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Calcot Manor: there is plenty for guests of all ages in the playroom, from the hi-tech loft to the more toddler-friendly pursuits down below
Only older children are allowed upstairs in the play centre at Calcot. The winding staircase from the soft toy area where smiley ladies help babies play with trains even has a gate little fingers can’t open.
Up there in the mini loft with its scatter-cushioned cinema and football table, everything is X-boxed and Playstationed to the rafters. A teenage dream.
The only two up there when we visited were aged about 50. “Just checking?” said the supervisor with a lapful of toddler. The older dad had mixed feelings. Oh, the place was working, all right. His teenage son would love it. He was just trailing 2-0 to Spurs on FIFA.
The fact is, this sprawling country estate of a hotel is one where everyone wins, brilliantly blending the key requirements of the fine-dining formality one expects from its five stars with the homely informality so essential for a family break.
The layout helps. A series of old barns and grain stores, some with their own small neatly-fenced gardens, are scattered hamlet-style in amongst winding lanes, lawns and trees. Couples have the hotel to themselves, just as they do the spa, with its hot tub set in a walled garden next to an open log fire, and swimming pool, outside designated family hours.
The kids’ sessions are pretty full-on but cordoned into one half of the pool. As the 90 minutes draw to a close, staff subtly begin gathering up the floaty things; a neatly-executed hint that clears the way back to normality.
Most of the swimmers head off to the Gumstool afterwards; a pub in the grounds that specialises in late afternoon kids meals before turning on the bistro style later.
There were a few younger guests around in the restaurant later; again, subtly spaced with the older ones taking centre stage in the conservatory and the more exciteable in high chairs in the slightly more informal bar area.
Whether by design or coincidence, it worked well for everyone. The staff even laid out crayons and colouring books on a table by the door.
There’s an outdoor play area that overlooks a valley and families tended to use it en route to a stroll, which, if you follow the perimeter path that joggers do, takes you on a 3k trek past fields with grazing sheep.
This is a hotel that’s made a 30-year transition from farm to country house to fully functioning estate and gives the impression it has loved every minute. Its layout ensures guests can either integrate or live in privacy.
The accommodation with its bleached walls, flagstones and polished oak is designer rustic and the staff more than justify the training investment.
Nice touch: Welcome cookie in a bag.
Valets note: It’s in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. Rooms from £335 a night. Info: www.calcotmanor.co.uk
Royal rating: Prince Charming