This October half term, treat the family to a stay at one of these family-friendly hotels in South East England, chosen by the Good Hotel Guide.
1. Treehouses and history lessons: Chewton Glen, Hampshire
This model of a country house hotel and spa in an 18th-century manor house on the edge of the New Forest speaks to children as much as it does to their parents and grandparents. Guests of all ages can appreciate indoor and outdoor swimming pools, on-site cookery courses and a woodland stream to follow to the beach. In-the-know families bed down in one of the Courtyard or Coach House suites, with a private walled garden or private access to the hotel’s extensive grounds. For a special treat aim even higher: tree-house suites in a leafy setting have a mini-kitchen, a wood-burning stove, a spa bath, and a breakfast hamper in the morning.
While you’re there: If your little history buffs are studying Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar visit Buckler’s Hard to see what life was like for 18th-century shipbuilders.
2. Spa treats and hedgehogs: Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire
Children over six years old can bed down at Hartwell House, a National Trust-owned Jacobean mansion in an Arcadian landscape. For more privacy and direct access to the gardens, book one of the large suites in Hartwell Court, the restored 18th-century riding school and stables in the grounds. You can take the kids to Hartwell’s renowned spa at certain times, and roam the 90 acres of gardens and parkland filled with statues, temples and an obelisk.
While you’re there: Don’t miss Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital. It’s home to the country’s only hedgehog memorabilia museum, an animal hospital and a red kite flying aviary.
|The Old Vine|
3. A designer pad and steam trains: The Old Vine, Winchester
At first glance, a Grade II-listed 18th-century inn on the edge of the cathedral close might not sound like a great fit for families, but The Old Vine’s Designers Guild Annexe is spot on. This self-contained townhouse apartment across the street from The Old Vine has two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a living room, all stylishly decked out with fabrics and furniture from the Designers Guild. Also good for families – guests have the use of a small garage so the surrounding countryside as well as Winchester city centre can be reached easily.
While you’re there: Ride the Mid Hants Railway, a.k.a. The Watercress Line, a steeply graded heritage railway with a fleet of steam locomotives that was used to transport watercress from the beds in Alresford to London. The Wizard Express steam train with Harry Potter-style coaches takes to the rails 27-28 October.
4. Movie nights and LEGO: Cliveden, Berkshire
Children are made to feel part of the Cliveden family when they stay at this extensively restored Italianate mansion in beautiful grounds. Younger kids can play with a selection of games and toys. Older families can settle down for movie night with a wide range of DVDs. There’s a special children’s menu and children’s service, or families can dine together throughout the evening. Or if you’d prefer a grown-ups-only dinner, babysitting service is available, as is room service. Outside, get lost in the giant yew tree maze, follow the woodland play trail or simply explore the 376 acres of National Trust grounds.
While you’re there: Go LEGO crazy among 80 million LEGO bricks at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort. There are also more than 55 interactive rides, building workshops and amazing models of scenes from Europe and the USA.
5. Royalty and an adventure playground: Hever Castle B&B, Kent
Combine history lessons with childhood princess/prince dreams at Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Bolyen. Bedrooms occupy two Edwardian additions to 13th-century Hever Castle; the wings are a blend of Tudor-inspired features and modern-day comfort, and your individually decorated bedroom may have a golden chaise longue, a four-poster bed, or a glimpse of the castle through leaded windows. Some rooms can accommodate a cot or a camp bed for children up to the age of 12; others have a sofa bed; and a double and single room can be turned into a suite for up to five guests thanks to a strategically placed door on the landing.
While you’re there: There’s no need to go anywhere! Residents have complimentary access to the castle and grounds during opening hours, including the great new adventure playground. If you do want to venture further afield, the British Wildlife Centre has badgers, harvest mice and Britain’s first walk-through red squirrel enclosure.
|Park House Hotel and Spa|
6. South Downs views and alpacas: Park House, Sussex
Luxurious but unstuffy, Park House is foolproof for families who appreciate country house living. The hotel has a home-away-from-home feel, and guests of all ages are made to feel welcome. Deluxe family suites have a double bed that can be turned into two singles, plus a sofa bed or a single bed for kids. There’s no skimping on the views here either; windows overlook the grounds and South Downs countryside. For more independence, book one of the cottage suites, with a small kitchen, private gardens and plenty of space for the whole family.
While you’re there: Take an alpaca for a walk! Children over 6 years old can lead one of Dunreyth Alpacas' friendly creatures on an hour-long walk through the woods. Booking ahead is essential.
All hotels have rooms available at time of writing.