Saturday, 29 April 2017

Our stay at Bluestone Wales **REVIEW**

If you have seen any of my social media pages recently you may have realised that last week we were at Bluestone in Wales!

When an email landed in my inbox a few months ago inviting us along for a stay I couldn't contain my excitement. The place looked amazing online and I knew the kids would love it, well last week the time finally come for us to visit so we packed up our car and off we went.

Upon arriving we came up to the check in point for Bluestone which thanks to their "drive thru" style check in was super quick and really easy. Its just a case of driving up to the indicated window and handing over either your booking reference number or surname and you are handed your welcome pack and keys and shown where your lodge is!

As we were in a Ramsey lodge we could check in from 3pm and had very little time to wait so we parked up for a little bit and checked out the map we had received in our welcome pack. In no time 3pm had arrived and we were shown through the gate and off we went to find our lodge. We had been given a map which our accommodation had been circled on but everything is so well sign posted at Bluestone finding our lodge was really easy to find.

Our lodge was beautiful and you can read more about our Bluestone accommodation here.

Bluestone is a no car zone (with exception to check in and check out days where cars are allowed back on site), however you can hire bikes or golf buggies to get around whilst you are there. We had been undecided at home about hiring one as we weren't sure how far away our lodge would be from the amenities. We soon discovered we were quite a walk away and opted to hire a golf buggy on our second day.

We were really lucky and the buggy hire centre had a buggy for us however Bluestone do advise that you book these before arrival, there is no guarantee there will be any left if you wait until you arrive on site. The cost for buggy hire is £92 for the week (with bikes averaging about the same for a family of 4). I did think this was a little steep but after a day of walking up the hills with a non compliant toddler it was certainly worth it for us.

There is so much to see at Bluestone I would suggest setting aside a few hours to explore each day, there are mapped out walks as well as the village, lots of parks, the lake and the steep ravine to name a few. You will also receive a timetable when you check in which will list and detail all the Bluestone activities on offer during your stay with times, dates and prices. There was something for everyone from baby sensory and messy play to tree climbing, high ropes and even little excursions little ones can go on without parents. James really wanted to take part but lots of the "older kids" activities were 8 + and as he is only 7 was unable to join in. I know when we next return he will have a whole host of activities on his list to do!

There are also plenty of places to eat on site at Bluestone from the Chippy to serving your classic fish and chips to Camp Smokey where you can dine al fresco on food cooked on the open fired barbecue! We did grab some chips from the Chippy after our day at Folly Farm and they were delicious and the prices were really good too.

There is also the Ty Coffi where you can stop for a coffee to refuel or an ice cream to cool down (the ice cream is amazing and a large variety of flavours such as chocolate brownie, candy floss and bubblegum!)

The smell coming from the Farmhouse Grill was amazing (and they apparently have a children's play area to keep the kids entertained whilst you wait too!) Unfortunately we didn't eat out at any of the restaurants this time as Evelyn was so tired on an evening from all our exploring but we will definitely be trying them out next time we visit.

The Blue Lagoon and Adventure centre were big hits with both James and Evelyn too, with the adventure centre evening featuring a LEGO wall, HUGE soft play centre and even a 9 hole game of crazy golf. With usage of all these things included in your holiday cost! Despite lots of the lodges seeming occupied none of the amenities seemed overly busy which was great. Bluestone never felt cramped or busy at any point which was a big plus for me and a credit to how well Bluestone is organised.

The Blue Lagoon is fantastic and we managed to squeeze in 2 visits here as it was such a hit with the kids. There is a wave machine, lazy river and as well as the main pool there are 2 smaller pools with a beach/pirate theme perfect for younger kids! Evelyn loves all the fountains and spouts in these she could play with. James loved the 3 water slides on offer in the lagoon and was thrilled to discover he was tall enough for them all! The swimming pool is actively watched by vigilant lifeguards who were doing a great job, the slides were watched by lifeguards too which meant they ran really smoothly and safely at all times.

All the staff we met at Bluestone were fantastic, there really is nothing that is to much trouble and from what we saw they all went out of their way to ensure everyone on site has the most amazing time. We had a little issue with out buggy giving up on us at one point and the staff were straight out to our lodge to try to fix/replace it. The staff we met were always smiling and took the time to engage with the kids which of course Evelyn loved as she is such a chatter box.

Whether its the thrill of the high ropes, the adventure of the nature trails or the relaxation of the spa Bluestone has it covered. The park itself is has a friendly village atmosphere that instantly makes you want to smile and relax, which is exactly what holidays should do right?

(Check out this short clip of part of a buggy ride we took to get back to our lodge through Bluestone)

Leaving Bluestone left us all emotional, we may have only been there for 5 days but it already felt like home. Bluestone gave us quality family time with freedom, fresh air and memories that we will remember forever. I know that we will be returning, we couldn't not return its been so special for us. Its the kind of place that I hope my kids will bring their kids in years to come and relive all the amazing memories we are making right now!

If you have been thinking about booking a Bluestone break, do it! You won't regret it, its almost impossible to regret visiting somewhere so beautiful and there really is something for everyone.


**We were invited to stay at Bluestone for the purpose of this review. I was not paid for this post and all opinions are my own.**

Bluestone - The accommodation **REVIEW**

As we pulled up at Bluestone we couldn't contain our excitement at getting into our accommodation. We've never stayed in a lodge before and had heard great things about the ones in Bluestone. As we were in a Ramsey lodge we were able to check in from 3pm and we eagerly appeared at the barrier to get in a few minutes early expecting queues but were met with none. We were let in along with our map we were handed at check in which showed us where to find out lodge.

We didn't really need the map however as all the "street names" and places are clearly sign posted throughout the park so it was just a case of following these until we reached our area which was Forest View. Be warned though its all one way once you get into the park so if you take a wrong turn you have to go right round again. Once we had found our lodge it was a simple case of tapping our key card on the door to gain access.

Accommodation at Bluestone consists of lodges, cottages and studio apartments with varying sizes to suit all needs. From the studios and 1 bedroom cottages that sleep 2 people to the huge Dina's bunkhouse lodge sleeping up to 14 and lots of choice in between.

All lodges are set out on their own little pitch, with the exception to the Caldey lodges which can be found in two's as these lodges actually have a very clever door inside which can connect the 2 lodges if you wish (perhaps if you were holidaying with friends and both wanted your own lodge but to stay connected). This can however stay locked if you don't know the family staying next door.

We were given a Ramsey lodge for our stay and it was far better than we could ever have imagined. The Ramsey lodge is spacious and has that homely lodge feel but with all the mod con's such as dishwashers, wet rooms and a flat screen TV!

But what really makes the Ramsey lodge special is that it is actually "upside down living" with the bedrooms situated on the ground floor along with an ensuite bathroom for each bedroom. The living area, dining area and kitchen are all upstairs with an open plan living design for this area. Meaning that all the beautiful views at Bluestone aren't wasted as they are perfectly framed by a huge patio/balcony area in the living space giving you the opportunity to take them all in as you sit and relax.

The lodge was really cosy and as I mentioned before came with all the mod con's. The dishwasher was a bit of a luxury to us as we don't have one at home so took a little while to work out how to use it. We also found a microwave, kettle, toaster and all the usual cutlery, plates etc. We were even supplied with a little starter pack that contained 2 dishwasher tablets, washing up liquid, bin bags and washing up cloths which was a lovely touch.

The living area included a flat screen TV and dvd player which was perfect for the kids in the mornings. I loved the inclusion of a beautiful big table in the dining area which meant we could all sit together at breakfast and meal times, something I really miss being able to do at home so this got a big thumbs up from us!

Downstairs in the bedrooms and ensuite we found all our bedlinen included as well as a bath and hand towel for each person. Our double bedroom ensuite had a toilet, sink and bath with a shower unit over the top of the bath. The twin bedroom ensuite had a toilet, sink and wet room shower unit which was ideal for washing the kids without getting a bad back trying to peer round a shower or lean over a bath. It also made it much quicker and less messy having the wet room available.

There was only 1 issue we had with our lodge which was the beds (well more the mattress), these seemed quite hard and we struggled to get comfy at night. However I can appreciate that everyone has different preference for their mattress and it would be impossible to please everyone. The kids slept on theirs absolutely fine so perhaps its just that I prefer a softer mattress. Everything supplied with our beds was great though, the pillows were lovely and soft and the duvet super warm.

I loved that all the lodges were on their own little pitch and you weren't overlooked by anyone. It felt private enough that you had your own space but still part of the friendly village atmosphere Bluestone offers. The lodges sit perfectly within the beautiful countryside landscape and rolling hills, clearly helped by the authentic wooden lodge style exterior.

We really couldn't fault the lodge at Bluestone, they seem to have found the perfect balance between cosy lodge and modern amenities making your stay even more enjoyable.

If you want to find out what we thought of the rest of the Bluestone site check out our Bluestone Stay post.

Have you stayed at Bluestone before? If so which accommodation did you stay in?


**We were given a break at Bluestone for the purpose of this review, all thoughts and opinions are my own**

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Why im taking my child on a term time holiday.

Not many of you will have missed the whole term time holiday saga that has been plastered across the press lately, what with the Jon Platt case coming to a conclusion recently. However amongst a lot of parents, teachers and non parents this is still a huge debate.

Is it right to take your child out school for a holiday during term time?

For me there are a number of factors to consider, and there should be no cut and paste rule for all. Previous attendance should be a big part of that decision and how each child is coping at school and whether they are reaching expected levels at the time another.
I feel that head teachers should be given back some of that power to be able to assess each child as a individual and then decide themselves as to whether holiday should be granted. Not a government or council systems with fining parents at the front of their minds making the decisions.

This year I will be taking James out of school for a term time holiday and do I feel guilty... nope not one bit. I'm prepared for a fine if that does happen (and quite frankly a £60 fine doesn't seem half as bad as some of the holiday company price hikes for school holiday breaks!) but that's another rant all together!.

We will be going on a holiday that quite frankly I couldn't afford to do in school holidays, we will be doing it as a family and spending some quality family time together away from work, school and everything else that comes with our hectic daily routines. We will be exploring, learning and going on adventures. We will see things we can't see in our home town and learn things he can't find sat behind a desk. James will spend time learning about nature, climbing, swimming and being in a new environment where the opportunity to learn about things not taught in school will be plenty. At the end of our holiday I will be the parent there to help him catch up and I have already asked for work sheets which the school have happily provided so he won't be behind when he gets back!

Learning comes in all different forms any teacher can tell you that, some children thrive working in a  notebook whilst others need a more hands on experience. Of course I don't expect my child's teacher to be able to offer so many experiences and cater to ever childs individual needs. She works her very best to keep a class of 30 (very different) children happy, learning and educated within the school setting. However I also don't expect to be told no when I am able to offer these things for my own child!

James has a perfect attendance record, he is learning above the expected standard for all subjects and a super confident reader. Of course I have school to thank for that but (without blowing my own trumpet) I would like to think that some of that also came from me, his parent. The person who reads with him every night, the person who practises his spelling with him every week, the person who helps him complete homework sheets and times tables. The person who makes decisions based on the well being and the best choices for my son since the day he was born!

I'm the parent who taught him to count, to draw, to speak and even walk before he even bag school. I would like to think the government might want to give me a little credit that I am able to make the best choices for my child when it comes to taking him on holiday. This system in my mind is flawed it is stopping families from going on holiday, spending time together to bond away from day to day worries. It is forcing families in to a situation where they have to stress over a decision that should ultimately be theirs to make anyway.

I would just like to point out that in no way am I saying that we should just be able to pull our children out of school when we fancy all year round. I can see how disruptive this would be and how this could begin to effect a child's work. As I mentioned above there are several factors that need to be considered but the power definitely need to be shifted back to teachers, head teachers and parents the people who are teaching these children, parenting these children and want the best for them!

How do you feel about term time holidays? Would you ever take your child out of school for a holiday during term time?