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This time of year is always a bit grim in the UK right?…and I always long for a bit of winter sun, a break…a couple of days away from the big smoke to re-energise myself…it’s not so much the cold as the lack of sun.

What can I say? I am a sunshine and margaritas kind of girl…well until I gave up the booze that was. Sigh!!!

Anyway, I mustn’t grumble because I had a lovely break just before Xmas to Bluestone Resort in Pembrokeshire, and I can’t believe it was a whole month since my return.

Time to write up my review I guess.

It’s funny, I always convince myself I am not very outdoorsy…you know being a city girl and all of that. But the fact is I love to be outside. I love a bit of mud. I love getting away from the concrete jungle that is London. So when Bluestone National Park Resorts offered me the chance to spend 4 nights at their resort with my family I was delighted…even if we were to be going in December.

It was perfect timing actually.

In the lead up to Xmas, I had been extremely busy launching a new business. I had also just found out that I had a place for the London Marathon in the spring, and needed to refocus my running efforts and find my mojo again. So my plan for this mini break was to run every morning, and just be as active as I could…which is hardly a problem at a place like Bluestone.

We arrived in Pembrokeshire, Wales to the most spectacular of sunsets…we had headed out of London just after rush hour in the morning, so it had been quite some journey what with multiple toilet breaks at service stations. Me, my sister Jennie and our two kids Rio 9 and Rosie 4 and a half all ready for a winter adventure.

Driving through Bluestone was pretty magical as we tried to locate our lodge. We were staying in a Gateholm Lodge 3 bed, 2 bathroom lodge in the Templars Court section of the resort. There was so much space…at least we wouldn’t annoy our neighbors ha ha.

25550588_10156898877368835_4154320974670157614_nThe kids were so excited as they explored the topsyturvy lodge, with its communal area upstairs and bedrooms downstairs, both kids announcing that this was the kind of house they wanted to live in “in real life”.

As my sister unpacked our provisions, I drove the car back to the main carpark and hiked the mile back. Problem was I hadn’t really familiarised myself with the site, and got lost twice. I ended up covering 12K steps and by the time I got back to the lodge dinner was ready…so all was not lost really.

We opted for an early night as we were all pretty tired.

The next morning I was a bit eager and got up so early it was still pitch black. I knew the trails would be quiet and I would have to be brave to face them, but even I am not that brave, headtorch or no headtorch. so I made myself a cup of tea and just enjoyed the peace and quiet while I waited for the sun to rise a bit. I headed out at 8.20 with the aim of running 5 miles.

Wow, wow, wow…I loved running on the trails outlined on the Bluestone Map, I didn’t really have a plan, I just intuitively went where I fancied and ended up running though Caniston Woods, which was beautiful and scary in equal measure. For the first hour, I didn’t see a single other person, although I di have a little dalliance with a bird who decided to run along the path in front of me for a few minutes…it was quite funny actually.

Once out of the woods I found myself on a country lane and just picked a direction and went for it, my speed was a little bit lacking, but my fitness felt good. I have always had a bit of an adventurous spirit like this, as a kid I would purposefully get lost so I could find my way home again.

IMG_1583At one point I came across a forest that seriously looked like it had been there for a million years…the trees were like 100 foot tall, or at least they felt like they were.

After about 90 minutes I headed back the way I came, ready for breakfast, a shower and whatever the day could throw at me.

The rest of the day was spent exploring the site. It drizzled all day, but we were dressed for the weather and nobody seemed to mind. We walked around the village, explored the trails, and went swimming in the BEST swimming pool EVER. Heading from the heated pool out into the cold drizzle of the outside lazy river was strangely refreshing…the kids had a blast.

IMG_1883Everything about this holiday park was designed with kids in tow…quite literally, later in the week we hired bikes, me with a trailer pulling Rose along as I went. Rio loved the freedom of biking along the trails through the mud and down the hills…much to the horror of his mum who is anything but a dare devil.

On what became known as “Mountain Bike Day” we spent the day whizzing around the camp, popping back briefly for lunch and then heading out again.

Jennie who stupidly come out in white pumps soon realised what a mistake she made when she almost lost a shoe. We came off the trails at one point and headed towards a track leading up to a farm, it was so muddy that by the time we realised it was a bad move we were too far invested and couldn’t turn back so we headed up a hill which was fine for Rio, fine for Jennie…but me with Rose on the back..let’s just say I got my work out that day.

25507653_10155957212365477_2553546977964777940_nI was literally stuck in the mud…scared that if I let go of the bike or slipped Rose would be heading for an adventure all of her own…I was sweating so much it looked like it had been raining.

Jennie thought it was hilarious and started filming me…but karma got her back and she fell over on her arse, mud all over her backside. Too damn funny.

We still laugh about it now, a month later.

The whole trip was about doing things as a family we might not do otherwise and making memories, we did that for sure…

Rios,

This is the best holiday ever comment says it all really

25593845_10155955497475477_2357377389338322434_nWe headed out of camp one day to nearby Tenby, we hid in caves, searched for sea creatures, drew messages in the sand and generally just had a relaxing day…no moaning from the kids at all.

We had the beach to ourselves pretty much, and then warmed up in a local cafe.

There were lots of interesting day trips to be had, but to be quite honest there was also enough to do at Bluestone…so we mainly stayed on site.

Rio loved the freedom of being able to take his bike and explore the traffic-free site by himself.

25446340_10156898968723835_7499796875258316086_nWe went into the village one night and enjoyed the switching on of the lights, and another we took part in the pub quiz which was a fun, family-friendly affair.

I ran every day that we were there covering 17 miles. One morning I simply did laps of the site, which may sound boring but was in fact brilliant. The views are spectacular and plenty of other runners were out that morning too. The hills though…gosh the hills. We didn’t hire a gold buggy as I was determined to be active…but on reflection that was quite challenging with Rose refusing to walk at some points. Though, there was a bus service which ran circles around the site which we used to come back from swimming and the indoor activity centre…which was very well used during our stay.

We had booked a visit to the Kingdom of the Elfs, an interactive winter themed show which led us through a series of rooms telling us the story of the elves and the snow queen. It was brilliant. The kids got elf onsies and we all got rosy cheek make up. The actors were hilarious, and the activities really well thought through.

IMG_1802We had such a wonderful time, and it was a perfect antidote to the madness that is the build up to Christmas in London. I loved that I was able to prioritise my training without compromising my family time, one morning for example I headed to the trails and did shuttle runs up a winding ramp in a part of the camp called Steep Ravine (figures right) catching my breath at Camp Smokeys.

I left Wales feeling reenergised and strong.

We often think that family holidays have to be all ice cream and chips by the sea, or super stressful with passports and luggage allowances, but this was a real eye opener to me about a different type of family break.

…and a perfect excuse to train somewhere different from your normal routes.

This trip was gifted to me by Bluestone National Park Resort as part of their blogger programme in exchange for an honest review. I would like to say a massive thank you to them. Our stay was perfect, and I will be raving about our stay in Wales for a while…as will Rio and Rose.

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