When it comes to finding a great hotel for families, we know our stuff. So when we personally recommend 15 family hotels from the Cairngorms to Cornwall, you know they’re the best. Now all you have to do is choose the one you love most.
Glenmorangie House, Tain, Highlands, Scotland
The makers of Glenmorangie originally bought this sturdy 17th- century hotel in Tain, an hour’s drive north of Inverness, for corporate entertaining. But lucky for us they threw their doors open to the public in the 1990s. I say that it’s a hotel, but it’s more like staying in a well-heeled friend’s country house. A friend who also happens to have an award-winning chef and magnificent taste in interior design.
Every one of the six bedrooms in the main house has been individually designed in a fun and quirky style. All are inspired by a Glenmorangie blend (Home, Reserve, Autumn, Nectar, Sunset and Wildwood) with hand painted wildflower wallpaper, bespoke tartan and furniture made of oak casks. It really is, as the owner’s describe it, a sensory playground.
But for families, the best place to stay are the three beautiful crofters’ cottages, to the rear of the house in the courtyard, which sleep four, plus a cot.
The house itself teeters on the edge of the Moray Firth coastline. So we were only a short hop, skip and jump down a grassy path through fields of barley to a private beach. Here, there was plenty of stone skimming and fresh air to be had.
Escape to a place with zero light pollution and endless stargazing
There are no TVs in any of the rooms or cottages, and for good reason. This is get-out-and-about country. You can take dolphin-watching trips at nearby Cromarty (of shipping forecast fame). Horse riding is also available. And the hotel will arrange anything from foraging or star gazing to falconry and archery. Naturally, guests get free entry to the Glenmorangie distillery tour . It’s just down the road and children are welcome, although there’s no dram tasting for them.
Dinner is a relaxed, communal affair of four-courses eaten around a 22-seater table in the grand dining room. An earlier supper is good for younger kids, but older ones can enjoy the grown-up company and local dishes like Orkney scallops and Aberdeen Angus steaks. Although a comfortable lounge with board games sits next to the dining room and makes a neat escape when sitting down with the adults gets too much.
Polurrian, Mullion, Cornwall, south of England
The adventure here starts even before you set off. Just use the hotel’s full name in front of the kids – Polurrian on the Lizard – and their imaginations soar. Who’s Polurrian? Where’s he riding on a lizard? You can tell them later it’s named for Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula.
Expect young eyes to widen further as you arrive. If the hotel were any closer to the cliff edge, Health & Safety would not be happy. Waves crash dramatically at the feet of Polurrian’s granite mount. Trees stand frozen into permanently windswept forms. And you’re within ‘race-you-down-to-the-beach’ distance of what’s effectively the hotel’s own sandy, surf-splashed and rockpool-speckled cove.
Follow the footpath a little further and you’ll discover coves, caves, seals, surf spots, lighthouses and kayak-hire companies. Plus, the glorious 1,000km South West Coast Path runs right beside the hotel’s gardens.
Swimming pools for sunny days and winter weather
Or just stay put. Because the Polurrian is also an excellent place not to leave for a weekend. Its self-catering villas are perfectly self-contained retreats beyond the main building. Although the hotel’s family rooms are recently refurbished and deliciously restful, with separate rooms for parents and kids.
There’s also small spa and indoor pool, as well as a suntrap outdoor pool with views across the bay. Still sound like too much effort? The Polurrian’s bar and restaurant sits behind a great wraparound wall of glass so you can gaze at panoramic views over a pot of Cornish tea or even a surprisingly good local Pinot Noir sparkling rosé. When we visited during February half term, we had both a few days of sunshine and a few holed up in that bar watching battleship-grey clouds scud by. I won’t say which days were better.
The Relais Henley, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
If you’re easily starstruck, choose rooms with care at The Relais Henley. The Royal Crest in room 108 was painted in 1642, when King Charles I was a guest. And in 1942, Princess Grace (plain Grace Kelly at the time) stayed in room 114. However, proud as the hotel is of its heritage, it’s not too proud to move on, and these days historic guests would barely recognise the place.
Completely renovated in 2021, the former coaching inn now welcomes you to individually designed rooms with glamorous marble bathrooms and, in some cases, grand four-poster beds. The Clipper all-day brasserie has a hint of nautical design but not enough to shiver your timbers. And menus by Mosimann’s of London are excellent.
But is The Relais Henley, ‘much too good for children’? Forgive us for quoting Matilda’s villainous Miss Trunchbull, but she’s a clue as to why kids particularly love it here – in nearby Great Missenden you’ll find the Roald Dahl Museum. Of course, the Thames is also prime Kenneth Grahame territory. In fact Henley’s River & Rowing Museum has a permanent Wind in the Willows exhibition. Then there’s exploring to be done in the surrounding Chiltern Hills. And if you visit in summer, make it your mission to mess about in boats or at least take your little hearties on a river cruise. So, in conclusion, we’re happy to report The Relais Henley is perfect for children – sorry Miss Trunchbull.
Lime Wood, New Forest, Hampshire
What we love most about Lime Wood hotel in Hampshire is that it’s a family-friendly hotel, in disguise. So if you’re a parent who’s not quite ready to sacrifice style for plastic forks at dinner and soft play in the lobby, then this place is for you.
The Lime Wood way is to welcome little ones with open arms, but no more than any other guest (including dogs, who can stay in the pretty Garden Cottages). This means when you set off on a ramble to spot New Forest ponies and wild roaming pigs, you’ve a choice of three maps: easy-peasy; middle of the road; hardcore family trek. Or when you grab your designer wellies (free to borrow) there are sizes for everybody, from toddlers to teens.
Borrow bikes to explore the New Forest
Bikes are up for grabs too, including kid-sized ones. So can easily discover that nowhere does cycling trails like the New Forest and why it’s obligatory for every trail to end with a Dorset cream tea. Don’t even think about missing the nearby village of Lyndhurst, it’s idyllic in the extreme. Even the workshops for which Lime Wood is so famous, cover everything from skincare to seasonal eating and include one called ‘Healthy Cooking for Kids’.
Rooms steer clear of bunkbeds and kid-centric interiors, and instead lure children with touchable wooden furniture, forest prints and fabrics. Staying in the Lake Cabin with its living sedum roof and reclaimed timber inside and out, feels like being on your own little private island. But the thing the kids will never forget is the food. Head chefs Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder create locally sourced Italian dishes including arancini, gnocchi and plenty of pasta. So kids are kept full and happy, without the need for a separate children’s menu.
Lough Erne Resort, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland
As we drove towards Lough Erne Resort, the turrets of the lodges emerged on the horizon just as the sun broke through the slate-coloured sky. ‘Look,’ exclaimed my five-year-old.
‘It’s Rapunzel’s house.’ So when we discovered at check-in that very house was the three-bedroom self-catering lodge we’d booked for our family of five, the excitement was uncontainable.
The kids ran upstairs to bag beds by the windows to let down their imaginary hair, while we were left with the master suite on the ground floor. The resort boasts a lakeside position within a 600-acre peninsula in County Fermanagh. The grounds double up as two championship golf courses, Faldo and Castle Hume and the kids loved watching golf buggies pootle past.
My son was beside himself when a helicopter landed: although the drive from Belfast is so picturesque I think the passengers missed out. We all enjoyed the magic of the hotel’s fairy tale walk, featuring leprechauns and we loved taking a pedalo out on the lake. However, the highlight was a ‘posh’ afternoon tea in the Catalina Restaurant when the kids dressed up for tiny sandwiches and dainty cakes.
The Fife Arms, Braemar, The Cairngorms, Scotland
We’d battled blizzards and storms as we wound past the Glenshee Ski Centre over the Cairngorm mountains towards Braemar. But it was love at first sight when we finally arrived at the glorious Fife Arms.
The hotel stands proudly in the middle of the village and it was a coaching inn before Swiss art dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth got their creative hands on it. I was with my teenage daughter on her first trip to Scotland and we were thrilled to be greeted at the door by a tartan-clad smiling ghillie, before stepping into another world. A world filled to the brim with the most astonishing art, antiques and taxidermy. Each of the 46 individually designed bedrooms have their own story.
We stayed in ‘The Jacobite Rising’ room which pays homage to Bonnie Prince Charlie. So we shared our room with his portrait, his tartan and two stuffed, whispering jays who appear to be flying into the bathroom.
An inspiring hotel for young artists and budding photographers
We wanted to catch the break in the storm so we enlisted the help of guide and photographer Léopold Amory. He’s an expert on local wildlife and armed us with SLR cameras and binoculars. Then we gamely headed off across the heather-covered moors, where we were thrilled to spot grouse and a herd of red stags.
Exhausted but exhilarated we warmed up with a shot of whisky for me and homemade cup of yarrow tea for my 14-year-old. This was followed by a dinner of Highland beef Wellington and rhubarb baked Alaska in the stunning Clunie Dining Room, named after the river Clunie which rushes near the hotel.
Feeling inspired by being around so much art, we also booked a session with Annie Armstrong, a local artist, zoologist and treasure trove of facts about the hotel’s antiquities. We sketched some of the animals on display, before creating our own imaginary creatures. Not quite arted-out, we took a detour back to Glasgow via the V&A Dundee, promising to return to The Fife Arms, where we had left a piece of our hearts.
The Relais Cooden Beach Hotel, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex
Running away to the seaside is a great British tradition and we’re always happy for an excuse to do that very thing, especially if we’re running in the direction of the East Sussex coast, home to The Relais Cooden Beach hotel.
This latest creation from prolific hotelier Grace Leo gazes over the English Channel and was once home to the noble De La Warr family. The US state of Delaware is named after them, so the family’s one-time coastal retreat is not short on grandeur. Back in the day it counted young Queen Elizabeth II as a guest. Although we’re thinking not at the same time as her uncle the Duke of Windsor and his wife Wallis Simpson – who were also friends of the De La Warr family.
A fresh take on vintage seaside charm
With that kind of heritage, it must have been tricky to dodge a vintage vibe when it came to refurbishing the hotel, and to the designer’s credit, they didn’t even try. Seaside retro chic has been fully embraced, from stripy deckchairs to a jolly blue and white ice-cream van, sit-up-and-beg bicycles for guests to borrow and classic movies screened on the hotel lawn, under the stars, of course. As you can imagine, all this translates as great fun for kids – we see vintage, they see playtime.
Sea-washed light is the theme in all the bedrooms and a bit of an inspiration it seems, as the hotel has created its own signature colour: English Channel Blue. We’ll wait to see if it reaches Majorelle status, but for now we can confirm it’s pretty, beachy and suits the mood here well.
Excellent fish and chips or lobster rolls mean the hotel deli is a must for summer picnic supplies. Although, Brasserie on the Beach and the Beach Terrace restaurants are lovely alternatives when you want to elevate the eating experience. If you can tear yourself away from the sea, Bexhill Old Town is nearby and the likes of Hever Castle, Hastings and Seven Sisters Country Park make for easy days out.
The Beaumont, Mayfair, London
As if dreamed up by a seven-year-old, The Beaumont’s best-selling dessert is, ‘The Bespoke Sundae’. Once ordered, a little printed pad and pencil is delivered to your table, upon which you can ‘tick’ your dream ingredients. The long list includes honeycomb topping, dulce de leche sauce, scoops of stracciatella and salted-caramel ice cream.
Because, you might be in the Colony Grill, one of the hippest, buzziest hotel restaurants to relaunch in the past decade, but the chef still has a sense of fun. And don’t think kids are the only ones custom-designing their desserts. Peer around the beautiful dining room. You’ll witness grannies getting Madagascan vanilla ice cream on their chin and ladies-who-lunch giggling over mountains of whipped cream.
This love of novelty is everywhere at The Beaumont, an Art Deco hotel in the backstreets of Mayfair. Even its inception is eccentric, as it used to be the 1930s car park for Selfridges department store just up the road. Another quirk is ROOM by Antony Gormley. This hotel suite, designed by the Turner Prize winner, is attached to the front of the historic hotel building and looks like a white Lego creation – or a Transformer robot.
Kids love the neighbourhood too. Especially little-known Brown Hart Gardens which sit opposite The Beaumont. Here they can pose and play beneath an amazing ‘trumpet’ sculpture and eat at Insta-tastic Stripes, for the coolest, yet healthiest, pizza in town.
Trefeddian Hotel, Aberdovey, Wales
On a hill overlooking tufty dunes that shield the four-mile sweep of Aberdovey beach, sits the family-run Trefeddian Hotel. I wish I’d caught a snap of the kids’ faces as they made their first run up those dunes to realise with whelps of delight that the beach was just a skip and a jump below.
We spent lazy days building sandcastles and playing dare with the waves before trudging, tired and sticky, back to the hotel to shower and don our best clothes for dinner. My eight-year-old son interpreted the smart-casual dress code as waistcoat and tie. Yet he didn’t look out of place in the white-tableclothed restaurant where a five-course table d’hote is the order of the day.
We could have opted for an early kiddies tea, but they loved playing grown-ups. Even our one wet day didn’t matter. The kids made friends while splashing in the indoor pool, then ran off to play ping-pong in the games room. I simply curled up with a book in the library. Heaven.
Grasshoppers Hotel, Glasgow
Glasgow city centre is awash with all the usual chain hotels. But we wanted to stay somewhere with a bit more soul. After all, the slogan for this less-visited – thanks Edinburgh – but in our opinion, finest Scottish city is, ‘People Make Glasgow’.
The independent Grasshoppers Hotel is run by a cheery bunch of Glaswegians who know how to bake (free cakes and home-made ice cream) and chat with equal enthusiasm. They were a font of all knowledge when it came to their city, and if they were tired of our questions, they didn’t show it. Instead every answer came with a smile and a, ‘Nae bother at all’. It really felt like a home from home. Not that our home has cool Scandi furniture, solid oak floors or hand-crafted designer wallpaper.
The 30-room, super-stylish hotel sits atop a converted Victorian office block, slap bang next to Glasgow Central station. Our room overlooked the station’s huge glazed roof. Fun fact, this spectacular Victorian structure is one of the largest in the world. We also spied Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Lighthouse centre in the distance. But we didn’t come here to gaze out of the window. We were here to explore the museums, indie shops and cool cafes. It’s a good job we had such comfy beds to return to, and a bucket load of free films on the Sky box. My teen can’t wait to return.
Una St. Ives, Carbis Bay, Cornwall
When is a holiday park not a holiday park? When it’s a tasteful cluster of architecturally impressive luxury lodges and villas. Each of them designed with faultlessly eco Cornish stone, cedar cladding and sedum roofs. And when there’s also a chic little spa and fitness club and some truly excellent locavore food and drink.
Una St Ives is all that. Yet it also discreetly offers high-end versions of an outdoor lido and indoor pool. Although it has a distinctly laidback vibe as well as all the child and pet-friendly facilities you find in a (whisper it) holiday park.
Beaches on the doorstep and St. Ives just a few minutes away
The location’s pretty lofty too – if the wide, creamy sands of Carbis Bay were good enough for the G7 leaders last year, they’re good enough for you. That beach and the even more epic sweep of next-door Porthkidney and The Towans, are all within walking distance of Una.
St. Ives itself is just a 10-minute drive away for surf schools, seal-spotting boat trips and UNESCO-level pottering along winding harbourside lanes. The Tate St. Ives turns out to be a surprisingly child-friendly modern-art Mecca. You’ll find all the fudge shops and fish and chip joints your waistline can handle. Plus there’s just about enough beach space to find your own patch, even on the busiest bank holiday weekend.
Although when the bustle gets too much, you can always head back to your villa or lodge. Shell out a little extra for one with a hot tub on your terrace, and the kids will splash about until their fingers turn to prunes.
Chewten Glen Hotel, New Milton, Dorset
Here at Family Traveller HQ, we know the difference between a self-styled ‘family-friendly hotel’ and the real deal.
Chewton Glen is definitely the real deal. So seriously does this New Forest hotel take its under-18 clientele, it has appointed a Chief Kids’ Officer (CKO) who tells the team exactly what children want from a family staycation.
In practice this means a kids’ club inside a treehouse. It’s called The Beehive and comes with a slide exit and a rope bridge as well as activities ranging from secret agent mystery trails to raft building.
Chocolate-making masterclasses and croquet on the lawn
However, those are just a few of the free perks. Splash out just a little and kids can try teddy bear-sheep walking with farmer Angie. And a chocolate-making masterclass with New Forest local Miss Witt is another fun treat.
Swimming pools here come in every shape and size. You can have outdoors and heated, among classic stone pillars. Or indoors and modern is also available, this time with floor-to-ceiling glass and views of the grounds.
Then there’s croquet, beach walks – you’re only 10 minutes from the coast – or big family dinners at The Kitchen, where chef James Martin cooks up the coolest kids’ menu we’ve ever seen.
We can’t think of another hotel where our children actually want bedtime to come. But that’s what happens when you stay in one of Chewton Glen’s Treehouses, a clutch of atmospheric wooden structures among the canopy. It’s like a Serengeti safari meets Architectural Digest. There’s a private hot tub on every Treehouse terrace, a wood burning stove inside and the bathtubs have bird’s eye views. Plus, the daily breakfast hamper is delivered by a secret hatch so you can scoff it in your PJs whenever you deign to wake up. No wonder the kids wanted an early night.
Bath Priory, Bath, Somerset
All the vital ingredients are here for a successful family city-break hotel. The heated outdoor pool is perfect in summer. Although on winter days, the indoor subterranean limestone pool is so atmospheric it gives Bath’s famous Roman Baths a run for their money.
There are garden games and children’s yoga for when the sun shines, and Scrabble with hot chocolate for chillier days. A Very Important Little People (VILP) menu is another inspired idea. Family rooms come complete with bunkbeds. And you can order picnic hampers to take to nearby Royal Victoria Park with its botanical gardens, playground and skate park.
What really captured the heart of our nine-year-old more than all of the above? Bath Priory Gardens which are tended lovingly by head gardener, Jane Moore of Gardeners’ World. They’re spectacular and we ran till we were red in the face from tulips and turnips to a towering cedar tree.
The Wild Rabbit, Kingham, The Cotswolds
Surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscape in the country and part of the Daylesford estate, one of the most sustainable organic farms in the UK, The Wild Rabbit offers the quintessential countryside escape. It’s also set in the heart of the peaceful and secluded village of Kingham, which was once chosen as Country Life’s ‘Favourite Village in England’.
Recently launched, our home-away-from-home for the weekend was Old House, one of two large houses in the grounds. Laid out over three floors, the spacious yet cosy interior made for a perfect family get-together. Carole Bamford, founder of Daylesford Organic Farm shops and her team of architects, have worked alongside local craftsmen and artisans to carefully renovate the historic building, restoring reclaimed timber beams and exposing the original Cotswold stone walls.
We highly recommend The Wild Rabbit’s thoughtful approach to families
The interiors are a combination of antique pieces sourced from around the world, bespoke and antique furniture reupholstered with vintage fabrics and Daylesford homewares. The open-plan kitchen made the ideal space for us to all get involved with the morning breakfast. And we were excited to find it pre-stocked up with fresh milk, cheese and eggs from the Daylesford Farm Shop. However, the children were most taken by the lemon drizzle cake and some wonderful ginger cookies.
The two main bedrooms were exceptionally large with comfy sofas and the biggest beds we’d ever seen. Each had en-suite bathrooms and Bamford Bath & Body range products, made with naturally sourced ingredients, meant our toiletry bags were not needed. On the top floor, there were two further twin bedrooms for the kids.
The Wild Rabbit Inn serves seasonal, local food and is every bit as charming as it looks in pictures. It has an attractive patio and pub, an award-winning restaurant for fine dining as well as cosy rooms. And even in the fine-dining restaurant, we felt comfortable with our three-year-old child as the vibe was chilled and friendly.
Woolley Grange hotel, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire
We’d barely got our bags out of the car before the children disowned us. One was soon serenely swinging from a giant cedar while the other scribbled with chalk on a blackboard attached to a tree stump labelled, ‘Artist’s Corner’.
To say kids come first at Woolley Grange is an understatement. Here you can let them roam free, with their own maps. Just listen out for excited hollers as they count frogs in the pond or mix mud pies in the outdoor kitchen.
Meanwhile you can settle down with a Negroni on the lawn and embrace the relaxed festival vibe this Jacobean manor house does so well. Think wicker hampers full of bean bags for ‘cornhole challenge’ and boots for ‘welly-wanging’.
Two pools and a friendly welcome for family dogs
Most suites have ample space, with interconnecting rooms, and dogs are welcomed with beds and goodie boxes. There’s a high tea for little ones and a later sitting for families with older kids or those making use of the baby-listening service to dine à deux.
This allowed us time for pre-dinner drinks and draughts in the snug wood-panelled bar. The girls settled for ‘rainbow coolers’ and candy striped bags of popcorn. Supper was a highlight, with monkfish stealing the show. My 11-year-old went off-kids’-menu to order the fillet steak, declaring it ‘sooo good’. However, the breakfast deserves a review of its own. Our eggs were perfectly poached every time and the Nutella pancakes pleased the most pernickety of eaters.
There are two pools, one outdoors with countryside views and one in the spa. The spa pool’s vast windows peer onto the walled garden and its resident rabbits and ducks. Plus, as Woolley Grange offers 90 minutes of free daily childcare, every parent has time for an undisturbed massage. Bliss.
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