UK hotels with the best kids’ clubs and activities — not so long ago, any travel writer asked to write on that topic would have laughed. British hotels never used to be hot on kids’ clubs, their premise for this being that their guests were staying to explore the delights the country has to offer and they didn’t need any other distractions. In recent years, however, UK hoteliers have woken up to the fact that guests actually like hanging around their beautiful buildings, relaxing in their spas and enjoying their grounds. It is now fairly common to find family hotels in the UK with entertainment and offerings for parents and kids alike.
It has also dawned on them that Mum and Dad enjoy doing some of this without their kids, and a great deal of it with them. As a result, UK hotel kids’ clubs have come into their own recently, offering a mix of fun supervised childcare and activities that can be done with parents. You could even say that their innovative approach to family time makes many of them the best in the world. You do need to check schedules, though; some only operate in UK school holidays. Here are our faves …
If you’ve ever wanted to experience what life must have been like on an aristocratic country house estate, Scotland‘s luxury Gleneagles hotel is as close as you will get without going back in time to the real thing. It’s a wondrous place to enjoy time together as a family, swimming in the pool and hiking and cycling around the grounds. And, when you want some ‘me’ time, perhaps in the fabulous spa or for a round of golf, it’s easy to find somewhere your kids will be safely entertained.
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There is Little Glen (pictured), a supervised creche for 2- to 9-year-olds, which is crammed full of toys and offers a variety of arts and crafts workshops as well as the chance to take part in activities such as pond-dipping and bug-hunting. For 6- to 15-year-olds, there is The Den, wired up to a variety of gaming devices. It’s also the base for more traditional games such as pool, air hockey and Backgammon and a vast wall-mounted Scrabble board. The Den has a cinema room with regular screenings and offers seasonal activities, too.
If this isn’t enough, you can book the kids in for golf, horse riding and tennis lessons. Older kids can learn to drive a mini Land Rover, Argocat or Segway around the grounds, train a gundog, race a ferret, discover falconry and have a go at shooting, archery and fishing. Or you could go for a family swim or a bike ride.
Being big and modern, The Celtic Manor Resort is more akin to a large European resort hotel than a class small country manor in Wales. It’s in a great location for exploring the Welsh capital of Cardiff plus the surrounding English and Welsh countryside, and it’s incredibly well kitted out. For 3-to 10-year-olds, there is Dylan’s Den, which runs a hectic schedule of games and activities. Other great onsite pursuits that older kids can try out include laser clays, archery, high ropes, laser combat, adventure golf, footgolf, tennis, golf and swimming. During the summer holidays, there’s often an inflatable obstacle course in the grounds to try and negotiate.
TIP: All activities at The Celtic Manor have to be booked well in advance to avoid disappointment. It’s common to arrive and find that every option is fully booked.
Having the opportunity to stay and play in a real live castle is every child’s dream, and Bovey Castle will be all your kids’ dreams come true. When you’re not out and about with them exploring the beautiful grounds or the surrounding Devon countryside, your 3- to 7-year-olds can be entertained in The Den, where jewellery making, clay work and stone painting are some of the activities on offer. Your 7- to 14-year-olds can become Bovey Rangers. Available during UK school holidays, activities on offer include survival skills, archery, air-rifle shooting, fishing, apple pressing, bird-box making and 4×4 offroad driving.
Oh, and on top of all of this, you need to try and pack in the daily falconry display, the daily hen egg collecting, a play with the hotel ferrets, a bike ride, a horse ride, a swim, a game of table tennis and rounds of croquet, boules and petanque. All these options and the gorgeous setting easily makes Bovey Castle one of the most family-friendly hotels in England.
The Four Seasons Hotel, Hampshire is the sort of place you could happily move into for good. Sumptuous bedrooms, lovely lounges, great food and drink — it’s better than a home from home. When you want time with your kids and without them, it has both bases more than covered. The children’s entertainment programme, Kids for All Seasons, runs most weekends and over most UK school holidays. Activities include craft-making, kite flying, football, treasure hunts and visits to the on-site equestrian centre. You can also book your children into Own a Pony for a Day, where they get to spend the day at the equestrian centre learning how to care for a pony. Tennis, cycling, clay pigeon shooting, fishing and falconry are amongst the other onsite activities.
You know the picture-book childhood everyone wants their kids to have: making sandcastles, climbing trees, games of Monopoly and hide and seek? They can do all of that and more at Chewton Glen, sandwiched between the sea and the New Forest. The Children’s Club runs weekends and during UK school holidays with a fun-packed programme of indoor and outdoor games, crafts and activities. You can also sign your children up for one of the kids’ or teens’ cookery courses or the kids’ tennis camp. Plus, there is croquet, swimming, walking trails, golf, mountain biking, falconry, duck herding, shooting and archery. And to really make the trip special, book into one of the fantastic treehouse suites.
You will catch the magical Alice in Wonderland vibe of The Grove as soon as you cross the threshold of this beautiful stately home-like hotel. It’s a stone’s throw from the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio tour and within half an hour of London, so there is plenty to pull you away from the hotel, but the onsite facilities and activities are just as tempting. Let your younger kids enjoy the full programme of activities at Anouska’s Day Nursery; your older ones can play snooker or table tennis in the Potting Shed or take part in a junior golf clinic, whilst you take in a round of golf or a pampering session at the spa. There are plenty of activities to pursue as a family too: cycling, nature trails, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis, five-a-side football, badminton, croquet and Segway riding.
Woolley Grange is part of the group of Luxury Family Hotels, and it is exactly that. This Jacobean manor house is a holiday home where dreams are made. For younger children, there’s Woolley Bears Den, which is jam-packed with toys and has a full-on activity schedule. On specific days, members of the Den team will collect your early risers from their room and feed them at breakfast club so that you can enjoy a lie-in. For older kids, there’s the Hen House, where they can play table football, pool, air hockey and console games. Other activities include bonfire building, chicken and duck egg collecting, treasure trails, getting lost in the maze and swimming in the indoor and outdoor pools. It is rare to find affordable, 4-star family hotels in the UK with pools, but Woolley Grange is a well-loved exception.
Editor’s Note: Photos courtesy of the individual properties pictured.
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