Travel: High-chairs and holidays: Spoon-banging in the restaurant? Little accidents in the hotel foyer?

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The Independent Culture
GUY Edmund-Jones is not the youngest restaurant inspector in the country, although he's only three. His baby sister, Zoe, not yet four months, is the youngest.

Guy and Zoe are the children of Nigel Edmund-Jones, who is editor of Egon Ronay's Ford Guide 1994 . . . and Baby Comes Too, a selection of establishments which actively welcome parents with small children and also offer decent food. Uniquely among guidebook editors, Mr Edmund-Jones calls upon his inspectors to use their families as guinea-pigs to test the claims of hotels, restaurants and family pubs.

So when Zoe is in her Carrycot expelling her food on to the floor, and Guy is red in the face, beating his plate with a spoon and screaming 'I'm hungry', Mr Edmund-Jones can relax. They are only doing their job.

Toddler Guy may be the ideal inspector for such a guidebook, but he's a restaurateur's nightmare. If things aren't to his liking he will kick up a bigger fuss than Michael Winner. 'Like many children of Guy's age, he'll be all sunshine and light one minute, then suddenly he'll throw a terrible tantrum,' says Mr Edmund-Jones.

It seems only yesterday that parents with small children were regarded as social lepers. Large areas of the country were cordoned-off exclusion zones, proclaiming: No babies, no toddlers, no children under nine. No parents with same. But suddenly there are solutions everywhere. You cannot turn around without finding pizza and burger chains and fast-food outlets catering specifically for children; McDonald's, Harvester, Deep Pan Pizza, Garfunkel's, Old Orleans, Little Chef, Happy Eater. And many hotels and pubs have woken up to the idea that amenities for chidren are bait to get at the pockets of the parents, says Mr Edmund-Jones. 'Children may be noisy, messy, picky and disobedient, upsetting other guests, but they are good business.'

He seeks to publicise those places which will satisfy child and parent equally. He collates motels, restaurants and pubs from recommendations offered by inspectors working on

other Ronay guides, then applies his own set of criteria. Do they have a children's menu, high-chairs, baby utensils, facilities to change nappies, access for prams and pushchairs, cots, potties, nappies, supervised creches, play facilities?

With his family in tow, he thrills to heartwarming experiences beyond the call of duty and he boils up at the unhelpfulness of others. You arrive a bit late for a meal and they say the food is finished. What are you supposed to do? Let your child go hungry?

'The claim 'Families Welcome' all too often has a hollow ring about it,' he warns. 'To us, attitude is far more important than facilities. Some offer only few facilities, but they are prepared to put themselves out for families. One pub landlady offered my wife changing facilities in her own sitting-room.'

He also admires frankness in a hotel. Hobbs Pavilion Hotel in Cambridge welcomes children, but presents a charter for parents. 'All children have their bad days,' says the hotel, 'but it is unreasonable to expect other customers to have to share the consequences of them. It is also unreasonable to wait for us to tell you when the child in your care is dominating the restaurant's atmosphere and then take offence at that request.' The Evesham Hotel is also blunt: 'Well-behaved youngsters are as welcome as well-behaved grown-ups.'

Few places offer as committed a welcome as their chosen hotel of the 1994 guide, the Trevelgue in Porth, Newquay, Cornwall, which actively dissuades adults from booking in if they do not have children. That seems a damn shame considering the facilities offered to adults as well as teenagers, toddlers and babies: squash, tennis, golf driving-net and three-hole golf course, swimming pools, health and beauty treatments, family cycle trails; for teenagers: assault course, air rifle range, pool; for the youngsters: bouncy castle, adventure playground with pirate ship and Wendy Houses, and a team of childcare staff to look after toddlers.

Mr Edmund-Jones, staying there incognito with his own family, was mightily impressed by the Teddy Bear Evening Calm-Down Club. A calm-down club for toddlers, that is, not stressed parents. That might be a thought for the future.

THE SOUTH - WEST

THE BATCOMBE INN, Batcombe,

nr Shepton Mallet, Somerset, tel: 0749 850359

The inn has been in the capable hands of Derek and Claire Blezard since February last year. A children's 'booty box' ( pounds 2.75) is a wonderful idea - a small sandwich, fruit slices, yoghurt, crisps and a chocolate bar; two high-chairs can be provided. A traditional three-course Sunday lunch is offered ( pounds 8.95). There's a large playroom, equipped with mini-trampoline, doll's house, drawing board, books, toys and video recorder with National Geographic films. Small rear garden for fine weather. If ever there was a pub worth a detour for families, this is it. Bar food 12-2pm, 7-10pm (to 9.30pm Sun). Free house.

THE BULSTONE HOTEL, Higher Bulstone,

Branscombe, nr Seaton, Devon, tel: 0297 80446

At the Bulstone you will find everything you might need on a family holiday. Twelve bedrooms (six en suite) are equipped with cots or extra beds, extra bedding in case of accidents, changing mats, tea-making facilities, baby-listening and nappy buckets, if required. Downstairs there is a playroom with toys and games, plus an enclosed outdoor play area. There are laundry facilities and a microwave, sink, refrigerator and bottle-steriliser in the guest utility room. Children take tea together at 4.45pm (set price pounds 3.50, under-2s free if parents are dining, similarly under-5s except during high season), parents dine later. No lunches. Closed mid Nov-mid Feb. No credit cards. pounds 60.50.

CARLYON BAY HOTEL, Sea Road, Carlyon,

nr St Austell, Cornwall, tel: 0726 812304

Set in 250 acres of sub-tropical gardens and grounds, the hotel enjoys superb views over the bay. Families are particularly well catered for, with good outdoor facilities and an indoor pool for youngsters. Under-2s stay free in their parents' room during low season (a small charge in high season); 2-8s are charged 25 per cent, 9-13s 50 per cent of adult rates. Summer entertainment for children ranges from bouncy castle to fancy-dress party magic shows. For the under-5s a child-minder can be arranged (at extra cost). Children's menu available from 5.30-6.30pm. pounds 122.

THE FALCON INN, St Mawgan,

Newquay, Cornwall, tel: 0637 860225

This 16th-century wisteria-clad inn is a haven for the discerning pub-goer. Splendid terraced garden (with climbing frame). Children are welcome in the dining room where they can choose from their own menu or enjoy smaller portions of adult fare.

THE GOAT HOUSE CAFE, Bristol Road,

Brent Knoll, Somerset, tel: 0278 760995

A couple of minutes' drive from Junction 22 of the M5 (stay on the A38 - don't turn off at the signpost to Brent Knoll). Don't be put off by the transport caff exterior - inside it's bright, airy and friendly. Your kids will be fascinated by their kids - around a dozen goats and offspring live in stables across the courtyard.

LEE COTTAGE, Lee Abbey,

Lynton, Devon, tel: 0598 52621

Follow the Lee Abbey road from Lynton towards Woody Bar and, although the road seems to stop at the Abbey, keep going until you find an enchanting cottage run by ladies from the Abbey Christian community. Visitors come to sit on the grass or at benches to taste Molly Foster's home-made teas. Half portions for children. No special family facilities, but a lovely setting in good weather. Open 11am-5pm. Closed Sun, mid Sept-mid May. No credit cards.

THE OTTER INN, Weston,

Honiton, Devon, tel: 0404 42594

Situated 400 yards off the busy A30, this much-extended 14th-century cottage is a popular refreshment stop. Children will relish the splendid riverside garden, which offers youngsters the chance to paddle safely. Animal enclosure. Bar Food 12-2pm, 6.30-10pm (Sun 7-9.30pm). Free house.

POLURRIAN HOTEL, Mullion,

Helston, Cornwall, tel: 0326 240421

Large, white cliff-top hotel with sheltered sandy cove 300 feet below. Children under 14 stay free in parents' room with meals 'as taken' charged for those over 6 years. Indoor children's playroom for under-7s - limited supervision on request; adventure playground in the garden. Baby-sitting is also available, as are baby baths, potties and nappies. At least a dozen high- chairs in the restaurant, but tea can be served in your room. Half-board terms only, plus self-catering family apartments. Rooms 40. Closed Nov-Mar. pounds 164.

SAUNTON SANDS HOTEL, Saunton,

North Devon, tel: 0271 890212

An ideal, family-oriented resort hotel. Five miles of golden sands stretch past the door. Children's facilities include a creche, play areas, cots, baby-sitting, baby-listening and high teas. No dogs. pounds 120.

TREVELGUE HOTEL, Porth,

nr Newquay, Cornwall, tel: 0637 872864

Egon Ronay's Ford Guide 1994's Family Hotel of the Year, the Trevelgue gets off to a head start with its superb cliff-top position and views out to sea from 42 large family suites; most unusually, these suites can each accommodate up to two adults and four children. Childcare staff look after and amuse children of all ages. Everyday needs are all provided: a daily pint of milk, jars of baby food, changing room, hiring a baby- carrier, walker, baby bath, double buggy - you name it and they've thought of it. pounds 224- pounds 336 per person per week; child reductions.

WRINGFORD DOWN HOTEL, Cawsand,

nr Plymouth, Cornwall, tel: 0752 822287

An extended stone farmhouse offering B&B-quality accommodation with exceptional facilities for younger children. There are donkeys to ride, and an Angora rabbit and Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs. Hot swimming pool (open Apr-Nov) and an enormous play barn. Only guests with children are accepted; half-board terms during the main season (1993 prices pounds 170- pounds 210 per person per week; around pounds 30 per head for nightly terms out of season); under-5s accommodated free (meals paid for as taken), 5- to 10-year-olds half price. Rooms 12. No credit cards.

THE SOUTH COAST

DIG IN THE RIBS, 47 Preston Street, Brighton,

East Sussex, tel: 0273 325275

Clean, airy, informal, noisy and family-friendly this Tex-Mex restaurant has a children's menu including pictures to colour in. For the youngest customers there are plenty of high-chairs, free emergency nappies and changing facilities in the Ladies. If you would like them to 'warm up, sterilise, customise, liquidise or carry out some other childish wish', just ask. Sundays are particularly busy. Open 12-11.30pm (to 10.30pm Sun).

DUNNOSE COTTAGE, Luccombe Chine,

nr Shanklin, Isle of Wight, tel: 0983 862585

The road winds between Shanklin and Ventnor and on a sweeping left-hand bend is a sharp turn down a nar-

THE SOUTH - WEST

THE BATCOMBE INN, Batcombe,

nr Shepton Mallet, Somerset, tel: 0749 850359

The inn has been in the capable hands of Derek and Claire Blezard since February last year. A children's 'booty box' ( pounds 2.75) is a wonderful idea - a small sandwich, fruit slices, yoghurt, crisps and a chocolate bar; two high-chairs can be provided. A traditional three-course Sunday lunch is offered ( pounds 8.95). There's a large playroom, equipped with mini-trampoline, doll's house, drawing board, books, toys and video recorder with National Geographic films. Small rear garden for fine weather. If ever there was a pub worth a detour for families, this is it. Bar food 12-2pm, 7-10pm (to 9.30pm Sun). Free house.

THE BULSTONE HOTEL, Higher Bulstone,

Branscombe, nr Seaton, Devon, tel: 0297 80446

At the Bulstone you will find everything you might need on a family holiday. Twelve bedrooms (six en suite) are equipped with cots or extra beds, extra bedding in case of accidents, changing mats, tea-making facilities, baby-listening and nappy buckets, if required. Downstairs there is a playroom with toys and games, plus an enclosed outdoor play area. There are laundry facilities and a microwave, sink, refrigerator and bottle-steriliser in the guest utility room. Children take tea together at 4.45pm (set price pounds 3.50, under-2s free if parents are dining, similarly under-5s except during high season), parents dine later. No lunches. Closed mid Nov-mid Feb. No credit cards. pounds 60.50.

CARLYON BAY HOTEL, Sea Road, Carlyon,

nr St Austell, Cornwall, tel: 0726 812304

Set in 250 acres of sub-tropical gardens and grounds, the hotel enjoys superb views over the bay. Families are particularly well catered for, with good outdoor facilities and an indoor pool for youngsters. Under-2s stay free in their parents' room during low season (a small charge in high season); 2-8s are charged 25 per cent, 9-13s 50 per cent of adult rates. Summer entertainment for children ranges from bouncy castle to fancy-dress party magic shows. For the under-5s a child-minder can be arranged (at extra cost). Children's menu available from 5.30-6.30pm. pounds 122.

THE FALCON INN, St Mawgan,

Newquay, Cornwall, tel: 0637 860225

This 16th-century wisteria-clad inn is a haven for the discerning pub-goer. Splendid terraced garden (with climbing frame). Children are welcome in the dining room where they can choose from their own menu or enjoy smaller portions of adult fare.

THE GOAT HOUSE CAFE, Bristol Road,

Brent Knoll, Somerset, tel: 0278 760995

A couple of minutes' drive from Junction 22 of the M5 (stay on the A38 - don't turn off at the signpost to Brent Knoll). Don't be put off by the transport caff exterior - inside it's bright, airy and friendly. Your kids will be fascinated by their kids - around a dozen goats and offspring live in stables across the courtyard.

LEE COTTAGE, Lee Abbey,

Lynton, Devon, tel: 0598 52621

Follow the Lee Abbey road from Lynton towards Woody Bar and, although the road seems to stop at the Abbey, keep going until you find an enchanting cottage run by ladies from the Abbey Christian community. Visitors come to sit on the grass or at benches to taste Molly Foster's home-made teas. Half portions for children. No special family facilities, but a lovely setting in good weather. Open 11am-5pm. Closed Sun, mid Sept-mid May. No credit cards.

THE OTTER INN, Weston,

Honiton, Devon, tel: 0404 42594

Situated 400 yards off the busy A30, this much-extended 14th-century cottage is a popular refreshment stop. Children will relish the splendid riverside garden, which offers youngsters the chance to paddle safely. Animal enclosure. Bar Food 12-2pm, 6.30-10pm (Sun 7-9.30pm). Free house.

POLURRIAN HOTEL, Mullion,

Helston, Cornwall, tel: 0326 240421

Large, white cliff-top hotel with sheltered sandy cove 300 feet below. Children under 14 stay free in parents' room with meals 'as taken' charged for those over 6 years. Indoor children's playroom for under-7s - limited supervision on request; adventure playground in the garden. Baby-sitting is also available, as are baby baths, potties and nappies. At least a dozen high- chairs in the restaurant, but tea can be served in your room. Half-board terms only, plus self-catering family apartments. Rooms 40. Closed Nov-Mar. pounds 164.

SAUNTON SANDS HOTEL, Saunton,

North Devon, tel: 0271 890212

An ideal, family-oriented resort hotel. Five miles of golden sands stretch past the door. Children's facilities include a creche, play areas, cots, baby-sitting, baby-listening and high teas. No dogs. pounds 120.

TREVELGUE HOTEL, Porth,

nr Newquay, Cornwall, tel: 0637 872864

Egon Ronay's Ford Guide 1994's Family Hotel of the Year, the Trevelgue gets off to a head start with its superb cliff-top position and views out to sea from 42 large family suites; most unusually, these suites can each accommodate up to two adults and four children. Childcare staff look after and amuse children of all ages. Everyday needs are all provided: a daily pint of milk, jars of baby food, changing room, hiring a baby- carrier, walker, baby bath, double buggy - you name it and they've thought of it. pounds 224- pounds 336 per person per week; child reductions.

WRINGFORD DOWN HOTEL, Cawsand,

nr Plymouth, Cornwall, tel: 0752 822287

An extended stone farmhouse offering B&B-quality accommodation with exceptional facilities for younger children. There are donkeys to ride, and an Angora rabbit and Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs. Hot swimming pool (open Apr-Nov) and an enormous play barn. Only guests with children are accepted; half-board terms during the main season (1993 prices pounds 170- pounds 210 per person per week; around pounds 30 per head for nightly terms out of season); under-5s accommodated free (meals paid for as taken), 5- to 10-year-olds half price. Rooms 12. No credit cards.

THE SOUTH COAST

DIG IN THE RIBS, 47 Preston Street, Brighton,

East Sussex, tel: 0273 325275

Clean, airy, informal, noisy and family-friendly this Tex-Mex restaurant has a children's menu including pictures to colour in. For the youngest customers there are plenty of high-chairs, free emergency nappies and changing facilities in the Ladies. If you would like them to 'warm up, sterilise, customise, liquidise or carry out some other childish wish', just ask. Sundays are particularly busy. Open 12-11.30pm (to 10.30pm Sun).

DUNNOSE COTTAGE, Luccombe Chine,

nr Shanklin, Isle of Wight, tel: 0983 862585

The road winds between Shanklin and Ventnor and on a sweeping left-hand bend is a sharp turn down a narrow road to a hotel and tea room. Visitors can enjoy home-made snacks throughout the day; roast Sunday lunches available Sep-Easter ( pounds 8.50 three courses). Closed Mon Sep-Easter (exc bank holidays).

THE KNOLL HOUSE HOTEL, Studland Bay,

nr Swanage, Dorset, tel: 092 944 251

Run since 1959 by the Ferguson family. There's a large adventure playground with a pirate ship, indoor playrooms, family suites with interconnecting rooms and even a children's dining room. Supervised creche from 1-2pm for peaceful parents' lunches; picnic lunches are also provided. Baby-listening and sitting can be arranged, as can riding lessons for over-7s at nearby stables. Winner of Egon Ronay's 1991 Family Hotel of the Year award. Children are charged at a percentage of the adult rate. Closed Nov-Easter. Rooms 80. No credit cards. pounds 165.

THE SANDBANKS HOTEL, 15 Banks Road,

Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset, tel: 0202 707377

Attractive patio and garden lead straight on to the clean sandy beach. Complete holiday services include organised activities, a children's restaurant and a nursery with changing facilities; baby-sitting can be arranged. Special out-of-season two-day break half-board tariff. No dogs. Garden, indoor swimming pool, creche (daily during school holidays, full supervision during lunch 1-2), entertainers in the morning and 6-9pm in the ballroom, outdoor play area. Rooms 105. pounds 110.

SWALLOW HIGHCLIFF HOTEL, St Michael's Road,

West Cliff, Bournemouth, Dorset, tel: 0202 557702

An imposing, Victorian hotel with a splendid clifftop location and funicular lift to promenade. Eleven family rooms with cots; baby-sitting and baby-listening are available; supervised creche in summer (May-Oct from 10am-6pm - check before booking). Cots, baby baths and potties are all supplied and there's a fun pack for rainy days. Children under 14 share parents' room free of charge. Outdoor facilities include a fenced-in outdoor play area, heated swimming pool. pounds 120.

TOUCANS RESTAURANT AT DRUSILLAS ZOO,

Alfriston, East Sussex, tel: 0323 870234

Egon Ronay's Family Restaurant of the Year in 1991, it has a play corner, ample room for prams and push-

chairs, excellent nursing and changing areas and high- chairs galore. Baby meals can be ordered, bottles heated and jars warmed. Free car parking. Zoo open every day (10am -5pm in winter) except Christmas; under-3s free, 3-13s pounds 4.20, adults pounds 4.80.

SOUTH - EAST AND HOME COUNTIES

BLUBECKERS, The Mill House,

Odiham, Hampshire, tel: 0256 702953

Blubeckers is in a magnificent old mill house. Half of the restaurant is set aside for families. The children's menu is excellent value and features cocktails for youngsters. Children are invited to enter the menu-colouring and awful-joke contest. At one end of the room there is a 'dungeon' where children can escape to. Outside there is boating on the pond (supervision needed), a play area. This outlet of Blubeckers won Egon Ronay's Family Restaurant of the Year award in 1992. There are other Blubeckers at Church Square, Shepperton, Middlesex, tel: 0932 243377, and at the White Hart in Chobham, Surrey, tel: 0276 857580.

GOURMET PIZZA COMPANY, Horsham Road,

South Holmwood, near Dorking, Surrey,

tel: 0306 889712

The pizzas live up to the name. Six high-chairs, crayons at the table for colouring the kids' menu (child-size pizzas and pasta ribbons or twirls pounds 1.75- pounds 2.25); baby changing room. Children's parties. Purpose-built adventure playground and lawned, fenced garden outside. Ample parking.

HYTHE IMPERIAL HOTEL, Princes Parade,

Hythe, Kent, tel: 0303 267441

A large, family-run hotel set right on the seafront in 50 acres of grounds. Facilities include go-karting, a children's play area with Scalextric, a garden and a 45ft indoor swimming pool. Baby-sitting (by prior arrangement), baby-listening and creche facilities available on Saturday mornings (10am-1pm, plus additional times over Christmas and New Year). Families can eat informally in the leisure centre bistro. The Marston Minor Diner offers a full menu; puzzles and quizzes at meal times help keep the peace. pounds 117. Sunday Plus is an interesting idea - extend a weekend stay (keeping the use of your room) until 5pm on Sunday for a nominal charge ( pounds 10 in 1993) that includes Sunday lunch.

JEMIMA'S TEA ROOMS, The Green,

Finchingfield, Essex, tel: 0371 810605

The 900-year-old beamed cottage that houses Jemima's looks over the picturesque village green. Locally made ice creams, and cream teas at pounds 2.95. Eating outdoors in the summer. Unlicensed. Closed Mon & Fri Nov-Feb. No credit cards.

THE KNOWLE, School Lane, Higham,

nr Rochester, Kent, tel: 0474 822262

Set in three acres of secluded gardens, Lyn and Michael Baragwanath's large Victorian rectory is both an easy- going restaurant and family home. No special children's menu but the kitchen is very adaptable and will always find something to suit. Nursing mothers can always be found somewhere private, even if it's the Baragwanaths' own lounge. Four high-chairs are provided. Closed lunch on Sat, dinner on Sun and all Mon.

LONDON

BENIHANA, 100 Avenue Road,

Swiss Cottage, London NW3, tel: 071-586 9508

American-style Japanese teppanyaki griddle cooking in large and often lively basement surroundings. Great value weekday lunches and children's menu. Entertainment is provided on Sundays. Alcohol-free cocktails are always a big hit with children. The entrance is next to Hampstead Theatre. Closed Mondays.

CHICAGO PIZZA PIE FACTORY,

17 Hanover Square, London W1, tel: 071-629 2669

One of London's original American deep-base pizza restaurants. Watch out for the Wicked Witch of Chicago and the Pointed Pizza Bird who make regular appearances in the restaurant; children's entertainer Smarty Arty appears at 1pm, 2pm and 3pm. Children are given a Pizza Bird mask, button badge and balloon with which to go home. High-chairs, booster seats and nappy-changing facilities are all provided, as are crayons and paper for drawings to be entered into the CPPF Annual Art Show. Due to the success of Sunday Funday there may be two sittings (at noon and at 2pm).

GLAISTER'S GARDEN BISTRO, 4 Hollywood Road,

London SW10, tel: 071 352 0352

Good bistro fare; ask for half portions at half prices for youngsters. Younger children can be looked after in Nipper Snippers, a registered creche next door; it operates from 12.30-4.30 on Sunday only (except during the summer holiday period) and costs pounds 2.50. Older children can play with toys, Nintendo, paint or watch videos, while being offered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, biscuits and fruit juice. No high- chairs or changing facilities. Closed bank holidays, 2 weeks Christmas.

NEWTONS, 35 Abbeville Road,

Clapham Common, London SW4, tel: 081 673 0977

The Saturday Club Menu and the Sunday Brunch are the best value at a brasserie-style restaurant. Weekends are popular with kids when a special children's menu ( pounds 2.50: chips with sausage, burger or bacon nuggets; Smartie ice cream 95p) applies; a clown provides entertainment on Saturdays.

PJ'S GRILL, 30 Wellington Street,

London WC2, tel: 071-240 7529

Uncle PJ's Fun Club comes into action at weekends (from 11-4) at this American-style brasserie. A clown sets up shop with balloon bending, face-painting ( pounds 1.50 extra), indoor play equipment (bikes, slides), a box of Duplo and padded baby playrings. Standard menu of grills and popular dishes such as potato skins and pasta. Uncle PJ's Kiddies Menu ( pounds 3.95) offers a Kiddies Combo with peanut butter sandwichman, carrot and cucumber sticks, sour cream dip, raisins, shredded chargrilled chicken bits and a muesli bar. Drinks come in a Mickey Mouse cup with a bendy straw. High-chairs, crayons, colouring menu, jokes and balloons.

PLANET HOLLYWOOD, 13, Coventry Street,

London W1V, tel: 071-287 1000

A no-bookings policy operates and queues of sometimes up to 40 minutes (with a further wait in the first- floor bar) are a possible deterrent. Once inside, the loud music, flamboyant decor and fantastic collection of film memorabilia - including Rocky's motorcycle and the fin from Jaws - do much to compensate. There's also a sci-fi room and, in the basement, an alien grotto together with a 75-seater preview theatre. The food plays a secondary role, with a familiar mix of pizzas, pasta (from pounds 7.25), burgers (from pounds 6.75) and some Tex-Mex fare. 20 high-chairs and baby-changing facilities. Seats 400.

ROCK ISLAND DINER, 1, The London Pavilion,

Piccadilly Circus, London W1, tel: 071-287 5500

A gleaming '54 Chevrolet is suspended above diners at this wacky recreation of a Fifties American diner on the second floor of the London Pavilion. In-house DJ plays requests. Best suited to the over-5s; they may not serve 'the best burgers in town' but they certainly serve enough entertainment to keep a kid happy. Four high- chairs are provided, and there's room to leave a pushchair by the table cubicles or at the entrance under the watchful eye of the greeter. Between noon and 5pm at weekends a child under 10 eats free of charge if accompanied by a 'lunch-eating' adult.

WEST

BATH SPA HOTEL, Sydney Road,

Bath, Avon, tel: 0225 444424

One of Forte's finest hotels, with splendid health and leisure spa, this Georgian mansion stands in landscaped grounds. Bedrooms (many non-smoking) are individually decorated in great style; cots, connecting rooms, qualified baby-sitting (not listening), high-chairs - almost everything you need for baby or a young family can be supplied; 'do not be afraid to ask' for anything - but do state requests when booking. A state-registered nursery (for 16 children, 8.30-6 weekdays, 10-5 Sat, to 4 Sun) has recently opened in the grounds. High tea is served from 6-7pm at weekends in the dining room (or via room service). pounds 183.

BROWNS RESTAURANT AND BAR,

38 Queen's Road, Bristol, Avon, tel: 0272 304777

Housed in the former University Refectory building, the fourth in the chain of American-style brasseries has been an instant hit. All-day diners choose from pasta, burgers, chargrilled chicken and puddings from pecan to chocolate mousse cake. Children's menu of popular favourites and smaller portions of adult menu on request. Twelve high-chairs and a large mothers' changing area in one of the Ladies (shelf and wipes provided). The Oxford and Cambridge branches of Browns (there is a third in Brighton) are winners of this year's Egon Ronay's . . . And Baby Comes Too Family Restaurants of the Year award.

CAFE PREMIERE, 59 Apsley Road,

Clifton, Bristol, Avon, tel: 0272 734892

The Narimani family's all-day cafe projects a cosmopolitan air, with its pavement tables. Care is well taken of families a half-floor below, with high-chairs and a booster seat, plastic cutlery and beakers all provided. The children's menu departs from the run-of-the-mill with pasta 'wiggly woos' and kids' breakfast with boiled egg and soldiers ( pounds 3.95), inciting jealousy among the adults. Changing mat and emergency nappies in the Ladies.

EVESHAM HOTEL, Cooper's Lane,

Evesham, Worcestershire, tel: 0386 765566

A largely Georgian hotel in secluded grounds, run by the Jenkinson family for 18 years. Humour breaks out all over the place, from the 'seaside postcard' mural by the pool to the public loos that include a portable radio. 'Well-behaved youngsters are as welcome as well-behaved grown-ups' according to the 'junior a la carte' that also requests no pipes, cigars or bubble gum in the restaurant, and there are board games and other amusements, including an outdoor play area. Baby-listening and sitting available (by arrangement) plus cots and extra beds, with children charged at pounds 1.50 per year of age. Dogs welcome. pounds 92.

FRESH GROUNDS, Raglan House,

17 Broad Street, Ross-on-Wye, Hereford

and Worcester, tel: 0989 768289

A Queen Anne town house is home to Norma Snook's refined coffee shop/restaurant. There's plenty for just-a-biters throughout the day, cream teas and lunches. Friday and Saturday evenings (7-9) there's a fixed-price dinner menu at pounds 15.25 (four-courses). Seven en suite letting bedrooms (not inspected).

THE LAMB, Great Rissington,

Gloucestershire, tel: 0451 820388

The oldest part of the Lamb dates back nearly 300 years. In the restaurant, everything on the menu is home-made; fish fingers or baked beans on toast can usually be found for children with a hankering for familiar foods. Several high-chairs are provided. Winner of Egon Ronay's 1994 Pub of the Year award. Free House. Accommodation 13 bedrooms, all en suite, pounds 48 (fourposter pounds 55, suite pounds 72, 2-room family pounds 76, single pounds 30). Children welcome overnight (under-5s free if sharing parents' room), additional beds ( pounds 10.50), cots available ( pounds 3.50).

OLD BLACK LION, 26 Lion Street,

Hay-on-Wye, Hereford & Worcs, tel: 0497 820841

That it may be strangled these days by its own success should not reflect unkindly on the unstinting efforts by John and Joan Collins. Restaurant reservations give due preference to residents, and booking for tables in the bar is advised. Be prepared to wait, nevertheless. Bedrooms of 17th-century origin render the Black Lion famous. Families particularly enjoy the Cromwell Room with its gallery and two additional beds. The whole pub is candle-lit at night. Children are allowed in the bar to eat. Free House. Accommodation 10 bedrooms, 9 en suite, pounds 40 (single pounds 18.95). Children welcome overnight (under-12s pounds 12.50, over-12s pounds 13.50).

THE OLD LADY TEA SHOP, 1 Threadneedle Street,

Stroud, Gloucestershire, tel:0453 762441

The Walker family have owned the bakery below this pleasant first-floor tea shop for over 30 years. There's a small menu of light snacks and a good choice of cakes. Open 9.30-4.30 (Mon & Thu to 4). Closed Sun, bank holidays. No credit cards.

POLLY TEA ROOMS, 26 High Street,

Marlborough, Wiltshire, tel: 0672 512146

Mouthwatering display of wonderful gateaux at the entrance, and much more inside. Set afternoon teas include the Polly Tea (three scones pounds 3.75) and Special Gateaux Tea. Children's portions. Closed Christmas, and the second and third Fri & Sat in Oct.

WOOLLEY GRANGE HOTEL, Woolley Green,

Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, tel: 0225 864705

It's difficult not to fall under the spell of Woolley Grange. Partly it's the charming 17th-century manor house, but it's also to do with the unstuffy atmosphere created by Nigel and Heather Chapman and their friendly young staff. Bedrooms vary considerably in size. Ideal for families, the old Coach House has become 'Woolley Bear's Den' with full-time nanny (10am- 6pm) and large games room; both early children's lunch (at noon) and high tea (5pm) are served in the nursery ( pounds 5 per head). High-chairs, children's cutlery, baby baths, baby-listening and sitting (by arrangement) available on request. Woolley Grange won our Family Hotel of the Year award in 1992 - it's very suitable for parents who want to stay in a civilised, adult hotel with under-8s. Rooms 20. pounds 130.

EAST ANGLIA

ANGEL INN, Market Place,

Lavenham, Suffolk, , tel: 0787 247388

First licensed in 1420, the Angel bar has been opened up, with half set up for eating and the other well supplied with board games, playing cards and shelves of books. Bedrooms are all en suite and full of character. Children are made welcome with high-chairs, free cots and Z-beds, and resident youngsters can be provided with beans on toast or something similar; all children can have small portions of suitable menu items. Accommodation pounds 45 (single pounds 37.50).

BLAKENEY HOTEL, The Quay,

Blakeney, nr Holt, Norfolk, tel: 0263 740797

A family-owned hotel on the quayside overlooking the National Trust harbour, with fine views across the salt marshes towards Blakeney Point. Children under 16 sharing with two people paying full tariff are charged at pounds 5 per night; pounds 10 per day for an adjacent bunk room. Parents are expected 'to ensure their children do not spoil the enjoyment of other guests'. Children's high tea is served in the restaurant or in the bedrooms; A baby-sitter may be available if arranged in advance. Large enclosed garden, swimming pool. One-night bookings not normally accepted on Fri or Sat nights (or bank holiday periods). pounds 112.

HOBBS PAVILION, Park Terrace,

Cambridge, tel: 0223 67480

Owners Stephen and Susan Hill offer eminently sensible advice on the menu about children's behaviour (see introduction above). A menu enfant offers a bacon sandwich, ice cream with flake and glass of Orangina. Twitchy toddlers can play outside on the grass while parents wait for their meal on the pavilion steps. Parking may not be easy and there are no changing facilities, but the food is the obvious draw. There are usually children in the restaurant on most nights; nevertheless, lunchtime is the best time for youngsters. Closed Sun, Mon, Bank Holidays, mid Aug-mid Sept. No credit cards.

NORWICH SPORT VILLAGE HOTEL,

Dayton High Road, Hellesdon, Norwich,

Norfolk, tel: 0603 788898

Practical, roomy bedrooms are at the centre of a very extensive sports complex. All the rooms have en-suite facilities. Children up to 14 share parents' room free. The Aquapark swimming complex includes a shallow, warm playpool with two slides and rapids and a paddling pool for toddlers. There's a soft play area for the very young. All the rooms are suitable for families; cots, potties, nappies, high-chairs and baby food can be provided; supervised creche for six hours a week. No dogs. Dinosaur Park (open mid Apr-Nov) is 9 miles away on the A1067 Fakenham road. pounds 65.

OLD WAREHOUSE, The Quay,

Orford, Suffolk, tel: 0394 450210

Fine old warehouse on Orford Quay, with tea rooms on the ground floor offering tasty home-prepared food: Stilton soup, Welsh rarebit, potted shrimps, quiche, spaghetti bolognese. On Sunday comes a roast beef lunch with all the trimmings and a drink. Two high-chairs. Open 10-6 (in winter 10-5 Sat & Sun only).

ORMESBY LODGE, Decoy Road, Ormesby

St Margaret, Gt Yarmouth, Norfolk, tel: 0493 730910

A small family-run hotel near several beaches. Bedrooms all have private bathroom facilities. pounds 46.

THE SHIP INN, St James Street,

Dunwich, Suffolk, tel: 0728 73219

Old smugglers' inn overlooking the salt marshes and sea. Simple homely bedrooms, no televisions. Good simple food in generous portions, too: the restaurant menu applies throughout the pub in the evenings; bar meals menu lunchtime only. Very secure garden surrounded by a hedge. Children allowed in the pub to eat. Accommodation pounds 50 (single pounds 20). Additional beds ( pounds 15), cots supplied. No credit cards.

WEAVERS WINE BAR AND EATING HOUSE,

Market Hill, Diss, Norfolk, tel: 0379 642411

Restaurant in what was a chapel for the Guild of Weavers nearly 500 years ago. The lunchtime menu depends on what's in season. More elaborate evening a la carte menu. Children's portions; high-chairs, booster seats, children's cutlery. Closed L Sat, all Sun, bank holidays, 6 days Christmas, last week Aug. WINDMILL TEA ROOM, Great Bircham,

nr King's Lynn, Norfolk, tel: 0483 23393

After a visit to the mill and bakery museum, Gina Wagg's set teas are very popular. At lunchtime, a few savoury snacks available. Baby-changing facilities.

Bicycles can be hired and there's an outdoor children's play area (for under-7s) with a small swing, Wendy house and boat. Open 10-6. Closed Sat, also end Sept-Easter. No credit cards.

MIDLANDS

ANNIE'S TEA ROOMS, 79 High Street,

Wallingford, Oxfordshire, tel: 0491 836308

Jean Rowlands's tea room is a cosy, relaxed little place. Home baking available all day, and at lunchtime there are open sandwiches, jacket potatoes and a hot dish of the day. One high-chair. Closed Sun (in winter) & Wed. No credit cards.

BRETHREN'S KITCHEN, Lord Leycester Hospital,

Warwick, tel: 0926 492797

The menu is short and simple. Oaken oatcakes and Leycester's loaf are specialities. Children's menu ( pounds 2) offers beans or spaghetti shapes on toast, mousse or ice cream and a small glass of squash or lemonade; one high-chair. Lavatories can be used for changing baby. Closed Mon and from end Oct-1 week before Easter. No credit cards.

CHUNG YING, 16-18 Wrottesley Street,

Birmingham, West Midlands, tel: 021-622 5669

The Chinese flock to this well-established, traditionally appointed restaurant with long Cantonese menu. Family dining is encouraged by the provision of at least 10 high-chairs, although the tables are tightly packed.

OLDE COACH HOUSE INN, Ashby St Ledgers,

nr Rugby, Warwickshire, tel: 0788 890349

Three miles from Junction 18 of the M1, Ashby St Ledgers is a tiny protected village with 12th-century church. The imposing ivy-clad exterior of the Olde Coach House Inn is deceptive. There is a bar, a food buffet and an elevated, beamed dining area beyond. The stable yard makes a safe, enclosed area for bored youngsters to explore. Daily kitchen specials are available, and there is a children's menu. Free house. Garden, outdoor eating, summer barbecue. Family room. Accommodation from pounds 46 (single pounds 39). Additional beds and cots available.

RAM JAM INN, Great North Road, Stretton,

Oakham, Leicestershire, tel: 0780 410776

Hard by a service station nine miles north of Stamford on the northbound lane of the A1, this provides a comforting respite from the usual commercial hotels and fast food outlets along the motorway. The bedrooms overlooking the garden and orchard are surprisingly quiet. Popular, quick snacks include home-made burgers and giant granary baps; children's favourites include spaghetti on toast, fish fingers, egg and chips and chicken fingers. More substantial fare also available. Outdoor terrace for snacking in good weather. Two high-chairs and booster seats; pull-down changing shelf in Ladies. Rooms 10. pounds 59.

THE WOBBLY WHEEL, Warwick Road,

Warmington, Banbury, Oxfordshire, tel: 0295 89214

Family entertainment pub, on the B4100 between junctions 10 and 11 of the M40. Set in its own garden and play area, the 'Jungle Bungle' is a self-contained fun-house (admission pounds 1) for all who can pass beneath the gorilla's outstretched palm. Food from the 'Millers Kitchen' pub next door is ground out by the barrow-load - hardly a gourmet destination. Fifteen new bedrooms look out over open country. Children's menu and portions available. Garden, outdoor playing area. Family room. Accommodation pounds 47.95 (single pounds 42.95). Additional beds and cots available (both pounds 5).

YORKSHIRE AND DERBYSHIRE

ASHBOURNE GINGERBREAD SHOP, 26 St John

Street, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, tel: 0335 343227

Gingerbread men (65p plain, 75p chocolate) head the parade of home baking. Staunch support is provided by scones and teacakes, ginger slab cake (50p) and biscuits, fresh cream cakes and hot Bakewell tarts and puddings. No credit cards.

GRANGE PARK HOTEL, Main Street, Willerby,

nr Hull, Humberside, tel: 0482 656488

Adjacent to the A164 and Willerby Shopping Park, Grange Park is a much-extended Victorian house standing in 12 acres of grounds. Families are quite well catered for with a children's playground and (limited) creche arrangements; children up to 10 stay free in parents' room. Cots, baby-listening baby-sitting can be arranged. Children's menu. Garden, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium. pounds 87.

MAGPIE CAFE, 14 Pier Road, Whitby,

North Yorkshire, tel: 0947 602058

Five set menus at lunchtime, vegetarian meals are always available and there's a children's menu at pounds 2.95. Closed 3rd week Nov-1st week Mar.

RANDELL'S HOTEL, Keighley Road, Snaygill,

Skipton, North Yorkshire, tel: 0756 700100

A purpose-built hotel, just south of the town centre, standing by the Trans-Pennine Waterway. Well-

equipped leisure centre with splendid facilities for over-7s, as well as a baby pool. The hotel's Playzone supervised nursery/creche for under-7s is equipped with cable toys, games, house corner and paints.

Babies can rest in a separate quiet room. Children's menu, beakers and cutlery are provided; there are 10 high-chairs, booster seats and changing facilities. Children up to 16 stay free in parents' room. Seven to 14-year-olds have free membership of the Young Adventurers club ('for fun and frolics') every Saturday and during school holidays. pounds 78.

SALVO'S PIZZERIA, 115 Otley Road, Headingley,

Leeds, West Yorkshire, tel: 0532 755017

Wide range of pasta dishes and other savouries. Reservations accepted for lunch only. Open 12-2pm & 5.30-11pm. Closed Sun and Bank Holiday Mondays.

STAR INN, Harome, nr Helmsley,

North Yorkshire, tel: 0439 70397

The Star is a little gem of a pub. Originally a 14th-century long house, the single thatched building is picture-postcard pretty outside and no less delightful within. Magazines, a box of Lego and other toys for customers not yet of reading age. The menu has something to suit most appetites and tastes from sandwiches to Gressingham duck in port, black cherry and cream sauce. Winner of our Family Pub of the Year award last year. Bar Food every day. Restaurant meals 7-9pm (except Sun-Wed). Garden, outdoor eating. Family room. Pub closed lunchtime on Monday.

THE STRAND BISTRO, Dale Road, Matlock,

Derbyshire, tel: 0629 584444

During the day, the menu offers a variety of light, inexpensive dishes with 10 daily specials. Children's portions available on request; special lunch dish ( pounds 2.25) for under-12s. Two high-chairs; large Ladies loo. Only well supervised children in the evening. Closed Sun, Mon (winter only).

TAYLOR'S TEA ROOMS AND COFFEE SHOP,

46 Stonegate, York, tel: 0904 622865

Quintessential tea rooms, part of the estimable Bettys group (other branches in North Allerton, Harrogate and Ilkley), at the top of steep stairs in a listed city-centre building. Children's menu for under-12s offers half portions plus Welsh rarebit, omelettes and breakfasty items. Preservative- and additive-free foods for small babies are offered; they are happy to heat up milk as well. Three high-chairs, beakers and bibs provided; changing facility and nappies are available for emergencies.

VIKING HOTEL, North Street, York,

North Yorkshire, tel: 0904 659822

Leisure facilities include a well-equipped, supervised gymnasium. Handily placed for the Jorvik Viking Centre and the Waxwork Museum. Most of the spacious double rooms will accommodate a cot or extra bed; seven suites serve larger families. The restaurant offers high-chairs, a children's menu and portions. pounds 113.

THE NORTH-WEST

BRYSON'S TEA ROOM, 42 Main Street, Keswick,

Cumbria, tel: 076 8772257

At teatime you can choose either the Cumberland Farmhouse Afternoon Tea or the Lakeland Cream Tea. Children's portions; one high-chair. Closed Sundays.

DALMENY HOTEL, 19 South Promenade,

Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, tel: 0253 712236

For much of the year there are daily events and amusements laid on for children and a well-equipped playroom becomes a creche. Simply-decorated bedrooms, many with extra beds (some are family suites) and most with kitchenette. Baby-sitting/listening, cots, high-

chairs, children's menu, high tea, colouring pads and crayons provided. Separate restaurant. pounds 68.

FRANCS, 14 Cuppin Street, Chester,

Cheshire, tel: 0244 317952

Sundays are family days when part of the first floor is given over to a play and dining area for children (four-course set menu pounds 7.95, baby meals free) and under-10s eat free with an adult; reservations recommended. Six high-chairs, changing facilities.

THE GRAPEVINE, 22 Fisher Street, Carlisle,

Cumbria, tel: 0228 46617

Two evenings a month there's a bookable, eat-as-

much-as you like, hot and cold buffet at pounds 7.75. Two high-chairs. Upstairs, under the same ownership, is a fully fledged creche/nursery (with changing facilities) where they will look after the little ones while you eat. Closed Sun, Easter Bank Holiday. No credit cards.

HARRY RAMSDEN'S, Water Street, Manchester,

Greater Manchester, tel: 061-832 9144

Purpose-built outpost of the Guiseley original. Children under 12 get their own menu to colour (fish or chicken nugget dishes around pounds 2.95 including bread and butter, soft drink and ice cream), and there are 12 high-chairs and a separate baby-changing room. Room for pushchair storage. Also at Blackpool, Gateshead, Glasgow, Guiseley and Heathrow Airport.

HUDSON'S COFFEE SHOP, Treasury Court,

Fisher Street, Carlisle, Cumbria, tel: 0228 47733

There's a children's menu, high-chairs, mother and baby room, and toys. The waitress service extends to the courtyard outside on fine days. The Ladies is equipped with a changing bench and a bin for nappies and a courtyard provides space for playing. Closed Sun, Bank Holidays (except Good Friday).

THE OLD CHURCH HOTEL, Watermillock,

Ullswater, Cumbria, tel: 076-84 86204

A stylish water's-edge hotel (on the A592). Children's cutlery, playpen, high-chair and steam bottle steriliser are all provided. Closed Nov-Mar. In the restaurant, children's teas and early suppers with 'wholesome' food will be accommodated - just ask. pounds 90.

PEMBROKE HOTEL, North Promenade, Blackpool,

Lancashire, tel: 0253 23434

In the main holiday season families are well catered for, with a playroom, baby-sitting and a supervised creche. Indoor equipment keeps the children amused when they are not taking part in competitions, swimming galas and discos. Children's tea includes out-of-this-

world choices like solar soup, orbital omelette and transformer trifle. Youngsters can also join their parents for small portions in the restaurant, poolside snack bar or carvery. The best family rooms have an alcove with fold-down bunk beds, plus scope for a cot. There's a separate games room and bedrooms are equipped with video machines. pounds 129.

VICTORIA AND ALBERT HOTEL, CAFE MAIGRET,

Water Street, Manchester, tel: 061-832 1188

Baby food or bottles will be warmed and the separate Ladies powder room is large enough for keeping the little one in good order. A vacant bedroom or a quiet corner of the private lounge will be offered for nursing - just ask. Four high-chairs and small cutlery.

WORDSWORTH HOTEL, Grasmere,

Ambleside, Cumbria, tel: 05394 35592

Centrally located in Grasmere village, the Wordsworth's many rooms are suitable for family use (cots pounds 10, extra beds pounds 18), and baby-sitting and baby-listening are available; there's also a children's menu (they're not too proud to offer 'tinned spaghetti' or 'frozen peas') for high-tea in the Drawing Room; high-chairs are provided. Separate restaurant. pounds 100.

THE NORTH-EAST

BISHOP FIELD HOTEL, Allendale,

nr Hexham, Northumberland, tel: 0434 683248

Children are very welcome and although there are not a lot of facilities for them (except a high-chair), the friendly attitude of owners and staff goes a long way to making a family stay a happy one. One of the bedrooms has three extra beds and a cot. High tea is available or small portions in the dining room. Baby sitting can be arranged. pounds 76, children up to 10 stay free in parents' room. Closed Feb & Mar.

CASTAWAYS ANTIQUE AND TEASHOP,

32 Collywell Bay Road, Seaton Sluice,

Tyne and Wear, tel: 091-237 4548

A selection of home-made sweets and savouries. A very well-known place, and very popular in the area. One high-chair, four booster seats; 'bathroom facilities'. Closed Mon, Tues, 4 weeks Christmas. No credit cards.

CRATHORNE HALL, Crathorne,

nr Yarm, Cleveland, tel: 0642 700398

Set in 15 acres of grounds not far from the village centre and a short distance from the A19. Knoll sofas and buttoned leather Queen Anne style armchairs form part of the comfortable and very traditional decor. It may sound rather grand, but families are warmly welcomed with many home essentials available on request - baby bath, hooded baby towels, changing mat, bottle warmer, toilet seats and steps, travel cots and quilts, and wooden cots with bumpers. Baby-changing facilities in the Ladies. Young guests under the age of 12 receive the Virgin Airline's Kiddies Pack and a comic along with their parents' daily newspaper. pounds 110, under-14s share parents' room free of charge.

MARKS AND SPENCER GARDEN RESTAURANT,

Unit 46, Metro Centre,

Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, tel: 091-493 2222

Bright, smart and spotless in-store restaurant - the only one in the country. A cooked breakfast is served; children's menu and small portions; ten high-chairs. No smoking. Seats 252. Open 10am-6pm, Thurs to 7pm, Sat 9am-5pm (Nov & Dec to 8pm). Closed Sun, 25 & 26 Dec. No credit cards.

STATION HOUSE HOTEL AND RESTAURANT,

High Shincliffe, Durham, tel: 091-384 6906

Booking essential for fixed-price Sunday lunch. 'Each child is catered for individually on request.' Garden table in fine weather. No credit cards.

VILLAGE GIFT AND COFFEE SHOP, West Tower,

58 Northumberland Street,

Alnmouth, Northumberland, tel: 0665 830310

Afternoon tea is excellent value - ice-cream specials (including children's at pounds 1) from a soft-freeze dispenser. Some children's specials; booster seats and beakers. Unlicensed. Closed Mon (winter only, also some Tues/

Wed in bad weather).

WALES

BLACK LION, Abergorlech,

nr Carmarthen, Dyfed, tel: 0558 685271

At the heart of one of Wales' best-kept villages, the white-painted Black Lion stands between a tiny stone chapel and Gothi River bridge. A scenic garden with picnic tables features summer barbecues. Children welcome in the restaurant (not the bar). Pub open 11am- 11pm Mon-Sat in summer, unusual hours Sun. Bar food & restaurant meals 12-2.30pm, 7-9.30pm. Free house. Riverside garden, outdoor eating. Family room.

THE CAPTAIN'S WIFE, Beach Road, Swanbridge,

nr Penarth, South Glamorgan, tel: 0222 530066

Reputedly haunted by the 'Captain's Wife', popular with families, it has an extensive play area with pirate ship, a safe rear courtyard and seating right on the sea wall overlooking Sully Island. Smugglers Haunt char- grill dining-room; family Sunday lunches in Mariners Restaurant. Pub open all day Mon-Fri in summer; all day Sat all year, Sun usual hours. Free house.

CENTRE FOR ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGY,

Pantperthog, Machynlleth, Powys, tel: 0654 702400

A co-operative-run vegetarian restaurant and coffee house that forms part of a fascinating complex at the forefront of alternative technology. It's three miles north of Machynlleth, just off the A487 to Dolgellau. The busy summer season offers tempting cakes, a salad bar, vegetarian snacks and hot foods. Always a vegan choice and plenty of local organic produce. Picnic area, children's adventure play area and changing facilities in both Gents and Ladies. No smoking. Open 10am- 5pm (summer to 6pm), 11am-3pm Nov-Mar. Closed Dec-Easter except for group bookings. No credit cards.

DINORBEN ARMS, Bodfari,

nr Denbigh, Clwyd, tel: 0745 710309

You'll find the 17th century Dinorben Arms off the A541, taking the B5429 and sign to Tremeirchion, on a hill in the village below the church. Lunchtimes concentrate on the smorgasbord ( pounds 7.50) and in the evenings cold starters and sweets are mostly served buffet-style in the Well Bar. Families are well-catered for in their own room and on tiered patios. At the top of the extensive gardens is a children's adventure play area. High- chairs are provided and there's a changing table in the spacious Ladies. Free house. Family room.

DROVER'S REST, Llanwrtyd Wells,

Powys, tel: 059-13 264

Nestling by the Irfon river bridge at the heart of Wales's smallest town (population 600) is Peter James's delectable cafe. Family Sunday lunches ( pounds 7.50) and gourmet dinners at weekends. Open 9.30am-5pm (Sun 10am), also Fri-Sun 7-10.30pm. No credit cards.

HIVE ON THE QUAY, Cadwgan Place, Aberaeron,

Dyfed, tel: 0545 570445

Fourteen years continuous Egon Ronay's Just a Bite Guide stardom says sufficient about this flawless summertime cafe which includes a unique honey-bee exhibition. With its quayside conservatory, there's much to be enjoyed from chicken and leek soup ( pounds 1.30) to local lobster. All day there is bara brith and honey spice- cake and banana sandwiches for little ones. Licence with full meals only. Two high-chairs and a safe courtyard; children may be fascinated by the exhibition (admission fee charged, open 11-1 & 2-5 from 22 May-mid Sept) with its observation hives and instructive video. Open 10.30am-5pm (Jul, Aug to 9.30pm). Closed 1 Oct-Spring Bank Holiday.

LLANWENARTH ARMS HOTEL, Brecon Road,

Abergavenny, Gwent, tel: 0873 810550

A roadside inn (on the A40) some three miles west of Abergavenny, standing on an escarpment above the Usk valley. Chef/landlord D'Arcy McGregor makes full use of local produce to provide snacks and hearty meals, served throughout the two bars, family dining area and summer terrace. Residents enjoy the use of their own lounge and a Victorian-style conservatory furnished with comfortable cane furniture. Bedrooms are attractively furnished with TVs, telephones, trouser presses and hairdryers; bathrooms also have over- bath showers and ample supplies of toiletries. High- chairs, children's menu and portions. Bar food and restaurant meals 12-2pm (Sun to 1.30pm), 6-9pm (Sun 7-9.30pm). Free house. Eighteen bedrooms, all en suite, pounds 59 (single pounds 49). Under-16s half price, additional beds and cots supplied. No dogs.

PORTH TOCYN HOTEL, Abersoch,

Gwynedd, tel: 0758 713303

Once a row of lead-miners' cottages, the hotel stands high above Cardigan Bay, about 2 1/2 miles south of Abersoch. A sitting room with TV, videos, toys and games is set aside for children, who stay free in parents' rooms. Youngsters can play in the 25 acres of grounds. Riding stables are nearby. Rooms 17. Garden, outdoor swimming pool, tennis. Closed mid Nov- week before Easter. pounds 94.

ST TUDNO HOTEL, The Promenade, Llandudno,

Gwynedd, tel: 0492 874411

The bar/lounge and sitting room (reserved for non- smokers) are Victorian in style, in contrast to a bright coffee lounge. High tea in the coffee lounge, where high-chairs are provided. In 1861 Alice Liddell, later to be immortalised in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, spent a holiday here. Limited parking. Rooms 21. Patio, indooor swimming pool. pounds 104.

WEST ARMS HOTEL, Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog,

nr Llangollen, Clwyd, tel: 069176 665

A haven of cosy comfort. The Wayfarers' Bar, serving snacks, has an adjacent family lounge and patio. High-chairs and changing mat provided. Open 11am- 11pm Mon-Sat, regular hours Sun. Bar food and restaurant meals. Children allowed en suite, from pounds 78 (single from pounds 49), additional bed and cots available. Dogs welcome. Hotel closed last week Jan and first two weeks Feb.

SCOTLAND

BRIDGE INN, 27 Baird Road, Ratho,

Lothian, tel: 031-333 1320

Starting life as a farmhouse and becoming a hostelry when the Union Canal was built alongside, the Bridge Inn fell into decline and was almost derelict when taken over by Ronnie Rusack 22 years ago. Now, he runs two restaurant barges, specially adapted barges for the disabled, a boat for pleasure trips and other craft for hourly hire (picnic hampers can be provided). Inside, one can choose from the family-oriented Pop Inn's informal menu throughout the day or from the a la carte menu, served lunchtimes and evenings in the bar. There's an 'adult-powered' carousel on the patio, a 'pirate-boat' play area in the grounds, baby- changing and nursing facilities and plenty of high- chairs and booster seats. Bar food noon-9.30pm. Restaurant meals 12-2.30pm, 6.30-9.30pm.

CEILIDH PLACE, 14 West Argyll Street, Ullapool,

Highland, tel: 0854 612103

Located 200 yards from Loch Broom, this is a celebrated community centre. Three cottages were knocked into one to create it. Bookshop, arts centre, coffee shop, evening restaurant and theatre, music and poetry venue. Ten rooms now have en suite facilities. Eleven additional rooms in a separate building across the street offer more spartan, budget accommodation with shared facilities (not really suitable for families). Food includes sandwiches ( pounds 1.50), salads (85p), wholemeal scones (60p) and cakes, widening at lunchtime and in the evening to include soup ( pounds 1.25), lasagne, vegetable crumbles, even mince and tatties (from pounds 5); children's portions and high-chairs are provided. There's a terrace for open-air snacking, and a no-smoking area. Rooms 13. Coffee shop (9.30am- 9pm), children's play area. Closed 2 weeks in Jan. pounds 90.

CRIEFF HYDRO, Crieff, Tayside, tel: 0764 655555

A family hotel par excellence with an impressive range of leisure activities - from indoor cinemas and table- tennis room to outdoor riding school and golf course. Family suites, baby-listening and cots; nine two-storey family chalets are in the woods behind. Breakfast, lunch and supper for the under-10s are taken in the nursery, adjoining a playroom. Young children might particularly enjoy the adventure playground and the children's swiming pool with chute; children's nursery (for over-3s only) during meal times. Special teenage activities weeks in July. Table licence only, no bar. Rooms 199. pounds 104.

CRIFFEL INN, 2 The Square, New Abbey,

Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway, tel: 038 785 305

The McCullochs are the most welcoming of hosts at their solid Victorian pub, located five miles from the coast. Children's menu and two high-chairs are provided. There is a three-course roast lunch on Sunday. No smoking in the lounge. Bar food 12-2pm, 4.30- 7pm. Free house. Five bedrooms, 2 en suite, pounds 44 (single pounds 22). Additional beds and cots available.

THE ENGINE SHED CAFE, 19 St Leonard's Lane,

Edinburgh, Lothian, tel: 031-662 0040

Vegetarian cafe; children are made particularly welcome and they love the tofu whips. There are high- chairs, beakers, good changing facilities and a lift for buggies. Unlicensed. No smoking. Open 10.30am- 3pm. Closed Sat, Sun, one week Christmas, one week Easter, two weeks summer. No credit cards.

FARLEYER HOUSE HOTEL, Aberfeldy,

Perthshire, tel: 0887 820332

Originally a 16th-century croft and later dowerhouse to nearby Menzies Castle, Farleyer House Hotel enjoys a fine position overlooking the Tay valley, to the west of the town on the B846. Make for the Scottish Bistro, open for lunch and supper, with its menu that runs from Swiss potato-cake and bacon ( pounds 2.95) and egg mousse with prawn salad to gratin of stuffed fennel ( pounds 5.50). Ice-creams, sorbets, hot chocolate pudding and old-fashioned lemon tart feature among the puddings ( pounds 3- pounds 3.25). No-smoking area. Seats 52. Open 10am-2pm and 6-9.30pm. pounds 60 per person.

NARDINI'S, The Esplanade, Largs,

Strathclyde, tel: 0475 67455

Huge room with gold-painted wicker chairs and waiters and waitresses in smart red waistcoats. The Nardini's award-winning, ice-ream comes in 48 flavours while the bakery provides the sandwiches, pizzas and a wide range of patisserie. Breakfasts are served until 11am, a separate restaurant offers a wide range of Italian and other dishes - locally landed fish are a speciality - and a confectionery shop in the foyer boasts luxury chocolates. The children's menus for lunch and high tea are unusually extensive, and the special Sunday family lunch comes at a reduced price for under-12s and is free for under-5s. There's a special Junior Choice section on the cafe menu 'for discerning under-12s only', numerous high-chairs and baby-changing facilities. Open 8am-10.30pm (in winter to 9pm, weekdays only). Closed 25 Dec.

OLD LIBRARY LODGE AND RESTAURANT, Arisaig,

Highland, tel: 068-75 651

This is a 200-year-old stable converted into a restaurant and guest house, in an area of great natural beauty. Fine views over Loch Nan Ceall and the Inner Hebrides. Lunchtime is snacking, from a menu typified by mussel and lentil soup with home-baked bread ( pounds 1.60), fresh Mallaig cod with mushrooms ( pounds 4.95). The evening table d'hote menu is more expensive. There are tables on the patio and high-chairs are available. Closed end Oct-week before Easter.

RAEMOIR HOUSE HOTEL, Raemoir,

Banchory, Kincardineshire, tel: 0330 824884

Two and a half miles north of Banchory on the A980, this is an 18th-century mansion set in a 3,500-acre estate. Rich red brocade chairs, panelled walls and antiques enhance the traditional look of the morning room. Six rooms are in the 16th-century Ha'hoose; there are five self-catering apartments converted from the original coach-house and stables. Bar and picnic lunches plus informal family eating in the music room or private sitting room. Very much a family hotel, with nearly all mother and baby's requirements provided - from potties and baby baths to baby-listening and laundry. Rooms 25. Closed 1 week Jan. pounds 110.

WILLOW TEA ROOM, 217 Sauchiehall Street,

Glasgow, Strathclyde, tel: 041-332 0521

Immaculately restored from the 1904 original Charles Rennie Mackintosh art deco design. Old-fashioned cream teas ( pounds 5) are served all day, as are scones, locally baked cakes and light meals. Typical daily specials could include cauliflower cheese, steak pie and mushroom-stuffed haggis. Excellent selection of teas and coffee. Children's options include spaghetti hoops on toast, macaroni and sausage and beans (all pounds 1). Two high-chairs, but no changing facilities. Open 9.30am-4.30pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards.

UBIQUITOUS CHIP, 12 Ashton Lane, Glasgow,

Strathclyde, tel 041-334 5007

This popular bar above the more formal restaurant offers a daily-amended menu to excite even the most jaded palate. A balcony with tables overlooks the restaurant courtyard. Children's portions. Saturdays are particularly popular with families. Open 12-11pm (Sun from 12.30pm).

'Egon Ronay's Ford Guide 1994 . . . and Baby Comes Too' will be published by Macmillan on 25 March at pounds 9.99.

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