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Five Best: Luxury family hotels

1. The Sands Resort, Cornwall

This modern Mediterranean-style cliff- top hotel is within easy reach of some of Cornwall's best stretches of sand, including the National Trust Bedruthan Steps Beach. Children's facilities include complimentary sports for all ages, a "Surf Shack" with wetsuits and boards, indoor and outdoor pools, plus Ofsted-inspected children's club sessions, daily, for all ages, babies to teens. There's pre-dinner entertainment for under-sevens, baby-listening, crèches, children's menus, family or child-free dinner slots, plus suites with separate sleeping areas for children.

The Sands Resort, Porth, Cornwall (01637 872864; www.sandsresort.co.uk). From £50 per adult, per night, b&b. Up to two children under seven stay free; children aged 7-17 from £35 per night

2. The Elms, Worcestershire

The Elms is a handsome Queen Anne mansion set in extensive gardens and 10 acres of Worcestershire parkland. There's a complimentary baby-listening service in all rooms (enjoy an excellent dinner while secretly hoping that the discreet tap on the shoulder to signal a screaming brat is for someone else), an Ofsted-registered playroom – the Four Bears Den – as well as DVDs and board-games. The Aquae Sulis spa opens in April and has facilities for all the family.

The Elms, Abberley, Worcester (www. elmsluxuryfamilyhotel.co.uk; 01299 896666). Weekends from £310 for a double room, including breakfast and dinner. Children sharing parents' room are charged for meals only

3. Polmaily House, Invernesshire

Perfect for active kin, this 20-room country-house hotel by Loch Ness focuses family holidays around cycling, skiing, fishing, walking and horse riding, with a children's club, supervised playroom and afternoon crèche allowing time out for parents and offspring alike. In the 18-acre gardens and woodland there are stables where kids can help out or take a riding lesson, while parents charter an afternoon on Loch Ness, the hotel's 31ft skippered sailing yacht. Or stay on site for a swim, ride or game of tennis. Family rooms come with toys and books, and self-contained family suites have additional private gardens.

Polmaily House, Drumnadrochit, Invernesshire (01456 450343; www. polmaily.co.uk). From £55 per adult, per night. Children under five, free; 6-12 years, 35 per cent of adult cost; 13-16 years, 45 per cent

4. Lucknam Park, near Bath

This magnificent Palladian villa, set in 500 acres of Wiltshire parkland, is one of Britain's finest and friendliest country-house hotels. The setting, just six miles from Bath, is perfect; the service, from the team led by Harry Murray MBE, is legendary; and the Michelin-starred restaurant is a draw for miles around. What's less well-known is that Lucknam Park is also one of the most family-oriented of luxury hotels, and the smartest place we know to teach children to ride. The state-of-the-art Equestrian Centre stables about 30 horses and ponies, and there are programmes available for all levels of rider, from novice to expert.

Lucknam Park, Colerne, Wiltshire (01225 742777; www. lucknampark.co.uk). Rooms from £255 per night (room only); riding lessons from £90 per hour

5. The Ickworth Hotel, Suffolk

Rule of thumb: when successful middle-class parents get together and start talking weekends away, they'll soon be raving about the time they went to Ickworth. Housed in the east wing of an astonishing 18th-century mansion – former seat of those loony aristocrats, the Herveys – Ickworth is a luxury hotel that has spent years developing its reputation as Britain's foremost family getaway. There's an Ofsted-registered crèche, games and activities galore, plus bicycles (to explore the 1,800-acre National Trust estate), nature trails, trampolines, tennis courts, an adventure playground and fabulous indoor pool.

The Ickworth Hotel, Horringer, Suffolk (01761 240124; www.luxuryfamilyhotels. com). Rooms from £210 per night (includes dinner, b&b for 2 adults & 1 child); during half-term week from £330 per night