I’ve been itching to get to the English countryside for months now and finally had the opportunity to do when we had grandparents in town in September. Given the sheer number of flights going in and out of London, it’s often less expensive to fly into Heathrow (or other London airports) than other European cities (this applies to flights from major North American hubs as well).
Exploring wondrous Avebury in Wiltshire
Once our tickets were purchased, the real challenge begun. The English countryside is vast with an unbelievable array of extraordinary things to see and do.
Our short list narrowed quickly, however, as we had just 72 hours available, including travel time; I needed to find a destination that was no more than 2 hours outside of Central London. Of course, this destination also needed to be gorgeous and appropriate a multi-generational excursion. Not that I’m picky …
Best Loved Hotels
In addition, I wanted to experience an accommodation outside of our England portfolio. I needed trusted advice so I consulted with Jeffrey Epstein of Best Loved Hotels, the most comprehensive collection of thoroughly vetted upscale hotels in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland online.
Bookmark this resource! Excellent summary information accompanies every listing and you can book straight from all accommodation reviews.
I knew I could count on Jeffrey’s advice so when he suggested Bowood Hotel as a tremendous option given our location and quality needs, I was thrilled.
Situated in the vast 2,000 acre parkland of the historic Bowood Estate, the setting of this hotel is absolutely stunning. The estate is home to the Lansdowne family who has lived here for centuries; visitors can tour Bowood House & Gardens from April through November.
Jeffrey alluded to a “fun fact” that ties the Lansdowne family to the United States when he first described the hotel to me. It turns out that the 2nd Earl of Shelburne (the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne) negotiated peace with America as the end of the Declaration of Independence.
I still laugh when I think about the description that a staff member of the hotel gave me, “It’s when we gave your lot away.” Indeed!
Adventure playground at Bowood Estate
Bowood Adventure Playground
Without a doubt the big attraction at Bowood for families is the Adventure Playground. The playground is a very popular Wiltshire activity for ages 12 and under. With good reason, this is one of the best playgrounds I’ve ever seen with aerial walkways, trampolines, a massive pirate ship, and a network of truly steep slides.
One in particular, aptly nicknamed “the death slide,” involves a 19 foot vertical drop. Our 8-year-old spent a good hour contemplating this drop and decided it was a no-go.
I wish I videotaped the banter that went on about this slide between parents and their kids. There is not a child that climbed to the top who didn’t have reservations — I only saw one brave soul who was willing to give it a try. Nonetheless, this is a spot where hours of entertainment is guaranteed.
Families staying at the Bowood Hotel have unlimited free entry to the playground. It is a 5-minute drive from the hotel (via golf cart or car).
Bowood Hotel’s cozy library
Lounges and Restaurants
The main hotel is new construction (opened in 2009). For a hotel has only 43 guest rooms, the public spaces are quite grand. The decor is fresh and modern, yet very inviting with sumptuous fabrics and rich colors.
I could sit in their cozy library for hours sipping tea or wine. The beauty is that the lounge areas open up to an enormous green space where children can run around while their parents relax.
The Shelburne Restaurant offers fine dining and the Clubhouse Brasserie (adjacent to the main hotel building) is casual. Given our multi-aged group, we opted for the brasserie which offers a nice selection of fish, locally-sourced meat, and vegetarian dishes (plus a children’s menu) in a laid-back, comfortable room. The food quality here is outstanding; I’m still dreaming about the steak I cooked myself on a hot stone with peppercorn house. Truly, one for the meal record books!
Guest rooms at Bowood are spacious and well-designed. This is where new construction is a benefit as everything is pristine and fresh. Suites can accommodate 3 people and connecting rooms are best for families of 4 or more.
Spa and Fitness Center
A well-equipped fitness center is paired with a state-of-the-art spa offers an array of treatments, as well as a glorious indoor pool with children’s hours. The pool area is enclosed by floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the golf course; guests enjoy a gorgeous year-round setting without having to worry about changing weather conditions.
The spa includes a sauna and steam room, as well as a fantastic aromatherapy shower where mint is released into either hot or cold shower streams. It’s very invigorating!
We don’t play golf so I can’t review the 18 hole course, but many of their guests were there just to play golf so I’ll assume it is top notch like the rest of the Bowood amenities.
To that end, the hotel caters to small groups of corporate guests too who come to property to golf together. It didn’t detract from our experience or make the hotel any less kid-friendly, but it’s something for families to note.
Things To Do In and Around Bowood Hotel
The Bowood Hotel is extremely convenient for a quick getaway as it’s just a short drive from the M4. Although the hotel has plenty to do onsite, the beauty of the central Wiltshire location is that there are quite a few interesting attractions in the area including Stonehenge, Avebury, and Salisbury Cathedral.
Given our limited two day window, we opted for excursions in the immediate area. Our visit included Lacock Abbey (National Trust site where part of Harry Potter was filmed) and Avebury one day, followed by Bath, a UNESCO-protected city in Northeast Somerset.
The open space is this area is extensive with plenty of opportunity to include outdoor kid-friendly “run around time” with sightseeing; this was our exact strategy and it kept everyone happy.
Want More Information and Help Booking a Holiday at Bowood Hotel?
We can help! Our kid-friendly hotel review of Bowood Hotel has more information about why this property works so well for families. Use the Check Availability button to reach out for Best Available Rates and one of our Family Vacation Consultants will follow up with you to advise about any additional questions you may have regarding a stay here.
If you’d like comprehensive help planning a full beach vacation anywhere in the world, request assistance on My Trip Planner.
Photos courtesy of Ciao Bambino and Bowood Hotel. We received one-night complimentary accommodations from Bowood Hotel. The other nights, as well as food and services, were paid for by Amie O’Shaughnessy. We were not asked to present any particular point of view.