A Family Staycation at The Vale Resort, South Wales

We’ve enjoyed staycations for quite a while now, usually travelling around 1-3 hours from home to enjoy a beautiful destination without enduring the stresses and hassles of flying. More recently I have decided to incorporate a few short stay staycations into our family trips, we live in such a beautiful part of the country it seems silly to travel too far away for a break, let’s be real, who really wants to be stuck in the car for hours on end with a two year old? Not me that’s for sure!

toddler pulling along peppa pig suitcase

For our most recent staycation we teamed up with The Vale Resort*, near Cardiff, South Wales for dinner, bed and breakfast. The Vale Resort is only half an hour away from us and is host to many a celeb, so I figured if it’s good enough for them then it is good enough for us, and so we went along on my birthday.

birthday celebrations at the vale resort near cardiff

We headed to The Vale Resort for our check in time of 3pm, upon checking in I was delighted to see that they left out birthday gifts and a card for me, this, along with several other little touches throughout our family room really made us feel special. They even left out an activity pack for Aria. The Vale Resort sure thought of everything.

review of the vale resort near cardiff south wales

With plenty to keep us entertained we decided to make the most of our comfortable surroundings and relax in our room before heading for dinner in the Vale Grill Restaurant. We had a wander around the beautiful grounds, which are home to a golf course and a castle. We decided that we wouldn’t take advantage of the spa and creche facilities as we were only there for a short while.

the vale resort grounds

The dinner was included in our package, and for this we could order three courses from a set menu, we also had the option to order from the full menu for an additional charge, but we were more than happy with the choices on the set menu so stuck to that. The food was delicious and the staff were superb and very friendly.

Following the meal we retired to our room to make the most of our lovely comfy bed, we had a brilliant night sleep and loved the thick black out blinds, although we did almost sleep through and miss breakfast because they make the room so dark! Breakfast was your standard buffet breakfast, busy buffets always make me anxious so Spencer picked mine for me while I sat at the table with Aria. Breakfast was served until 10am, and we were slightly disappointed that the pancake machine had been switched off when we went to use it at around two minutes to ten, that will teach us for sleeping in so late!

Watch my video to see our stay in more detail and for a tour of our lovely family room.

Find out more about The Vale Resort and book your break here.

*Disclosure -We received dinner, bed and breakfast at The Vale Resort in exchange for promotion*

Butlin’s Just For Tots Week Minehead 2017

As part of our ambassador role for Butlin’s we recently went along to their Minehead resort for a Just For Tots week*. We went last year when Aria was just one and not yet walking and I couldn’t wait to go again now that she is older, crazier and walking.

We stayed in the beautiful West Lakes Village again, you can see my review from last year or view this year’s chalet in my fancy video. The chalets and the location are stunning, as much as we love the fun hub of Butlin’s it is so nice to escape to the peaceful chalet and surrounding area for a break. These chalets come with housekeeping as standard so you can truly relax. They even load the dishwasher each day so that you don’t have to.

There is so much to do on a Just For Tots break at Butlin’s, so much that we didn’t get to do all of it. Our favourite things to do were to sit in the pavilion and take in the various shows (favourites being Teletubbies and The Skyline Gang), wander around the fair ground, play on the slot machines and join the singing and dancing sessions. You can see more of what we got up to in this short video.

Butlin’s Just For Tots truly was magical for us, Aria came away a different child. Her confidence came on leaps and bounds while we were there, she was playing independently and making new friends, saying hiya to children in the park, even chasing one little girl around and kissing her goodbye. Aria is usually very shy and keeps herself to herself, to see her come along so much in such a short space of time was incredible.

Spending money wise we spent less than £50. All we bought was a treat one day which was milkshakes for Spencer and I and a chocolate egg for Aria, rainbow the dog for Aria’s souvenir and we spent £20 on a fairy makeover. We could have easily came away without spending a penny. We had the premium dining plan which included a delicious choice of foods for breakfast and dinner. We snook out a few pastries and pieces of fruit from the breakfast for snacks and made sandwiches for our lunches. We bought a multi-pack of water and drinks for Aria and took plenty out with us each day. Be warned though, it is very commercialised so you do have to be prepared to either spend a lot of money or say no a lot.

Would I recommend a Just For Tots break at Butlin’s?Absolutely. Aria loved it, and so did we. Though parents be warned, you may want to book a relaxing break the following week to get over it. It is full on.

A blog review of Butlin's Just For Tots in Minehead West Lake Village Chalet

Aria loved it so much she didn’t want to go home.

*Disclosure – we are Butlin’s ambassadors and received a break and the dining plan in exchange for promotion* 

Review : West Lakes Chalets at Minehead Butlins

Earlier this year we were thrilled to be selected as Just For Tots Ambassadors for Butlin’s, the result of which was our Monday – Friday break at Minehead Butlin’s a few weeks ago. We stayed in the new West Lakes Village in a chalet* so beautiful that it deserves a blog post all of it’s own.

blog review of West Lakes Chalets at Butlins Minehead

Lake view in butlins west lake chalet village

West Lakes Chalet Village really is the creme de la creme when it comes to accommodation at Butlins Minehead, with a separate check in area and parking just outside our door my lazy husband was happy. With lakes, water features, pretty pastel chalets and wild rabbits I was happy. With lots of room to bum shuffle around and ducks coming up to the patio doors Aria was happy. Something for everyone.

view from lake view chalet in west lakes village butlins minehead

When booking to stay in the West Lakes Chalet Village you get to pick Lake View, Lake Side or Park View. We stayed in a Lake View Chalet on the ground floor, the above photo was taken standing on our patio area. Such a beautiful view and a delightful place to enjoy your morning coffee in the sunshine.

welcome note on chalkboard in butlins minehead west lake village chalet

On arrival we were greeted with a welcome message on the chalkboard in the hallway, along with some chalk to help us plan our week. As well as organisation Butlins had our entertainment in mind leaving out a pack of playing cards, a game of Twister, and plenty of tea and coffee which was replenished each day.

living room in butlins west lake chalet village minehead

We stayed in a three bedroom chalet, all in there was a living room, kitchen/dining area, a twin bedroom, a kingsize bedroom, a small room with bunkbeds, a family bathroom, a small toilet and a large hallway. The living area was spacious and all of the rooms had plenty of storage, including pull out storage under the beds. The kitchen is fitted with a microwave and dishwasher, they even provided a few dishwasher tablets and other cleaning products to get us started.

king size room in west lakes chalet village butlins minehead

All of the rooms were light and airy, the decor bright and cheerful but not too overwhelming. The beds were very comfortable, I slept amazingly well, the best that I have in a long time which I guess was a combination of the fresh air, being relaxed and the comfortable bed.

Twin bedroom west lakes chalet village minehead butlins

Bloggers and general tech lovers would be pleased by the fact that there are plug sockets next to every bed, perfect for charging your phone at night and not letting it too far out of sight!

family bathroom and bunk bed room at west lake chalet butlins minehead just for tots break

The chalets are very child friendly. There is a stool provided in the family bathroom, there were two travel cots provided and already set up for us, we actually only needed one so just collapsed the other, plug socket covers were set out on the dining room table giving us the choice of whether to use them or not. The towels in the bathrooms had been made into animals, Aria was too young to appreciate this but older kids, and adults of course, would love this. There were lamps over or next to every bed and the curtains blocked almost all outside light.

towel animal elephant in hotel

The price of staying at West Lakes Chalet Villages includes toiletries, daily housekeeping and wifi for two devices. The daily housekeeping was fab, they came to see us on the first day to check if there were any times that we wanted them to avoid, or if there was a particular time we wanted them to come each day. They gave the chalet a thorough clean everyday, all floors were hoovered and mopped, the bedding made and even our dishes washed. They left Aria’s dirty bottle in the sink but to be honest I wouldn’t expect them to wash that, and they probably aren’t allowed to. The wifi wasn’t great and I often found myself disconnecting and using my phones 3G instead as it was quicker.

Overall we were very pleased with our chalet at West Lakes Chalet Village, the wifi wasn’t great and we did hear quite a lot of noise when our upstairs neighbours moved about, but other than that it was perfect. The accommodation is of a very high standard and provided everything that we needed and more. When I next go to Butlins I will definitely be looking to book the same accommodation.

Carry on scrolling to see a few more details, click here to find out more about the chalets and to book or view my review of the Just For Tots break as a whole here.

snail towel animal and free toiletries at butlins in chaletbaby and duck staring at each other through windowlittle touches at butlins minehead chalet toilet roll folded into bow refreshments

Have you ever stayed in the West Lakes Village Chalets, or been to Butlins?

Review : The Hardwick Restaurant & Hotel Abergavenny

The Hardwick restaurant and hotel in Abergavenny is situated beautifully in amongst the countryside, and is run by professional chef Stephen Terry. We were recently invited along to The Hardwick* by Stephen Terry and Collier’s Welsh cheese for an overnight stay and plenty of food. Carry on reading for my thoughts on the food and the rooms.

Review of the hardwick restaurant and hotel in abergavenny scenic photo of hardwick sign with mountain views in background on sunny day

The Hardwick Restaurant Abergavenny shot taken through daffodils looking up at restaurant

We were invited along by Collier’s Cheese as they have recently collaborated with Stephen Terry to create a series of mouth watering recipes that incorporate Collier’s powerful Welsh Cheddar – keep your eyes peeled for some recipe posts coming soon.

review of the hardwick hotel in abergavenny - picture of bed in hotel room white and red warming and cosy bedroom

The hotel room was very welcoming. The warm, cosy lighting and the red bedding complimented each other perfectly. Huge plus points came from all of us tech addict bloggers for the bedside tables at each side of the bed, both of which had a power point, perfect for charging your phone/laptop/tablet.

light and breezy hotel room at the hardwick hotel abergavenny

The room is light and airy, we were lucky enough that the sun was shining brightly during our stay which meant that we could open the shutters and allow the natural light to pour into the room. The natural light combined with the full length mirror were also huge plus points for me. Perfect for getting ready.

wooden shutters and brown leather chair in hotel room at the hardwick abergavenny
little touches in hotel room at the hardwcik abergavenny classic car books
hotel room draw with kilner jars of various teas and coffees at the hardwick abergavenny

We loved all of the little touches and details in the hotel room, my personal favourite was the draw containing various teas and coffees. I am so annoyed with myself for not trying the Biscotti, they looked delicious.

The only downside to our hotel room was that it was boiling. There were thermostats in the room but there were notes stating that we weren’t to change them. Spencer and I were wondering if someone had somehow missed (or ignored) the note and messed with the heat settings. I’m sure a quick phone call to reception would have sorted the issue but we didn’t spend much time in the room so weren’t too worried about it. We opened the window and closed the shutters to cool it down a little, though we did wake up very hot and sweaty to a room temperature of 24.

Bramley toiletries provided at The Hardwick Hotel in Abergavenny

The bathroom was clean, tidy and contained everything that we needed. Toiletries were complimentary during our stay, we also had the option to purchase what we didn’t use at a reduced rate. We had a bath with a shower over.

colourful polka dot and mad professor rubber ducks at The Hardwick Hotel Abergavennybathroom at the hardwick hotel in abergavennytall kilner jars containing cotton buds etc in hotel room at the hardwick abergavenny

bar area at The Hardwick Hotel in Abergavenny rustic setting with animal heads on wall

The bar and restaurant area are perfectly rustic and relaxing. There are lots of little details that just ‘fit’ without looking too overwhelming or too ‘done’.

salmon from the lunchtime menu at The Hardwick Hotel in Abergavenny chef Stephen Terry
We were able to order lunch shortly after we arrived. I am a huge fan of salmon so couldn’t resist the Pan Fried Salmon on Humus with Spiced Aubergine, Sweet Bulls Horn Pepper, Yoghurt, Coriander, Mint & Parsley. This dish was full of flavour without being too overwhelming. The salmon cooked to perfection and all ingredients complimenting each other perfectly.

duck confit start at the hardwick restaurant in abergavenny

Following our adventure to Big Pit (more about that in the next post) we arrived back at the restaurant for our evening meal. For starter I had the Confit Duck Hash with a fried local Duck Egg, Chicory and Burnt Orange Dressing. Another dish cooked to perfection.

pork belly at the hardwick restaurant in abergavenny
For my main I opted for the pork belly and ham hock. This was delicious but I did find the pork belly a little salty for my personal taste.

chocolate brownie ice cream and popping candy pudding at the hardwick restaurant abergavenny
As if I hadn’t already eaten enough by this point I decided to order a pudding. In my defence how could I resist when I saw this description on the menu : Valrhona Chocolate Brownie & Mousse with Seville Orange Marmalade Ice Cream, Chocolate Popping Candy, Coco Nib Biscuit and Halen Mon Sea Salted Caramel Sauce?

I don’t know how, but I somehow managed to eat all of this. Well I do know how, because it was blooming delicious! I felt sick as a pig afterwards, but in a very satisfied way.

sourdough bread breakfast at the hardwick in abergavenny
We had breakfast included in our overnight stay. I had eaten so much the day before that I didn’t want a big breakfast so resisted the very tempting full breakfast and instead opted for the much lighter but equally enjoyable smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

smoked salmon and scrambled eggs breakfast at the hardwick in abergavenny
Overall we had a fantastic time at The Hardwick, both the room and food were pretty much spot on. We will definitely be returning, especially as it isn’t as expensive as we had assumed that it would be. With midweek deals such as three courses for £25 or B&B and a three course meal for £199 we have no reason not to go back.

Click here To find out more about The Hardwick or to make a booking.

Have you been to The Hardwick? If not, do you plan to visit in the future?

Bluestone Wales : The Grassholm Lodge
We recently enjoyed a four night break at Bluestone Wales*, where we stayed in a four bedroom Grassholm Lodge situated in Preseli View area of the resort.
Read on to find out what I thought of our Bluestone Accommodation.
Our party consisted of six adults, two children and one baby and there was more than enough room in the spacious lodge to fit us. As well as four bedrooms there were three bathrooms (one en-suite), a kitchen/diner, large living room, large porch area and a patio with outdoor seating.
I forgot to take a photo of the porch but it was huge, it comfortably held two pushchairs (both in their upright position), a car seat and all of our shoes/boots/wellies and coats.
The living room is large and bright with plenty of floor to ceiling windows making the open plan room light and airy. There are three sofas in total, the other is hiding below the stairs. There is a small patio area off the living room, perfect for al fresco dining on those warmer days. The views from the living room over the Preseli Hills are simply stunning.
The living room extends over the height of both floors, the wooden beams make a lovely feature. There is a window looking down from one of the bedrooms into the living room, which the kids had great fun with as it was their bedroom!
There is an interactive TV in the living room along with a DVD player. The TV had a personalised greeting on when we arrived and displayed special offers everyday. You can view information and the takeaway menu on the TV. It was disappointing that you couldn’t go as far as ordering the takeaway via the TV, you had to view the menu here and then phone up to order. Thankfully we had mobile phone signal so this wasn’t a problem but it could be as the signal wasn’t the greatest!
The kitchen is modern, large and has all of the crockery & utensils that you could possibly need during your stay, you would have no problems cooking from scratch everyday of your holiday using the equipment provided. There is also a large fridge, freezer and dishwasher.
Bluestone provide a few bits to get you started during your stay which is such a lovely idea and a lot more than some other self catering accommodations provide. Anything else can be purchased from the well stocked village shop which is just a short walk from Preseli View.
As well as an eight seater dining table there is also a high chair provided. There is another large window just in front of the table making it the perfect place for family dining.
All four bedrooms were large and well made up. Three of the bedrooms contained twin beds and one a double bed, the double bed is the room with the en suite. One of the bedrooms is downstairs and the others upstairs. Each bedroom had bedside tables, lamps and ample storage space.
All three bathrooms were big and all had a large towel radiator in them. The downstairs bathroom doubled up as a wet room with a walk in shower as well as a large bath, toilet and sink. One of the upstairs bathrooms also had a large bath with a shower over, toilet and sink. The en suite bathroom had a large shower, toilet and sink.
The lodges are well equipped for children, as well as a high chair there is also a travel cot provided. There are stair gates fitted on the top and bottom of the stairs. All of the curtains are black out curtains allowing for the perfect nights sleep.
These lodges would even be perfect in the Winter as the heating system works really well, I generally get quite hot so often found it too hot when others had the heating on.
As is to be expected there are always a few negative points, nothing is ever perfect.
The beds were too high for Olly, aged three. He couldn’t climb up onto his bed so his father ended up taking the base away and leaving a mattress on the floor, he did this for both Olly and his sister, Gracie, thankfully this just made it even more exiting for them as they felt as though they were camping!
In one of the bedrooms there was a used cotton bud and empty wrapping left in the drawers, I’m guessing this was a simple case of the cleaner missing that particular set of drawers which I guess can easily happen in such a big lodge, but still, it really isn’t very good.
In the double bedroom the full length mirror is right next to the door which made applying make-up and drying hair quite risky!
There was a shard of smashed glass in the chippings outside our door, not really anyone’s fault as there are a lot of chippings around the place, it is completely unrealistic to expect someone to look through them but I wanted my post to be honest so thought I would mention it.
There was a screw on the floor in the en suite bathroom. I’m not sure where it came from, I just know that it would have hurt if one of us had stood on it with bare feet!
The sofa under the stairs in the living room can be quite dangerous, a few of us banged our heads on it, myself included.
The instructions for use of kitchen appliances weren’t very clear, pictures would make them a lot easier to follow. Both myself and Spencer followed the dishwasher instructions (or at least thought that we did) and came home to a dishwasher that hadn’t even started yet! This being said there are appliance specific manuals available from the Village Central if you really can’t work it out yourself, it is just a shame that they aren’t in the lodge ready.
While they provide so many kitchen appliances it is a real shame that there is no washing machine, being a family resort accidents with clothes can happen and a washing machine would come in handy. There is a laundry service available but it would be nice to be able to do your own.
The lodge is open plan and as a result noise travels right through all of the rooms. If you are thinking of staying in a lodge with a large group do consider this.