Extreme family: It lacks luxury but a break in the Welsh countryside more than makes up for with all-action adventure

I'm a bit jealous of my children. They get to go on school trips to activity centres, have quadded and go-karted with PGL and often throw themselves around on boats and in tents with the cubs and Woodcraft Folk. I, meanwhile, spend my holidays on a sun lounger with one eye on my BlackBerry, feeling guilty about not using the hotel gym.

So it was with great vigour that I threw us all into one big family adventure – braving the wild coast of Pembrokeshire for five days of outdoor activities and nights in an "eco lodge" dormitory. I'd found it via the Responsible Travel website, an operation that showcases a huge variety of ethical and/or eco-aware holidays, with a section of zingy family options. Was it wise to choose Wales over Egypt for a wintery week? Probably not, but by the time we came back to the city we were ablaze with the glow of having exerted ourselves and saved the planet (more or less) – and it all seemed worth the damp socks and chapped lips.

Preseli Venture is a small-scale operation in the Pembroke countryside not far from St Davids. It's staffed by hearty, enthusiastic youngsters who had the kids playing pool, iPods cranked up, in the lodge's lounge almost immediately (there's no TV, which is a genius idea and, frankly, after a day's coasteering, who'd have the energy to stay up watching telly?)

Yes, coasteering. This newish activity was unknown to me when I signed up – which makes me wonder if I'd have signed up at all if I'd known more. On day one, we're kitted out in wetsuits, neoprene shorts, buoyancy aids, crash helmets and sneakers and into a minibus before there's time to think (again, probably wise). Ant and Bramble, our gung-ho guides, take us to the Blue Lagoon – such a poetic name for a flooded quarry, but appropriate for the deceptively cerulean water it contains – and we shiver as we wade in. You are probably aware that once a wetsuit gets wet, the water next to the skin warms up and stops you from freezing. Well, that's true, but sharp moves in the sea "flush" that warm water out, and you're numb with cold all over again.

You know, sharp moves like scrambling out of the sea on to rocks that you scale to a height of about 6m, then hurling yourself back in. It is both terrifying and exhilarating. I find myself pleading, like the kids, for "just one more go". We bob in and out of the "washing machine", a furiously churning arrangement where the tide meets a narrow inlet, and bellow joyfully as we are swept off a tenuous toehold back under the waves. If this all sounds reckless, it isn't. Despite their youth and exuberance, the instructors take safety extremely seriously and never allow us to take any risks.

Day two sees me similarly drenched during sea kayaking – which dolt forgot the instructor's guidance "head over bottom, always"? Er, that would be me. Then there's surfing, at the glorious Newgale beach. I never did get up off my knees but both my children "popped" up on to two feet (admittedly the 10-year-old had Bramble practically creating bespoke wave activity for her).

The downside to all this is that everyone must change out of their wet kit into dry clothes before they get back on the minibus. A shared flask of hot chocolate does little to balance the mortifying experience of having a small towel slip while peeling off a wetsuit in a public car park. Perhaps I don't want to go back to being a kid after all...

Mercifully, Preseli has plenty of hot showers, and a drying room for those squelchy sneakers. All scrubbed and swathed in fleeces and Uggs, each evening is blissfully simple – refuelling on home-cooked, hearty, if hardly gourmet, food and ferocious pool tournaments. With a flickering wi-fi service and no phone reception, it is a gloriously cut-off few days, reaching a relaxing high (or should that be low?) with wine from the well-stocked bar around an outdoor fire as sheep baa in the neighbouring field and stars twinkle in the country-dark sky. On the activity-free middle day we tootle into St Davids to explore the cathedral and nearby lighthouse.

Preseli is hardly a five-star fitness spa – what with the well-used bunk beds and distinct lack of fluffy towels – but what this holiday lacks in luxe, it makes up for in giving a sense of achievement and, schmaltzy as it sounds, family bonding. Strangely, sun loungers have now lost their appeal.

Responsible Travel offers a five-day adventure break at Preseli Venture Lodge (activities, food and accommodation included), for £419 (adults) and £329 (children). For more information: responsibletravel.com/walesactivity

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

    £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash