Climbing Up Caldicot Castle, Wales

Caldicot Castle, Wales

Maybe it’s because I’m American, but I love a good castle. So last month, when we had our family holiday to Wales, I thought it would be fun to include a Welsh castle in our holiday activities.  Although there were several lovely castles to choose from, I decided upon Caldicot Castle as it is small and also halfway between Bluestone Wales and South West London.

Caldicot Castle and CounCaldicot Castle, Walestry Park is a lovely medieval stone castle. As it is small, my three-year old son Dubz was able to walk all around. We climbed the spiral staircases and saw the various rooms and ultimately went up to the keep. We saw lovely views of the castle’s courtyards as well as the country park (there are 55 acres!!).  Husband did carry Dubz up and down the staircase as they were too steep for him.

Caldicot Castle, Wales

Moozles learned about castles a few months ago so it was a good way to test her to see if she remembered much about castle life. It is always nice to bring learning into the real world (especially when you take a cheeky week off school). After climbing up and down the castle, we sat down at one of the picnic tables in the courtyard and had a picnic lunch. There were some giant garden games but we didn’t have much time to play, so we left after lunch. There is a tea room, but it was not open when we were there.

Caldicot Castle is open six days a week and the admission is free unless there is an event on. There is a free car park and even a playground. There are public toilets, but they are really gross. Just make sure you rub antibacterial gel on all over afterwards and you’ll be fine. Caldicot is the first town in Wales after crossing the Severn Crossing. And Caldicot Castle makes a lovely diversion.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

Our Family Holiday at Bluestone Wales

Family Holiday at Bluestone Wales

A few weeks ago my family and I drove 4 1/2 hours from South West London to South Wales. And to Bluestone Wales for our family holiday. This is the third year in a row that we have had our main holiday in the UK, but this was the best holiday by far. If you have never been to Bluestone Wales, then book your holiday now (after reading this post, of course). If you are planning a trip to Bluestone, then read on for tips.

We arrived at Bluestone at 3pm and we only had to wait a few minutes to check in (which we did at a gate, whilst in our car). I have heard that there can be long queues if you arrive at 4.30pm (the time when you are able to drive straight to your lodge). We then parked the car and went to the soft play until 4.30pm. The soft play was a good size, with several slides, mini-golf, indoor rock climbing and even a bouncy castle. We had such great weather during our week at Bluestone that we only visited the soft play twice. But I can see how great it would be if the weather was particularly cold or rainy.

We were so pleased to arrive at our holiday home – a Grassholm lodge, on Preseli View.  I was a bit worried at first, as there was a huge construction site on the side of our lodge, but we could not hear them at all when we were inside the house. Our two-story lodge was detached, but there are some semis (if you have a smaller family or if you want to be next to friends or family). Inside, everything was comfortable and modern. Everything looked quite new, and the kitchen had all the necessary amenities (including a cafetiere, as Husband will not drink instant coffee). The beds were comfortable and the shower had terrific pressure.

I don’t know if it is because I am American, but finding modern family accommodation in the UK can be a bit tricky. Some people will rent out their homes, with all the furniture and amenities fresh from the 1960s. I do not enjoy sitting on old, dusty sofas. I do not like beds that have frilly, polyester bedspreads.  I don’t like to find the fur of 83 different dogs ground into the carpet and rugs. And I certainly do not want to drink tea from your 20-year old kettle that is covered in limescale. But our lodge at Bluestone was comfortable and clean. And the grounds of Bluestone were maintained very well and all the buildings and playground equipment looked nice and new.

Each lodge comes with a highchair and a travel cot, so you don’t even have to ask for one beforehand. And there were stairgates already at the bottom and the top of the stairs that you could use (my youngest is three so we didn’t need them). Another nice touch was that each lodge has a picnic table outside, so that you can enjoy your meals and drinks outside if you are that way inclined. My kids love eating outside, so they were very excited about this. Husband, also known as the ‘whitest man alive’, cannot handle too much sun exposure so we sometimes ate dinner inside.

We did not eat all our meals at our holiday house. We ate most of our lunches out during our day trips, and one night we ventured in the heart of Bluestone Village for dinner at one of their many restaurants. We chose the new Oak Tree restaurant as we loved the idea of Welsh and Italian fusion. And we were not disappointed. The food was delicious and I even had my daughter trying to steal my crab risotto with pan fried cod (picture below – you must try this!). I was a bit surprised that the total came to £90 as we expected everything in Wales to be much cheaper than London. But we thoroughly enjoyed our meal, so cannot complain.

On our last night at Bluestone, we ordered in from their takeaway service. We arrived back at our lodge, after a particularly busy day, at 5pm. Ordered food (paid with a card). Everyone bathed and showered, and then our food arrived 35 minutes later. It was so easy and the food was plentiful and good.

Moozles and Dubz, age seven and three respectively, loved the outside part of our lodge. They were constantly playing in the flowers and looking for rabbits. They would often play with our neighbours’ little girls, which I found quite sweet. And sometimes other children would be walking home with their parents and they would stop to play. On our penultimate day at the lodge, we returned from Tenby to find that the grass has been mowed. My poor daughter was so upset. She had loved the long grass and wildflowers, and dramatically asked ‘why would they do that? Don’t they like nature?’ Awww.

Another impressive aspect of Bluestone is the Blue Lagoon Waterpark. We went swimming most days, and loved it. In fact, Dubz had never been in a swimming pool before (blame that second-child syndrome), and he loved it. Moozles was obsessed with the slides and the lazy river. Dubz loved the wave machine and the pirate area (great for little ones though it was colder than the other water areas). The waterpark is open to the public but only Bluestone guests are allowed in between 9am-11am. Apart from going in the morning, during this quieter time, we also went swimming in the afternoon and neither times were too hectic.

One afternoon, while Husband took the kids to the playground, I escaped to the Well Spa. About two weeks before our holiday, Bluestone emailed me with an offer for a two-hour spa break for just £10. How could I refuse?! I enjoyed the various saunas and steam rooms, but I did find it confusing as to whether there was an order in which to enjoy the thermal rooms. I tried them all, though a couple were so hot I had to leave immediately. But I loved the herbal steam room and the hot slate sauna. Sweating feels so good when you’re not pushing a buggy up a hill in 35C heat (sorry, I’m still have heatwave flashbacks). There was also an outdoor pool/hot tub. And there were some ‘experience showers’ but I could not figure out how to turn them on. In the end I only spent an hour at the spa as it was quite small.

Bluestone is located near some fab family-friendly attractions. We went to The Dinosaur Park and Tenby beach one day and Folly Farm on another day. But part of me wished that we had stayed and explored Bluestone some more. I am still sad that we didn’t get the chance to have lunch at Camp Smokey. And our kids would have loved to go to the waterpark twice a day instead of just once. And there are loads of activities that the kids can take part in (while mum and dad can have a break). I can definitely see us returning to Bluestone in the autumn or winter and enjoying their indoor activities more.

Top Tips:

  • We ordered groceries through Tesco and picked them up in Carmarthen (SA31 3AX) through their free click and collect service. It is on the way to Bluestone and it did not take much time to do. Please be aware that the fridges are small so do not overbuy fresh food. We did also stock up on a few items at the shop in Bluestone Village (the prices were reasonable).
  • For the kitchen, bring handwash, bin bags, paper towels, salt and pepper, condiments and dishwasher tablets. Our dishwasher was in need of rinse aid and salt. Also, bring foil for cooking and covering leftovers, and cutlery and sippy cups for your little ones, if needed.
  • I bought extra loo roll, but we were fine with what Bluestone provided us.
  • If you want to see one of the dinner shows at the Wildwood Cafe, book ahead. We tried to book when we were there, but they were sold out.
  • We were thankful that we had brought out gro-anywhere blackout blinds as the kids’ bedrooms were quite bright.
  • If you want to rent a golf buggy (you’re not allowed to drive your car around Bluestone except for when you arrive and depart), bring your drivers license. Both Husband and I forgot ours, and had to walk everywhere (did I mention that Husband had convinced me not to bring the stroller??!!). Luckily it only took about 15 minutes to reach the waterpark, soft play and the main village. And there is a shuttle that stops throughout Bluestone if you do need a lift.
  • On the morning of check-out, Husband went and bought pastries from Millers Bakery for our goodbye breakfast. The pastries were so yummy. And we also got some French bread for a picnic on our way home.
  • Halfway between South West London and Bluestone is Caldicot Castle. I recommend stopping there on your way home for a visit and a picnic in the courtyard. But there are some other nice castles in Wales you can visit.

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Check out Bluestone’s Twitter and Facebook pages if you want to find out about any deals they are offering.

 

We were given a complimentary stay at Bluestone Wales for the purpose of this review (though we paid for all the extras). All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

 

Fun at Folly Farm Wales

Folly Farm Wales

While we were on holiday in Pembrokeshire this week we popped into Folly Farm. Folly Farm located in South Wales, combines a petting zoo, a soft play, playgrounds and a small zoo of bigger animals. Our visit began in the Jolly Barn, filled with pigs, donkeys, giant rabbits and other farmyard animals. I loved watching the giant rabbits hop about. Moozles and Dubz especially loved petting the lovely ferret.

Then we headed over to see the giraffes and the zebras. They have a viewing platform, which is especially nice when the giraffes walk next to it and you can look into their big, beautiful eyes. Next were the Humboldt penguins. We caught the penguin talk, which was very popular and very interesting. After that we looked at the lions, before heading into the soft play for lunch. They have made the soft play look like an outdoor tree house, with lots of climbing and sliding. There is also two soft sections, one for children under six and another for children between two and four.

Folly Farm also has a vintage funfair, with lots of cute rides. And as it is covered, it is suitable all-year. There are also several playgrounds, and we enjoyed most of them. We saw the pirate ship when we were leaving, but had to make sure the kids did not see it as they were already pretty exhausted. I liked that there were loads of outdoor benches, so that you could bring a picnic (as we did). Beware, there are lots of seagulls looking for scraps. Have a look at my vlog below for more of our fun day at Folly Farm.

Folly Farm opens at 10am every day. Tickets cost £10.95 for each adult, £9.95 for each child. Children two and under are free.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

We were given complimentary tickets to Folly Farm for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.