They say a change is as good as a holiday. But actually, the thing I love most about the holiday is the change. The disruption of our usual routine. The change of scenery. And while it shouldn’t matter where we go for that change, of course, it does matter. So it’s just as well that our half-term break this month was at The Hermitage on the Isle of Wight.
This grand house boasts ten en-suite bedrooms (yes, ten!) so it’s the perfect place to book, if you fancy a multi-family holiday or you want to get the whole extended family together in one place (it’s the kind of place that has Grandma’s 70th birthday written all over it…)
From the moment we arrived at The Hermitage, I could hear laughter echoing through the house. We were there with another family – Molly (who blogs at Mother’s Always Right), Mr W, Frog (5) and their Baby Girl (16 months) and having met up with them on the ferry crossing from Southampton, our five-year-old was already firm friends with Frog by the time we got to the house. While we were being shown around, the pair of them ran off, thick as thieves, to explore. This house was made for endless games of hide and seek.
After working out who would take which bedroom (and so many to choose from!) we unpacked and had a cuppa around the big kitchen table. The layout of The Hermitage is brilliant – next door to the large kitchen is a playroom (stocked with lots of fun games and toys) meaning the kids could play nearby while we nattered and ate biscuits. Our youngest guest was actually at her happiest sweeping up around us with the large broom (handy when you’re eating crumbly Hobnobs…)
Elsewhere downstairs is a huge living room-come-dining room with comfy sofas at one end and a large dining table at the other, separated by an impressive fireplace in the middle. This room has doors which open out onto a terrace – which would be lovely in warmer weather. In chilly February, however, the doors remained shut and this room was an incredibly cosy place to sit with a cuppa (or wine in the evening!). Molly and I both had a bit of work to do while we were away, and we found this was a great room to tuck ourselves away for some peace to work.
My favourite room, downstairs at The Hermitage, however was the games room, with another cosy sofa area, TV, a pool table, table tennis and lots of board games and garden games. On our first night, after we put the girls to bed (well, after they eventually decided to stay in bed, which was at around 8.30pm!) we spent the evening in there, drinking prosecco and playing pool and table tennis. There’s also a gym, just off the games room, which has a coded lock on it, to stop any small people from wandering in and hurting themselves with the equipment.
Finally, there’s a long corridor downstairs, leading to a ‘snug’ with a vintage floral lamp, more sofas and a large TV (the kids watched Netflix in here a few times), a utility room and a boot room – handy for our muddy wellies. So many rooms! So much space!
As you walk up the grand staircase, you’re greeted by another little sofa area (I’m sorry, there just aren’t enough areas to chill out in this place…) which benefits from the sunshine streaming in every morning. The bedrooms are divided up, with four on one side of the house and six on the other side. As such, the girls had a whole ‘wing’ to themselves while the grown ups (and the littlest one) had the other. The kids’ wing even had a ‘secret passageway’ staircase which led them down to the playroom and kitchen, which as I’m sure you can imagine, is the most fun thing EVER when you’re five.
I was really impressed with the size of the bedrooms – ours was massive with loads of floor space and a sofa as well as a king-size bed, wardrobe and drawers. Our en-suite was big too, with a bath and shower. If I’m being really picky about the bedrooms (and I am having to look hard to find something remotely negative) I’d say the showers were all very weak, with a mere trickle of water coming out, and all of the mirrors seem to have been hung by a very tall person, meaning at 5’6″ I had to stand on my tip-toes to see my face!
But overall, the finish and attention to detail at The Hermitage is top notch. It’s grand without being stuffy. It has that warm family home feel, despite its size. The kids felt comfortable there, from the start – which may have something to do with the children’s play area which you pass, as you drive up the path to the house. It immediately tells you that kids are welcome here.
In fact, in my view, the garden is one of the big selling points of The Hermitage. Even in the cold winter weather, we went out there every day, with the girls playing on the slide and swings, or just running across the grass, hell for leather! As you can see, we were really lucky with the weather – bright sunshine most days we were there. One day, Molly and I ventured a little further and went for a countryside walk with the buggy, and the landscape was just breathtaking.
Our stay at The Hermitage was incredibly relaxing – long lazy breakfasts while the girls played together, big family meals around the kitchen table, and listening to birdsong while the kids played in the garden. Further afield than the house itself, we weren’t short on things to do, with an array of family-friendly activities available on the Isle of Wight. But the genius thing was, we didn’t have to arrange all of the activities ourselves, instead we took advantage of the ‘Blue Chip Experience’ concierge service offered by Blue Chip Holidays.
Much like a hotel’s concierge, which can book tickets or make dinner reservations for guests, Blue Chip Holidays’ concierge service handpicked the best local tour operators and arranged for us to go to the Electric Woods festival at Robin Hill Park, Isle Jump trampoline park and Tapnell Farm, where we had the most amazing burgers for lunch in their restaurant The Cow Co. (Tapnell Farm will be an amazing place to visit from Easter onwards, by the way – we got a tour of the play barn they’re in the process of building and it sounds like it’s going to be fantastic.)
We did go off piste one day and went somewhere that hadn’t been pre-arranged – we got in the car and headed for the seaside! Nearby Shanklin has something for everyone – a great pub serving huge portions of fish and chips, a beach to hunt for nice stones on, an arcade with plenty to occupy five-year-olds and pretty beach huts on Small Hope Beach.
But what I absolutely loved about the Blue Chip Experience concierge service is the time I usually spend researching an area before we visit it, could be spent doing other things. It took the stress out of organising activities and brilliantly, the experts at Blue Chip Experience will give you a personal consultation and tailor make your holiday to suit your group.
Most evenings, we’d kick things off with a cheeky gin and tonic, pop the kids to bed and then eat dinner while the boys drank cider and the girls drank fizz. As well as the pool and table tennis, we were partial to a game of Pictionary (which, by the way, has the weirdest phrases and words to draw. “Whisk broom” anyone?)
But on our final night, the clever Blue Chip Experience team arranged for two chefs to come over and cook us a three course meal. It was the perfect treat to end our trip. At just before 8pm, the chefs arrived and got busy in the kitchen. Before we knew it, they were serving up an amazing prawn and crab cocktail….
Followed by this immense chicken dish that had blue cheese and pancetta and mashed potato and all sorts. It was seriously dreamy…
They finished up with chocolate profiteroles (ate it before I had a chance to take a photo! Bad blogger) and we sat at one tiny corner of the massive dining table, as we ate. It was quite comical, having four people at a table that seats 20. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t just the pre-dinner G&Ts that were talking, but we all agreed that this was the best meal we’ve had in ages. Packed with flavour. If you wanted to book these (super-friendly) chefs if you’re ever on the Isle of Wight, it starts at £25 per head for a three-course meal. Can’t recommend them more highly.
So for a stress-free, relaxing family break, I suggest you check out Blue Chip Holidays and their Blue Chip Experience – from quaint country cottages with log-burning stoves and thatched roofs to stylish apartments with dramatic sea views and hot tubs, they offer a wide choice of locations across the UK.
You can watch the little video I made of our stay, if you’d like to see more!
Thanks to Blue Chip Holidays for inviting us to The Hermitage for the purpose of this review. As always, all thoughts are my own.
Blue Chip Holidays offer 7 nights at The Hermitage in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight from £2,635 on a self catering basis, based on a 6th June 2016 arrival. Blue Chip Experience can organise a number of activities and unique experiences for guests who book a Blue Chip Holidays property including but not limited to those activities mentioned in the above review. www.bluechipholidays.co.uk / 0333 3317 913