REVIEW: *Brilliant* family getaway near Bath
I always get a tingle when I find something I know Muddy readers will love too and whoa, I’m feeling it big style on this one. If you’re looking for a family break with younger kids, this is totally it. Last weekend I went down to Woolley Grange, about 6 miles from Bath with the Muddy clan and it pretty much ticked every box. A triumph of relaxation frankly. Even my kids didn’t argue (much – we’re not talking miracles here).
The hotel is part of the Luxury Family Hotels (LFH) group that combines stonking heritage accommodation (Thornbury Castle and the National Trust owned Ickworth estate being two of its properties) with a relaxed vibe and really brilliant children’s facilities. So knackered parents can spend time in the spa or sit in front of the fires with the papers while the kids can play in the creche or teen barn, watch films in the hotel screening rooms or bomb around the grounds.
There are now 8 hotels to the group but Woolley Grange was the first. Like the other LFHs I’ve stayed at, the main thing to report is how it feels like a home from home. The layout of the Jacobean manor house means there are a series of smallish rooms, all lit with fires and littered with sofas and chairs, in which to kick back, order a G&T, take your shoes off if you feel like it and chill. If you think hard about it, there really aren’t many hotels like that, where you really feel at home enough to just hang out.
We weren’t staying in the main house, but in what I think was the old coach house to the back of the property, and the accommodation (for four of us) was massive, with two bedrooms, a huge living room, and a large bathroom with roll top bath. The carpet was one that I seem to encounter a lot in posh private properties – a kind of evil green velvet type thing that was clearly massively in vogue pre-war. Apart from that update, I couldn’t fault the room, and the kids nearly had a fit of joy at having a TV in their bedroom.
We arrived late at night, so it was the following morning that we really had a roam around the hotel, and it’s just spectacular for its grounds, nooks and crannies and general thoughtfulness for kids.
Touches like fishing nets next to the ornamental pond, giant swings, a quirky plastic sheep under a willow tree, a trampoline, a Nature Garden where kids can look for bugs, a Walled garden where they can see where the food is grown for the hotel, not to mention a very outdoor swish swimming pool (now closed – but that was fine, there was also an indoor one!)
I think particularly at this time of year it’s a brilliant property to go to, because there is so much to do in the area. In the summer I’m always inclined to go for something coastal, even if it’s piddoodling with rain, but I’d definitely come back to Woolley, with Bradford on Avon is a walk away, Lacock Abbey is a 10 minute drive down the road, and the awesome city of Bath, a 10 minute drive in the other direction. We were so excited to see all the sights we didn’t even bother booking the kids into the creche (you can get a free 2 hours daily), but I did check it out for you.
The creche is the main selling point for the hotel but actually if you have older kids too, they’d be perfectly happy with their own teen room equipped with pool table, X-box, and all that stuff. Full marks to the hotel for putting teen-friendly info on local must-see sights on the walls, no doubt so when parents say, ‘We’re going to Lacock Abbey’ today the kids don’t groan and whine ‘borrrrrrr-ing‘.
We did spend a couple of hours with the kids just playing in the grounds (see, we’re not that rubbish). They were particularly taken with the walled garden and its Potting Shed area where you can actually buy produce and chase the poor chickens and ducks around
I’ve stayed at several Luxury Family Hotels before (Polurrian Bay and the Ickworth) and it always amuses me how the highlight for my smallest kids is the buffet part of breakfast where they can go up and down and up and down and secretly ram 10 mini croissants in their mouth without me knowing.
In keeping with other LFH, there are tasteful touches of modernity to the rooms, particularly the breakfast area with its fabulous lights.
Did I mention the spa? Oh yes, there is one, my friends and it’s in a sleek modern building, with indoor pool, relaxed glassy atrium, and several treatment rooms. I had a body massage with Lucy, a young therapist who seemed to have superhuman power in the little hands. It was one of the best massages I’ve had.
I haven’t mentioned dinner, but that was good too. Are you getting the picture here?! In line with the other hotels in this group that I’ve stayed at, the food is good rather than brilliant, but for our purposes – getting rid of the kids in front of a film for a few hours so we could catch up and have some adult time (there’s a dinner service that’s just for grown-ups, should you want it), it was perfect.
I won’t go into detail about the sights in this post because it’s getting long and you have lives to lead (!), but I’ll give you some tips about Bradford on Avon, Lacock Abbey and Bath next week. We explored all three and just loved them all.On Sunday evening we bombed back to Muddy HQ on the Bucks/Oxon borders. It took us less than two hours. Woolley Grange was nearly booked out on the weekend we visited so I’m not sure of availability for half term, but if I was you I’d try!
Woolley Grange Hotel, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. Tel: 01225 864705. woolleygrangehotel.co.uk
PS The manager at Woolley told me that Thornbury Castle (where Henry VIII and Ann Bolyn honeymooned) and the Ickworth (royal hunting lodge) in Suffolk are both doing really good Christmas deals if you can’t be bothered to burn the turkey. Check out the hotels here.