There’s something to be said of choosing a few days away in the UK over the stress of air travel to overseas destinations. Melissa Sweeney shares her experience at Lower Mill Estates in The Cotswolds, one of the most popular destinations for a family weekend away.
After setting off on a Friday evening with the car packed up, we arrived at Lower Mill Estates. In the south of The Cotswolds, this secure 300 acre estate is weaved with a network of lakes, offering each house a lake view and its own individual style. There’s a wide variety and whilst most are privately owned holiday homes, many are available to rent.
We were welcomed to our home for the weekend with a much appreciated pack of provisions. After the ritual explore by the kids – with lots of exclamations regarding the beautifully made up beds – rooms were allocated. The house, as all in the Estate do, boasts lovely large balconies on each floor with views across an impressive lake creating a tangible sense of tranquillity.
With three active and energetic children between eight and 14, keeping them busy is an essential and – thankfully – easy task in the Estate. Set within a nature reserve, there’s plenty of fun be hand on land and in the water.
The Activity Hub, run by the lovely Jenny and Terry, hire out all sorts of equipment for playing on the lakes, including canoes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards and katacanoes. It’s the sort of place where you want to continuously explore the whole time you’re there, with islands in the centre and a dock on the far side.
During school holidays, the Hub runs a timetable of lake activities to join in with such as dawn and dusk canoeing, stand up paddle board races, and obstacle courses. If you prefer to stay dry, there are bikes to hire and tennis rackets for use on the number of courts dotted around.
Being a nature reserve, there’s so much to explore and the lakes are filled with wildlife. If you know your cygninis from your grebes, you can educate your children on all sorts of different birds on the lake.
The grounds also include a beaver reserve and, if you brave a twilight visit and have a little patience, you could well catch a glimpse of these productive animals playing in the water. If you fancy something more relaxing there’s a choice of heated swimming pools. With the sun out, we spent a lovely afternoon in the outdoor pool, and relaxing on the loungers and in the sauna.
Then there’s the lovely spa. Here, there are more two more fabulous 20 metre pools, one indoor and one outdoor, both nicely heated and a great contrast to any previous chilly lake activity. There are steam rooms, sauna and treatment rooms, offering all the usually relaxing treatments. It has a luxurious, almost tropical feel with a lush setting surrounding by greenery.
All this activity and fresh air generally results in ravenous appetites and although we had a beautiful, fully functioning kitchen, we treated ourselves to a night off from cooking and headed down to Ballihoo, the on-site restaurant. Built with a beautiful rustic oak frame and a central open fire that’s surrounded by battered old leathers sofas, it certainly ticked the boxes for us. It has a large garden full of picnic benches and a climbing area. The menu offers a range of good pub grub food which to suit adults and kids.
It’s worth getting out into the local area and exploring the lovely Cotswold villages of soft yellow stone with some seriously good eateries. You could take a sunrise trip and see the sun come up from a hot air balloon, enjoy an exhilarating trip to the races at Cheltenham, or a day trout fishing if that’s your thing.
There’s so much to do whether you want to spend the whole time relaxing, exploring or getting active; everyone will be looked after.