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Review of Preseli Venture Eco Lodge and Adventure Holidays, Wales

Posted by at 12:14 on Thursday 24 June 2010

For contact details and availability, see greentraveller's full listings of Preseli Venture's Eco Lodge, its Adult Adventure Holiday; Family Adventure Holiday and  Five Day Sea Kayaking Holiday.

The accommodation:  Preseli Venture was set up as an adults’ outdoor adventure venue in 1988 by Nick and Sophie Hurst, who started off with just a couple of guests in their home in order to share a little of their surrounding natural theme park that is the Pembrokeshire coast. They must have been great hosts because they now cater for over forty in the recently extended, and has now being given five stars by Visit Wales for being exemplary activity accommodation. Built on three sides around a sunny courtyard, one houses the hostel-style bedrooms and on the other side of the courtyard is the bar, café (with cool purple pool table), and lounge, well designed for mixing or quietly musing – either is welcome. The building which joins the two houses several good sized individual shower rooms, all very new, shiny and, most importantly, warm. Bedrooms sleep 2-8 people in bunks, all very clean and comfy with freshly painted walls and recently carpeted floors. Rooms are small and basic, not designed for lounging in, as they like to keep you busy outdoors, not indoors here. All bedding provided, just bring a couple of towels. Unlike similar budget accommodation, I was glad to see that the doors don’t bang loudly, but walls are a little thin, so light sleepers bring earplugs. However, strict rules about sleep zone vs. social zone do apply, and seem to work. 
The location: Preseli Lodge is twenty minutes walk from the sea, the stunning Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Park, and the beaches of Aber Mawr and Aberbach. In a very quiet location, with a fine dairy farm as neighbours. As it has so many beaches on its doorstep, they don’t have to drive far for activities either. One of Preseli Venture’s advantages is that it finds activity spots, particularly for coasteering, which are not frequented by other coasteering groups, and the local hiking is second to none. See video for glimpse of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, where every headland offers something new. 
The activities:  Coasteering is Preseli's signature product, and it is no coincidence that they top the search engines in this activity. I have done this jumping off cliffs things a few times now, and each time is exhilarating, but Preseli's instructors add something special. The go back to the roots of coasteering, which involves traversing rocks at sea level, swimming through gorges and caves, exploring marine life and, ultimately, jumping into the water. Jumps are from between one foot to thirty, depending on tides, water depth, and rocks and how adventurous you are feeling. Whichever aspect appeals most, all are fun, as long as you like the water and clambering over rocks. The jumping is optional, and there is no macho pressure to do anything you don't feel comfortable with. Donned with helmet, buoyancy aid and full winter wetsuit, they teach you to jump properly, with legs straight and arms tucked in. Other activities include sea kayaking, hiking and surfing. All the equipment is of high quality, and well organised in a special onsite building, which makes preparation for a day on the water so much easier. 
The food: All packages are full board, which adds to the relaxation factor. The food was great, and everyone I met agreed. All homecooked on site, locally sourced when possible, it is lasagne, baked potatoes, and curries, but with huge portions, and vast salads on the side. The full breakfasts were filling, and the hearty gammon and vegetable soup at lunchtime warmed every bit of me that needed it after three hours' coasteering. Tea, coffee (Fairtrade) and juice are on tap all day, free of charge. I did a survey of all the guests when I was there, as the warm ambience gets you talking to everyone, and all agreed the food was fab and made the whole thing incredible value for money. Indeed, many were on return visits. They do ask you to sign an alcohol agreement when you arrive, which politely requests guests to be responsible with booze intake. They don't want other guests to get fed up, but neither do they want people with hangovers unable to follow safety instructions while surfing, kayaking or coasteering.
The green: All activities are low impact in terms of the environment, such as kayaking, coasteering, surfing and hiking. As well as being experts in all things active, the instructors went out of their way to explain details of local biodiversity, from the fecund mating habits of a barnacle, to foraging for food along the rocks. Very impressive stuff. Almost as impressive as the barnacle (you’ll have to go coasteering with Steve to find out more )is Preseli Ecolodge’s green credentials, which include all heating and hot water being supplied from ground source heat pump, which means a lot of showers being powered from the earth.  There is also a wood burning stove in the bar and chill zone, where the only chilling you will do is of the r&r kind. In 2008 they won Pembrokeshire Tourism's 'Greenest Achievement' Award and were featured in The Guardian’s Green Travel List 2010, in association with greentraveller, for exemplary green summer activities centre. 
Top tip: When you arrive, walk straight down to the nearest beach of Aber Mawr, about twenty minutes away. Within seconds you find yourself on lanes lined with vast ferns, a woodland filled with bluebells and a beach just made to watch the sunset. The Taffy cider in Preseli's bar was a lovely welcome on return. Oh, and one more tip, don't think too much before you jump, and best not to look down before you do. 
Getting there:  Train to Haverfordwest where, at certain times, Preseli will collect you in their minibus. Otherwise it is a 16 mile taxi journey. Closest station is actually Fishguard, which is great for Irish visitors, but less good for UK ones as there are few trains serving it. Depending on time of arrival, Preseli will try to meet visitors off the Irish ferry, but if not, it is only a six mile taxi journey, with plenty of cabs at the port. 
Verdict: Our coasteering instructor, Steve, always reminded us to 'take just one big positive step' before stepping off the edge of a precipice. This gentle optimism and low key approach to having fun in the outdoors, sums up Preseli for me. Without being totally gung ho adrenaline junky territory, it caters for everyone from ten to however old you like.  It caters for all income groups, as it is great value. I met a family group on a bonding weekend, with kids in late twenties, a life-loving group of American students, and a group of mates on a reunion to kayak and sealwatch for a few days. All left feeling very jolly and pleased with themselves and, indeed, very positive. 

Coasteering on the Pembrokeshire Coast with Preseli Adventures. Photo: Catherine MackCoasteering on the Pembrokeshire Coast with Preseli Adventures. Photo: Catherine Mack

The activities
Coasteering is Preseli's signature product , and it is hard to find a more exhilarating activity , no matter what your age or fitness level. For many, coasteering means jumping off cliffs, but Preseli's instructors add something special. They go back to the roots of coasteering, which involves traversing rocks at sea level, swimming through gorges and caves, exploring marine life and, ultimately, jumping into the water. Jumps are from between one foot to thirty, depending on tides, water depth, rocks and how adventurous you are feeling. Whichever aspect appeals most, all are fun, as long as you like the water and clambering over rocks. The jumping is optional, and there is no macho pressure to do anything you don't feel comfortable with. Donned with helmet, buoyancy aid and full winter wetsuit, they teach you to jump properly, with legs straight and arms tucked in. Other activities include sea kayaking, hiking and surfing. All the equipment is of high quality, and well organised in a special onsite building, which makes preparation for a day on the water so much easier than struggling into a wetsuit in the back of a van in a beach car park, which some other places do. 

The location
Preseli Lodge is twenty minutes walk from the sea, the stunning Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Park, and the beaches of Aber Mawr and Aberbach, with noone but a fine dairy farm as neighbours. As it has so many beaches on its doorstep, they don’t have to drive far for activities either. One of Preseli Venture’s advantages is that it finds activity spots, particularly for coasteering, which are not frequented by other coasteering groups, and the local hiking is second to none. See video for glimpse of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, where every headland offers something new.

Preseli Eco Lodge. Photo: Catherine MackPreseli Eco Lodge. Photo: Catherine MackThe accommodation
Preseli Venture was set up in 1988 by Nick and Sophie Hurst, who started off with just a couple of guests in their home in order to share a little of the natural theme park on their doorstep: the Pembrokeshire coast. They now cater for up to forty in the recently extended lodge, which has been awarded five stars by Visit Wales for being exemplary activity accommodation. Built on three sides around a sunny courtyard, one part houses the ski chalet style bedrooms and on the other side of the courtyard is the bar, café (with purple pool table), and a lounge that's well designed for mixing or quietly musing. In between, are good-sized, immaculately clean individual shower rooms, and, most importantly after a day on the water, warm. Bedrooms sleep 2-8 people in bunks or double beds with a couple of mezzanine style doubles too.  All are either carpeted or have underheated slate floors, clean and comfy. These rooms are fairly basic in style but, like the ski lodges, are not designed for lounging in anyway,  as they like to keep you busy outdoors not indoors here. All bedding provided, just bring a couple of towels. Unlike similar style accommodation, I was glad to see that the doors don’t bang loudly, but walls are a little thin, so light sleepers bring earplugs. However, strict rules about sleep zone vs. social zone do apply, and seem to work. 

The food
All packages are full board, which adds to the relaxation factor. The food was great, and everyone I met agreed. All homecooked on site, locally sourced when possible, it is lasagne, baked potatoes, and curries style with huge portions, and vast salads on the side. The full breakfasts did fill, and the hearty gammon and vegetable soup at lunchtime warmed every bit  that needed it after three hours' coasteering. Tea, coffee (Fairtrade) and juice are on tap all day, free of charge. I did a survey of all the guests when I was there, as the warm ambience gets you talking to everyone, and all agreed the food was fab and made the whole thing great value for money. Indeed, many were on return visits. 

The Green
All activities are low impact in terms of the environment, such as kayaking, coasteering, surfing and hiking. As well as being experts in all things active, the instructors went out of their way to explain details of local biodiversity, from the fecund mating habits of a barnacle, to foraging for food along the rocks. Very impressive stuff. Almost as impressive as the barnacle (you’ll have to go coasteering with Steve to find out more ) are Preseli Eco Lodge’s green credentials, which include all heating and hot water being supplied from ground source heat pump - that's a lot of showers being powered from the earth. There is also a wood-burning stove in the bar and chill zone, where the only chilling you will do is of the r&r kind. In 2008 they won Pembrokeshire Tourism's 'Greenest  Achievement'  Award and were featured in The Guardian’s Green Travel List 2010, in association with greentraveller, as an exemplary green activities centre. 

The guests
Mid week the lodge caters for a range of guests, including families, specialist groups including cyclists, walkers and nature lovers, as well as offering B&B accommodation to individuals and couples. It is worth noting that guests are required to be responsible with booze intake.  Apart from the fact they don't want anyone to be upset by over the top  boozy behaviour, they also don't want people with hangovers who are unable to follow safety instructions while surfing, kayaking or coasteering.

Catherine coasteering; Photo: Preseli VenturesCatherine coasteering; Photo: Preseli Ventures

Top tip
When you arrive, walk straight down to Aber Mawr beach about twenty minutes away. Within seconds you find yourself on lanes lined with vast ferns, a woodland filled with bluebells and a beach just made to watch the sunset. The Taffy cider in Preseli's bar was a lovely welcome on return. Oh, and one more tip, don't think too much before you jump, and best not to look down before you do. 

Getting there
Train to Haverfordwest where, at certain times, Preseli will collect you in their minibus. Otherwise it is a 16 mile taxi journey. Closest station is actually Fishguard, which is great for Irish visitors, but less good for UK ones as there are few trains serving it. Depending on time of arrival, Preseli will try to meet visitors off the Irish ferry, but if not, it is only a six mile taxi journey, with plenty of cabs at the port. 

Verdict: Our coasteering instructor, Steve, always reminded us to 'take just one big positive step' before stepping off the edge of a precipice. This gentle optimism and low key approach to having fun in the outdoors, sums up Preseli for me. Without being totally gung ho adrenaline junky territory, it caters for everyone from ten to however old you like.  It is perfect  for all income groups too, as it is great value. I met a family group on a bonding weekend, with kids in late twenties, a life-loving group of American students, and a reunion of middle aged mates who were there to kayak and sealwatch for a few days. All left feeling very jolly and pleased with themselves and, indeed, very positive. 

For contact details, see greentraveller's full listings of Preseli Venture's Eco Lodge, its Adult Adventure Holiday; Family Adventure Holiday and  Five Day Sea Kayaking Holiday.

 

 

Disclosure

Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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