Luxury hotels in the UK, can be a bit precious and stuffy. Most claim to welcome kids, but the staff look edgy every time a pair of tiny mucky fingers paw the ancient suit of armour by the foot of the stairs and watch you like hawks at every meal time in case a stray ketchup covered pomme frite hits the priceless Persian carpet.
Luckily, not all top UK hotels are like this, but weeding out those ones that really do welcome you and your little entourage with open arms, and sterilisers, baby food and a top class crèche is not easy. Woolley Grange, located just outside the spa town of Bath in the county of Somerset, is one of the few that does all this and more.
The resident chocolate-coloured spaniel will probably be the first to trot down the honey-coloured steps to greet you and lead you back up through the doors to check in at this beautiful Jacobean manor house.
I don’t want to mislead you though. This isn’t luxury in a Mandarin Oriental or Ritz-Carlton sense. Although the Hayloft suite of rooms is the exception that could easily be from this stable. Most of the bedrooms are what I’d call quaint and homely, cosy as opposed to spacious and they are filled with a hodge podge of sturdy complimentary antique furniture, that I wanted to take home with me. Some even have antique 4’6” double beds, so if you don’t like your feet dangling over the edge it’s worth qualifying the bed size before booking.
Some of the room layouts are unusual too, in the room our friends stayed in you actually had to walk through the bathroom to reach the main bedroom. It works in a charming English sort of way though and it’s all part of the home from home feel of the place.
The public areas have the same lovely feel, but are much more spacious and if you want even more space to roam, then just step out into the 14 acres of beautiful grounds. If the sun is out you and the kids can don your supplied toweling robes and head to the heated outdoor pool. Or you can let them bounce around on the trampoline, play in the playground or the sandpit or play hide and seek amongst the living play tunnel and house.
Then, if you want some ‘me’ time take the little ones to the Woolley Bear’s Den crèche where the staff will keep them entertained whilst you truly relax in the spa. For older kids there is the Hen House, which is furnished with a pool table, table football and various electronic games.
When it comes to eating, the restaurant will prepare baby food for you and there are children’s menus at breakfast, lunch and dinner, which are a far cry from your standard fries with everything. High tea is served late afternoon/early evening for kids and then the theory is that you can put the kids to bed and then enjoy your own leisurely grown up meal in the main restaurant, leaving your kids under the watch of the sophisticated baby listening service. That’s the theory anyway.
Because I schlep my kids here there and everywhere, mainly to fit in with our love of travel, they don’t always perform as to the manual. After a lovely bath we installed them in their double bed and retired to our adjoining room whilst according to the plan they would drop off. They had different ideas, however.
First we heard giggles of delight as they played in the bed, then there was a fight for territory in the bed, then one little head emerged from their door, closely followed by another fiercely proclaiming they weren’t tired. Things finally settled down at about 9.45pm, by which time we’d missed last orders and had to make do with room service. Our friends with the perfect kids said dinner was yummy though!
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