12 amazing family hotels that will make you feel as though you've travelled far away

Hattie Garlick
·7-min read
Augill Castle, Hotel Portmeiron, Port Lympne
Augill Castle, Hotel Portmeiron, Port Lympne

If you hadn’t already noticed, we’re headed for a “Great British summer”. Pause, however, before you shelve your dreams of distant countries and exotic adventures. Our island is awash with glorious, luxurious hotels so full of character that stepping into their lobbies is like entering a faraway land. This summer, you will still be able to take the kids to the French-Swiss border (via Oxfordshire), give them an African safari adventure (by way of Kent) or educate them in classical Italian architecture (while in Wales). In fact, there are adventurous hotels to suit all budgets, thrill all children and pamper parents too.

Travel to… Fairyland

Augill Castle, Cumbria

This neo-gothic folly built in 1841 comes with turrets, battlements, stained-glass windows, vast oak doors carved into lacy shapes, and azure vaulted ceilings flecked with gold stars. Harry Potter sheet music sits atop the grand piano, a fort and playground are found in the gardens, the tiny cinema room is packed with family films, and there’s a giant chest of dressing-up clothes. Connecting suites of two rooms, sleeping four, from £240 pn (stayinacastle.com).

From

£ 240

per night

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Augill Castle room with four-poster bed
Augill Castle room with four-poster bed

Travel to… Franche-Comté

Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire

The setting is a 15th century, honey-coloured manor house. Some bedrooms are inspired by the Asian travels of its chef-patron Raymond Blanc. Yet the hotel’s spirit is channelled straight from Blanc’s mother and the food culture of her Franche-Comté home region. The kitchen garden supplies 90 varieties of vegetable and 70 different herbs to the Michelin-starred restaurant. In the Gardening School, a full-day course has been designed to inspire children. The Raymond Blanc Cookery School teaches the tiniest chefs too, while the dining room welcomes them with Asterix menus. C’est formidable! Junior suites, sleeping four, from £1,063 pn (belmond.com).

From

£ 1,063

per night

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Children learn to cook at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire
Children learn to cook at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire

Take a… cruise

Sunborn London, London

With five gleaming white decks stretching 420ft from prow to stern and flecked brass fittings, this super yacht looks ready to purr around the globe. Except, of course, it’s going nowhere. It doesn’t even have an engine. For families taking a short break in London, however, the make-believe is part of the fun. Descending its double staircase – overshiny glass and gold beneath an excessively extravagant chandelier – you could be a Bond villain or ship’s captain. Cabins too are roomier than almost anywhere else in the capital, some have private decks – and all, of course, come with portholes. Two rooms, sleeping four in total, from £240 pn (sunbornhotels.com).

From

£ 240

per night

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Travel to… Eden

YHA Eden Project, Cornwall

The Eden Project’s long-awaited hotel is set to open in the autumn. But in the meantime, there is a huge amount to be said for the botanical garden complex’s on-site youth hostel. Sixty en-suite bedrooms have been created from shipping containers (in keeping with the Eden spirit of recycling). Tipi-tents contain one double and two single futon beds as well as a wood burner. Book a landpod for four, however, and you can peel back your roof to get uninterrupted views of the stars. Heaven. All rooms sleep four, from £29 pn (yha.org.uk).

Travel to… the subtropics

The Nare, Cornwall

The Nare sits atop a green cliff on the Roseland Peninsula, a part of Cornwall whose unique and balmy micro-climate means palm trees proliferate, subtropical plants flourish and agave plants sprout in the hotel grounds. Sherry decanters are always full and a vintage Morgan sports car is hireable for the day. Children are welcomed with their own bucket, spade and net, plus a book chosen by the owner’s wife. Cream teas are laid on every afternoon and steps lead from the gardens to the rock pools of Carne Beach. Ripping fun. Room with adjoining double cabin, sleeping four in total, from £488 pn (narehotel.co.uk)

two sunloungers next to pool and palm trees overlooking the sea
two sunloungers next to pool and palm trees overlooking the sea

Travel to… an Alpine ski resort

The Fife Arms, Braemar

Outside is Glenshee, the UK’s largest ski centre, with 22 lifts and 36 runs ranging from nursery to black. Inside, however, the Fife Arms is the polar opposite of a generic, pine-clad ski hotel. Owners and internationally renowned art dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth have created an atmosphere of high luxe and drama. LA-based artist Richard Jackson has crafted a witty chandelier from neon and glass antlers. Lucian Freuds and even a Picasso grace the walls. There is a self-playing Steinway and a trippy proliferation of taxidermy. There’s plenty for families to do outside of ski season too, from walking, mountain biking and fishing, to attending Braemar’s world-renowned Highland Games at the start of September. Family rooms from £735 pn, B&B (thefifearms.com).

The Fife Arms is the polar opposite of a generic, pine-clad ski hotel
The Fife Arms is the polar opposite of a generic, pine-clad ski hotel

Travel to… Portofino

Hotel Portmeirion, Penrhyndeudraeth

An early Victorian villa in North Wales is not the most obvious base from which to explore the Riviera. Yet this hotel is the cornerstone of Portmeirion Village, the extraordinary, semi-surreal folly created by the architect and conservationist Clough William Ellis between 1925 and 1976. Inspired by the fishing village of Portofino on the Italian Riviera, he rescued and repurposed domed ceilings and architectural features from ailing stately homes to create a tiny, Mediterranean-hued jewel. Wander through the Central Piazza, campanile and gothic pavilion and you will be forgiven for saying benvenuta instead of bore da. Village family suite, sleeping four, from £314 pn (portmeirion.wales).

From

£ 314

per night

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Portmeirion or Portofino? - Richard Walker/iStock
Portmeirion or Portofino? - Richard Walker/iStock

Travel to… Kenya

Port Lympne, Kent

Lions, rhinos, giraffes and zebras… it’s hard to believe you’re in Kent, not Kenya. Bought in 1973 by gambling tycoon and exotic animal collector John Aspinall, the mansion and 600 surrounding acres here are now a hotel and reserve, with all profits going to the care of 900 rare, endangered animals. Stay at one of the two Lion Lodges in the grounds, which are decked out in safari-bling style: fabric-lined ceilings, African basketwork and rustic wooden walls meet prosecco on ice, Bamford bathroom products and an outdoor hot tub. The real attraction, though, is a glass wall giving you a 24-hour view of your closest neighbours – the lions. Lion Lodge, sleeps four, from £1,750pn (aspinallfoundation.org).

It’s hard to believe you’re in Kent, not Kenya, at Port Lympne - Paul Massey
It’s hard to believe you’re in Kent, not Kenya, at Port Lympne - Paul Massey

Take a… US road-trip

Mollies Motel and Diner, Oxfordshire

The A420, somewhere between Swindon and Oxford… It might not sound like a dream holiday destination. Yet it became one, the moment Soho House & Co chose it for the first in their planned series of roadside motels. The Fifties-style diner is the stuff of childhood dreams and adult nostalgia: teal leather booths, a chrome bar, and tomato-shaped ketchup dispensers. The menu keeps both camps happy too: Bloody Marys for adults; thick milkshakes and crinkle-cut fries for kids. Across the car park in the motel, there’s a “general store” and cabinets bursting with Hershey’s chocolate and popcorn. Bedrooms are a little more muted, in a simple, Sixties-meets-Scandi style. Then, of course, it’s back to the diner for waffles in the morning. Bunk rooms, sleeping four, from £70 pn (molliesmotel.com).

From

£ 70

per night

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Mollies Motel and Diner is the stuff of childhood dreams and adult nostalgia
Mollies Motel and Diner is the stuff of childhood dreams and adult nostalgia

Take... The Orient Express

The Old Railway Station, Petworth

This glorious B&B was once Petworth’s railway station. Today, guests can either stay inside the main station house or – more excitingly – in one of four antique Pullman train carriages that have been converted into eight, en-suite mahogany-panelled suites. You can even take cream tea on the platform. Two Pullman Carriage rooms, sleeping four in total, from £300 pn. Children must be aged 10 or over (old-station.co.uk).

From

£ 300

per night

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At time of publishing, travel within the UK was subject to restrictions. Check the relevant guidance before booking and travelling.

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