Overlooking Dedham Vale, made famous by local lad Constable, Maison Tolbooth should have every family member smiling. Just 12 impeccably designed suites make the hotel feel like your personal playground, complete with lovely garden room restaurant, heated swimming pool with a darling pool house, bubbling hot tub, tennis courts and a day spa with a wide range of treatments. There's oodles of space for the kids to run around in and the tranquil rural setting allows for those magic moments when you shut your eyes in the sun and can hear a pin drop. Wonderful.
Genteel Harrogate isn't short on pretty hotels but Rudding Park, set amongst glorious landscaped gardens etched with wooded paths and shady glades, is something special. While adults swoon at the country house feel, the sweeping North Yorkshire countryside, the fabulous 18-hole golf course, the menu in the award winning restaurant and the spa and gym facilities, their offspring will be delighted at the private cinema within the hotel. Look out for the Food and Flicks movie nights where a two course dinner and a movie comes in at around £30 (popcorn gratis). You may be surrounded by rolling countryside but Harrogate is but two miles away and Leeds and York (for any shopaholics in the party) are within easy reach.
A real favourite in West Sussex, historic Bailiffscourt Hotel and Spa is a picture-postcard pretty building characterised by narrow passageways meandering through a series of cosy lounges and snugs stuffed with fabulous antique pieces and intricate tapestries while smelling of freshly-cut blooms. Gaze through Gothic mullioned windows at the kids playing in the flower-strewn, carefully kept gardens (the courtyard in summer is a riot of roses) while attentive staff serve coffee as you flick through the morning papers. Are you getting the picture here? From the bone-warming real log fire in winter to the lazy summer strolls in the grounds, this is hotel heaven. The spa is bang up to date and we are in love with the outdoor and indoor pool and hot tub arrangement which takes full advantage of the gorgeous Sussex countryside views. Just try getting the kids out of this pool when the sun's out.
It seems incredible that such a spacious, grand and utterly delightful country house hotel can be so close to the undeniably lovely honey-coloured elegance of Bath. A former Georgian mansion, this opulent joint is right in the city mix yet has lush statue-studded gardens to meander through after the hurly burly of the city. This is the sort of place country house owners wish they could afford to emulate, with its ultra fancy swags and deep pile carpets, lovely furniture and deeply restful sitting rooms. Take the kids on a boat trip along the Kennet and Avon, hold a tennis tournament on the courts or teach the wee ones croquet on the lawns. The spa here (much favoured by the city's rugby team), with its sleek pool and tempting array of massages, is reason enough to book.
Stratford Upon Avon can be ludicrously busy at the best of times but the smart money stays just outside for a piece of Warwickshire country tranquillity. Ettington Park sits just a few miles from the Bard's home town surrounded by 40 acres of parkland with the River Stour running through it. Honey coloured stones, stunning brickwork and ornate arches set the tone here and inside the grandeur continues with elegant chandeliers, antique furniture and lovely wall art. I love the perfect blending of heritage architecture with 21st century facilities here, and the indoor pool, sauna, steam rooms and Jacuzzi are perfect places to relax after the madness of Stratford. There's a great butterfly farm at Swans Nest for the kids too.
Just spectacular views down to the pool, the lawns and the ocean beyond makes Watersmeet Hotel in Devon's Woolacombe a must-visit. All but two rooms in this elegant country house by the sea has a view of the coastline. Overlooking a secluded sandy beach, you can sit in the lounge or restaurant and it practically feels like you are on the beach (but without the sand in your lunch). Do the kids need anything more? If so, there's the South West Coastal Path on your doorstep, a deeply cool surfing scene in Woolacombe and the Victorian seaside village of Mortehoe to explore. Can't be bothered to leave? The hotel has an indoor pool with hot spa and steam room and a heated outdoor pool surrounded by beachside gardens at your disposal plus a host of treatments on offer.
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