Bluestone National Park, Pembrokeshire (West London Living)

 

The Credentials:

Named ‘the second best coastline in the world’ by National Geographic Magazine, Pembrokeshire is a must-visit destination for 2011. Located on the west coast of Wales, it is home to Britain’s only coastal national park. With stunning cliff-top views, abundant wildlife and 186 miles of coastal parks, it is the perfect staycation for families in search of country air and activities.

Dine:

There is a small range of restaurants to choose from as well as a traditional Welsh pub in the village. We ate in Smithy’s; a family-friendly steak restaurant. We enjoyed a good-value bottle of red wine and fillet steak with pepper sauce. The meat was cooked exactly as requested and was full of flavour. The staff were fantastic but unfortunately the restaurant was a bit cold and lacking in ambiance – it felt a little bit makeshift.

The resort’s fine dining restaurant, Carreg Las, which translates as ‘blue stone’ was unfortunately closed on our visit – peeking through the windows, it certainly looked like the part.

Our best dining experience was found 10 minutes drive away amidst a stunning 600-acre private country estate. Slebech Park is rich in history and the tranquil lakes surrounding the central buildings create a peaceful, private feeling. The striking house has been in the owner’s family for 900 years and has recently been tastefully transformed into a boutique hotel. With just 15 rooms, it is the perfect escape from the capital. Their restaurant, The Slebech, is run by head chef David Bleay and offers contemporary country fare with an emphasis on prime meats, local fish and vegetables straight from the garden.

On our visit the kitchen greeted us with a deeply creamy homemade foie gras that got the taste buds going. My dry-aged fillet of beef was served with a succulent and rich rarebit crust which complimented the tender meat perfectly (£24). The wine was superb, the food was a triumph, but it was the surroundings that made the evening so priceless. With relaxing music in the background, a roaring fire behind us and minus nine winds sweeping over the lake outside, our stresses literally melted away.

Sleep:

Just 10 miles from the beautiful Welsh fishing town of Tenby, lies Bluestone holiday village, a series of upmarket wooden lodges set on a hill surrounding a traditional Welsh village. Offering a range of activities in the area – from horse riding and quad biking to climbing and canoeing. The self catering lodges are cosy and spacious with all the home comforts needed.

The village is a car-free zone but cycles or golf buggies can be hired by the day. We travelled around on a golf buggy which, despite having us in fits of giggles for the first few days, did not seem quite so funny or five-star while driving it at night in minus nine degrees.

The village has its own spa which uses the ESPA range and has a huge selection of spa rooms, from dry salt and menthol steam to a brick sauna and ice room (which, unsurprisingly, we avoided). We had the 60-minute aromatherapy massage that was blissful, followed by a light lunch and glass of chilled white in the spa café overlooking the outdoor heated hydrotherapy pool, which was disappointingly out of order during our visit.

Who Goes There?:

In summer this area bursts into life and offers a fantastic family-friendly country escape.

Out & About:

As soon as I saw the Pembrokeshire coastline I knew I had to get hacking. Bluestone arranged a fantastic beach ride for me and a woodland trek for my mother at the nearby Marros Stables. The staff were incredibly friendly and despite the differences in mine and my mother’s riding experience, they managed to ensure we both had a fantastic ride.

If you prefer your adventures on two feet then you can explore the quaint town of Narberth. This arty little village, just minutes from the resort, is crammed with delicious delis, eclectic gift shops and a handful of independent art galleries. You must pop into Ultracomida deli which stocks Welsh and Spanish cheese, meats and wines as well as serving homemade tapas and what must be the most decadent hot chocolate in Wales.

You can’t visit Bluestone without exploring Pembrokeshire’s stunning coastline. Drive to Tenby and explore its harbour and beautiful beaches. You can even catch your own dinner on a mackerel catching trip (www.tenbyfishing.co.uk; £10pp) and reward yourself with a champagne afternoon tea (www.slebech.co.uk; £17pp).

The Best Thing:

The endless selection of activities from canoeing, cycling, hiking and climbing – and that is without even leaving the resort – which, frankly in an area of such bountiful natural beauty, would be a crime. Only a short drive away you can add mackerel fishing, horse riding, shopping and afternoon tea on to the to-do list.

The Worst Thing:

Bluestone is clearly a trip for the warmer months. We spent most of our January stay shivering and looking out over the beautiful countryside wishing we could explore more. The resort is a fantastic option if you are after a spot of family glamping, where you can have your troubles massaged away as the kids are kept occupied with activities.

The Details:

Bluestone, The Grange, Canaston Wood, Narberth, Pembrokeshire, SA67 8DE; www.bluestonewales.com; 01834 888 405

A midweek break at Bluestone National Park Resort starts at £209 for a two-bedroom Caldey Lodge sleeps up to four people.

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