In Iceland in the bleak midwinter darkness takes hold for around 20 hours a day.
To combat this near-constant night time the Icelandic people string lights in the streets, on their houses and even on their loved ones’ graves.
A little closer to home, in Wales, an adventure resort is doing a similar thing.
Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire is banishing the twilight with Winter Lights – a walk through the woodland decorated with fairy houses, illuminated animals, interactive lightshows and lanterns. Think a Santa’s grotto for the post-festive season.
For a mother whose eldest loves all things magical, this was a forest we were eager to traverse.
Bluestone invited us to stay in one of its family-friendly lodges. In keeping with the great outdoors theme, the home-for-the-holiday – much like all the other accommodation on site – had a log cabin-style façade.
Inside, the Ramsay lodge (to give it its proper name) had all the modern amenities you’d want – especially as the trip was self-catered and you actually did have to put the swanky stove to good use.
But that’s enough about the lodge, as we really only used this as our base and a place to enjoy dinner and a bit of TV in the evenings.
Something we can’t guarantee for your trip, but certainly made ours extra special was the arrival of snow. And not just a small wet flurry, flakes were falling all day long – a first experience for both my little ones.
The site itself held a wealth of activities from its soft play and activity centre, its selection of woodland and lake walks, a cluster of eateries, evening shows, craft sessions, and its famed Blue Lagoon indoor water park (something the little one hasn’t stopped talking about since we returned).
Our first day at Bluestone was spent basking in the novelty of snow. The beautiful woodland walk down to Camp Smokey (a rustic barbecue joint with its old gold mine), offered the perfect stage to enjoy the weather – even if we did have to double up on clothing layers.
The trail led us to the Winter Lights walk-through, which even in stark daylight was pretty spectacular.
Little miniature homes stood set in the hollows of trees, all with windows you could peer into, filled with tiny trinkets. There were sculptures big and small of owls, foxes and even a snake made of wicker.
When we returned at nightfall the atmosphere of the walk completely changed. The glow of multi-coloured lights made everything look a touch ethereal and, dare I say, eerie.
The fairy houses were joined by hundreds of other little windows further up tree trunks – something we had missed in the daylight when they weren’t illuminated.
There were interactive pieces to play with, a little wind-up picture show of a mouse juggling as well as a magic eye of a squirrel running.
There were bugs as big as cats and luminescent mushrooms; the whole experience felt a bit like walking through a scene from In the Night Garden.
Needless to say, it was a feast for the eyes for all especially my little ones. My youngest, too young to have real fears, was given a sensory delight, my eldest had a reaction somewhere between excitement, intrigue and nervousness.
As adults, it was something my husband and I could appreciate as a large art installation.
The rest of the weeks activities were much more what you would expect from a holiday park.
Bluestone’s Adventure Centre is a hive of activity throughout the day and its soft play is free for guests.
We chose some additional play sessions specifically designed for under fours. These included interact story time with Buzby Bee (Bluestone’s resident super-sized pollinator who has a tendency to lose things), a lantern-making craft hour, and messy play.
All were well received, with the hosts succeeding at the near-impossible task of keeping ten or so toddlers under control for an hour.
Arguably the highlight of the trip was the aforementioned Blue Lagoon. Staying at the resort gives guests unlimited access to the water park which makes for a great fail-safe adventure should the weather turn dreary (which it did).
The Blue Lagoon has a tropical climate and warm water, which was a big plus in my book as I have long suffered the discomfort of a cold public pool. It also boasts slides, shallow play areas for tots, and a wave machine that will quite literally blow you away.
A good few hours were spent here during the week, especially because access is limited to just resort guests during the morning and so was quiet.
As for culinary pursuits, with the exception of one visit to The Chippy, we didn’t have any. While there are a good selection of restaurants and bars on-site, our kitchen at the Ramsay lodge served us well and we cooked all of our own meals (apart from one treat of halloumi and chips).
All in all, Bluestone National Park Resort is something of an antidote to the over-commercialised staycation package. It is a simple place that encourages you to embrace the delights of its setting rather than spend your time in your own bubble.
Even the added activities and games at the Adventure Centre are all themed around nature and the great outdoors.
If you fancy an escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life this is certainly the place to go.
For more information about Bluestone National Park Resort or to book your own trip visit http://www.bluestonewales.com/