“A spoiling Cotswold country hotel for couples and families alike, with 2 pools, kids zone, huge grounds and superb spa”
35 rooms and suites are spread across the main building and several barns and stables, family rooms being in the latter. Decor is tasteful and inoffensive: muted Farrow and Ball olives, wall-to-wall beige carpets, Hypnos-mattressed kingsize beds, halogen spots and bendy-stalked reading lamps. Some sit under sloping eaves, a few boast ancient beams; all have generous limestone-tiled bathrooms with, in most cases, a walk-in shower as well as tub.
Some rooms are on 2 levels: romantic bedroom hideaway upstairs, bathroom with groovy teak-clad tub below. Family suites get a bunk- or twin-bedded kids' room with its own DVD and inbuilt monitor. All are excellently equipped - Aromatherapy Associates toiletries, goose-feather duvets and Roberts DABs. Smallish windows overlook green fields - a couple of rooms are on the dark side - but you can count on "the snuggliest beds in the world" (to quote our son).
Walk through the magic door from reception and you find yourself in a genteel country pub - flagged floors, leather armchairs by the fire, Butcombe and Hooky on tap. The Gumstool Inn offers a mix of locally sourced pub grub (Gloucester sausages with mash and shallots) and fancier bistro fare (Jerusalem artichoke risotto with porcini), though don't expect haute cuisine or exotic flavours here; our shank of lamb was rather bland.
For classier fare, book at the Conservatory Restaurant, where an army of waiters glides among candlelit tables bringing Gruyère tarts, fig and feta salads or wood-roasted sea bass with red pepper ragout. Parents can switch on their room monitor and relax, or even book a baby-sitter to do bedtimes - it's less than the cost of a main dish. Wines range from £20 "everyday drinkers" to classic Chablis and magnums of Moet.
Breakfast, a 3-table buffet supplemented by good cooked dishes ("create-your-own" omelette, smoked-salmon eggs Benedict), sees Boden-clad toddlers frantically colouring in while their parents compare Playzone schedules. Staff are valiant, the mood benign; no disapproving looks here.
This place will spoil families rotten - not just little ones, but parents too. The kids' activities are so good that you won't feel guilty slinking off to the spa; the listening service so reliable that you can really relax over a grown-up dinner. Judging from the families staying during October half-term, it's more popular with toddlers and junior-schoolers than with older kids.
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)
10 spacious family bedrooms and suites are situated around a flower-filled courtyard in an electronically secured building. Family rooms have a double bed and 2 truckle beds in one large space. Family suites have a separate kids' room, either twin- or bunk-bedded. We stayed in Beverstone and loved it - the books and toys selected for our son were spot on! The larger suites occupy 2 levels (gated, of course) and boast their own small garden; the Deluxe gets a separate sitting room too. All can fit a cot.
Playzone staff offer evening baby-sitting at very reasonable rates
All family rooms and family suites have a built-in monitor
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
The Playzone (open daily) caters for all ages up to 16; you'll need to book ahead at busy times. The crèche is run by qualified nannies and packed with Hasbro toys. For pre- and early-schoolers, activities such as crafts and cookery classes are offered during the holidays; our 6-year-old loved his supervised den-building in the hotel's own woods. For older children, the Mez (mezzanine) has computers, Playstations, XBoxes, Wii consoles and its own 12-seater cinema
High tea is served in the Gumstool around 5.30, and if you come later there's a kids menu (tasty but not hugely imaginative, we thought)
Westonbirt Arboretum is on your doorstep, with some great family trails as well as truly stunning colours in autumn. Cotswold Water Park, Berkeley Castle and Slimbridge Wildfowl Centre are not much further