Family-friendly and peaceful aren’t often phrases that go hand in hand together. Usually, family-friendly can mean noisy, chaotic, buzzing, fun. But we just spent a couple of nights staying at The Elms Hotel in Worcestershire and I’m wondering if we have discovered the most peaceful family-friendly hotel in Britain.
There were plenty of families there, many with babies and toddlers and some, like us, with pre-schoolers taking advantage of being able to go away midweek outside of the school holiday period. But despite the number of little ones at The Elms, there was an incredibly quiet and chilled atmosphere, all around the hotel and grounds. Of course, there was the odd cry, babble or laugh to be heard but the majority of the time, all I could hear was birdsong, the trickle of the garden fountain and clicking of tea cups on saucers as parents relaxed in the sunshine.
Set in an impressive Queen Anne building, The Elms is as cosy and plush inside as it is colourful and fun outside. The lounge and bar areas have inviting sofas, huge fireplaces, grandfather clocks and endless rows of cushions for you to sink into. Our bedroom was traditionally styled with soft pink hues and beautiful period furniture.
Outside on the front lawn, guests can play croquet, play football or jump on the large trampoline. Through the back, there are tables and chairs on the grass, benches by the water fountain, beautiful flower gardens, a vegetable patch (complete with scarecrow) and a path that leads to the outdoor kids’ play area.
The spa is a modern building which cleverly doesn’t look out of place next to the 18th Century hotel and further up the hill is another building with colourful bunting – the Bears’ Den, which is the crèche that all hotel guests can use. You are given a two hour session at the crèche included in each night’s stay at The Elms and our four-year-old LOVED it. On the day we arrived, she was literally counting down the minutes until 3pm, when she could go to the Bears’ Den to play. Kitted out with all sorts of toys – dolls, cars, a kitchen, and a safe baby play area, the staff are super friendly and do activities like painting or crafting with the kids. They even have a pet rabbit and hamster – the four-year-old was ecstatic to be allowed to help clean out Harriet the hamster’s cage and refill her water bottle.
While she was in the crèche, I checked out the spa… and had the most blissful full body massage I think I’ve ever had. I’m not a fan of a massage being too firm, and this was the perfect amount of pressure to get rid of some of the knots in my back and send me off into a zen-like sleep for 55 minutes. During our stay, there was plenty of time to drink pots of tea (which come with a home baked shortbread biscuit) and wander through the flower gardens, while the little one was at the crèche. It’s a total win-win situation when the kids are desperate to go to the crèche and it gives you some quiet time.
The spa at The Elms is designed to welcome child free adults – who might want a relaxing treatment or to chill out in the outdoor jacuzzi – and families whose kids can splash around in the pool and play. I saw quite a few couples arrive at the hotel for a spa day which is testament, I think, to how relaxing the spa area is.
Just like the other hotels in the Luxury Family Hotels group, The Elms has a listening service where you can tuck your kiddos up in bed and head downstairs to the restaurant or bar, knowing that if they wake up, the staff will come and fetch you. Before I stayed at a hotel with this kind of service, I was doubtful about using it, and when we do, I have to admit, I do worry a little, but we regularly check on her and she’s always fast asleep and fine.
On our first night at The Elms, the listening service was broken. But rather than shatter our dreams of a cocktail in the bar, the hotel simply organised a babysitter free of charge. When we got back to our room at 10.30pm, our little pickle was still wide awake. She had spent the whole two hours chatting away to the babysitter! Needless to say, she zonked out on her bed just minutes after we got back to the room. The next night, the listening service was back working. I stayed in our room while the four-year-old fell asleep, then crept out and headed to the restaurant to meet Mr P. Having a grown up dinner in the adults-only restaurant felt like such a treat.
The food at The Elms is outstanding. Having stayed at three other hotels in the Luxury Family Hotels group (read my reviews of The Ickworth, Woolley Grange and The Polurrian Bay Hotel) I can safely say, I think The Elms top them, when it comes to food. We tried dishes like duck confit, fillet steak, roast chicken and lighter dishes like chicken caesar club sandwich and grilled haloumi, and it was consistently fantastic. The restaurant staff were really great at advising us, and giving tips like ‘order the red wine jus to go with the duck confit’. Lots of the produce used comes straight from the hotel garden and the bar has home grown fruit and herbs to add to drinks.
Breakfasts consist of a buffet with cereals, pastries, juices, fruit, yogurt and a ‘build your own muesli’ bar. Hot food can be ordered from a menu (bonus points from me – I’m not big on hot breakfast buffets) and the chef was happy to allow us to order ‘off menu’ with me asking for a sausage sandwich one morning. Top tip: the sausages are really tasty.
Kids’ food is great at The Elms too. They can choose from dishes like pasta with hidden veg sauce, fish goujons, build-your-own fajitas, cheesy beans on toast or sandwiches with fillings like chicken, ham, cheese, marmite, jam or peanut butter. Jugs of water are offered at every meal, meaning you don’t have to order fruit juices or anything sugary. There’s also a ‘Rehdryation Station’ in the hotel reception, with water and glasses for guests to help themselves to – a great touch.
I’m a firm believer in the perfect family break including fun and relaxation time – The Elms provides both in spades. If I’m looking for any negatives to offer up, I’d have to be really picky because the place is great. The only thing I can think of is that on hot days, the hotel can feel quite stuffy and the rooms could definitely benefit from a little air con. But it wasn’t a massive problem – luckily the huge period windows open!
I suspect we will return to The Elms – but next time we’ll definitely stay for longer.
• A night at The Elms Hotel starts from £150 per night for bed & breakfast or £220 for dinner, bed & breakfast. Book at theelmshotel.co.uk – big thanks to The Elms for inviting us to stay with them for two nights for the purpose of this review.