A three-year-old and a one-year-old and one of the UK’s top country-house hotels nestled on the edge of the New Forest. What could possibly go wrong?
Chewton Glen – just a 20 minute drive from Bournemouth – is highly recommended for a luxury break with children. In fact, boutique travel guide Mr & Mrs Smith lists it as one of its top child-friendly recommendations.
Initial signs were good – our room had a plate of home-made treats with the kids’ names written on the plate in chocolate, they had a welcome present each and super cute little white bathrobes with matching white slippers.
To accommodate the little ones, we’d been booked into the in-house Vetiver restaurant for an early 6.30pm dinner in the beautiful conservatory overlooking the vast gardens.
The food, whose ingredients are from the hotel’s garden, was amazing but served at the same enjoyable pace at which, if you were paying £70 a head, you’d want it served.
By the time we’d got to the main course, one of the delicate bone china rabbit napkin holders was missing an ear, a wine glass had tipped over and the strain of keeping two sleepy but somehow violently energetic toddlers entertained in what was becoming a full and very adult dining room was hard to hide.
By the time pudding arrived we were holding the one-year old in a headlock in a mostly failed attempt to stop her running round the table, and we were desperately trying to get a kids cartoon to load on my iPhone. The waiters were great – coming to chat to the kids between courses – but overall it was not a relaxing experience.
Breakfast was a similarly tense affair – the kids insisted on wearing their now not-at-all white robes and slippers which ended up scattered around the room as they fell off – and there was far too much breakable glassware. But a really nice touch was a children’s buffet table with plastic plates and cutlery and food to which they could help themselves. We also finally saw some fellow parents – though their children were either too young to move, or old enough to behave well in a more adult-like environment. But we all enjoyed the spectacular grounds, and the beautiful indoor and outdoor pools (the spa proved an excellent escape for us grown ups, at least one at a time).
For our children’s age, Chewton Glen was just a little bit too formal, and the tension of trying to make them fit in, or at least not wreck the joint, meant it wasn’t quite the relaxing experience it could have been with slightly older children.
Oh, and sorry again about the small chocolate handprints on the wall.