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 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

Manley Mere AirBnB Accomodation Review

Manley Mere is a Sail Sports and Adventure Trail in the heart of the Cheshire countryside. We found it on AirBnB and its location and closeness to Chester Zoo was what made it stand out for us. And boy we weren’t disappointed.Manley Mere Review

Upon arrival we were met by our host Jane who was lovely. She showed us to the accommodation itself, which is a 2 bedroom, ground floor annex attached to the main building of Manley Mere with an open plan living space. The living area had a 2-3 seater sofa and TV with some Freeview channels. There was a very modern dining table and chairs to one side.

The kitchen was adequately equipped with a washing machine and basic cooking equipment. However, there was no microwave nor any ovenproof cookware, which made cooking one of our dinners interesting.

There is a double bedroom and a twin, and one family bathroom. There was just about room to put up a cot bed in the twin between the beds but it was a squeeze.Manley Mere Review

There is private parking behind gates with room for two cars, although you do need to be careful of the roller shutter doors off the main building that back onto the parking area of the annex.

The patio doors on the living room were bifolding doors and were a really nice touch. Overall the accommodation is clean, modern and well decorated.

What we loved about the Manley Mere accommodation:

  • Great location for Chester Zoo, the Blue Planet Aquarium and Cheshire Oaks Retail Park.
  • Nice bifolding patio doors, ideal for summer evenings.
  • Secure private parking.
  • Clean, modern and well decorated.
  • We had the whole place to ourselves after 6pm which is the closing time for the public. This includes the lake and surrounding area. It was very quiet after 6pm. The only time this would change is if they are hosting a wedding at the venue.
  • There is a bar and restaurant on site, open between 9.30am (for breakfast) and 6pm. They serve food, drinks, snacks and food, all at reasonable prices. We opted to use the self-catering facilities and cook for ourselves.

What we didn’t like about the Manley Mere Accommodation:

  • There was a wedding on the Saturday during our stay. This meant some guests were walking through our parking area after 6pm and the music was quite loud until 11pm.
  • There is no WiFi nor 4G data signal. 3G is very patchy. There wasn’t enough strength in our mobile data connection to watch Netflix or even for WhatsApp or Facebook for that matter. Great if you want a weekend free from social media, not so much when you are a blogger.

Manley Mere Review

Overall, despite the lack of mobile signal, we really enjoyed our stay at the Manley Mere accommodation we found via AirBnB and would consider staying there again if we were Chester-bound. It’s location is ideal for everything you need without the hassle of being directly in Chester. The accommodation is really good and the setting is just fabulous. If you have older kids they might just want to try surfing on the lake or exploring the woods.

At the time it cost us £150 per night plus a service charge (as is customary with AirBnB). Our 3 nights stay over the August Bank Holiday cost us £512 in total. Would I recommend it? Absolutely!

Thanks for reading,

Cath x

*We were not asked to write this review.

Manley Mere Review

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