So the summer holidays are winding down. Hands up those who now need another holiday to recover? While many of us may have planned the perfect couple of months of quality time with our little loved ones – think: hours spent frolicking in the sun, playing traditional board games and eating healthy food – the reality has probably been a tad removed from this idyll. In fact, for many, the reality of the six-week stretch can be, well, a bit of a stretch.
But we wouldn’t be without our little darlings. So, my tip? Have a short sojourn to recharge your batteries at a luxury country bolthole. You don’t have to leave the little ones behind – just let the experts take over for the most relaxing family trip you’ll ever have.
The charming Calcot Manor in the Cotswolds (calcotmanor.co.uk), for instance, is set in 220 acres of blissful meadows and seamlessly blends its stylish surroundings with fantastic children’s facilities. The 13 family rooms are equipped with Baby Boxes (containing a change mat, bottle warmer and sterilizer) and are designed so that parents have separate but just-close-enough sleeping areas. The hotel also offers baby-listening services, children’s menus and early meal-times. While the sophisticated décor, two stellar restaurants and a sumptuous spa will do it for the adults, the kiddies will give their seal of approval when they check out The Playzone. It is packed with toys and boasts its own cinema, Playstations and Xboxes. Qualified staff are also on hand to offer cookery classes, sports mornings and themed activities (and, no, you can’t take them home with you!)
At the super-stylish Babbington House in Somerset (babingtonhouse.co.uk), meanwhile, there’s something for everyone. Mums can kick back in the Cowshed Spa, while Dads can test their stamina with one of the many activities on offer. Tennis? Cricket? Croquet? If all that sounds too much like hard work, then point them in the direction of the House Bar –it comes equipped with two LCD screens tuned to the sports channels, perfect for watching the experts sweat. The little ‘uns can leave you to it by checking out what’s on offer at the Teeny House. From swimming lessons to arts and crafts, all ages are catered for and the whole family can regroup later by watching a flick in the hotel’s own cinema. Heaven.
At the stunning Coworth Park hotel in Ascot (coworthpark.com), you’ll find the Dorchester’s take on country living. As you’d expect, rooms are immaculate and super-luxe. The Georgian manor house is set in 240 acres of parkland, including wild flower meadows, streams and manicured lawns but don’t expect a chintzy interior – the décor here is cool and contemporary. With a stand-out spa and restaurant, you may think that kids would be an after-thought. Not so. The hotel has a dedicated Kids Concierge, Kids Club, Teenager Den and a huge list of activities on offer – from treasure hunts to jewellery making.
While not a hotel, the new Natural Retreats Inn at John O’Groats (naturalretreats.co.uk) is ideal for a rejuvenating break with the family. Located on the most northern tip of the UK, the eco apartments are found in a tiny hamlet set against a dramatic coastline. Interiors are based around contemporary, open-plan living with glass walls, Egyptian cottons and high spec gadgets (Apple TV, Dualit toasters and Neff cookers). The area has tons of activities on offer for the whole family to get involved in – from Cliffside walks, surfing, puffin, dolphin and whale spotting and time spent on wide, sandy beaches. Kids will particularly like a ride over the waves to the nearby isle of Stroma on the rigid inflatable boat. There’s also the Storehouse, a seafront café, bar and restaurant, so parents can come out of the kitchen, and the Outfitters store – offering items from local artisans. It’s self-catering, but not as you know it.