spent some time watching a squirrel jumping from branch to branch high in a tree. BattleKid wanted him to come down to the ground and he did, albeit a bit away from us.

living arrows - a gruffalo hunt at Bluestone
Result! We found the Gruffalo hiding in the deep dark woods of Bluestone

To finish off our morning together, I took him to the new playground where he enjoyed time on the slide (getting a wet bum in the process!) and the swings. This is a new addition to the Village since our last visit and it is really good, a great place for little ones to run off some steam.

living arrows - BattleKid on the playground boat at bluestone
Fun in the new playground of Bluestone

After our morning together, we returned to everyone in lodge and got ready to head out of Bluestone again. Our destination for this morning was Pembroke Castle for a spot of dragon hunting.

We had never visited Pembroke Castle, and it’s quite a lovely one. The boys enjoyed running around the big map of Wales that sits in the centre of the courtyard, before we enjoyed some cake and tea. Afterwards, we hunted the dragon and found him hiding in a hole in the wall. It’s a big castle, with many rooms and buildings to explore and is a great place to let two little boys burn off some of that never-ending energy.

living arrows - BattleKid having fun at Pembroke Castle
Fun in the sun at Pembroke Castle

On our return to Bluestone we spent a few hours relaxing in our lodge before heading to the Wildwood Café in the Adventure Centre for the Scarecrow Dinner Show.

mid-week stay at bluestone - the room decorated at the wildwood cafe for the scarecrow show at bluestone
The decorated Wildwood Cafe room

There are shows on twice a week in the Wildwood Café and during certain times of the year they have a theme, such as for Easter, Halloween and Christmas. This show is an interactive one that includes a two-course meal and was enjoyed by us all. The room was decorated perfectly for Halloween and the show involved a scarecrow and crow singing and telling stories and the kids really enjoyed it.

mid-week stay at bluestone - the scarecrow show
The Scarecrow Show

Afterwards we joined the Bwbach Parade down to the village before the Bwbach Festival started in the centre of the Village with games and music.

mid-week stay at bluestone - joining the bwbach parade at bluestone
The start of the Bwbach Parade

The boys also enjoyed some time playing in the playground before we hopped onto our buggy back to our lodge in the rain. It was a great way to end our first ever mid-week stay in Bluestone and I think our whole party enjoyed themselves.

mid-week stay at bluestone - meeting the scarecrow
BattleKid wasn’t too sure about getting up close and personal with a live scarecrow

Day 5 of Our Mid-Week Stay at Bluestone

As is normal, check out on your last day is 10am. We were all up early and as BattleDad and I had some errands to run before we headed back to Bristol for our return flight to Faro so we left just after 9am.

mid-week stay at bluestone - a wet departure morning at Bluestone
Time to say goodbye to Bluestone

As mentioned above you are welcome to stay and use the facilities at Bluestone until 3pm, handy if you aren’t in a rush. BattleDad and I visited our old stomping grounds in Wales before stocking up on sausages and rashers in Asda. We also visited Abergavenny for a last cuppa after getting the boys’ feet measured in Clarks.

mid-week stay at bluestone - ~BattleKid taking pictures out the airplane window
Taking pictures of clouds as we return to Portugal after a great week at Bluestone

A Mid-Week Stay at Bluestone versus a Weekend Break

I thought it might be useful to sum up how a mid-week stay at Bluestone compares to a weekend break. We’ve actually stayed at Bluestone for a weekend at the same time in October before, so it’s easy for me to compare the two.

While we’ve always enjoyed our weekend visits to Bluestone, they have always felt a bit rushed. Spending most of Friday and Monday travelling, you only really get two full days at Bluestone. A mid-week break gives you at least one extra full day and it felt more relaxed for us. The restaurants also didn’t feel as full or rushed compared to weekends and the Blue Lagoon wasn’t as busy.

The playground only got busy after the Bwbach Parade but didn’t feel full at other times. When BattleKid and I took a stroll around the lake and into the woods we hardly saw anyone.

Having that extra day meant we could also explore areas of Pembrokeshire for two days while still having a day to enjoy ourselves in Bluestone. Our mid-week stay at Bluestone felt more relaxed and less busy than weekends and given the choice I’d do a mid-week again. That said, Bluestone is enjoyable, no matter whether you chose a weekend, mid-week or 7-day stay.a mid-week stay at bluestone

I cannot recommend Bluestone National Park Resort enough as THE place to go for a relaxed family holiday in Wales. Whether you only have a weekend break, or longer, it is a great family-orientated place to stay. Ideally located for exploring Pembrokeshire and more of West Wales, you can be as outdoorsy as you like, or not. There are plenty of things to do for the whole family at Bluestone and in the surrounding areas, so you won’t be bored. Each lodge really is family orientated and with everything a family would need for a home-away-from-home holiday. I’ll be talking about our Grassholm Lodge in greater detail in a forthcoming post next, but suffice to stay, like all the lodges we’ve stayed in, it was comfortable, homely and had everything we needed for our mid-week stay at Bluestone.

Have you visited Bluestone before? If not, why not check out their website and see the range of lodges they have and availability!

Cath x

*We were kindly invited to enjoy a mid-week break at Bluestone, receiving complimentary accommodation for the duration of our stay. However, as always, these are my own honest thoughts and opinions about our stay at Bluestone. Please note, we paid for all activities, restaurant visits and the buggy hire for the duration of our stay.

a mid-week stay at bluestone

a mid-week stay at bluestone

 

 

Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium – Fish of all Shapes and Sizes

Our visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium occurred while we were in Chester last August Bank Holiday weekend. I’ve written about it somewhat in the Chester Holiday Diaries but thought it might be more useful to put a post together with more information about it.Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

The Blue Planet Aquarium is located in Ellesmere Port beside the Cheshire Oaks retail park and remains the largest aquarium in North West England. Opened in 1998 it is a freshwater and marine aquarium that includes themed areas such as Tropical Rivers, Lakes and Ponds and Seas and Oceans. The largest tank holds 4 million litres of water and features a 71 meter underwater tunnel.

As you enter the Upper Area we started our visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium at the Northern Streams featuring freshwater fish found in the rivers and streams of the Northern Hemisphere including the British Isles. We saw fish such as Pike, Carp and Perch and a great mixture of both small and large fish which was a great start for BattleKid. He enjoyed following the fish around the tank and had to be prized away so we could continue our visit!Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

From there we went on to the Lake Malawi exhibition featuring fish from Africa’s third largest lake. Lake Malawi is home to over 1000 species of fish as we saw just a few of these including CICHLIDS which have no less than 2 sets of teeth and look mean.

After Lake Malawi we passed through the Flooded Forest section which is a tropical exhibition designed around the Amazon River. This exhibition is great as you can hear buzzing insects, frog’s chorus and birdsong and monkey chattering to make you feel like you really are in South America. We saw various types of piranha in this section including the Red-bellied Piranha which are dangerous to man.

We were soon finished on the upper level and headed past some open tanks where we spotted Dory and Nemo hiding among friends, before making our way down to the lower section past the huge main tank.Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

BattleDad and I visited the Blue Planet Aquarium about 10 years before but it was only seeing BattleKid stand against the tank that I realised and appreciated its size. The main tank is connected to the underwater tunnel where you can see Europe’s largest collection of sharks. There are also rays and other fish and BattleKid thoroughly enjoyed the tunnel.Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

During our visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium we also saw the Reef and Coral exhibitions and some of the reptiles, amphibians and insects on display. We saw caiman crocodiles and there are also some gorgeous otters in an enclosure outside near the playground.Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

The Blue Planet Aquarium is a good place to visit with children of all ages and they also hold educational talks. And if you are braver than me you could even swim with sharks in their main tank in one of their “Dive with Sharks” experiences, which can be done by diving beginners too. Just note that these experiences must be booked in advance of your planned visit.

Things to note if planning a visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

  • Our visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium lasted a few hours but as there is a café you could easily spend the day there wandering the various exhibitions and attending some of the daily talks that take place. There are also at least 3 daily dive shows in the main tank.
  • The Blue Planet Aquarium is open daily from 10am to 5pm on weekdays and 6pm on weekends. Live shows begin at 11 am and continue throughout the day. There is ample parking and it cost £2.50 at the time of our visit.
  • The Blue Planet Aquarium is family-friendly and is buggy and wheelchair accessible too.
  • There is a restaurant and also a gift shop and an outdoors children’s playground.
  • An adult ticket costs* £17.75 and a Junior costs £12.75 (over 90cm tall and up to 12 years of age). If you book online you may get a discount. And if you fancy it, you could always do a bit of shopping at Cheshire Oaks retail outlet afterwards as we did.

The Blue Planet Aquarium was a great place to spend a few hours with BattleKid and he thoroughly enjoyed his time there. We also filmed a little vlog of our visit which you can view below if you fancy it.

For more information about the Blue Planet Aquarium please visit their main website. A map of the Blue Planet Aquarium can be found here.

Thanks for reading.

Cath x

*Prices are correct at the time of writing this post.

**We were not asked to write this post.

Our Visit to the Blue Planet Aquarium

our visit to the blue planet aquarium

Family Day in London – Our 36 Hours

I might have mentioned it before, but when we booked our USA road trip last October, we were well and truly still living in Wales. Fast forward eight months and we had moved to Portugal. This meant a hasty booking of flights back to the UK in order to meet up with our Portland flight. It did mean, however, we got to have a family day in London. We left Faro on the Thursday before our USA trip at 8pm and landed 2 hours and 20 minutes later into Heathrow.

family day in london

We could have flown to another airport much cheaper, but it would have meant an airport change on our return trip from the States two weeks later and I really didn’t fancy that with a three-year-old in tow. So, we flew with British Airways and had a relatively easy flight back to the UK. We cleared customs and had our bags within half an hour and were soon getting a taxi across the road to the Park Inn by Radisson next to Terminal 3. This was to be our home for the next two nights. Although we were in late, we were all tucked up in bed by midnight, ready for a fun family day in London.

We were up and dressed by 8.30am on the Friday and as we hadn’t added breakfast to our hotel booking, we got an Uber into Southbank to visit Le Pain Quotidien on Southbank. I had had brunch there with my sisters during my weekend away with them in June and BattleDad was up for trying it out.

We had an amazing breakfast, with BattleKid enjoying scrambled eggs and bacon, while I had a smoked chorizo frittata and BattleDad munching down baked eggs with scrambled egg. Suitably fuelled we walked through the Jubilee Gardens towards the London Eye. There was a brief stop for someone little to chase the birds!

I had booked Fast Track Anytime tickets for the London Eye so once BattleKid had chased all the birds away, we joined the short queue and on we went into one of the pods. While those tickets are expensive, they are worth it to arrive any time you like and skips the long queues which are always at the Eye! I had visited the London Eye during that aforementioned weekend but this was both BattleDad and BattleKid’s first time, so I knew I wanted us to do it on our family day in London. Both enjoyed it, although a certain someone enjoyed the information tablets within the pods more than the views.family day in london - BattleKid standing in front of the London Eye family day in london - BattleKid looking out of our london eye pod

From the London Eye, we walked the very short distance to SeaLife, the next stop on our family day in London. I had seen a few blog posts about it and with BattleKid having enjoyed the Blue Planet Aquarium in Chester and the smaller aquariums in Chester and Bristol Zoo, we knew he should enjoy SeaLife. Again, I bought Fast Track Anytime tickets so we breezed through, only going to the cashier desk to pick up BattleKid’s Ranger Pack.

Well, I have to say I was very impressed by SeaLife. I had wondered what an aquarium on the bank of the River Thames would be like but it was really good. BattleKid loved it, running from tank to tank searching for Nemo and Dory, as you do when you are 3. I especially loved the Easter Islands heads in the large tank.family day in london - the wonderful Easter Island statues in one of the aquariums in SeaLife family day in london - BattleKid searching for Nemo and Dory in SeaLife

After a brief stop on Southbank to watch some street performers, we crossed the Golden Jubilee Bridges to get a tube from Embankment to the Tower of London, the last attraction on our family day in London. Why were we headed there? To do a spot of dragon hunting of course! And this tube trip was BattleKid’s first ever ride on a London Underground. He wasn’t too sure of the noise they made coming into stations but once he was on he was fine. Watching him enjoying the short trip reminded me of our rides on the New York Subway last year.

family day in london - BattleKid covering his ears to reduce the noise of the underground trains approaching
Closing his ears as a train approaches for his first ride on a London Underground tube!

I had prebooked tickets for the Tower of London to save some time and after a short bag search we entered the ‘castle’ to start our dragon hunt. After the excitement of the morning, we were getting peckish so we had a cuppa with cake at the Raven Café before resuming our dragon hunt. We eventually found him within the White Tower.family day in london - The Tower of London family day in london - BattleKid in front of the White Tower in the Tower of London

We left the Tower of London via Tower Bridge and got a tube back to Paddington. Someone fell asleep in BattleDad’s arms along the way, tired from all his adventures during our family day in London. When we arrived at Paddington I stocked up on some last-minute essentials in Boots before buying BattleKid a Paddington Bear in the Station. It had to be done.family day in london

We got a black cab back to our hotel rather than trying to get the Heathrow Express. The driver introduced us to Gett, the new black cab app that works like Uber and he managed to get us some money off our trip, which was really nice of him. We tipped him well. After over an hour’s sleep, BattleKid woke refreshed and we had dinner in the hotel restaurant at 7pm. We had to leave feedback with the waiter for the kitchen staff as BattleKid’s dinner came out so hot it could have rivalled lava. Thankfully we stopped him trying to eat it while it was too hot.

After dinner BattleKid had a bath, which is a treat as we don’t have one in our Portuguese home, only a shower. I was knackered so I fell asleep by 10pm, while the boys were awake for a bit longer. We had an amazing family day in London and it was the perfect way to get us ready for our USA road trip!

Cath x

family day in london family day in london

Dragon Hunting at Chepstow Castle

Although BattleKid and I had visited once before, we had never been dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle until earlier this year. When my nephew and Dad were visiting when BattleKid was 4 months old, we took a drive to Chepstow Castle. However, I couldn’t explore the castle as BattleKid was so small and I had his buggy. Fast forward three years and we, as a family, finally visited this wonderful castle on the banks of the River Wye.

Our sole intention this time was to not only explore the castle, it being BattleDad’s first visit, but also to do a spot of dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle. We were sure there must be a dragon lurking inside as we’d found dragons in other Welsh Castles like Carreg Cennen.

Chepstow Castle is an amazing castle which sits on the banks of the River Wye in Monthmouthshire, Wales. It is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain and is a castle not to be missed. The castle also boasts the oldest castle doors in Europe. Over 800 years old, the wooden doors hung at the main gateway until 1962. They are still on display in a special exhibition.

Construction began in 1067 and continued well into the 18th century. It has four baileys, or courtyards, each added during its long history. Perched on a clifftop along the bank of the River Wye, Chepstow Castle overlooks an important crossing point on the river which was a major artery to Monmouth and Hereford. It is a Cadw site, open to the public, and was even used for filming of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary programme.

When you arrive at Chepstow Castle, there is a car park at the bottom of the hill upon which it is located. I have been very lucky in that both times I have visited I’ve been able to get parking in the car park. I’d imagine on busy days it must fill up quickly. BattleDad, BattleKid and I parked up, used the public toilets beside the car park (as there are none in the castle itself) and up we went to show our Cadw membership cards before entering through the gift shop.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle
Chepstow Castle

We entered through the Outer Gatehouse and started our dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle in the Chamber Block and Kitchens. Checking all the nooks and crannies as we moved though, we just didn’t find any sign of a dragon hiding out. What we did stumble upon was an amazing cellar. The stonework and ceilings were stunning. BattleDad and I could just imagine it being filled with wine, grains and other assorted food for the inhabitants of the castle. But no dragon.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle

Next, we moved onto the Great Hall and although we saw no sign of a dragon, we did enjoy the amazing views from the balconies overlooking the River Wye.

From the Great Hall, we moved from the Lower Bailey into the Middle Bailey. There weren’t many places a dragon could be hiding in the Middle Bailey but our dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle took us into the Great Tower. BattleKid and I actually had a lot of fun running from one end of the Great Tower to the other. One gentleman inside must have thought we were mad. We searched high and low for the dragon but decided he must have been hiding further in the castle.

From the Great Tower we passed through the Gallery, again with lovely views over the River, into the Upper Bailey. There were lots of places in here a dragon could be hiding. We checked around the knight in the bailey, behind some trees, under the bridge that leads to the Barbican and a gorgeous wooden door at the very end of the castle. Our dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle was taking some time.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle

We knew he wasn’t in the lower end of the castle and eventually found him hiding in a hole in the wall in the Barbican near the South Tower. Finally, we had found the Chepstow Castle dragon, albeit a small one.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle

BattleKid was thrilled and even offered the Chepstow Castle dragon some flowers to eat. Hmm. Not exactly what you’d call dragon food. As our successful visit dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle was nearly at an end, we made our way back to the Lower Bailey where we took a few family selfies and checked in a well, just to make sure there weren’t two dragons in the castle. You never know these days!

We finished off our visit to dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle with a spot of roly-poly down the hill outside the castle walls. And yes, I joined in. We were also very lucky to be leaving just as the rain rolled in. All-in-all a successful visit dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle.

Things to note if you go dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle

  • Chepstow Castle is a Cadw site as mentioned and is open every day from 9.30am to 6pm from the 1st July to the 31st August. Between 1st September to the 31st October it is open from 9.30am to 5pm. From 1st November 2017 and 28th February 2018, the castle is open between 10am and 4pm from Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sundays*.
  • Last admissions are 30 minutes before closing and costs £6.50 per adult, with children, senior citizens and concession tickets costing £4.20. Children under 5 years of age enter free. As Cadw members our admission was included in our annual pass.
  • There are no toilets on site, although there are public toilets located beside the car park.
  • The castle has some benches but there is no coffee shop.  There are also no baby changing facilities at Chepstow Castle.
  • The courtyards and walkways are mainly accessible to buggies and wheelchairs. Upper levels are not accessible.
  • There is a car park at the bottom of the hill of the castle, and it is a pay-and-display car park.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle and can recommend it as a place to visit if you are in the Chepstow or Monmouth area. It is quite a big castle, with plenty of rooms are areas to explore, and dragon hunt if you wish. Chepstow is a lovely little town and has plenty of cafes to grab a cuppa and a cake after your visit. And dare I say it, dragon hunting at Chepstow Castle was more fun than our dragon adventures at Abergavenny or Tretower Castle.

Have you taken your children dragon hunting yet?

Thanks for reading,

Cath x

*Prices and visiting times correct at the time of writing this post.

dragon hunting at chepstow castle dragon hunting at chepstow castle

 

Our Visit to Oregon Zoo – Review and Tips

While we were in Portland at the end of our USA road trip holiday, we were kindly given complimentary entry to Oregon Zoo in order to review it. During our research on things to do in Portland with kids, a visit to Oregon Zoo came highly recommended so we were thrilled to be invited to review the zoo during our trip. We arrived in smoky Portland on the Tuesday afternoon and had decided to do our visit to Oregon Zoo on the Thursday. So, after breakfast in our hotel, we drove along I-26 from Hillsboro, where we were staying, to Oregon Zoo, which is in Washington Park. It was easy to get to and there was plenty of parking, despite what I had read online.Our visit to Oregon Zoo - blog post header

We arrived before their opening time of 9.30am to collect our tickets and the gates opened just as I exited reception. As you enter the zoo initially you pass through the Entry Plaza where there is the main gift shop, a restaurant and where you can get your photo taken. our visit to oregon zoo - entry ticketsWe decided to go clockwise around the zoo and the first area we visited was the Great NorthWest. Boy, were we blown away by this zone. Set among the trees and forest, this area is simply stunning and houses animals and birds that can be found across the Great North West of the North American Continent. Many of these we wouldn’t have seen in other zoos we have visited.our visit to oregon zoo - Great Northwest Zone of Oregon Zoo our visit to oregon zoo - Great Northwest Zone of Oregon Zoo

It was absolutely beautiful among the trees and waterfall, almost peaceful. We saw gorgeous Black Bears, beautiful Bobcats and the symbol of North America, the Bald Eagles. These are majestic looking birds and an easily recognisable bird.our visit to oregon zoo - black bears From there, we carried on and saw River Otters that were very playful and BattleKid was quite taken by them. We didn’t manage to spot any beavers, I think they were hiding on us. Next up were the Cougars and BattleDad absolutely loved these cats. There were two that we could see and they were beautiful creatures.our visit to oregon zoo - playful otters our visit to oregon zoo - Cougars in Oregon Zoo

From the cougars, we passed by the Petting Farm where we saw a few goats but the gates were locked so we couldn’t go in and pet them. It was a shame as I am quite fond of goats and always enjoy meeting them like at the Small Breeds Farm in Kington.

Just passed the farm and barn is the Carousel. Having been on one in Missoula just a few days before, BattleKid was most definitely not going to let us pass this without at least one ride. So I joined him. We were very lucky as the lady had just opened the carousel at 10.30am so along with one other boy, we were first on.

After our ride, we continued our visit to Oregon Zoo by visiting Nora, the Polar Bear. She was in a very playful mood, sticking her head into an orange bin. We were very lucky to see her as we later discovered she was being moved to a zoo in Utah the following week to be paired up with a male polar bear.our visit to oregon zoo - Nora the Polar Bear

Next, we visited the Primate Forest before going to see the Lions and my personal favourite, the Cheetahs, in the Predators of the Serengeti area. We also came across an animal we had never heard of, let alone seen before; the Caracals. These medium-sized cats are native to Africa, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia and were beautiful looking creatures. BattleKid also had great fun at the meerkats!

our visit to oregon zoo - BattleKid pretending to be a lion
RAWR

our visit to oregon zoo - my favourites, the cheetahs

After the Predators of the Serengeti, we walked past the rhinos and hippos and BattleKid was fascinated by the hippos as they were making a lot of noise! Off Rainforest Plaza, we saw the giraffes, which we always enjoy, before we decided to stop for some refreshments at the Coffee Crossing in the Discovery Zone. The price for a tea, coffee, 1 cake, 1 cookie and some crisps (or chips as they are called in the USA) was only $14, which I think is reasonable.our visit to oregon zoo - Giraffes

We enjoyed our pit stop and afterwards, BattleKid had fun in the playground next to the café, even making friends with a little girl. It was good to let him stretch his legs and burn off some energy after the mammoth hours and miles he had just done in the car.our visit to oregon zoo - discovery Zone palytime

While we were enjoying a break, BattleKid also spotted the zoo train. Before we went on the train we finished off visiting the rest of the animals which included BattleKid’s favourites, the penguins, and the seals which seemed to be playing with BattleKid at the glass. They would swim away, turn back, swim directly towards him and turn at the last minute. He found this all very funny.our visit to oregon zoo - Laughing at the Penguins our visit to oregon zoo - Seals playing with BattleKid

Satisfied we had seen everything we wanted to during our visit to Oregon Zoo, it was time to take the train, or Spencer as BattleKid called him (from Thomas the Tank Engine). The train meanders through parts of the zoo including the Great Northwest and the Elephants Lands, which we had visited after our ride on the carousel. It was a lovely way to end our visit to Oregon Zoo.

our visit to oregon zoo - waiting for the zoo train
Patiently awaiting “Spencer”
our visit to oregon zoo - BattleKid wearing an explorers hat
Our little explorer

As we passed through Entry Plaza on our way out, we stopped by the gift shop to buy a magnet (something we always do on our travels) and got BattleKid a small toy. Overall, we absolutely loved our visit to Oregon Zoo. It was a great way to spend some time together as a family outside of the car. Dare I say it, BattleDad and I think Oregon Zoo tops even Chester Zoo which has been our firm favourite since our visit last year!

Facts about Oregon Zoo

  • Oregon Zoo was formerly known as the Washington Park Zoo, mainly due to its location.
  • It is set among 64 acres and houses no less than 1955 animals from 232 species.
  • Founded in 1888, it is the oldest North America zoo west of the Mississippi.
  • It’s exhibits include the African Rainforest, Savannah and Predators of the Serengeti, as well as Elephant Lands, Amazon Flooded Forest, Bears, Condors of the Columbia and the Great Northwest (our favourite).
  • Oregon Zoo has species survival plans for 21 endangered or threatened species and has successful breeding programs for the California Condors, Asian Elephants and African Lions. 

Things we discovered during our visit to Oregon Zoo for you to consider if visiting the zoo

  • The zoo opens daily in peak season from 9.30am to typically 5.30pm. During off peak season, the zoo closes at 4.30pm.
  • Oregon Zoo is not as big as some we’ve been to but there are plenty of areas and zones to explore so a stroller/buggy would be advisable for young kids.
  • There is a zoo train and carousel (additional costs for these). We went on both and enjoyed them, although the train more so than the carousel.
  • Oregon Zoo has 4 main restaurants/cafes, serving drinks and food which varies from snacks and cakes to full meals. As mentioned we had two hot drinks, a cake, cookie and crisps/chips and the total was $14, which was reasonable compared to other zoos we have visited. There are also smaller drinks huts around, mainly during the summer and on busy weekend.
  • Picnic areas are available.
  • There is a big gift shop at the entrance.
  • Toilets are dotted all over the zoo. We were actually surprised by how many, certainly more than some other zoos I won’t mention.
  • Information signs are really good and animal signs are informative. For kids, there is a zoo key available from the admissions kiosks which unlock secrets of the zoo, costing $2.50. We didn’t get one but they would be brilliant for older kids.
  • There are a few play areas around the zoo and we tried two of them at the primate area and discovery zone. BattleKid enjoyed both.
  • Parking is available beside the Zoo and Children’s Museum and is payable. It costs $1.60 per hour or a maximum of $4 in off peak season and $6.40 during peak season. We arrived at 9.20am on a Thursday morning after the summer and there was plenty of parking but I’ve heard it gets very busy during the summer so arrive early!
  • Baby changing facilities are available around the zoo.
  • The zoo is fully accessible and wheelchairs, strollers/buggies and electric scooters are available for hire.

Oregon Zoo prices**:

March 1st to September 30th:       Ad £14.95            Child £9.95

October 1st to February 28th:        Ad £9.95               Child £4.95

Child prices are for children aged between 3 and 11 years of age. Children aged 2 and under are free. There are discounts available for senior citizens (65 and over) and military personnel. Discounts may also be available, check the Oregon Zoo website for details. Tickets are available for purchase online.

our visit to oregon zoo - facebook post

 

I am so glad we had the opportunity to visit Oregon Zoo. We were especially blown away by the Great Northwest zone and had the chance to see many animals we wouldn’t normally see in European zoos. Oregon Zoo is easily doable in one day and children of any ages will thoroughly enjoy it. I highly recommend you visit it if visiting Portland.

Cath x

*We were kindly given complimentary entry to Oregon Zoo for the purpose of this review. However, as always, these are my own honest thought and opinions.

**Prices correct at the time of writing this post.

our visit to oregon zoo - pinterest pin our visit to oregon zoo - twitter post