Spa with fitness suite, 300-acre grounds, including a golf course and kitchen gardens, bikes to borrow, helipad, games room, on-demand film library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: 3D-enabled flatscreen TV with on-demand films, radio, iPod dock, minibar, tea tray, black-out curtains, toiletries from the White Company.
The interconnecting Deluxe Rooms in the modern West Wing are incredibly spacious, offering the opportunity to create two-bedroom, two-bathroom 'suites'. Contemporary in style, with simple, soothing decor, these rooms overlook the formal gardens; each has both a bath tub and a freestanding shower, and some have balconies. West Wing Superior Rooms are similar, but smaller. We also love the Mansion rooms: go for a Deluxe Room in this original part of the building, where rooms are uniquely decorated with contemporary art. Executive Suites and above win the space war hands down, but have no interconnecting options.
The moody-looking ozone-filtered swimming pool at the spa is glorious. The 22-metre outdoor heated pool in the Walled Garden is manned by lifeguards and surrounded by sunloungers – in summer, a gazebo bar serves cold drinks, slush puppies and Chilly Billies, and sometimes there are barbecues on the 'beach'.
The Sequoia health club and spa is a tip-top pampering centre with sauna, steam room, Espa therapies, couples' massages and every kind of beautification treatment possible (including eyelash extensions); an army of trainers is on hand to teach you tennis, yoga or Zumba, and there's a formidable fitness suite packed with TechnoGym and other hi-tech kit.
Don't forget your swimwear (especially if the weather looks promising).
The Walled Garden hosts a croquet lawn and outdoor tennis court, and in season there's even a man-made 'beach' beside the pool, complete with beach huts, sandpit and a volleyball court.
The Grove is super family-friendly, with a kids' club, crèche, and lots of things for little Smiths to do.
Families with children of all ages, looking for a country weekend retreat.
Under-12s can sleep on extra beds in parents' rooms for £35 a night, including breakfast (cots for under-3s and extra beds can be provided).
Anouska's Kids Club has an excellent crèche (rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted) for children aged 3 months to 5 years, with facilities for older children, too. Bright, colourful indoor spaces open directly onto a playground with rubber safety flooring, ride-on toys, a climbing frame and a netted trampoline, and there are plenty of fun activities for the over-2s. You'll need to book in advance; it's open 9am–5pm and costs £10 an hour for under-2s; £8 for over-2s. Drinks and snacks are included, but if you'd like them to have lunch at Anouska's, it's an extra £6.
The kids club at Anouska's will ably entertain primary-schoolers; a special activity timetable during the holidays features hourly sessions for over-3s and over-5s, including tennis, hockey, rounders, arts and crafts, and treasure hunts (£6 an hour). Babies and toddlers love the extra-warm indoor pool; for older children, there's a room stocked with classic arcade games and consoles (a deposit is required for computer games).
With so much on offer at the Grove, we doubt you'll find time to stray beyond its grounds, but Hertfordshire has journey-worthy charms both natural and historic. Wildlife haven Cassiobury Park is 10 minutes away; and about half an hour in the car gets you to ride-packed theme park Thorpe Park. Browse Berkhamsted's shops and eateries. To your west, the Chilterns offer walking and valley-view villages; north lie heritage houses and Tudor treasures – including Hatfield, the childhood home of Elizabeth I.
For wizard-mad little ones, there's only one place you'll want to go: Leavesden is home to the Warner Bros Studio Tour, where you can get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the world of Harry Potter. Walk through sets including the Great Hall, Diagon Alley and the Griffindor common room, and spot props from Harry's Nimbus 2000 to Hagrid's motorbike. There are two cafés and a picnic area; there are baby-changing and bottle-warming facilities at the Studio Café. Under-5s go free (you'll still need to book a place for them); if you have two children aged 5–15, it's cheaper to get a family ticket. Tickets must be booked in advance.
Children are welcome to dine anywhere except Colette's; highchairs and activity packs are available and staff will happily heat milk or baby food for you. The Glasshouse is great for fusspots and finger-feeders since it's essentially a buffet (under-3s eat free; under-13s are half-price); the Stables will do half-price portions of most dishes, and also has a nice menu of child-friendly staples such as houmous and pitta bread, mini fish 'n' chips and knickerbocker glories. Chefs are happy to whip up home-made purées for your baby, too – there's a complimentary baby menu of finger food, fruit purées and soups, as well as Hipp Organic baby food.
Babysitters are available for £22.50 an hour (minimum three hours); book at least 48 hours in advance. Rates increase to £35 an hour on 24, 25, 26, 31 December and 1 January.
No need to pack
The hotel has highchairs, sterilising facilities, black-out blinds, changing mats, baby baths, bike seats and trailers, soft toys, crayons, swimming aids, games consoles, craft materials and bike helmets.
There are no booster seats, so consider bringing a portable one if your toddler is at that awkward in-between stage. Swim nappies, nappies and sun-protection cream are available to buy. Anouska's crèche has most kit: ask if you need to borrow something. Your little ones will get milk and cookies on arrival, as well as finding mini-robes and a small box of age-appropriate toys to use during their stay. Staff are happy to heat milk and baby food for you, too. No nannies, but there's no limit on the amount of time your children spend at Anouska's, providing you've booked a spot. Audio monitors won't be in range of the restaurants from your rooms; you'll need to book a babysitter if you want to dine alone.