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

Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Bob Dylan
art
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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?