Long celebrated as one of the finest alehouses in the UK, The Olive Branch sits alongside its hotel quarters Beech House and delivers a fabulous twist on pub classics. There's a very casual feel that's just right for kids – and when we stayed, my daughter was delighted to discover what felt like that 70s sweetie Space Dust in her porridge at breakfast! That alone secured it a place in her heart forever…
Close to Ashdown Forest, the inspiration for AA Milne's 100 Acre Wood, the staff at this rather lovely hotel make all Christopher Robins very welcome. There's a special Winnie the Pooh tea if you're staying there (honey sandwiches, Kanga cupcakes and Owl's popcorn) and the swish Anderida restaurant will do half portions for younger guests. Ask for the children's map to local Winnie the Pooh attractions at reception. If you've time before dinner, go for a stroll in the 644 acres of ancient woodland criss-crossed with footpaths and bridleways across secret gardens, lakes and woodland trails or pop into the neighbouring Ashdown Llama Park.
The Grove has a reputation for celebs and big spenders (I saw half the Arsenal football team and Take That's Mark Owen on my visit), but the owners have thought just as hard about keeping the little ones amused. The Stables or the Glasshouse restaurant, two of three at this former wartime HQ set in 300 rolling acres, have a superb attitude to miniature diners. If you're sick of kids' menus, let them order off the main menu for half the regular price (and its totally free for under threes) and when they're done send them out to play on the mini-beach complete with sand, volleyball and beach huts. Bon appetit.
Priding itself on being guided by the needs of the owners' kids, Soar Mill is a bit of a haven for children young and old (after all – there aren't many places that offer Sunday teatime chocolate fountains in the school hols). The kitchen will do smaller versions of all the adult menu options and there are plenty of toys, books and games scattered around this relaxed hotel to keep them busy once they've finished eating (so you can enjoy your dinner in peace). For parents of tinies, there's an early kids' teatime too.
You can't book a table at the bistrot restaurant at Kesgrave but as it's open all day, you should be able to bowl up and get a table pretty fast. The beauty of this place is that its lovely terrace overlooks a vast square lawn on which the kids from every table descend after eating and make friends beautifully – leaving you to enjoy a leisurely, usually locally sourced meal in the sun. The kid's menu is great and includes some slightly more ambitious ingredients for older children like salmon and avocado.
You couldn't move for family diners the night we stayed here and we realised exactly why soon into the meal when our waiter recognised my small son's shouts as wails of hunger and brought his dinner super speedily, caught a glass of juice just before it landed on the floor and offered genuine smiles as he chatted with the kids while serving. Crieff is famous for its family approach and offers free childcare, soft play and adventure playground, indoor pool with lessons, 60 activities and a cinema. Oh, and they're lovely too.
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