Lympstone Manor, Devon
Best for… tweens
From the chauffeured arrival to the hot towels waiting at the grand entrance of this Grade-II listed Georgian manor, it’s clear that this is a deliciously grown-up getaway. The hotel was recently revamped at the inimitable hand of chef Michael Caines, fresh from his 21-year tenure at Gidleigh Park in Devon.
In the guest rooms, gleaming trays of Williams gin, tonics, lemonade and cookies, and free-standing copper baths (complete with L’Occitane bath bombs) provide exemplary pre-dinner R&R. For bolder bathers, the little picket-fenced terraces of Lympstone Manor’s 12 garden suites come with showpiece outdoor tubs. Beyond, 28 acres of manicured gardens slope to the Exe Estuary (watch this space for a vineyard). Its colours – muted greys, sage greens, silty blues – inform guest-room decor, each of which is named after a wetland bird. In the main house, those birds perch prettily up along the central stairwell on hand-painted wallpaper, and in the lobby beyond, swinging birdcage chairs are supremely selfie-worthy.
In the estuary-view bar, a made-to-order virgin peach lychini, classic champagne cocktails and truly artful amuse-bouche entertain all ages while menus are poured over. The eight-course Signature Tasting Menu (£140) can be adapted to include dishes from à la carte, estuary (fish/veggie) and kid’s menus; bespoke treatment encouraging adventurous young diners. Accessible standouts that wowed all were velvety roast Brixham scallop, luxuriant Cornish salt cod with chorizo, and an ingenious white chocolate candle – edible, all but the wick.
The classic breakfast – kippers, full English – is executed with restraint, so you’re not too full for a trip along the Exe Estuary Trail on the hotel’s fleet of elegant-if-bone-shaking Pashley bikes. Just a 15-minute ride to Exmouth offers kite-surfing – or at least the reliably breathtaking sight of locals who are at it – then lunch at Mitch Tonks’ Rockfish. Or, head north to the village of Lympstone and beyond for a string of great pubs and nature reserves.
How to do it
Book doubles at Lympstone Manor from £305 per night including breakfast; £60 extra for a child’s bed. High tea available from 5-6.30pm for younger guests. Babysitting available on request.
Review by Sarah Barrell
The Four Seasons, Hampshire
Best for… tots & school-agers
Acres of frosted fields surround this red-bricked Georgian mansion house hotel where ponies roam and children are greeted on arrival with a treasure chest of toys. If you’re lucky, the estate’s Labrador, Oliver Beckington, will make an appearance, and if this isn’t a sweet enough welcome, personalised cookies await in your room. Spacious with beautiful garden views, rooms have vast beds, cots at no extra charge, Nespresso coffee machines and biscuits, a basket with baby bubbles, creams, nappies and miniature bath robes.
Venture outside to discover a pink-painted cottage devoted to kids’ games (air hockey, PlayStations); the HQ for the complimentary Children’s Programme, where children aged 3-10 can try everything from treasure hunts to kite-flying, crafts and movies. This leaves parents plenty of time to enjoy the spa’s adult-only pool area, or a quiet drink in the library where you can order soothing cocktails. Try the Garden – Silent Pool gin, crème de violette, lemon and homegrown lavender. With children in tow, the main swimming pool is warm enough for the youngest of babies with plenty of armbands and toys to hand.
Food here is equally well thought out. Babies up to 18-months have their own complimentary menu, which offers a variety of meals from tiny pasta cooked in chicken broth to vegetable and fruit purées. The breakfast buffet has a dedicated children’s section while Sunday’s ‘From the Market’ lunch sees under-fives eat free and older children enjoying a generous buffet of favourites for £15. Adults can indulge in a glass of champagne, beautifully-cooked local meats carved to order, plus endless sides, starters and desserts for £70 per person.
How to do it
Book double rooms at The Four Seasons from £300 per night; complimentary rollaway beds or cribs can be added; suites (sleeping four-five) £600, both include breakfast. Paid activities include horseriding lessons, treetop adventure trail and zip line.
Review by Lily Barclay
Cowley Manor, Cotswolds
Best for… new parents
This 19th-century Cotswolds country house has been tastefully modernised, notably with a luxury two-pool spa that has an extensive menu of pre- and postnatal treatments, plus dedicated swimming hours for children. Kids will also love exploring the grounds (complimentary Hunter wellies available) and for rainy days there are cosy rooms in which to play DVDs and board games. For grown-up relaxation time, the hotel can contact friendly local babysitters.
Hungry children are made to feel at home, right down to fresh milk in the mini-bar. Little ones can eat from their own menu of favourites in the comfortable bar (with room to run around) but are also made welcome in the flagship Malt Restaurant, where locally sourced produce (lamb shank, the highlight) makes for a comforting English menu. A hearty breakfast table is included for all guests, and baby needs and allergies are catered for.
For a traditional pub lunch by a roaring fire, the Green Dragon Inn is a country walk away while the Wheatsheaf Inn is well worth the 20-minute drive for its renowned puddings and spectacular wine list.
How to do it
Book a family room (sleeps two adults and two children) at Cowley Manor from £305 per night, plus £40 for each child aged 3-13. Under twos stay free. Kids’ breakfast and dinner included.
Review by Chris Mooney
Best for… impressing the in-laws
On the borders of the Lake District, you’ll find the medieval village of Cartmel, a place with a gastronomic microclimate. At its centre is Simon Rogan’s two Michelin-starred L’Enclume, a superlative hotel and restaurant set in a squat stone townhouse. The 16 individually designed bedrooms are modern yet in-keeping with the building’s spartan medieval history, and all have luxurious long-soak en-suites laden with bespoke toiletries from Sedbergh.
At dinner, the 20-course menu of light dishes will have you awestruck at the level of skill in the kitchen; puffed-up oyster crackers disappear on the tongue and evoke seaside nostalgia, and more unusual ingredients such as coal oil and fermented cabbage taste infinitely better than they sound. Rogan’s local farm, Our Farm, provides most of the fresh produce for the restaurant and the clever use of lesser-known foraged ingredients will have you googling under the table.
Breakfast at Rogan & Co, just along the cobbled street, is included with the room – think homemade halloumi with fermented tomato alongside a pig’s head Scotch egg (yes, for breakfast). Lunch and dinner at R&C is a much more casual three-course format, but it’s still smart and creative. On the same stretch, you’ll find Unsworth’s Yard, home to the artisan cheese shop Cartmel Cheeses and Unsworth’s Yard brewery. You can also visit The Village Shop where sticky toffee pudding was invented.
How to do it
One night at L’Enclume starts from £490 per night and includes breakfast and dinner; B&B from £340.
Review by Barney Desmazery
St Pancras Renaissance, London
Best for… Harry Potter fans
The unthinkable nearly happened when the glorious Victorian-built, neo-gothic St Pancras station and hotel was slated for demolition. Luckily, disaster was averted and the station was renovated and the hotel, revamped. It’s a fabulous place to stay in central London and there’s access on foot to one of the most interesting, but not necessarily obvious, swathes of London. Bring older children with you and you’ll find plenty to do, not least a visit to King’s Cross station across the road from Harry Potter’s platform 9¾ and gift shop. Younger kids will love the bouncing fountains in nearby Granary Square and the LED light-wall tunnel that leads there from the tube.
The Booking Office restaurant and bar and Mi + Me café are on the Upper Terrace with the Eurostar platforms, a godsend if you have a trainspotting child in tow. There’s a cocoon of a spa that has children’s swimming hours and, if you book one of the deluxe Chambers rooms at a higher rate, you’ll have access to a complimentary breakfast as well as snacks, afternoon tea and canapés. Nearby is The British Library where the free ‘treasures’ exhibition is excellent and the Wellcome Collection has medical-related exhibits (more fun than that sounds). There are plenty of places to eat nearby from Plum + Spilt Milk and Vinoteca to modern Indian Dishoom.
Book the Barlow wing superior king room at St Pancras Renaissance from £249 a night. Extra bed at £50 per night. Chambers wing junior suite from £349. Extra bed £50 per night.
Review by Lulu Grimes
Best for… teenagers
A suitable venue for a G8 summit and top golf tournament, the Ryder Cup, Gleneagles should be the stuffy preserve of grown-ups. Yet, this Scottish country-house hotel has always moved with the times and is surprisingly family-friendly.
The golf that first drew visitors is now just one of many pursuits available alongside riding, cycling, off-road driving, shooting, falconry and gun-dog training. It’s an adventurous itinerary that promises to engage the most reluctant teenager.
The variety of eating options from breakfast to dinner will satisfy young, picky eaters too. Of the five restaurants, the most relaxed are The Birnam Brasserie, with a French-American menu, The Dormy Restaurant, which has a tandoor oven, and the all-ages bar, Auchterarder 70, which serves sharing dishes.
If your teen will tolerate a more formal atmosphere, beware; you may want to spare your wallet and delay introducing them to lobster smoked over whisky-barrel chips at Andrew Fairlie – Scotland’s only two Michelin-star restaurant – until your final evening.
How to do it
Book rooms at Gleneagles from £325 per night, based on two adults sharing. An extra two beds can be added for chidren aged six-14 (£50 per bed); children under six stay free in a cot bed.
Review by Kate Simon
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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of December 2017 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide please email us at email@example.com.
Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.
Assistance for this feature was provided by: lympstonemanor.co.uk, lenclume.co.uk, cowleymanor.com, fourseasons.com/hampshire, gleneagles.com, stpancraslondon.com