Kim Jones and her family ride Segways and soak up the countryside charm of Calcot Manor in the Cotswolds
If you're not immediately bowled over by the country-chic charm of Calcot Manor and its 220 acres of rolling meadowland, then you can always try out their Segway Experience and run the risk of being swept off your feet that way.
While we, as parents, knew we’d be wowed by this top-notch country house hotel (a quick glance at the website had told us that), when you're taking children (and in particular teenage ones) away for the weekend, you need to ensure your quintessentially English stay in the Cotswolds comes with a twist. And riding Segways around the spacious grounds ticked the ‘twist’ box very nicely; so we’d booked on to a session.
Still, as I stepped precariously on to the two wheeled scooter which seemed to defy all balancing possibilities, I couldn’t help contemplating that the hotel spa, which was surreptitiously wafting out its aromas of essential oils directly into my nostrils as we braved the chilly weather outside, seemed an altogether more appealing (and sensible) prospect.
Taking pointers from our instructor I cautiously leaned into the machine to make it go forward, then gently bowed backwards to slow it down. It took a leap of faith but soon, I was weaving my way around an assault course at about 60mph (well, it was closer to 6mph but felt much faster on nervous legs.) Needless to say, my thirteen-year-old son was an immediate expert, lapping me easily and riding over ramps I preferred to ignore and tootle on past.
After mastering the assault course and getting competitive in a ‘time-trial’ race, we were ready to take on a trail around the grounds, up and down inclines and over rougher terrain. It ended up being really good fun and I can safely say we all enjoyed the ride.
Calcot Manor lies in the middle of Cotswold countryside near the market town of Tetbury. The hotel is an old manor house and many of its rooms are converted stone cottages, barns and stables, which lie around a courtyard. Whilst it oozes romantic charm, it also perfectly caters for families, with plenty of options when it comes to choosing your rooms.
Some are especially designed with double beds plus additional child beds and cots provided. There are also family suites, with a separate bedroom for the children, and if, like us, you have older teens, you can opt for interconnecting rooms so they have the luxury of a bathroom to themselves.
And luxurious it is at Calcot. Our spacious room was on two levels – bedroom upstairs and bathroom downstairs. With beamed ceilings, it was decorated in whites, taupes and creams. (Don’t expect to see any floral, chintz or swags at Calcot – décor is ‘country modern’; tasteful and elegant but cosy and cocooning.)
Cookies for children and fresh fruit and chocolates for parents are in your rooms to welcome you. And even the dog gets a bowl of bone-shaped biscuits to snack on in style.
For your evening meal, you can choose to eat in the relaxed gastro-pub in the hotel - The Gumstool Inn - but we opted for a more formal dining experience at The Conservatory Restaurant where the food and wine were delicious. There are special menus for children, or they can choose smaller portions from the main menus.
There’s plenty more for the children to enjoy – including an indoor pool, plus a two-storey play heaven dedicated to 'gaming' – both traditional and hi-tec. Downstairs is the Playzone for little ones (an Ofsted-registered crèche where you can drop off your tots for soft play, arts, crafts and games) while The Mez on the upper floor is for children eight and over, a hip haven where they can get their hands on the latest PlayStations, Xbox 360s, computers, boardgames or take a seat in the cinema. They can also borrow DVDs to take back to your room.
If you want to get them outside into the fresh country air, then borrow the complimentary bikes, play on a Pirate Ship in the play-park or kick a ball on the mini football-pitch. Horse-riding can also be arranged. We tried out Disc Golf – it’s played like traditional golf on a course around the grounds but with Frisbee-like discs rather than balls. The aim is to get your disc into the nine baskets around the course with as few throws as possible – the hotel can provide score cards so you can keep tabs on who’s hopeless.
With so much to do it would be easy to forget to relax. But as soon as you’re back in your room, you’ll be cosying up on the sofa, reading one of the complimentary magazines dotted around your room or heading off to the huge bathroom to lie back and relax in a wood-panelled free-standing bath or luxuriatie in a monsoon shower.
With indulgence and family-friendly hospitality going hand-in-hand, we were all pretty much bowled over by Calcot Manor.
Photos: copyright of Alistair Heap and Calcot Manor