The best family-friendly hotels in England for travelling as a pack

·19-min read
Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa, Arundel, one of the best family-friendly hotels in England
Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa, Arundel, one of the best family-friendly hotels in England

Seen and not heard? Perhaps there was a time when this summed up the attitude towards children at many English hotels. Not today, happily. From Northumberland to Norfolk, there are plenty of hotels in the UK that shout about their family-friendly facilities. Head to the right places, and you’ll find high chairs at Michelin-starred meals, sumptuous suites with separate bunk rooms, bottle-warming services and babysitters. Mini wellies and mountain bikes await at country house hotels, while city boltholes have dedicated kids’ concierges. There are junior cookery classes, riding lessons, water-sports. In fact, parents may well find themselves just a little envious… Here's the best family-friendly hotels in England.

The north

A prettily situated, riverside coaching inn turned family-friendly hotel with exuberantly coloured rooms, and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. For children, there's an adventure playground and nature trail plus indoor playroom with lilac pool table, games and toys. Packed lunches, secure bike storage and clothes-drying facilities are provided for the energetic. Little ones also benefit from welcome toys and books, children’s menus, and night-time milk and cookies.

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Another Place is aimed primarily at families and younger adults. The showpiece 20-metre glass-fronted indoor pool has children's swimming times, while parents will enjoy the Canadian outdoor hot tub, sauna and spa treatment rooms. Older children can enjoy watersports on the lake including stand-up paddle-boarding, kayaking and wild swimming. Children's meals are available, as well as family rooms and suites.

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Quirky and delightful, Augill Castle is located in the lovely Eden Valley between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. With the trappings of a neo-Gothic castle – tower, turrets, castellations and mullions – but in miniature, it appeals equally to children as to adults, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more family-friendly castle, with a tree house, playground and tennis court in its 15-acre grounds, and inside, a 12-seater cinema, not to mention the popular children’s cookery school.

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This sleek option opposite Oxford Road railway station occupies three of the city’s most characterful buildings. Its Refuge by Volta restaurant serves globally inspired small plates with a great children’s menu. Minibars come stocked with complimentary mineral water and fresh milk, and there’s also a tuck box of free treats including posh crisps and chocolate bars. Room service operates round-the-clock and includes naughty late-night indulgences such as a mug of Ovaltine and chocolate Hobnobs. Children’s bathrobes, toys and colouring books are included.

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This sprawling country resort hotel and spa, wrapped in woodland and golf courses, is modern in feel, with a few rooms retaining features of the original hall. You will not be bored here – take your pick from a range of facilities, including golfing, woodland walks, clay-pigeon shooting, quad bikes, a gym and indoor pool plus an ESPA spa. Several rooms have sofa beds or two double beds and interconnecting rooms are available. Children can stay in their parents’ room for free, but there is a 50 per cent charge if they sleep in an interconnecting room. For decent pub food, the Claret Jug is a family-friendly sports bar.

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Rockcliffe Hall is a five-star golf and spa resort that also welcomes children. There are generous dedicated times at the swimming pool for young people, plus cycling and falconry. Look out for the Alice in Wonderland-themed play cabins, adventure playground and seasonal nature trail. The Mischmasch gardens, dubbed 'A Wonderland of Curiosities', include a nature trail, an adventure playground, 'interactive' water features and a beautiful glasshouse hosting tea parties.

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You will not be bored at this castellated Baronial pile in the wilds of Yorkshire, with a range of country pursuits – fishing, shooting, pony-trekking – walking trails (dogs are welcome for £25 per night), a four-acre walled garden, spa, nine-hole golf course, plus a cookery school. Children will enjoy the trail and quiz through the grounds, their own dedicated cookery school sessions, the games room and birds of prey centre. There are family and interconnecting rooms, plus extra beds available. Children aged up to 12 years stay for £25, including breakfast.

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Cotswolds and surrounds

Like its sister members in the Luxury Family Hotels range (AKA some of the best family-friendly hotels in England), Woolley Grange is ideal for young children: two hours at the on-site crèche are included in the price of a room, and the clever monitor service means parents can dine while children sleep upstairs. Kids will love the indoor pool – parents perhaps less so – but this is a hotel designed for young children. The style of the rambling, multi-gabled mansion is of a lived-in, casual but comfy country retreat. Virtually no areas are out of bounds at any time for youngsters – though dinner in the main dining room is a civilised affair.

An insider guide to the Cotswolds

There's a generous feel to The Fish, which seems spaciously village-like. It's essentially a group of cosy-chic properties created from an old coach house, stables and a farmhouse, with other contemporary additions. The buildings are dotted across a wide area, some near a small lake, others variously up a steep hill. They've pushed the boat out in devising the 63 stylish rooms – and there’s something for everyone, whether families, couples, dog owners or groups of friends. The three super-swish Treehouses offer the most adventurous accommodation for families. Beautifully devised wooden pods on stilts in a small forest area are panelled all over and offer a bedroom suite area, a bunk bedded room and a conventional bathroom as well as a deck with outdoor twin tubs.

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This sleek, contemporary resort hotel is set by a lake in a nature reserve and commands dreamy views over water that is all the more picturesque for the antics of moorhens and swans. The hub is a large lobby-lounge decked in grey and cream. Around it are a restaurant, a spa and several private rooms for events. The hotel’s Old Boathouse Pub is similarly styled and set separately on the northern edge of the property. The 328 bedrooms offer an impressive choice of accommodation, including 64 self-catering apartments, which are ideal for small families; there are also several interconnecting bedrooms and children's beds can be set up in the larger rooms at £10 per night.

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This stunningly set hotel has on-site stables (you can bring your own horse or borrow one), a cookery school, 500 acres to wander, and a beautiful spa with a pool that has children’s hours, plus bicycles, board games, and a spectacular play cottage filled with toys and activities (though children must be accompanied by an adult). The fine brasserie has a children’s menu, and the Michelin-starred restaurant is a treat and welcomes children over the age of five.

• The best restaurants in the Cotswolds

Calcot is a shining example of how luxury and family-friendliness need not be mutually exclusive. There is a good choice of family rooms – these have baby listening devices tuned into the reception desk so you can dine at ease, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be alerted if there are any problems. As well as the indoor kids’ section, there’s a pirate ship outdoor play area. In addition, there's an Ofsted-registered crèche and indoor and outdoor play spaces. The brasserie-style Gumstool Inn restaurant has a specially devised children’s menu.

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An Italianate country house set in 55 acres of parkland with contemporary-cool interior styling. Cowley Manor has dreamy and extensive grounds – ideal for family picnics – chic interiors, and a wacky bar where children can eat (they’re less welcome in the main restaurant). The icing on the cake is the exceptional spa with two swimming pools, which have special times for children. Families are encouraged to book the interconnecting 'Great' rooms in the main house.

• The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds

Set in 100 acres of Oxfordshire countryside, Soho Farmhouse offers a bucolic setting (no troublesome things like mud and farmyard smells here), spacious Nantucket-style accommodation, the facilities of a Center Parcs [sic] on steroids and indulgent food and drink. The result? The ultimate country-lite retreat.

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Barnsley House is the very definition of a dreamy Cotswolds boutique hotel – set in a honey-stone village, with beautiful big rooms and spacious bathrooms overlooking the hotel’s justifiably famous gardens. It also has a firm reputation as an adult spot, with its pretty spa and grown-up vibe. In fact, children can stay, in a room separate from the main hotel, and eat at the sister restaurant The Village Pub across the road – so parents after a sophisticated Cotswolds break without the rigmarole of a child-focused hotel would do well to sneak in here for a peaceful weekend.

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Oxfordshire manor house meets French fancy. There is the archetypally British: manicured lawns, croquet games, 15th-century ponds. Raymond Blanc’s passion for food translates well with children: this is the ultimate place to introduce young people to fine dining. Wander the glorious kitchen gardens to see what’s in season, and pop into the hotel’s busy kitchen after lunch for a bonus ice cream; everything here is precise and proper, but children are very warmly welcomed.

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The south

It’s hard to believe you are only an hour from London at this, Four Seasons’ only UK country hotel. Set amid 500 acres of luscious green fields, guests can watch the hotel’s horses frolick in paddocks from the sophisticated bedrooms of the 18th-century renovated manor with spoiling spa, while children can be happily entertained in the pool, at the kids’ club, cycling, playing croquet or tennis or even 'owning a pony' for a day or boating on the Basingstoke Canal.

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A traditional country house hotel with a set of contemporary treehouse suites in its grounds. The treehouses are the pick of the bunch, where children can run and squeal without censure. The kids’ club is impressive, children are taken outside for wholesome activities like nature scavenger hunts, as well as playing with the treasure trove of toys (and technology) inside. The kids’ menu in the restaurant is equally high-end. The pool, however, is only open to children between 9am and 10am, and then 4pm and 5.30pm.

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Contemporary blends seamlessly with 17th-century at King Charles II’s favourite hunting lodge. It may be small in size but it’s big on facilities. There's a supervised crèche filled with toys and crafts for children up to eight years of age (free two-hour session each day), plus play areas. For babies, there’s a listening service, free milk and puréed food. Babysitting can be arranged. Children aged up to 12 years stay free in family suites and only pay for food. The family dog is welcomed with a bed, bowl and treats (£15 per dog per night).

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This good-value small chain’s casual and convivial atmosphere belies its well-organised formula: comfort and style rule and, while the food is tasty, you can draw directly on the tables – so it’s a great place for children. The Odiham branch has excellent walking from the back door, and is set in a Grade II-listed 16th-century inn. Behind the car park there’s a footpath that leads through fields and along a canal up to the ruins of Odiham Castle. Alice Holt forest is nine miles (14.5km) away and has trails and a Go Ape ropes course for daredevils.

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This charming gastropub set dramatically on a cliff overlooking the Jurassic coast is also a boutique hideaway owned by a family with young children that cocoons guests of all ages amid the sound of rolling waves. Countryside walks from here are fantastic; trek 30-40 minutes up to Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast. If the weather is decent, expect a fight to secure a lunchtime spot, either tucked inside or al fresco. The restaurant also has a good menu for younger guests.

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Lyme Regis’ answer to a boutique coastal break with children is this luxury hotel with lovely views of the bay and the surrounding Jurassic coastline. Opt for a sea view Poulett or Gould room to make the most of it. Nearly all of the rooms can accommodate children, plus there are two apartments that can host families of four or six. From its perch overlooking spectacular Lyme Bay you get road-free access to the shore (borrow buckets and spades from the hotel). Outside is a play area with swings, climbing frames and trampolines; in poor weather, try seaside-themed mocktails and board games in the lounge.

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This Twenties mock-medieval mansion set in gorgeous parkland is surrounded by cottage annexes, a chapel and barn-style spa. The effect is akin to an ancient Sussex hamlet – and there are special children’s pool times, football, quoits, croquet and giant Jenga. The surrounding 30-acre parkland includes a croquet lawn and tennis courts. The sea is a 10-minute stroll away, and the hotel will organise picnics for the beach and separate children’s dining times. It's pet-friendly too.

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The west

Bedruthan has been looking after families for more than 60 years (its sister hotel, The Scarlet, down the hill at Mawgan Porth, is for adults only) and strikes an excellent balance between child-friendliness and grown-up entertainment. Children are superbly catered for: from play areas, baby carriers and babysitting to an outdoor wooden ship and the Wild Café for children’s meals, plus two hours’ free childcare per day and the kids' club for over-eights, and an activities programme at busy times.

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Remodeling and redecoration has led to Watergate Bay taking its place as the pre-eminent Cornish hotel for a contemporary family seaside holiday. Set on a spectacular surfing beach, it has a great, easy-going atmosphere, cool, breezy décor and fun places to eat nearby, including Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen. Adults can also spoil themselves in the Swim Club spa, while children will be entertained with organised games, crafts and activities. There's evening entertainment, and not forgetting the hotel’s Extreme Academy for surfing and other watersports.

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Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame used to stay at this Victorian seaside mansion when it was a private home and would approve of its reincarnation as a luxury family hotel. It has top-notch facilities for children including a crèche and indoor pool, while grown-up facilities include a spa and fine dining. Children receive two free hours per day at the crèche, a night-time baby listening service so parents can dine alone. There’s plenty for older children, including a zip-wire and trampoline as well as water sports and the run of the beautiful grounds.

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This stately pile in Dartmoor National Park caters every whim, from rugged outdoor pursuits to fine dining. But despite its smart décor, Bovey Castle is the least precious luxury hotel imaginable: muddy dogs and children are very welcome. The Bovey Rangers club, run in school holidays, has an extensive programme of activities including rock climbing, raft building, apple pressing, canoeing and golf, and there’s a crèche offering painting, pottery, biscuit decorating, mask, puppet and badge making among others. Babysitting can be arranged in advance.

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Tresanton has many imitators, but no other hotel achieves quite this successful a mix of seaside setting and sophisticated food. The gardens and terrace are gorgeous, designed with al fresco eating, drinking, cloud-gazing and sea-watching in mind. The hotel’s classic wooden yacht, Pinuccia, built in 1939, is available for skippered sails around the sheltered waters of the Fal Estuary and lovely Helford River from May to September. On arrival, children are given a fishing net to use on the tidal beach directly below the hotel with great rockpools and a floating swimming platform. The Eden Project and St Ives are easy day trips away.

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The east

A well-located seaside hotel with a loyal following of returning guests of all ages. Although a no-surprises, traditional place, it benefits from friendly, long-serving staff and a refurbishment that has freshened up public areas and rooms. A big plus-point here is the indoor swimming pool, a boon for families looking for entertainment on rainy days. Very few Norfolk hotels offer this useful fallback. Children can share parents’ rooms for free. There's a games room, and a children's menu or half portions from the table d'hôtel menu are available.

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This family-focused hotel set in a wing of a National Trust property caters well to under-10s. Like all members of the group, two free hours of crèche care are included in your stay (allowing you to wander the grounds or book into the spa), and the listening service means adults can dine solo while children snooze upstairs. Adults will enjoy gazing out over the Georgian rotunda and Capability Brown designed parkland. Children will relish exploring it – encountering sheep, secret gardens, lakes and countless trees for climbing.

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London and surrounds

If the children are too young to care that the famous golfing duel in Goldfinger, starring Sean Connery, was filmed at this hotel, they can find plenty of other advantages, from a well-equipped games room, outdoor play area, mini football pitch, dedicated times in the pool, tennis lessons and special fitness classes to children’s menus in all three restaurants. In the bedrooms, expect to find activity packs, themed bed linen and personalised cookies at bedtime. Babysitting is also available.

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It may be the contender for London's most expensive hotel (rooms start at around £700 a night), but that doesn't mean it's not extraordinarily welcoming of children. In fact, kids can really get involved here; learning to be butlers or even mixologists making special mocktails. In fact, service (everywhere) is where The Lanesborough triumphs. An army of Clefs d’Or concierges greet you and each room has a butler on demand. But despite the formal setting, everyone is friendly and down-to-earth, which makes the experience feel extra special.

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Grandeur and opulence ooze from every room in the house, beautifully designed by Susie Atkinson, but a sympathetic refurbishment means it retains a family feel at heart. It’s a haven for children: bicycles, walking maps and iPads with Netflix are available. Britain’s premier children’s entertainers, Sharky & George, run the children's club at weekends and bank holidays (check website for prices). The Garden House and Garden Cottage nearby offer 11 attractive Victorian-style bedrooms and a cookery school.

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What this Seventies building lacks in character externally, it more than makes up for in style, facilities and quirky touches. Children have their own basement playroom with Nintendo games and table tennis (summer), playground with slides and swings, an indoor children’s pool – and even food for feeding ducks. Three hire boats are just the ticket for hot summer days, as are the gardens and riverside terrace. Children receive goody bags on arrival, there's an early Ducklings dinner on Fridays, Saturdays and during school holidays. Three of the hotel's Duplex rooms have a separate children's space with television and private entrance.

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This glossy masterpiece by Hyde Park is a choice spot for children in particular because it offers the capital’s best afternoon tea for families. While the themes vary seasonally, expect to decorate your own cupcakes and go home with a teddy bear from Harrods, located across the street. Adults will feast on sandwiches with truffles and foie gras; this is a terrifically sophisticated place that welcomes children, which is a rarity.

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One of the most impressive things about this hotel is its facilities, and it's extremely welcoming for families, with themed afternoon teas, a decent-sized pool (with dedicated children’s play times), and partnership with Waterstones, giving access to books. Plus its Piccadilly location means the hotel couldn’t be better placed for exploring Central London. Family rooms are available, children get complimentary meals throughout their stay and laundry is unlimited.

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One of this hotel’s great attributes is that it feels right for many different types of people, including the well known, the unknown, the young and the not so young; and families are particularly welcome and well looked after. The rooms and suites, many connecting, have class and style, and there are plenty of imaginative and luxurious extra touches. Every child that stays will find new toys and books in their room, plus personalised presents, fun duvet covers, mini robes and slippers, and gingerbread men with their name iced on.

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Often with children, a hotel’s location is one of the most important elements of a stay. The Royal Garden Hotel Kensington, overlooking Kensington Palace and Gardens below, is a great choice as so much of the city is right on your doorstep. Blow off steam at the nearby Diana, Princess of Wales memorial playground with young children, or take teens with sophisticated palates to the excellent top-floor Min Jiang restaurant, one of the only in the capital to serve authentic Beijing-style roast duck.

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