Tired of feeling unwelcome in upmarket hotels? Want a family friendly weekend away in the UK that caters for the kids as much as you? Here's six hotels we've stayed at that put fun, imagination and family friendly facilities into one of those precious family weekend breaks.
6 Family Friendly UK Hotels
What makes a family friendly hotel? That's a question I've asked many managers in recent weeks as I've been reviewing their luxury hotels for an accommodation website. Most of them put it down to a mix of facilities and service. And they'd be right. Any Mum knows that if you have a todder, and you don't have a high chair, there's no chance of getting a weekend off to a good start. And you can have the right facilities; ie adjoining rooms and a great swimming pool, while the stuffy atmosphere and judgmental receptionist automatically kills any family fun. You need both; and sometimes you need something more to make the experience stand out from the rest.
Here is a clutch of hotels I believe have got the service and the facilities right, yet are providing the little something extras which I think make for truly memorable family weekend breaks.
Some hotels just know how to welcome families... this isn't bad!
1) Oddfellows Hotel Chester
True to its name, Oddfellows is a bit of an odd fellow. But in a good way. There's a mad hatter's tea party going on above your head. The garden is a lounge, and there's a tree growing through a table in the restaurant. You can sit on tall chairs on the stairs or nibble from the 'eat me, drink me' cabinet in the bedroom.
began as a society of friends, but is now an eighteen bedroom boutique hotel in the heart of Chester. And when I say the heart...a minute's walk to the right and you come to the river, while a minutes walk to the left and you meet the pretty black and white shopping centre and the historic city walls.
The hotel's 'wonderland' theme is a treat for all ages. Toddlers will love the giant birds on the wall of the bar. They'll love sitting on toadstools in the garden. They'll also love bouncing on the round beds which are a feature of several of the rooms. Older kids will enjoy measuring how tall they are compared to MR Fox on the wall mural. There are family rooms and a menu for the kids. And a pig in reception. What's not to love about that?
The Oddfellows Hotel in Chester, a wonderland lies inside
2) Hundred House Hotel, Shropshire
Small children will love the swings in this child friendly family run hotel in Shropshire. And unlike at home you won't have to spend hours standing in the garden pushing them. Because the swings are in the bedrooms. And adults can have a go too.
That's not to say you should stay in all day. There's a lot to do outside. You can wander the secret gardens, play in the water garden, smell the air in the herb and vegetable garden. And if the kids don't behave you can threaten them with the stocks. (The hotel used to be the old courthouse and the stocks are still standing.) Or you can go feed the two rescue donkeys who live at the back of the hotel. And in the evening you can eat the 2AA Rosette award winning food that the hotel is known for, made with ingredients that have been picked fresh from the garden. You can even chat about how it was grown over breakfast, with Henry Philips who has tended the garden for almost 30 years.
3) St Pancras Renaissance Hotel London
If you have any Thomas The Tank Engine fans in the family then this is the hotel for you. This luxury five star hotel is right next to the Eurostar terminal and if you can afford to splash out on one of the top suites then your room will even overlook it. If you have older children it's also a hop step and jump to platform 9 and three quarters. All children and adults will love the grand staircase that has been featured in Harry Potter, Bridget Jones and Batman movies.
This hotel dates back to 1873 and if your children like history, they'll be delighted to find out that pretty much everything here has a story; imagine cabs pulling up in the taxi rank as you check in, or buying your ticket in the booking office restaurant. On a practical note St Pancras Renaissance has adjoining rooms for families as well as a children's menu and it doesn't just welcome the kids; you can bring your dog too. It'll even have its own bed.
The artwork outside the St Pancras Rennaisance Hotel is iconic and perfectly reflects its location and history.
4) The Rubens at the Palace Hotel
Another London hotel that will capture their imagination is Rubens At the Palace. You can have afternoon tea overlooking the royal mews and trying to spot the Queens horses coming out of the gate for Exercise, or watch the Queens postman going in to drop off her mail. It is the closest hotel in London to Buckingham Palace and a short walk will take you straight to Her Majesty's front gates.
We discovered some other seriously quirky touches when we stayed in this Red Carnation Hotel. The Deputy Head concierge doubles as the Director of Fun and Adventure; Joao Goncalves is constantly on hand to help with a newsletter and personal guidance on the best things to do. And there''s a unique cupcake making experience where kids don a chefs outfit and decorate their own cakes fit for a queen in the hotel kitchens. (Parents can supervise if they want a nose around behind the scenes.) There's also a great kids pack on arrival with maps of London, chocolates and colouring things. Teenagers will be impressed by this hotel's attitude to social media. We e-mailed a query about the Queen's swimming habits on the way down and they had an answer at reception for us on arrival.
The Rubens at the Palace Hotel, London
5) 51 Buckingham Gate
Not far away, 51 Buckingham Gate, a member of the Taj Hotels Group, has thought a lot about its offering for kids. Their rooms are like luxury furnished flats with cooking facilities, DVD player and popcorn. A kids programme running across all of the Taj Hotels offers children their own passports and reward scheme for staying and one hotel even has a mini check in desk. Children have their own menu and some deals include a Hamleys toy hamper.
There are adjoining rooms and kids have their own slippers and dressing gowns. The chain also offers a 'hard hat' experience in some of the hotels, where kids can go behind the scenes to watch the laundry being done for example.
6) The Midland Hotel Morecambe
Children will love the view at this hotel. Book a room on the bay side and you have an uninterrupted view of the prom ,the pier and the sea. If you book one of the suites you may be able to pull back the panoramic French windows, making you feel as though the fourth wall has been removed.
Your kids will love the feel of moving up and down the grand spiral staircase. You can take them out onto the balcony half way up to enjoy the stone seahorse icons that have made this hotel a landmark since the 1930's. Or stand in the foyer and gaze up at the Eric Gill mural of Neptune. Ask the receptionist if you can see the mural of the bay, which in the old days was part of the childrens' playroom but now forms the back drop to wedding ceremonies. One of the best features of this hotel is a tour run by Brian Jenkins, the very knowledgable guide. It's suitable for the whole family and free to guests. Later, you can relax with dinner as a pianist plays a few tunes.
The Midland Hotel in Morecambe is an art deco classic
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