Half-term holidays are fast approaching, but there’s still time to book an English adventure for the whole family – no flights (or security lines) required. We’ve rounded up family-friendly stays within striking distance of London. They’ve got child-friendly menus, rooms spacious enough for the whole brood and a variety of in-house and nearby activities to keep littles entertained throughout the break. There’s certainly enough to keep parents entertained at these escapes, too.
Youngsters will be welcomed with a cuddly toy from Keel Toys, mini-me bathrobes and slippers. London is your playground, and half-term activities abound. The National Gallery’s programme includes a creepy-crawlies petting zoo and sessions on building Lego tigers. The Natural History Museum (just a short tube ride away) is always a hit with budding archaeologists and Attenborough fans of all ages. Book tickets in advance for the museum’s current exhibit on whales, which includes a whale jukebox (hear the symphonic sounds of humpbacks singing), test your ability to catch prey with an interactive game, and take a peek inside a sperm whale’s stomach.
This family-friendly stay is set among 500 acres of glorious gardens and unspoilt parkland – and it’s just six miles from Bath. Young travellers can master the art of cooking with a half-day course on 25 October (book in advance; chef togs included), or enjoy spa time with manis, pedis and mini facials. Trot over to the Equestrian Centre to be paired with a noble steed, then ride into the Cotswolds countryside (or ‘round and ‘round the ring, if you’d prefer), then decamp to Lucknam Park’s heated indoor pool for some splash time (kids’ swim sessions are held twice a day).
Kiddos taking part in the excellent Bovey Ranger kids’ club can learn to make campfires, channel their inner Robin Hood with a spot of archery, or even build a raft – all while parents linger over leisurely lunches or decamp to the spa for specialised Espa treatments. There’s also a vast estate to explore as a brood, and an indoor pool for first-class playtime come rain or shine (family-friendly hours are from 9.30am to 5.30pm).
Cowley Manor’s Exceptional Rooms are set in the stable block and all have either a private sitting room with pop-up bunk beds or a large open-plan layout. Outside, there’s 55 acres of rolling grounds to explore, and indoors there’s a pool with specified splash-friendly times. Venture just beyond the estate to pick pumpkins at nearby Cotswold Farm Park, then wind your way through the spooky scarecrow maize maze.
First things first, the hotel’s Treehouse Suites (accessed by a gangplank for added effect) are enough to dazzle any pint-sized guests. But the allure for youngsters doesn’t stop there. Chewton Glen has gourmet cookery classes – where kids can learn to make everything from tortellini to pavlovas – and a massive outdoor play area complete with a Bug Hotel that’ll keep those mesmerised by creepy crawlies transfixed. Nearby, the whole family can go for pony treks in the New Forest, or visit the furry inhabitants of the New Forest Otter, Owl and Wildlife Conservation Park.
Active families will find loads to do and see just outside of their spacious Tuddenham Mill rooms. Swing like Tarzan, master the rope ladder and zip through the treetops of the Suffolk forest at Go Ape. Or, learn to ride at Barrow Hall Stables in nearby Bury St Edmund’s. Explore the Fens by boat, or head to the adventure playground at the High Lodge in Thetford, where littles can meet Gruffalo’s child at the end of Fir and Pine trail.
From the welcome pack of colouring books, to the slippers, mini bathrobes and rubber ducks for bath time, to the turndown cookies and milk, Ellenborough Park has the kiddos covered. While you’re there, spin around the Cotswolds on borrowed Bainton bikes; hotel staff will even provide the packed lunches for your free-wheeling outing.