JOYS OF THE LAND OF ELVES
Ihave done some silly things in my life. A point upon which I had ample time to reflect as I wandered around a tiny corner of West Wales with my nose painted a bright luminous green.
To complement this I also sported an abundance of purple facial stripes.
Both had been acquired early on a Saturday afternoon as I negotiated The Kingdom of The Elves at the Bluestone leisure resort in Pembrokeshire.
The paint job had been the penalty paid for agreeing to escort two grandchildren, one aged six and the other four, to this Christmas experience which begins in November, runs through December, and into early January.
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The resort's easily reached with a comfortable, mainly motorway run, down through South Wales towards Pembrokeshire and we had booked a weekend break, with the trip to the elves' kingdom as the highlight on the agenda for 1pm on the Saturday.
We arrived on Friday and, as our accommodation would not be available until later, we parked up and headed for the resort's Adventure Centre to while away a couple of hours.
The kids fell in love with it straight away, not least because there were some tantalising glimpses of what might lie in store when they visited the elves the following day.
But the centre has a wide range of attractions for every age.
We ate a late-ish lunch in the Wild Wood Café which merged into the main body of the place.
Here kids could run, jump and test their skills at all manner of things.
There was a great tree house with tunnel slides along with a bouncy castle and crazy golf course.
But what caught the eye with six-year-old grandson was the fact there was a chance to climb three rock walls and take the sky trail way above the centre, ending with an exhilarating zip ride after negotiating loads of aerial obstacle courses.
It didn't stop there, either, as, in addition was an adrenalin pumping Sky Swing and The Drop. At £18 for all four experiences this was excellent value and offered some genuinely exciting challenges to adventurous youngsters.
Our accommodation was one of Bluestone's three double-bedroomed Skomer lodges.
Detached, with ample space surrounding, this was a well equipped holiday home by any standards. There are three bathrooms, including two en suite ones, and one with a walk-through shower.
The living area has a decent size flat screen TV and comfy settees... but there's a great area upstairs, too, with a jumbo leather bean bag that quickly becomes the "den" for the youngsters. This has its own TV and power points handily placed for plugging in and playing a games machine.
The site's wi-fi enabled, too, so a laptop's also worth bringing.
It's also well worth considering hiring one of the electric buggies for your stay. The virtually car-free site is contoured and stretches over a wide area, so they save the legs of young and old. And the kids love riding around in them.
But this was only Friday and after we'd settled in, the younger element were soon making plaintive cries about being hungry.
So we headed for The Yard restaurant, the family choice on site. It was Italian night and as the grand-kids are heavily into pasta and pizza, that was about as spot on as you could get.
Saturday, the big day, dawned and there was great excitement in the air as breakfast was hastily consumed.
This was Kingdom of the Elves day, of course, but before that there was also a trip to the site's fabulous Blue Lagoon pool complex.
Residents on site get their own "private time" allocated here before the general public can come in.
It's a really clever pool, full of some great slides, including a couple of terrifying ones in the dark, a lazy river ride, and a wave-maker and a couple of Jacuzzis.
A nice touch is that there are loads of floats, mats and aqua playthings around, too.
This was a huge hit and it was with some difficulty that we managed to extricate them from the Lagoon, and get them set for their festive experience.
And this is quite an experience. Forget all notions of being one of those traditional visits to Santa's grotto, where the entire thing takes around five minutes or so.
No, "Kingdom of the Elves presents Cinderella" – to give it the full title – doesn't short-change anyone on duration. It's like a full-on entertainment for youngsters, with a different show as you progress through different rooms.
You start by meeting Buttons Elf who gets you kitted out in princess or knight's attire, then it's cake-making with Fairy Upside Down Elf, music with Mr Notecoat, and some serious clock-watching with Father Time Elf (this was the moment I acquired that luminous nose!), onwards to Fruit and Nut, the Ugly Sisters, before finally discovering the lost silver slipper and a happy fairytale ending in the palace of Sir Twmoro Knight and his beloved Cinderella. This all takes quite a bit of time but as it's done with a non-stop, high energy approach it manages to hold the young ones' attention – and their accompanying adults, too.
My granddaughter kept her princess smock and crown on for the rest of the day and when evening arrived we headed for The Yard restaurant again – one of three principal eating places on site – where stetsons were more de rigueur as it was a hoe-down night.
The following day, our final one, we just had to visit that Blue Lagoon again for some more aqua fun before heading for home.
We all agreed, as short, festive-themed breaks go, this one certainly offers something out of the ordinary. And very few places come with all the top-class add-ons that Bluestone provides.