Prize-winning family resorts in England, Scotland and Wales are palatial retreats offering the bygone luxuries of the Royals.
These luxurious, rural hotels — cited by The Guardian and The Times for their wonderful family facilities — provide a comfortable, spacious homebase for visitors to the U.K. While most are tucked into rolling acres of manicured lawns dotted with marble fountains and noble forests, a few are more casual retreats by the sea. Visiting families will encounter all the traditional formalities, discreet pampering, and regal mannerisms they need to introduce kids to a classic Lords ‘n’ Ladies lifestyle. Note that at most, the high season runs from mid-April to mid-September and advance reservations are a must.
Wiltshire BA12 9HH England, U.K.
44 (0) 1985 21 23 12
The Bishopstrow house, a luxury retreat located in the beautiful Wyle Valley, Wiltshire, is one of the von Essen collection of castle hotels. Within its neatly manicured grounds are blooming gardens, paved pathways, a Rotunda Temple dating from 1770, fly-fishing on the hotel’s private stretch of the River Wylye, and a beautiful swimming pool. This hotel provides 32 opulently furnished bedrooms, including 23 standard rooms, four deluxe rooms and five suites. All rooms are spacious, airy and most accommodate at least three guests; there’s a charge of GBP25 per child over 4-years who shares a room with parents. Children receive a complimentary “box of delights” containing books, toys and plush stuffed animals to keep them company, and there is organized babysitting, a baby listening service, and an afternoon Children’s High Tea. There are no organized kids’ activities per se, but adults can enjoy tennis, golf and more recreation, or take the kids on an expedition to nearby Longleat House and Safari Park. Rates: $$$$ per room including breakfast for two.
Calcot Manor And Spa
Gloucestershire GL8 8Y5 England, U.K.
44 (01) 666 890 391
Calcot Manor offers a range of family rooms and suites in a converted, 14th-century stone barn near its main building. Comfortable, stylish and spacious, there are standard or deluxe family rooms, and small to deluxe family suites, providing larger families anything from a large bedroom with at least one private bathroom to a duplex suite with a master bedroom, separate lounge area, and children’s twin room. Extra bedding for the kids includes bunk beds, sofa beds, baby cots and rollaways. The manor’s fully-loaded Playzone welcomes kids from newborn to 16-years and is fully supervised; private babysitting is available here on request for spa-goers. Kids over age 8 may use The Mez, an upstairs multi-media entertainment center, without adults. Both are open every day of the week from 9am until 3.30pm. Families can together try many activities like cycling, an outdoor heated pool (the spa’s indoor pool is open to kids at special hours), tennis and croquet on the 220-acre property. Rates: $$$$ per room including breakfast for two; children pay activity supplement.
Hanson Drive, Fowey
Cornwall PL2 31ET England, U.K.
44 (01) 726 83 38 66
A former Lord Mayor of London built Fowey Hall in 1899 and today it has 26 rooms and 11 spacious suites that can accommodate families. Accommodations range from double or deluxe rooms (with a maximum occupancy of 3, including children) to suites (with a maximum occupancy of 4, including children) or large suites (with a maximum occupancy of 5, including children). There are also a variety of interconnecting rooms that sleep six in 2 bedrooms with 2 bathrooms; all are stocked with fresh fruit, biscuits and mineral water daily. At this classic country retreat, kids can enjoy painting, cooking, face painting, mask making, and beach activities. For older children, there is the playroom “Beach Hut” which has many fun facilities like a pool table, table football, a TV and DVD. Families with infants and toddlers will appreciate the Four Bears Den staffed by trained nannies, the complimentary baby listening service, and baby equipment provided, including changing mats, bottle warmers, sterilizers and more. You will find that babysitters can be booked through the hotel, and that special breakfast, lunch, High Tea and suppers – just for kids – are available daily. Pets are welcomed in the courtyard rooms only. Prices: $$$ – $$$$$+ per room, per night including half board.
Survey KT16 OEL England, U.K.
44 (01) 932 87 20 50
Foxhills runs a four-star hotel just 30 miles from Heathrow Airport as well as a large membership sports club open to all ages. This hotel is perfect for families with active children, offering 70 family suites and junior suites, many duplexes. There are also two- to five-bedroom homes and apartments available for long-term rentals. Moreover, it has many recreation facilities open to hotel guests and club members, like two heated pools, 11 tennis courts (seven of which are floodlit for night play), a nine-hole golf course, 55 pieces of gym equipment and 50 weekly exercise classes. Kids can learn how to play tennis in tennis junior classes or take golf and swimming lessons with the Funsport Coaching program. As a club, Foxhills offers special membership rates and day passes for nannies and au pairs, discounted golf and tennis fees for kids, and many other perks. In addition, there is a licensed crÃ¨che for children 3-months to 4-years, kids’ menus throughout, and several play areas. The club’s spa is equipped with three treatment rooms, solarium, sauna, steam room and more. Rates: $$$
Perthshire, Scotland PH3 1NF U.K.
800 389 37 37, US toll free: 866/881-9525
Opened in 1924, Gleneagles has 232 comfortable rooms, including 16 exclusively decorated suites, plus 10 brand-new one and two-bedroom suites designed as part of the hotel’s $11 million refurbishment completed in January 2008. Luxurious and family-run, this 5-star hotel is perfect if you’re looking for fun activities for the whole family. There are many classic British ones, such as falconry (for family groups of up to 4 people,) fishing, junior off-road driving (great for kids 5-11), horse riding, and adult off-road driving (ideal for families with older children; drivers must hold a full license.) Sport shooting is available to children ages 10-years and over, (depending on physical ability and parental approval). On the grounds are other activities like biking, horseback riding lessons, games, videos, CDs, Playstations, and swimming lessons. Of course, Gleneagles is world-famous for its golf course, and Junior Golf clinics on a pitch and putt course are available. Indoors, kids can enjoy the newly expanded Playroom activity center designed for those between 2 and 10, and the teens-only lounge. Parents can bring their children and use the books, coloring materials, and videos daily between 9.30am and 5pm. This resort offers all the usual baby sitting services, plus high chairs, loaner strollers, diapers and baby baths. Rates: $$$$$+ per night; children ages 6-14 pay GBP50 per night when sharing parents’ room.
Hertfordshire WD3 4TG England, U.K.
44 (0) 1923 807 807
The Grove, an 18th-century manor house developed into a luxury hotel, provides 227 guest bedrooms and 16 suites within 300 acres of parkland. Rooms are decorated with more trendy fabrics and furniture, are spacious and come equipped with A/C, TV, CD/DVD player and more. Among the award-winning recreation facilities are a championship golf course and the new Sequoia wellness spa. Families can also enjoy the fitness center including both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, Jacuzzi, workout room and aerobic studio. Moreover, there is a tennis court, croquet lawn and – quite unusual — a nursery for children from 3-months to 10-years-old with indoor and outdoor play areas. Since The Grove is only 30-minutes from London, it’s very busy with local families on weekends. Rates: from $$$
The Ickworth Hotel
Horringer, Bury, St Edmunds,
Suffolk IP295QE England, U.K.
44 (0) 1284 735 350
The Ickworth, based in Suffolk, is a sumptuous luxury hotel for families with Old World style masking all the modern amenities. There are rooms and apartments; all bedrooms offer luxury, style and comfort, and all of the Dower House apartments offer even more spacious accommodations with working kitchens. This hotel is ideal for children, who stay free when they share parents’ rooms, only paying for their meals. There are many supervised children’s activities including table tennis, table football, computer games, hotel bikes, swimming, an adventure playground and more. In addition, Ickworth has many areas where parents can take a break and play together with their children. Rates range from $$$ B&B to $$$$$ Half Board; Apartments from $$$$$+
Moonfleet Manor Luxury Family Hotel
Fleet, Nr Weymouth
Dorset DT3 4ED England, U.K.
44 (01) 305 786 948
Moonfleet Manor is near the famous Chesnil beach, yet it’s isolated in a beautiful rugged landscape. All rooms are spacious and comfortable, and services such as a fully staffed, complimentary crÃ¨che (nursery) year-round are only part of the family amenities. Imagine an indoor play area with games and ping pong, children’s own lunch and High Tea service, and an outdoor playground with sandbox and climbing gym. Parents and children can enjoy many activities together on the property like playing at the beach, fishing, horseback riding, jet-skiing and more. Nearby is the Abbotsbury Swannery, where kids can watch baby swans hatch, and the Weymouth and Portsmouth Sailing Academy for sailing instruction. Children may share parents’ rooms without charge but those over 12-months will be charged for any meals. Rates: from $$$$
Country House and Sporting Estate
Leicestershire LE14 2EF England, U.K.
44 (0)72 787 000
Stapleford Park, one of the top hotels in the British Isles, has been around since the 14th century. This luxury estate offers beautiful gardens and landscaping, four-poster beds and chintz, and traditions such as no children under 9-years allowed in the main dining room. However, there are a lot of activities available for kids, including croquet, giant chess, swimming, archery, falconry and tennis, but you are requested to choose and reserve all activities in advance by mail or by phone. Stapleford Park welcomes families to book 55 comfortable bedrooms configured as standard doubles, superior double rooms, deluxe rooms, superior deluxe rooms and suites (twice the price). Pets welcome with a fee. Room Rates: from $$$$ including breakfast
Wales LL35 OSB U.K.
44 (0) 1654 767 213
This four-star hotel, located on the misty, grey sand Cambrian coast south of Snowdonia National Park, has been run by the Cave-Browne family for more than 90 years. The 59 comfortable rooms are classified and priced according to view. We love the Sea View rooms, which offer a grand view of Cardigan Bay and the Aberdovey Links golf course, but the Hill View rooms are much cooler in the summer months and accommodate children’s cots free of charge. Families also have the option of recently renovated 4th floor rooms, considered Superior rooms as they are more spacious and comfortable; there is an elevator. (Note that dogs are not allowed in the 4th floor rooms and smoking is not allowed anywhere.) As large and comfortable as it is, Trefeddian is basically a seaside hotel and therefore less formal than some of the others (though “children of high chair age” are asked to skip the main dining room at supper). Simple guestrooms have en suite bathrooms, telephone and TV and are set up for a baby-listening (staff monitors babies sleeping) service. The hotel’s family rooms sleep up to two adults and three kids and comprise a double bed and single bed, and one or two sofas which pull out into beds. Family activities include sailing in the Dovey Estuary, swimming in the indoor pool, golf, 9-hole putting green, hiking, and tours of the nearby village of Aberdyfi, which has a selection of shops. Rates: $ per person per night includes half board. Children ages 2-8 pay about 30% the adult rate and ages 9 to 16-years pay about 50%, including half board.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.