I often find that while hotels abroad seem to cater for kids really well, hotels in the UK don’t really so much. There might be the odd set of toys in the corner of the room, or the obligatory unsharpened crayons at dinner time, but for the most part it seems that it isn’t so easy to find family friendly places. Especially not luxury ones and let’s face it, the thought of your children throwing a tantrum over refusing to eat their broccoli at a really nice hotel is enough to stop you from packing a suitcase and heading off.
You may not have heard of Luxury Family Hotels before. I had done, but only because I was lucky enough to stay at one of their properties (The Elms in Worcestershire) at a blogging event back in the summer. When they asked if we wanted to go to The Ickworth, a beautiful hotel right next to a National Trust property set deep in the Suffolk countryside, we of course jumped at the chance to try them out with the whole family. Luxury Family Hotels are a chain of eight family friendly escapes across the U.K. What makes these a little different to your usual “child friendly trip” is that parents really don’t need to compromise on quality or time together.
Ahead of our stay I was contacted by one of the lovely ladies in reception, who asked us what our requirements were- did we need a travel cot, did we want to book the creche etc? One huge selling point about Luxury Family Hotel’s is they have OFSTED registered creches where each child gets two hours childcare per day included in their stay. Did we need a nappy changer, would we like to book restaurant or spa reservations? I was incredibly impressed with how organised it all seemed.
So last Friday after school we set off on the hour and a half journey to Suffolk. After a slight issue with our sat nav losing signal and getting completely lost, we eventually arrived at The Ickworth and what a beautiful first impression it gave us. There was a long winding drive, with sheep dotted either side of us and lambs running about. We didn’t arrive until late due to stopping off for a meal en route and it was already dark upon our arrival, so we checked into our room, the Grand Tour, which was an impressive room overlooking the gardens, with the hugest bed we had ever seen. We snuggled down for the evening, with our baby boy in a travel cot (which the hotel provided) and all four of us in the big bed together, even though the girls could have slept on comfy pull out beds, the appeal of having a sleepover with us was far too enticing!
The next morning we were greeted with the first look at The Ickworth in the daylight and what a lovely sight it was.
The room was huge, with beautiful window seats in the bedroom and bathroom, it was both traditional keeping in the history of the house, but also with modern touches too.
Our first port of call was to feed our rumbling tummies. We were greeted cheerily by the staff who we saw, before being shown to our breakfast table in The Conservatory. The Ickworth has a number of different places to eat, including The Conservatory which is geared towards families, and Fredrick’s which is perfect for dining alone once the children are in bed. (Should you want to use it the hotel offers a listening in service) We sat down in the bright and airy room and immediately we realised why The Ickworth was so special- there were absolutely no stuffy hotel vibes here. There were families with children enjoying themselves, chatting and just generally being children, no one felt like they had to tell them to quieten down or be seen and not heard. There was a great selection of food on offer, either continental or cooked. I ended up going for the waffles- which were utterly delicious.
After breakfast we set out our plans for the day ahead. We had already decided previously to just stay at the hotel and not venture out, mainly because we wanted a relaxing weekend and there is also so much to do. You have a National Trust property, Ickworth House literally on your doorstep and as hotel guests you get free passes to the property. There is also 1,800 acres of parkland to explore too and The Ickworth makes it easy to so, you can hire bikes free of charge. (with helmets, seats and little bikes for the small people).
First up though was a spot of swimming. We were seriously impressed when we saw The Ickworth’s swimming pool, it was beautiful and we had it to ourselves for the majority of the time. There were floats (including little baby floats so W could be pushed around) and other bits and pieces for the little ones. Plus it was a great warm temperature too. We stayed splashing about for an hour or so (it seriously is our children’s favourite thing to do ever!) before I headed off to the treatment centre for a little massage- it was bliss.
The post swimming hair wash ordeal was made slightly better by this huge bath tub. At this point we thought she was tired from swimming, but it turns out that later she felt a bit under the weather with a headache bug that we have all seemed to have had recently. Such a shame but we didn’t let it spoil our time at the hotel.
After showering and getting ready we headed out for an afternoon mooching around The Ickworth’s extensive grounds. But first we decided to head next door to Ickworth House to have a light lunch in one of the National Trust cafe’s.
There were so many beautiful places to explore and little spots to stop and take photos. These wildflowers were just out the front of the hotel and I couldn’t resist stopping to take some photos. It’s fantastic that you get passes automatically included as part of staying at the hotel. I absolutely love these photos that we took.
I can’t believe how beautiful the grounds were, there really was no need to leave the hotel at all.
Next up we went for a long walk up to the Walled Garden’s. Sensing our little Lottie was under the weather, we luckily had our baby boy’s car seat buggy with him and his normal buggy too, so we got it out the car for her to go in. I don’t think she has been in a buggy for years, but she immediately fell asleep and slept in there for almost three hours. He fell asleep as well so we ended up having some lovely quality time with our big girl, it was really nice spending time with her on her own. The walled gardens are definitely worth a walk to.
This one eventually woke up and really wasn’t keen on the idea of having his photo taken. This photo makes me laugh.
Total blogger cliche standing against a wall of wysteria.
There are so many things for kids to do throughout the hotel’s grounds. There is The Fairy Garden which is full of swings and playground equipment, plus ride in cars and other bits and pieces. There is a mini football pitch with goals which Mads loved playing with, and a huge trampoline as well. Here we are having a lie down on it watching the other two play football, as Lottie didn’t feel like bouncing.
After a thoroughly lovely day exploring it was soon time for dinner. We were so torn about using the listening in service, (you can also hire babysitters as well) as this is one huge luxury that the hotel offers, but in the end we decided we wanted to have a family dinner- we ate in the conservatory. One thing that I absolutely loved about The Ickworth was just how catered the food was for children. It meant we could have a delicious meal (look at that steak!) but there were really kiddy friendly options- Mads had pizza flatbread, Lottie had beans on toast and our baby boy had pasta. It really feels like The Ickworth have got the fine line between enjoyable adult dining and making sure the children are happy too.
We finished off the evening by snuggling altogether in our big 8 foot bed, and as the ultimate treat we let them stay up to watch Britain’s Got Talent. We then all slept in the giant bed together (minus our baby boy who needs his own space nowadays). There’s something so amazing about staying in a hotel that really makes you feel so connected to your children.
The next morning on Sunday we woke up bright and early after a really early night and a refreshing sleep. We headed down to breakfast again before getting ready to head outside again, but first it was time for a spot of bed jumping. We can report the giant comfy bed passed the bed jumping test with flying colours too.
I wish I had a window seat in my house, there’s something so peaceful about sitting there and watching the world go by. And what a view to be treated with.
The plan for Sunday morning was much of the same, we wanted to explore the grounds some more and also head off on bikes. The Ickworth has a large range of bikes to hire free of charge, including helmets for the little ones.
I love this one of us three.
The bike was a little small for her as all the bigger ones had been rented already, but she learnt to properly ride without stabilisers during our time at The Ickworth, She is probably a little late to learn, but it was just one of those things we hadn’t practiced enough. She was so proud of herself for finally getting the hang of it while we were there.
Our baby boy loved being on the seat on the back of my bike, he has never been on one before and he was smiling and giggling the entire time.
Soon it was time to say goodbye to The Ickworth but not before a last play at the ‘Three Bears Den’. As I mentioned previously you get two hours complimentary childcare per day included in your reservation, but even if you decide not to use it like we didn’t, there are times when you can come in and play as long as parents are watching. We had the place to ourselves and the girls were in their element, there were so many lovely and clean toys.
We sadly checked out and said goodbye to the hotel in the afternoon ready to head home to get ready for school on Monday morning. However before we went home we had a quick drive into nearby Bury St Edmunds to have a little look around. It was a beautiful little town, Abbey Garden’s was just gorgeous.
So how to sum up our time at The Ickworth? All in all…it was a truly lovely stay, one that I can highly recommend. The Ickworth has perfected that very tricky balance of being both a hotel you can relax in, but also bring your children to. It really does the family mini break so well, with so many little touches that make you wonder how on earth other hotel’s haven’t thought of it either. It was such a treat to spend time in such a beautiful setting, where we just relaxed, pottered about and enjoyed each other’s company. It was so nice to switch off and go slow, to just enjoy a more tranquil pace of life. We all came away feeling that little bit more at ease with oodles of fresh air, yummy food and a weekend of being together.
NB: Luxury Family Hotels kindly worked with us on this post and invited us to stay at The Ickworth Hotel. All words and opinions are entirely my own.