The phrase “location, location, location” couldn’t be more fitting than for Real Family Holidays’ Orielton centre.
In our nine-day stay we notched up six different breathtaking beaches and we didn’t even cover all of those within a half-hour radius. Additionally, within that distance, there was a multitude of other attractions – Pembroke Castle (three hours into our visit we were still discovering new rooms), Carew Castle (even the perimeter walk is worth the visit), Folly Farm and unspoilt seaside resort Tenby being just a few we decided to take in.
Every member of staff we encountered during our stay – from those in the catering team to tutors – enthusiastically advised on how to enhance our day trips. “Heading to Broad Haven South beach? Don’t miss Bosherston Lily Ponds,” we were told – and, oh my goodness, were we glad of that advice. Those ponds were like nothing I have ever seen.
The Field Studies Council centre itself – a large manor house set in vast grounds – was full of delights, with its mesmerising central staircase and exciting and relaxing common rooms. Who wouldn’t love a cellar-based play den referred to as The Dungeon – complete with table football, giant Jenga, TV and games console? Directly outside there was a pond, two large grassy areas to play on, one with a football goal and mini climbing wall.
The grounds sprawled on with wooded areas to get lost in, full of wildlife, including a badger set and a vast amount of bats roosting in the stable block. They were areas we got to know well during some of the typically high quality free activities included in our Real Family Holidays stay, such as small mammal trapping, pond dipping and an evening nature walk when the bats emerging at dusk drew gasps.
The orienteering task was one of my favourite activities we’ve taken part in with Real Family Holidays. Seeking out clues hidden around the grounds using a simple map and directions engaged my seven-year-old son in a good walk around the grounds where he was challenged to record observations and even do a bit of maths to work out the age and height of some trees. Outdoor education at its best.
Having now notched up stays at four Real Family Holidays, we’ve learned there are some similarities between some of the activities but others, like orienteering, have a really different flavour at each centre. Even those that are similar are no less worthwhile – it would take a long time to get bored of seeing bats flit into the night and who could have too many marshmallows toasted on a campfire?
That sense of community is always there too, but of course the experience feels fresh each time depending on who you meet during that trip. Even the most reserved of people make friends on these breaks. At Orielton we saw single parents enveloped in the chatter of large family groups within moments of arriving, siblings drawing in only-children to their games and not a single couple without someone like-minded to talk to should they not wish just to soak up a moment of solitude. Kids and adults alike make real connections on these trips.
One evening, a little girl began sobbing after losing a pocket money ring she’d bought that day. She knew it was somewhere within the freshly cut grass in the lawn in front of the centre. Despite it being dusk and the area it could have been in being vast, everyone sprung into action. All the other children were keen to help their new friend and a thorough search was spontaneously launched. Adults – albeit more sceptical of success – joined in. With a thick layer of cut grass covering the lawn, it was almost literally a needle in a haystack hunt. When, against all odds, the ring was found, it was like a movie moment – everyone united in screams of delight and high fives. That scene pretty much sums up the bonds created on these holidays.
We’ve now met numerous other families who are repeat guests of Real Family Holidays. One lady, on her sixth centre, told me she now usually expects to see at least someone she has met at a previous one, so common is rebooking, which we feel says more than any marketing ever can. It’s so good, people can’t wait to come again.
Yet, when we tell these loyal customers we’re here in a voluntary capacity to create web content to help promote Real Family Holidays they’re not always pleased.
“Don’t tell everyone,” one lady said. “These holidays are our special secret. We don’t want just anyone to know about them!”
- Find out how we came to spend this summer touring Real Family Holiday Centres: ‘Why we’re advocating a holiday firm we’re yet to use’
- Dale Fort Real Family Holidays centre is also in Pembrokeshire, see our review of our stay here: Looking at plankton and other ‘dull’ Real Family Holidays activities you must try