The best family holidays in the UK – our pick of the best places to stay with children in England and Scotland
Endless grounds, two swimming pools, a nearby beach and inhabitable tree houses make this New Forest hotel a firm family favourite. Chewton Glen has a wonderful country house feel but is easily accessible from London and its airports. Families are made to feel incredibly welcome; there are plenty of outdoor activities to do here – from croquet and tennis to horse riding and kite flying - and at Easter, an egg hunt takes place within the sprawling garden. Rooms in the main house are named after characters from the well-known children’s book ‘Animals of the New Forest’. In addition to a large indoor pool, there is an outdoor pool located in a delightful suntrap, meaning that watchful parents can while away a few hours in the sun while happy children splash away. After all that, if you still feel like exploring further afield, Pepper Pig World and Monkey World are a short drive away. In terms of accommodation, the Chewton Glen tree houses are really one of a kind; tucked away down a forest path, all of the suites look out over the woods below. Different suites cater to varying group sizes and family tree houses have bedrooms reached via a stepladder while parents sleep downstairs. These rooms come with toy trunks absolutely full to the brim, meaning that come rain or shine, kids will be very content!
Gleneagles, Perthshire, Scotland:
It would be a struggle to find a hotel that is better suited to family holidays than Gleneagles in Perthshire. From the moment you arrive at the hotel’s dedicated train station, with its slightly Harry Potter-esque feel, children are made to feel like royalty. As well as its obvious golfing credentials – Gleneagles played host to the Ryder Cup in 2014 – this rural retreat is absolutely bursting with fun activities, facilities and day-care that will delight parents with young children. For those with young babies, there are mother and baby bonding sessions in one of the hotel’s many pools, a playroom bursting with Heuristic toys and expansive kitchen facilities. For toddlers there are swimming lessons, rides on Shetland ponies and even putting classes. When staying at Gleneagles on school holidays, children are able to take part in seasonal picnics, tea parties and a range of classes from ‘spy school’ to pond dipping. For parents keen to have a bit of time to themselves the playroom offers 2 hours of complimentary fun for all your children, who will be safe in the hands of qualified staff. Sandpits, vast toy-boxes, dressing up trunks and craft activities will keep them occupied! For slightly older children and teenagers, Gleneagles takes some beating. There is golf (children can play for free if parents are playing), as well as off-road cars to drive, tennis courts, swimming pools, horse riding and grooming. Oh, and there is also gun-dog training, falconry, ice-skating, fishing, bicycling and much, much more! If you want to train up your offspring to be real country gentlemen, Gleneagles ’ ‘Children’s Country Sports Passport’ package is perfect. Guiding your children through a range of classic Scottish activities, by the end of your stay there won’t be much they don’t know! Dining is also completely family-friendly; rather than be made to feel like unwanted outsiders (as might be the case in slightly snootier hotels), the vast food hall with Deseo restaurant and Braid’s Coffee Lounge, couldn’t be better suited to large and loud playful groups.
Although at first glance this Michelin-starred Raymond Blanc-run hotel appears adult-only, Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons is well suited to cultured young whippersnappers. As well as the hotel’s beautiful rooms and suites, the country manor boasts large grounds, Japanese gardens and a two-acre kitchen garden, meaning that children will have plenty of space to run around after a delicious meal at the restaurant. Open to both adults and children, the on-site Raymond Blanc Cookery School offers a range of fun classes, sometimes hosted by the man himself. To make the experience that bit more accessible for younger guests, the school puts on exclusive classes that have been specially devised by Raymond Blanc to introduce and inspire budding young chefs to the world of haute-cuisine. Classes are available as kids-only classes, or can be set-up so that parents and children can take the courses together – all are offered for children as young as seven. Depending on your age groups young chefs will be instructed on how to prepare anything from caramelised banana soufflé, fresh pesto, fish pie, floating islands and fresh fruit smoothies. The day package includes tuition, morning and afternoon snacks and tea, an informal lunch and a certificate to take away with you at the end of the day. Le Manoir also puts together a ‘Family Escape’ package, which is available for certain half-term or school holiday breaks. Children under 12 years old stay free (with breakfast) and while adults indulge in a six course seasonal dinner for adults, younger guests will be able to enjoy complimentary dining from the Children’s menu. If you’re coming with babies, don’t fret: all baby purees provided are organic.
Coworth Park, Berkshire:
Finding a hotel that is more perfect for children than Coworth Park is a difficult task. Absolutely everything about this luxurious country-house retreat makes it a family holiday heaven. Strategically located less than an hour from central London, Coworth Park is easy driving distance from some of the UK’s best amusement parks; Legoland, Chessington World of Adventures, Thorpe Park and Windsor Great Park (home to the castle) is practically next door if you fancy a horse-drawn buggy ride. The amount of creative activities put on by the hotel’s supervised kids’ club takes some beating; children can bake cookies, go horse riding, feed the ducks, compete in a mini Olympics, carve wooden dinosaurs, design butterfly wands, paint t-shirts, partake in estate-wide treasure hunts, play tennis, croquet and computer games or go swimming in the indoor pool. A qualified crèche takes care of youngsters and babysitting is widely available if you just can’t tear themselves away from the eco-luxury award-winning spa. While children under four eat completely free, older kids are spoilt rotten with a delicious specially designed children’s menu (the strawberry mousse is delicious!) that you eat on equestrian-themed crockery inline with Coworth’s love of all things ‘horsy’ (including Polo). The Barn, a short walk from the main house, surrounded by stables and cottages is the perfect place for relaxed family dining. It has an informal homely atmosphere with open fireplaces and al fresco dining in summer; no one will bat an eyelid if the kids make a mess. Coworth Park has recently launched its own Pony Club Centre where children can enjoy themselves while training for badges and certificates. Their yearly Summer Camp boasts a professional photographer, feet painting, pony grooming, riding lessons, treasure hunts and obstacle courses.
Four Seasons Hampshire:
It is rarely the case that you can arrive at a hotel and check your children into a complimentary on-site kids’ club. The Four Seasons Hampshire, an hour’s drive from London, is a country retreat where children will want to return again and again. The ‘Hampshire Kids For All Seasons’ programme means that parents can enjoy their downtime while children make news friends and partake in an array of activities on any weekend, bank holiday or school break. As well as board games and craft making, story-time, kite-flying and treasure hunts, Four Seasons Hampshire boasts an impressive Equestrian Centre tucked away by the lake on the hotel’s vast grounds. The ‘Own a Pony Day’ has all the ingredients to make horse fans very happy indeed; over the course of a day you’ll learn how to care for your very own pony, and obviously get the chance to ride it. If it’s just good old fashioned exploring that your children are interested in, they will be in for a treat when they see this outdoor playground and the front desk will happily hand over as many pairs of Hunter wellies as you need, in whatever size. Outdoor activities are available catering to both adults and children; try your hand at fishing, croquet, clay pigeon shooting or falconry, or if you feel like venturing further afield, take a cruise on a canal boat down at the nearby Basingstoke Canal.
Lucknam Park, near Bath:
Located just outside Bath in the rolling countryside, Lucknam Park is a beautiful period mansion set on a large estate. Surrounded by beautiful grounds and boasting its own Equestrian Centre, this hotel has masses to offer families. Outdoor activities include a gigantic adventure play area with rocking horses and swings, all weather tennis courts (with private tennis coaching), pony rides and escorted family hacks, a football pitch, clay pigeon shooting, go-carts, bikes and scooters to ride. If the weather isn’t on its best behaviour then worry not, Lucknam Park’s indoor offerings are just as good! From board games and DVDs to a 20-metre swimming pool and a brand spanking new cookery school with special children’s classes, there is plenty to keep kids occupied. As you would expect there are plenty of interconnecting rooms and bed and cots are always available. If you fancy paying a visit to The Park – Lucknam Park’s Michelin-starred restaurant – then baby-sitting is easily organised through the front desk. When eating with the kids themselves, The Brasserie, a garden-facing all day dining restaurant is relaxed and informal, and has a great kiddies’ menu. For children who fancy trying a stint in the kitchen themselves, Lucknam Park’s half day kids-only cookery courses are fantastic. As well as introducing children to the basics (think pizzas, pies, cookies and cakes) there is also the opportunity to learn how to make ice-creams and sorbets. At the end of the course, cookery books and goody bags are handed out as a reminder of a special day.
The Balmoral, Edinburgh, Scotland:
Nowhere in Edinburgh is more welcoming to families and younger guests than the iconic Balmoral Hotel. Perfectly located at the end of Princes Street, overlooking Edinburgh Castle, Scott’s Monument and Prince’s Street Gardens, The Balmoral has a wide range of programmes, whatever the age of visiting guests. If staying with babies the hotel will provide luxurious cots with super soft linen, bottle warmers, sterilisers, milk on turndown, baby baths, nappies and nappy mats, toys and a teddy to take home; nothing is forgotten! Younger children benefit from the hotel’s fun ‘Five-Star Kids’ programme; on arrival kids receive a check-in card that gives them access to everything from Balmoral bath ducks, teddy turndowns, customised bathrobes and slippers and a VIP gift on arrival. The hotel’s spa offers ‘Girlie’ manicures to young teens and the indoor swimming pool is perfect for rainy days; that is if they have already completed the Balmoral hotel customised quiz. In celebration of Disney’s recently released Scottish-themed ‘Brave’, The Balmoral now offers the ‘Mythical Family Affair’ package which includes fast-track entry to Edinburgh Castle, Brave welcome gifts and gingerbread treats.
The Ritz, London:
From its well-known grand belle-époque exterior and gilded Palm Court, The Ritz doesn’t seem like an obvious place for families. However, with the introduction of the impressive ‘Kidz @ The Ritz’ private members club, the Ritz is actually one of the best places to stay in London with children if you aren’t willing to compromise on luxury. Whether you’re staying with young children or teenagers, The Ritz has something guaranteed to make their stay feel special. From the moment children check in they’ll be presented with a welcome gift, and the presents don’t stop there; every evening they’ll be the lucky recipient of a turndown treat. Check-in also provides kids with time to meet their ‘Teen Concierge’ who will be able to help their every wish come true while staying in London. Under 16s stay free in an adult’s room; interconnecting rooms are a plenty and extra beds or baby cots can be brought in, no problem whatsoever. Children eat free at breakfast and can indulge to their heart’s content on complimentary ice-cream when dining at The Palm Court or The Restaurant – but make sure to remember to flash your member’s card. If parents feel like taking a well-earned break, the hotel offers baby sitting on demand and Wii or Playstation consoles in the rooms (as well as a good range of books and DVDs). They can also dine in-room with dedicated children’s room service. If this wasn’t enough to tempt families to the capital, The Ritz boasts a fantastic location for exploring London. Green Park is on your doorstep – literally, this is the only hotel in London that borders a Royal Park – and Hyde Park isn’t far away for those looking to stretch little legs. The Ritz is also a brilliant hotel to stay at throughout the Christmas period; as well as having beautifully decorated trees and festive garlands to get them in the spirit, children get spoilt with extra presents and an indulgent Christmas dinner.
51 Buckingham Gate, London:
Located mere minutes by foot from Buckingham Palace, 51 Buckingham Gate is as family-friendly as it gets while staying in the capital. A suite-only property, 51 Buckingham Gate offers one, two and three bedroom suites that all come with roomy kitchens (which come with a stocked fridge and much appreciated dishwasher!), large bedrooms and separate living areas – meaning that children can play or watch TV without disturbing anybody else. Rather than a hotel, you really feel as if you have your own London apartment while in town. As well as its perfect location and room layout, 51 Buckingham Gate has teamed up with Hamely’s to create an exclusive family package. On arrival at the hotel children will be delighted to find hampers complete with sweet treats and sweets. If all that sugar gets a bit too much, parents can call a qualified babysitter up to the suite and explore the city on their own or simply indulge in the hotel’s luxurious steam and sauna. Kids will be well looked after: in addition to top babysitters, your package includes a personalised cooking or baking lesson in the suite. If you manage to tear yourself away from the hotel and visit Hamley’s, one of the world’s most famous toy shops, families will benefit from Hamley’s toy hampers, tailor-made tours of the store and discounts.
We would highly recommend timing your holiday to coincide with one of the UK’s most exciting and exclusive summer events. Ampersand can book your arrangements, including hotels, transfers and tickets for you and your family to attend the following events (we do recommend planning ahead, as these events are extremely popular):
- The Grand National: April
- The Chelsea Flower Show: May
- FA Cup Final: May
- Queen’s Tennis: June
- Wimbledon: June - July
- Ascot: June
- The Derby at Epsom: June
- Cartier Polo (upon request): June
- The Last night at The Proms (as well as other performances): July - September
- Henley Regatta: July
- The British Grand Prix: July
- Goodwood Revival: September
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