Located on the edge of the beautiful Cotswolds, just 20 minutes’ drive from Bath, 15 minutes from the National Trust village of Lacock and a short walk to the local, picturesque village of Bradford-on-Avon, Woolley Grange promises a luxury, family-friendly holiday in a beautiful Jacobean manor house. The ethos of Woolley Grange is that you shouldn’t have to compromise on quality just because you have children in tow, and this is something they certainly delivered on.
It also ticked all of our boxes in terms of location and activities on offer. We wanted to find somewhere far enough away from London so as to feel like a real escape from the city, but not too far away, since the Small Girl isn’t keen on long car journeys. We wanted somewhere family friendly, but where we could also enjoy some adult luxuries; and somewhere with plenty to do in the local area, as well as good onsite facilities should we wish to stay closer to home. Not much to ask for right?!
Having discovered Woolley after a goodly amount of internet trawling we promptly booked the ‘Baby’s First Stay Away’ package, which ran from Sunday to Wednesday, for the last week in February, and looked ahead, past the gloom of January, in excited anticipation.
Included in the package were two hours of complementary crèche care each day, a free ‘Puddle Ducks’ swimming lesson on the Tuesday morning and ‘breakfast club’ on the Wednesday morning – which is where the crèche team pick up your baby from the room at 8am until 9:30am, allowing you to have a lie-in or (as in our case) time for a quick run and swim! I was amazed at how well our daughter, Florence, did in the crèche, as our past crèche experience at the local gym has involved me being called off the treadmill after an average of 15 minutes to attend to an hysterically-crying baby. The staff at the ‘Woolley’s Bears’ Den’ were great and Florence lasted the full 2 hours on the Monday, as well as an hour after her swimming lesson on Tuesday (allowing me and my husband to enjoy wonderful massage and facial treatments in the spa!), and again for an hour and a half on Wednesday morning.
The swimming lesson on the Tuesday morning was really great and even though I take Florence swimming every week and she is pretty confident in the water, I learned a lot from the session.
Also included in the package was a ‘baby listening service’ – where your hotel telephone is turned into a baby monitor and the staff listen in and come and find you if the baby cries – as well as the option to book a babysitter (at an additional cost of £10/hour), which we did for one evening, just for extra reassurance. The room was well-equipped with a changing mat, nappy bin, bouncer, cot, baby bath and a welcome pack with a swim nappy, bib, bunny toy, baby shampoo and Elemis body oil (for mum!).
Breakfast and a two-course dinner allowance were also included in the cost and at mealtimes an array of bibs, bowls, drinking cups and cutlery were provided for the children and our table was set up with a highchair with a little place name for Florence. You could opt for ‘high tea’ at 5pm for children, with an evening, candle-lit meal between 7pm and 9pm for mum and dad, or a family meal at around 6pm. We had a family meal on the Sunday when we arrived and booked in for separate meals on the subsequent nights, which worked out really well.
The food was utterly delicious and exceeded our expectations – it was true fine dining. Each night I was given a full separate vegan menu and they made vegan purees for Florence as well as offering plenty of veg and hummus for pre-purée snacking. There was also a fantastic breakfast buffet with an array of dairy-free milks available, as well as cooked breakfast options with everything from a full English to pancakes and avo toast. We also indulged in the evenings with an aperitif while sat in front of the fire before dinner and a post-meal port to accompany a game of cards before bedtime!
As a Jacobean house, the hotel had all of the charm of an old English manor, with accompanying low beams and creaky floorboards, which, while not ideal when trying to sneak into bed and not wake the baby after a glass or two of red wine, added to its appeal. Our room was attractively furnished with a really comfortable bed and a seating area perfect for enjoying cups of tea and with space enough for Florence’s play mat. Our bathroom was palatial, with a gorgeous free-standing bath, although sadly no shower.
The two downstairs lounge rooms, which both had logs fires, were really cosy and there were plenty of toys on hand to keep the children entertained. The grounds were perfect for exploring with children and included a play area, where Florence had her first swing, a mini farm with chickens and bunnies to see, a walled-garden growing fresh produce, and a lawn area with a trampoline and football goals.
For us, a major factor that really served to make the holiday was the Woolley Grange team. They were so warm and welcoming and went above and beyond to make sure we had everything we needed, from baby equipment for Florence to fresh soya milk delivered to our room in the morning for me to have a cup of tea!
In terms of timings, Florence was the perfect age for us to take the trip (she is just coming up to 7 months) as we were able to make the most of the food provisions for her (she has just started weaning), as well as the crèche and the baby listening service without feeling too anxious. I think, had she been any younger, we might not have felt so relaxed or have felt as confident leaving her with a babysitter. The hotel also provides toddler packages and packages for children aged 5+ and we would certainly consider going back again when Florence is a little older and can really start to explore the grounds.
Overall the hotel was a perfect choice for us. It was lovely to spend time there with Florence and not to have to worry about her being noisy or messy, or having to worry about having forgotten anything she might need, as all was catered for. It was great meeting and chatting to other parents in the evenings, but also having time to ourselves and exploring the local area, including trips to Bradford, Lacock and Bath. All in all a perfect February getaway and somewhere I would certainly recommend.
How much: Rates for the Baby’s First Stay Away are from £369 for two nights; we spend £560 for three nights with additional costs for spa treatments, wine and puddings!
More information: www.woolleygrangehotel.co.uk