Crieff Hydro, Perthshire

Pros: Lots to see and do, fantastic kids club, picturesque scenery, some good room deals to had
Cons: Hotel is a bit worn and dated, food is unremarkable.
Crieff Hydro is set within the Perthshire countryside approximately an hour’s drive from both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports. We flew into Edinburgh and picked up a hire car. The directions supplied by the hotel were extensive, but it still didn’t stop us from getting lost along the way.
When we arrived the front of the hotel was subject to extensive building works, so it wasn’t the grand entrance we were expecting. However, the staff were friendly and helpful, and we were quickly given our keys and directed to our room, which was located up a narrow flight of stairs. There were lifts, but these were quite small and slow and as a result, could get rather cramped.
There were no disappointments with our room, which was one of the best layouts for a family with kids we have seen. Guests entered into a small corridor, with a shower room and separate bathroom straight ahead. To the left was the main bedroom, with a good sized double bed.  To the right was the kid’s bedroom, which boasted a single bed and bunk beds. There was just enough space for a travel cot as well, so it was perfect for large families. The décor itself looked a little tired, but it was clean and very functional, and it offered us a little space from the kids, which both holidaydaddy and I welcomed.
The children’s club, Big Country, was fantastic. It’s available for 2-12 year olds, and two 3 hour sessions per day are included in the price of the room. The large club room is in a separate section of the hotel, and is organized by age group. It even has it’s own soft play unit next door. We felt more than happy to leave our two children there to undertake craft projects, and from what we could see the sessions were very well structured.
Children’s tea was held in the brasserie, and there was always a good range of food available, to cater for even the fussiest of little eaters. We booked a babysitter through the hotel (one of the girls who worked in the kids club), who was very good, and we felt very comfortable with her.
The hotel has two options for dinner – the Miekle restaurant (which is included in the half board room price), or the Brasserie (which you get a supplement towards). We ate in the Miekle restaurants most nights, and unfortunately we found the dated menu a little disappointing. On our last night in the hotel we ate in the Brasserie, which was good. We wish that we had eaten there every night!
The hotel has great facilities including a riding stable, 18-hole golf course, full-on activity centre for adrenaline junkies, a family pool and a small children’s pool which was perfect for our little ones.  I had a lovely massage at the spa, and from what we could tell the treatments were varied and well priced. We didn’t get around to trying the Victorian Adult Spa as there was so much else going on, but it looked fabulous.
If all that’s not enough then you can take a leisurely stroll and take in the breathtaking scenery around the 900 acre estate.
The Crieff Hydro is definitely a hotel we would revisit. It provided us with the break we needed with excellent childcare and a room that worked well for us. It needs a lick of paint in places and we recommend you stick to the Brassiere restaurant , however other than that we would recommend a trip to this Perthshire getaway.
Holidaymummy rating: 4/5

Bedruthan Steps Hotel, Cornwall

Pros: Lots of activities for children, beautiful vistas

Cons: It’s a long drive from major cities, basic accommodation, crèche hit and miss

The drive to Bedruthan Steps took an age. As anyone who has travelled to beautiful Cornwall will know that if the traffic is bad, the journey down the A30 is far from fun.  Unfortunately we made the trip on one of those days, so it was with  a sense of huge relief that we finally pulled up outside the hotel and were able to stretch aching limbs. Unfortunately this euphoria was tempered by the sight of a rather bland looking hotel façade that looked more like a standard Travelodge than a very popular family resort.

Undeterred, we found the reception quite easily, and then quickly went to our inter-connecting room. Although we knew that we did not have a seaview, we were less than impressed by the view of the busy car park. Looking on the positive side at least it meant we could keep an eye on the car, which was parked very close to our window! The rooms themselves although very functional, were small and cramped, and lacking in any real little charm. Again, we were reminded of standard business hotels that can be found up and down the country, built for convenience and conferences, rather than luxury family breaks.

During our stay we used majority of the facilities. The pool was lovely and despite small changing-rooms the kids has a lot of fun splashing in the water, which was of good temperature. Holidaydaddy used the adult-only spa facilities which he described as excellent. He was less complementary of the gym however which comprised a couple of cardo and weight machines in a back room.

The large crèche is housed within the hotel, and although our kids were happy there, we were disappointed with the staff. When we went into the crèche, there didn’t really seem to be many activities set-up, and the staff just seemed to be watching over the children rather than interacting with them in a fun way. The crèche was packed with children of various ages, with no areas obviously designated by age.

Alongside the crèche there is also a soft play which our children enjoyed, although during our second afternoon the hotel allowed access to the local school. Our quiet afternoon with toddlers quickly turned into a loud and raucous playtime! It’s worth noting that there are outdoor playgrounds and really good after-supper entertainment for the children every evening.

The children ate at the kid’s supper throughout our stay, and was clear that the food was fresh, with a great selection to please even the fussiest of eaters. Holidaydaddy and I ate in the main restaurant every night, and the food was excellent throughout. Each evening of our stay we hired a babysitter provided by the hotel, which worked out very well.

The biggest selling point for this hotel is it’s cliff-top location The view is really hard to beat, and we definitely enjoyed whiling the evening away sitting in the adult bar looking out to sea. Overall however, I felt disappointed in the Bedruthan Steps Hotel. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but other than the food, everything just felt a little too functional

Holiday Mummy rating 2.5/5

 

 

 

 

Ickworth Hotel, Suffolk

Pros: Beautiful house, great rooms, lovely food, separate older kids space

Cons: Cold pool, limited public space

We arrived at Ickworth on a crisp, cold morning after a heavy snowfall. The place looked absolutely stunning, with a soft white blanket covering the lawn and heavy icicles hanging from the lobby windows. After checking in we were taken to our family large room, which was well appointed and boasted a panoramic view of the stately gardens. Our daughter slept on a fold-out sofa bed and the hotel provided a z-bed for our son. I’m happy to say they were both comfortable. The bathroom however was disappointingly small, and I wouldn’t have relished the thought of changing or bathing a baby in there.

The crèche was adequate and although the kids were happy enough to go in and said they had fun, the staff were a little indifferent when we dropped them off. At the time we were there the maximum daily stay in the crèche was two hours. It’s worth noting that the many other hotels within the Luxury Family Hotel group allow a return visit during the same day. The children did crafts, but be aware that one day we returned to find them watching TV. We were happy as long as kids were, but this might not suit all.  It’s worth noting that there was a separate playroom for older kids (7-plus) complete with table-tennis table and board games.

To get to the pool we had to leave the hotel, and gain access to a separate building around 50 yards away. I’m sure this is no problem during the summer months, but during the dead of winter it quickly became a production involving coats, scarves, gloves and wellies! Upon entering the swimming block we were greeted by two family-sized changing cubicles. It was cold, but given the harsh weather that was to be expected. Unfortunately when we went through to the lovely looking pool, we found the water cold as well. Swimmable if you kept moving, but not ideal for little ones.

Ickworth boasts impressive spa facilities. We didn’t use them this time, however the treatment list looked good and there was definitely availability during our stay.

The food was excellent. The kids supper was served the impressive conservatory. Our two were happy with the selection on offer and the staff accommodating. We arranged a babysitter through the hotel who was lovely (although a baby listening service is possible), and had an adult meal. Fredricks Restaurant is a formal dining experience, set in a wonderful spacious and impeccably decorated dining room. The menu boasted the best in modern European cuisine and we were not surprised to learn that Fredricks has been awarded two rosettes. I’m sure it is as popular with local Suffolk diners as it seemed to be with our fellow hotel guests.

We enjoyed the downstairs bar, which seemed to revel in it’s adult feel, although the drinks seemed expensive, mirroring prices one would find in London.

Overall one we would return, it was expensive, but was very stylish.

Holidaymummy rating 3.5/5

Foxhills, Ottershaw, Surrey

Pros: Good facilities for kids, Broad range of activities with something for everybody, easy access from London, the M25 and major airports

Cons: Can get very busy at the weekend

This 4 star hotel, spa and golf complex is nestled in the Surrey countryside and is popular with local members and weekend breakers alike. On arriving at the hotel, we found a space in the very busy car-park. The reception area located within the main manor house is very traditional, and we were warmly greeted by staff, who were quick to check us all in and show us to our room.

We were located in a ground floor room within a modern complex with a separate outdoor pool. Access was via a separate keycard which offered some privacy for holiday-makers from the many health-club members milling around the facility. Our room was light and airy, decorated in a classic style, with good amenities. Our daughter (who was twelve months old at the time) slept in a travel cot in the same room as us, but given the good size room we still felt that we had space to move around without waking her.

The crèche is part of the health club facility, and although the space was quite small the staff were enthusiastic and had laid out the room with craft projects ready for the little-ones to dive straight into. Please note that there is a separate charge for the crèche, although it is possible to leave your children in for up to 4 hours. For older children there is a teen-zone, with wii, table football and table tennis.

There is also a soft-play for younger children, but be warned that this, along with the family pool, get’s very busy at the with local members at the weekend

There are a number of indoor and outdoor pools at the facility. We loved the heated spa pool, which was great when our daughter was in the crèche. Foxhill’s also boasts an impressive gym, with state-of-the-art cardio and weight-training equipment – which greatly pleased holidaydaddy!

There are three restaurants at Foxhills. We tried each and were impressed on each occasion. The Manor Restaurant offers formal dining with a wide variety of dining including a buffet, set menu and a la carte dishes. Brasserie XIX, located just off the golf course is good for an upmarket brunch, although it’s closed to those under 13 years. The summerhouse offers family-friendly fare with a standard kids menu. It’s fine for lunch, but once again it gets very busy – so book a table.

In summary we enjoyed our stay at Foxhills. Although it’s not of the same standard as The Grove, it’s a perfect retreat for golfing families and for those who like a little health-spa pampering while the kids have fun in the crèche.

Holiday Mummy rating: 4/5