As growing numbers of top-notch hotels open their doors to families, we look at the best of the bunch. Which UK five-star retreats genuinely cut the mustard when it comes to striking that difficult balance between adults feeling luxuriated and kids having fun?
1. Four Seasons, Hampshire
As you drive up the very grand entrance to the even more grand Georgian manor house, it's hard not to panic about your kids' bad table manners or boisterous ways, particularly as this 133-bedroom country retreat is known for its sophistication and calm. But there's not a hint of stuffiness.
Oliver the black Labrador greets you and staff revel in the kids' delight at seeing personalised treats, mini bathrobes and sponge letters for the bath that spell out their name that await them in their bedroom. In short, children are made to feel very, very welcome.
Child-focused activities include an indoor pool, jungle gym, mountain biking, tennis and riding at the Equestrian Centre (highly recommended).
There's also the Kids For All Seasons club, which organises everything from kite flying to treasure hunts, while the teen centre (ages 10+) has air hockey, fuse ball and pool.
Meanwhile, parents get their slice of heaven in the spa (have a Samadara treatment if you can).
A variety of baby facilities are available, including babysitting, which means you have the choice of eating with or without your kids in either of the two restaurants, where the adult and kids menu are both inspired.
Four Seasons Hotel is near Hook, Hampshire.
www.fourseasons.com/hampshire/; 01252 853000
Rooms from £210 (for up to three people); cots included. Suites from £430. Promotional rates are also available.
2. Calcot Manor, Gloucestershire
This delightful weathered former farmhouse and farm buildings has grown to house 35 guest rooms, a sumptuous spa, lounges with sink-in sofas and roaring fires and two restaurants. Set in a courtyard of lime trees and surrounded by 220 acres of meadowland, it is quintessentially English and boasts a modern-country style with a homely ambience.
But where Calcot Manor really stands out is that you can be any age and any type of person to enjoy it. Posh grandparents, not-so-posh parents with toddlers and couples looking for a romantic mini-break all fit in and are fantastically catered for.
The 13 family bedrooms and suites all have baby boxes, containing everything from sterilisers and changing mats, and are located near a separate Ofsted-registered Playzone building, which is open daily, packed with Hasbro toys, and staffed by qualified nannies.
For older children, the mezzanine level boasts its own cinema, Playstations and Xboxes and special events include cookery classes and sports mornings.
The daily children's high tea is popular, although there's also dedicated children's menus and a baby-listening service.
The spa has indoor and outdoor pools and, if you get the chance, grab some bikes to explore the amazing countryside. Alternatively, utilise the tennis courts and croquet lawn.
Local attractions are good too, including Berkeley Castle, Wetlands Centre and Longleat Safari Park.
Calcot Manor is near Tetbury, Gloucestershire.
www.calcotmanor.co.uk; 01666 890391
Family rooms start at £330 per night (there is a £30 supplement per child, aged 0-16, that covers breakfast, high tea and use of the Playzone).
3. Babington House, Somerset
Babington House has a reputation of being Britain's only truly hip country house hotel. Think spiky-haired media trendies chilling out to the max as they escape from the metropolis for a mini-break. But before you rule it out for a family break, read on.
The hotel's Little House offers free crèche facilities for children aged 12-months and up, with no shortage of entertainment, including outdoor activities and cooking classes.
There's a mini-cinema with sink-in chairs for the older kids and high tea is a daily favourite for all aged children.
The 18 acres of parkland is home to a lake, croquet lawn and tennis courts and the split-level mini houses are popular among families.
A babysitting service is available, and there's an indoor and outdoor pool, which cater for kids, and an outrageously good spa for parents.
Best of all, the staff are lovely – nothing is too much trouble – and there are lots of thoughtful extra touches, as well as very fine fodder in the stylish restaurant.
Plus, the atmosphere, once you get settled, is surprisingly easy-going. On the downside, some areas of the hotel are looking a bit tired.
Babington House is near Frome, Somerset.
www.babingtonhouse.co.uk; 01373 812266
Family rooms start at £370
4. Celtic Manor, South Wales
A Dylan the Dragon backpack awaits every child who walks through the doors of this expansive modern building stretched across lush Welsh land.
There's a dedicated kids' pool, a crèche for under-fives, a soft play area for children up to eight and the Hideaway Club for children 11 and over, not to mention a games room for all youngsters to enjoy. In addition, there's a full programme of daily activities themed to coincide with major holidays and events.
And that's just inside the hotel. Outside in the incredible 1400 acres of parkland, activities (and lessons if you want them) include the signature theme of the hotel – golf – as well as mountain biking, fishing and tennis.
There's an adventure playground with bouncy castle and high ropes.
Now for parents. Don't miss out on the splendid spa and if you play golf, get ready for some of the best greens you've experienced. And if you're staying for more than one night, book one of the hotel's fully qualified nannies to babysit, while you enjoy the taster menu in the fine dining restaurant.
The ambience in Celtic Manor is friendly and the bedrooms are comfy and large, if a little corporate. Your only problem will be making use of the seemingly endless facilities.
Celtic Manor is in The Usk Valley, South Wales
www.celtic-manor.com; 01633 410262
Rooms from £99 per night for two adults plus one child (£5 for breakfast for three-and-overs). Cots included (additional inter-connecting rooms from £75 per night)
5. Chewton Glen, New Forest
Ah, Chewton Glen. If you've ever been to this outstanding 58-bedroomed retreat, you'll be all too familiar with the involuntary smile that seems to appear at the mere mention of its name.
Set on the edge of the New Forest, you'll see beautiful scenery and wildlife on route. But the resulting lack of "Are we nearly there yet?" cries from the back of the car isn't the only reason to bring the kids here.
It's a short walk to the sea (for which baby wellies are provided) and the spacious duplex suites are superb for families.
Or, for a real adventure, stay in one of the brand new tree houses, complete with bridges and telescopes, slides and a watchtower.
Kids are greeted with an activity pack on arrival and will find mini-bathrobes and slippers in their rooms. There are DVDs and computer games a plenty, as well as baby facilities and babysitting, and the spa even has treatments for kids.
Early supper is available, whilst over-fives can join their parents in the restaurant. And the Children's Club, open during school holidays, includes everything from cake decorating to painting.
Visit Marwell Zoo, Paultons family theme park and Monkey World while you're staying – if, that is, you can bear to leave the grounds.
When it's time to go home, you will want to cancel everything and stay another night. Seriously.
Chewton Glen is near New Milton, Hampshire.
www.chewtonglen.com; 01425 275341
Rooms are from £475 including breakfast, cots included, no charge for under 5's (£60 for extra bed).
Treehouse Suites prices from £600 including breakfast hamper.
6. Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire
Think posh. I'm talking proper plumy accents. And yet it works with kids. How? Two reasons. First, the hotel's ambience is surprisingly relaxed. And second, children get VIP treatment, as well as the adults, so you'll find lots of little treats like little ducks for bathtime and mini-bathrobes, whilst outside their needs are catered for with junior golf and tennis facilities and a fabulous adventure playground.
The spa, especially the pool, is extremely child friendly and there's a crèche, under-eights play room, cinema club at weekends and games room.
All the family winds up feeling elated throughout their stay and consequently, there's no need for the little cherubs to misbehave. Anyway, this is a highly popular wedding venue,, so it's not as if the sight of children running around the plush carpets comes a shock to anyone.
Staff are really nice here (even if the kids do have their moments) and it's a big old place, so there's no need to ever feel conspicuous.
And if you really can't face the thought of kids staying in the grandeur of the main house (which is steeped in fascinating history and where the 21 rooms are stunning), simply book into one of the 28 contemporary-style bedrooms in the Pavillion.
Stoke Park is in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
www.stokepark.com; 01753 717171
Room only is £265 (cots included, extra beds £35 per night; crèche: £7.50 per hour)
7. Swinton Park, North Yorkshire
Despite the impressive exterior and grounds, don't expect opulence. There's no lack of magnificent original features, but this place is inclusive, a little worn out in places and has a very down-to-earth ambience. For those with children in tow, this is ideal.
The list of activities in the 200 acres of parkland is astonishing, including a walking trail around four lakes and woodland with detours to waterfalls and bridges, a four acre seasonal walled garden, an outdoor play area with swings and slide, a bird of prey centre with half hour "taster experiences" for children and families, a pony trekking centre with lessons and treks for children and a boot room with kites, children's bikes, boules, croquet and outdoor toys.
There's also a treasure trail and special events such as Family Falconry & Nature Days and Halloween Spooky Trails, as well as children's and family's cookery courses and an indoor play room with toys, books, dressing up and films.
After all that, they're bound to sleep well, which means you could always get a babysitter in and eat in the fine dining restaurant, which is astoundingly good. Or simply eat with your kids earlier and in a more casual atmosphere.
Swinton Park is near Ripon, North Yorkshire
www.swintonpark.com; 01765 680900
Dinner, bed and breakfast for adults and all meals and accommodation for children, from £255.00 per room per night.
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