Set within 300 acres of glorious parkland, lakes, historic gardens and monuments, and located just half an hour from London, is the highly acclaimed Stoke Park Country Club and Spa. Steeped in more than 1000 years of history and a favourite for film crews shooting flicks such as Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones and James Bond, this hotel offers a luxurious retreat for couples, golf lovers and tennis players alike. But what we didn’t realise is that the venue is a fabulous Five Star destination for families too.
While seasoned golfers will be familiar with the 27 hole Championship golf course, designed by Harry Colt in 1908, it’s also a pulling point that kids as young as three or four can enroll for lessons with the resident professionals offering one on one golf tuition.
My son and I arrived at lunchtime on a windy afternoon in February and were shown to our room in the Pavilion building with it’s bright neon wall art and modern decor. “Wowsers” was the word of the day for my three-year-old as he spotted the biggest bath his eyes have ever seen. “We’ve got a sink each!” he exclaimed, “this is the best room ever”. He even asked if he could have a bath straight away, a rare occurrence in the life of any toddler!
The rooms at Stoke Park are spacious and luxurious, with huge beds and plush sofas, in our Junior Suite there was even a separate bed (adorned with a dinosaur duvet) set up especially for my little man. There was an activity pack and toddler-sized dressing gown and slipper set resting on his bed, and it’s the little touches like this that remind you you’re not just in any old family hotel, it’s a five star favourite of the upper echelons of society.
Anticipating the excitement of holidaying on a golf course I had booked Mini Me in for his first ever golf lesson. Held by PGA Professional James Hoar my tiny Tiger went from an amateur to accomplished ball smasher in just half an hour. Teeing off with a ride in a golf buggy was a great start, then a fantastic lesson fired up my boy’s burgeoning love for the game. James was calm, patient and had a great approach to teaching a three-year-old with the attention span of a gnat. He gently repeated techniques to my son who soon hung off his every word. Lessons can be fun, like ours, or for seasoned players, the team cater for all capabilities. It was a great start to a great break.
Stoke Park has an 11 treatment room Spa in the Pavilion, but no rest or relaxation awaited for me. We were straight to the pool after the golf lesson. There are specific splash times each day, morning and afternoon, so families can make as much noise as they like without worrying about disturbing other swimmers. The pool is wonderfully warm and the changing room are spotless – a pleasant change from our grubby local pool where slips and slides across muddy floors are par for the course.
Having worn ourselves out with golf and swimming, we decided to head down for a bite to eat. The hotel offers three dining options: the 3 AA Rosette-awarded Humphry’s serving modern British cuisine with a twist, the relaxed yet elegant Orangery, and Italian brasserie San Marco, located in the Pavilion building and definitely the most family-friendly if your little ones have as much energy as mine! There is a huge Kids’ Menu complete with staple offerings such as fish fingers, beef burgers and chicken nuggets and fries, as well as the more health-conscious option of salmon fillet with vegetables, or a simple scrambled eggs on toast. For grown-ups there’s a selection of pizza and pastas as well as more meaty mains including medallions of veal and supreme of duck. The room is bright and airy and the atmosphere lighter than in the fine dining Mansion House. Think a posh Pizza Express in much better surroundings!
Having stuffed ourselves silly, and rounded off our dinner with a portion of jelly and ice cream and a lovely large Malbec (mine was the latter!) we retired to our wowsers room. The televisions have pre-programmed children’s channels on, so there’s no need to worry you might miss the latest installment of In The Night Garden. Even if you really want to…. But as we settled down for a snuggle on the sofa we realised something essential was missing – warm milk! One call to room service and Mummy’s faux pas was rectified – up came a cup of warm milk with a cookie on the side. The perfect end to a perfect day for one tired three-year-old and his exhausted mother.
The problem with holidaying with a toddler is the fact they will inevitably wake up at Silly O’Clock no matter how late you let them stay up reading The Gruffalo. So at 5.30am the call of “Can I play golf yet?” could be heard beyond my pillow. Having ignored the gentle crescendo of this entirely unappealing request for almost ten minutes, I resigned myself to the fact it was time to get up. Luckily the activity pack left on Little Man’s bed the day before provided me with another half hour of dozing before braving the day.
Breakfast at Stoke Park is served in all of the restaurants, but we decided to return to San Marco as it’s located a short walk from the hotel’s newly built outdoor playground. We set ourselves up for the day with eggs florentine, bowls of cereal, and a huge plate of fresh fruit, then set out for more fun. Located just behind the tennis courts that host the annual Boodles event (a tennis tournament-come-English garden party which acts as a warm up for Wimbledon) the playground is fully equipped with slides, swings and climbing equipment for kids from two to teens to enjoy. But if the weather is not so hospitable there is also an indoor games room stocked with a mini snooker table, air hockey and table football as well as games consoles and a huge television screen.
There’s enough to keep a kid busy here for a week. And if you fancy a few hours to yourself there’s even a creche where the little wonders can be cared for while you indulge in some me time. Stoke Park is famed for its indulgent Afternoon Tea, washed down with delicious champagne, but unlike most other hotels there’s also a creatively crafted option for younger visitors. The Little Star Afternoon Tea is served in The Orangery and fills their tums with teddy bear biscuits, mini rolls and sandwiches, and a choice of juices and milkshakes
Having heard of Stoke Park and envied friends and family who had spent relaxing weekends here I was surprised to find so much on offer for families. But the estate is family-run and you can tell that a lot of thought has been put into every aspect of the hotel to make it welcoming and accommodating for visiting clans. Staff are friendly and facilities are second-to-none. It’s no wonder the venue has achieved such accolades as 5 AA Red Stars – the highest achievable grade in the hotel business, and is positioned in the Conde Naste Traveller Top Ten of family retreats!
- For more information on special events and offers at Stoke Park, or to book your stay, see www.stokepark.com or call 01753 717171.