We’re massive fans of Bluestone National Park Resort in this household. We’ve been there a lot, and it surprises me that so many people STILL haven’t heard about it. However if you say ‘Center Parcs’ to someone, they’ll instantly know what you mean. Center Parcs is a holiday GIANT, they’ve got five locations in the UK, and one in Ireland. There is (currently) only one Bluestone Resort – and it’s located in Pembrokeshie National Park in South Wales. It’s definitely a bit of a trek for us from Essex. We are nearer several Center Parcs locations, but honestly, I’d pick Bluestone every single time.
When I was growing up, we’d go on family holidays to Center Parcs – it felt a massive ‘upgrade’ from our normal Butlins holidays. The fact we could go with another family and share a ‘Lodge’ was awesome. I genuinely thought that Center Parcs was one of the best ways to holiday in the UK.
Then I went to Bluestone National Park Resort, and all that changed. In the interest of balance, I do have recent experience of Center Parcs too. We went to Longleat Forest with Vicki’s family in 2017 and stayed in a VERY fancy Treehouse, which was amazing – that said, I missed Bluestone. I’ve been mentally writing this post out for a long time now, and as we’re heading back to South Wales in September I thought ahead of all the content I’ll be creating then, I’d share my thoughts on why Bluestone Resort is better than Center Parcs. Obviously it’s all down to personal preference, but honestly, I’ve never come across someone who has been to Bluestone and hasn’t been blown away by it.
I think it’s also worth mentioning I’ve been to Bluestone as a ‘Bluestone Blogger’, whereby the accommodation has been ‘gifted’ to us. You might think this makes this biased. I can promise you that is most DEFINITELY NOT the case. Holidays are expensive, most families will only do one a year, and I absolutely would not recommend something so expensive unless I genuinely believed 100% in it. Talking about the expense, let’s get the list started with…
1 – Bluestone Resort is Cheaper than Center Parcs
We’re all looking at ways to cut costs at the moment, and holidays, especially to ‘resorts’, aren’t cheap. Don’t get me wrong – you’re not going to find a bargain school holiday break at Bluestone. Just like any holiday destination, the prices are CRAZY during the holidays. However, across the board, a holiday at Bluestone will be CHEAPER than the equivalent at Center Parcs. If two adults wanted to go and stay in a Lodge at Bluestone at the start of September – a Caldy Lodge would cost you £449 from Mon-Fri. If you were to do the same mid-week at Woodland Lodge at Center Parcs, you’d have to pay £579.
In fairness Center Parcs does have smaller, Studio Rooms and Apartments that would cost you £329 or £399 respectively – however, I’m trying to compare apples with apples here. If you want ‘Lodge’ accommodation – Bluestone is cheaper.
The accommodation at Bluestone although cheaper is of excellent quality – you can see some in my video tour of a Ramsey Lodge here.
Bluestone isn’t just cheaper from an accommodation perspective – it’s cheaper across the board. Activities, Spa Facilities, even Eating and Drinking. You’ll find it cheaper at Bluestone! Want to go and hang out in the Spa at Center Parcs? It’ll be from £59 per person. Want to do the same at Bluestone? It’s £35 per person.
You might think by paying more, you’re getting something better. The experiences are pretty much on par. Center Parcs absolutely has more activities available than Bluestone, however – I don’t personally go on holiday to do a tonne of things. I like to relax. I think Bluestone has plenty to keep an active family busy. I choose to be lazy.
2 – Bluestone doesn’t feel Corporate and is less Commerical
Obviously, Bluestone is a business, it IS corporate. However, it doesn’t FEEL that way at all. If you go to Center Parcs, you can dine in Café Rouge, Bella Italia, Las Iguanas, Strada or Leon, or go pick up a Starbucks. Don’t get me wrong, I like all of those places – but, if I’m going on holiday, I want something different to what I’d find on the high street at home. To be fair, it is different, it’s a lot more expensive! When I’m on holiday I want to enjoy something different – Bluestone has a good selection of eating options, and they all where possible use locally sourced produce.
Center Parcs does have ‘normal’ eateries, but there’s no mention of local produce. Back in the day, Center Parcs didn’t have the ‘brands’ there, and I feel it’s a bit of a shame they do now. It feels a bit like going to Spain and only eating Full English Breakfasts and Fish and Chips.
Even the ‘Supermarkets’ are wildly different. The ‘ParcMarket’ is like strolling to a scaled-down Sainsburys or Asda – all the big brands are there (at slightly inflated prices). Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to have familiar stuff. If you step inside Newton Stores at Bluestone, you’re faced with a more traditional ‘Village Shop’ – you’ll find all the brands plus a LOT of local produce. Picking up some Welsh Cakes and slathering them in local butter is something we love to do. You can get everything you need AND support the local producers – plus the prices are reasonable too.
3 – It’s part of the Community and feels like a Community
Obviously, both Center Parcs and Bluestone employ a LOT of people in their local areas. I found that the staff at Bluestone all feel like a big family, everyone is so warm and friendly, across all the different departments and teams, it just feels like a family. Plus, Bluestone National Park Resort really do fly the flag for their local area. Their website and social media are always showing what the local area has to offer, heck the website has a ‘tab’ for Pembrokeshire. They actively encourage people to leave the resort and go and explore the local area. There is a LOT to explore, and I think it’s really lovely they are flying the flag for the area, not just their four ‘walls’.
Also, when you stay at Bluestone, you feel like you’re part of a community. You go down to ‘The Village’ for most of your food and drink needs, it really does feel like you’re in a tiny little community. There’s a Village Hall too – it’s so lovely just wandering around and exploring – it really feels like you’ve moved to a quaint Welsh village for a few days. Center Parcs just feels like a holiday park. You always feel like you’re at home at Bluestone. I suppose in some ways I like the exclusivity of Bluestone – so many people have been to a Center Parcs. If you find a friend or colleague who has been to Bluestone you instantly know they’ve also made an awesome holiday choice.
4 – It’s Smaller, yet Feels Bigger.
All the UK Center Parcs locations are within Forests, which is pretty cool. The dense tree cover means it does make you feel a little ‘closed in’ as you’re navigating around. The Center Parcs resorts are all massive, so trekking around them can take a while – especially if you’ve not hired a bike. Bluestone is smaller, but it feels bigger because the accommodation is all in the open, you’re not surrounded by trees. Yes, there are trees, and bushes, but if you’re in some of the two-storey lodges you end up with lovely views around you (like the header image of the post). There are dense forest areas within Bluestone, Camp Smokey is nestled in one for example. Generally, there is a lot of open space, and even on the darkest of Welsh days, you don’t feel like you’re trapped in a Forest.
You don’t need a bike or golf buggy to make your way around Bluestone either – yes it speeds things up, but you don’t feel like you’re going on a Bear Grylls adventure every time you want to walk to the Shops or Pubs. Although I’d definitely recommend getting a golf buggy, just because they are so much fun – and so you can get your Fish and Chips back to the lodge quicker.
Have you been to Bluestone before? How did you find it compared to Center Parcs? I’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment below. Also – stay tuned to blog and YouTube Channel in early September when we return to Bluestone!