3 of the best.... Family-friendly resorts in the UK
By Kate Hilpern
It would be easy to dismiss this hotel when you initially spot the concrete mass with red awnings that perches over the M4. But look closer at this expansive modern resort and the 2,000 acres of panoramic parkland in the beautiful Usk Valley behind it and you start to get a taste of the sheer luxury and vastness – along with the multitude of styles ranging from the historic 19th century Manor House with 70 rooms to the 330 luxury (and many recently refurbished) rooms and suites off the six-storey atrium with dazzling glass and white balconies. In addition, there’s a country inn with six bedrooms and a collection of Hunter Lodges – Welsh farmhouses for self-catering accommodating groups of up to 16, complete with sauna and hot tub. Just five minutes from the Severn Bridge and an hour-and-a-half from London, it’s also a doddle to get to.
This is a hotel that stands out for so many things – golf, events and romantic weekends among them – and yet it’s the ultimate family destination too. With excellent child-friendly restaurants, an outstanding kids’ club and exciting adventure activities for all ages, there’s enough to keep all ages entertained every moment of the day – especially if, like our two children, they’re suckers for adventure golf (and believe us, there’s no other adventure golf course quite like this) and swimming in the spectacular pool located under a circular replica of a starry sky.
Adrenaline junkies can swing through the trees on rope adventure courses (one for smaller kids, another for older ones), test their accuracy with archery or shoot to thrill with Laser Combat, while little ones will love the treasure hunt and soft-play area. There are seemingly endless walking trails – great on foot or with bikes – and for this summer, there will be a giant inflatable course outside.
The resort – which combines a down-to-earth vibe with true comfort and luxury - also boasts glitzy spas, a champagne and beauty bar, health clubs, three championship golf courses, fishing and tennis courts. Plus, an army of fabulously friendly nannies available to babysit when mum and dad want to check out the fine dining.
Prices: doubles from £119 B&B; family of four from £144 B&B www.celtic-manor.com
Just a mile-and-a-half from Masham, this castle-come-hotel with lived-in stately home decor nevertheless feels remote, surrounded by 250 acres of parkland, gardens and woodlands, with the estate stretching to over 20,000 acres in total. Coupled with the huge array of onsite attractions - including all the usual suspects of country pursuits – it’s no wonder that when most guests arrive, they stay firmly put.
The 32 rooms are large and tasteful and most boast magnificent views – with linked rooms, adjoining bunk bed rooms and suites with sitting room sofa beds all available for families. Swinton Bivouac has yurts, tree lodges and family rooms, while High Swinton is a new offering - a three bed cottage within a two minute walk of the hotel.
The Terrace is a relaxed and family-friendly contemporary restaurant serving food all day with outdoor seating in the walled garden, while Swinton Bivouac’s café bistro serves honest, wholesome food for walkers, cyclists and families. Expect quirky decor in a converted barn and magnificent views of the Yorkshire Dales. Children’s Full Afternoon Tea at the hotel – a real treat – is served in the drawing room or on the lawn overlooking the lake in the summer months, all topped off with a game of croquet. Meanwhile, Samuel’s offers the grown-ups seriously good fine dining (for which you can use their babysitters who sit in the room, or listening-in system that works off the bedroom phones).
Children have access to the pool at the brand new spa in the morning and late afternoon and there’s an outdoor play area in the parkland with miles of stunning walks around the lakes and gardens. Other highlights include the Bird of Prey Centre for family falconry flying experiences, bike hire (the mountain bike trail in woodland at Swinton Bivouac is particularly good), forest school and crafting, nature trails and treasure hunts. There’s a pony trekking centre with lessons and hacks in the parkland on mountain ponies and an onsite cookery school with some courses specifically aimed at kids. Bored, you will not be.
Prices: doubles from £170 B&B; family of four from £280 B&B www.swintonestate.com
We’re not sure what magic ingredient Chewton Glen has, but it somehow manages to be exceptionally welcoming to kids without compromising on sheer indulgence. First off, the location – on the edge of the New Forest and close to the sea – is as family-friendly as it gets and second, there’s plenty of places (especially in the treehouse accommodation) where kids can run around and make some noise without mum and dad having to constantly ‘shhh’ them.
The kids’ club is fabulous, with children taken outside for exciting activities like nature scavenger hunts, while inside there’s also plenty to do, thanks to the seemingly endless toys and technology. There are infinite child-friendly touches throughout the hotel - DVDs, games, gaming and even mini bath robes and baby wellies for walking. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff (note there’s a staff-guest ratio of two-to-one here), whether you need a bottle warmed or a registered nanny – and they go the extra mile too, with one parent raving about how his six-year-old son was invited to play a Christmas carol on the piano, despite there being a lounge full of guests (whom the dad worried would quickly scarper!).
The kids’ menu in the main restaurant is, according to our children, the ‘best we’ve tasted.’ And for a more casual dining experience, there’s now The Kitchen, a fabulous bistro located just by the gates (we advise hiring their bikes to get there and back). The indoor pool, surrounded by Grecian columns and sky-painted ceiling, welcomes children in the morning and late afternoon and there’s an outdoor pool open the summer months too. There’s plenty to do in the grounds, from croquet to tennis to golf, and our children adored the walled garden, which hosts different seasonal themes.
Expect old-school elegance with modern luxuries in truly family-friendly surroundings – a place you can really get away from it all.
Prices: doubles from £370 B&B; family of four from £600 B&B www.chewtonglen.com
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