Sleepover: Woolley Grange
A bed for the night in Bradford-on-Avon
Tuesday 21 May 2002
Where is it?
Where is it?
On the fringe of a medieval wool town in Wiltshire.
What's it like?
The daddy (or mummy) of the Luxury Family Hotels group is a suitably rambling Jacobean country pile. The house is an imposing mansion with stone casement windows and a multitude of gables, containing a warren of rooms with saggy, baggy antique furniture for flopping into, and a collection of intriguing and humorous paintings and ornaments – such as the wooden boar from a merry-go-round that props open the dining-room door. The surrounding buildings have been put to good use as play-dens and games rooms. There are swings and slides and an outdoor swimming pool, too, and 14 acres of grounds to be explored. Who – under 4ft – could ask for anything more?
What's its USP?
The kind of break all the family can enjoy – with intervals apart. After a hearty breakfast together in the conservatory, take your offspring to the Woolley Bears Den, put them in the reliable hands of the carers, and retreat to your room for a bit of adult R&R.
The idea is for everyone to relax – a place where children can feel free to roam without being told "be quiet" or "don't touch". But this ain't Butlins – this is the British middle class at play, so the atmosphere still has a slightly formal edge.
Ours was set in one of the gables with splendid views across to Salisbury Plain (they say you can see the White Horse on a clear day). A steep winding staircase (child-proofed with a safety gate, naturally) led to our bedroom under the eaves. Space is at a premium but there was enough for a sizeable brass bed and a sitting area. In contrast, the bathroom was so big that you could have danced a waltz around the free-standing roll-top bath without even bumping into the twin basins or the divine chaise longue. All 23 bedrooms are en suite and b&b per night starts from £99 in a double to £250 in interconnecting rooms. Children sharing their parents' room stay free, but there is a charge starting at £3.50 per day for breakfast for those aged over two. Ask about special deals.
Children are offered the kind of food they will like and you won't feel guilty about giving them. They can eat with you, or there is a supervised children's lunch and tea in the Den. In the main dining room, lunch (from £15.50) and dinner (£34.50) offer a choice of delicious dishes, with British, European and Far Eastern influences: roasted Cornish scallops, tempura of tiger prawns, rump of veal, roasted monkfish. There is an excellent wine list, too.
After a nightmare journey from London on a Friday night, we were whisked to our room and supplied with stiff drinks within minutes. And that's the kind of attentive service you can expect. Babysitting and a listening service mean you can end the day in a civilised way with dinner. The Den staff are qualified and inspire confidence: they are friendly, communicative and interact with the children from the moment they sign in. And, although we did not feel quite this way at the time, they should be commended for phoning us as we settled into the bath to check if our son would prefer fish or chicken for tea.
As I said, wealthy. Ages range from young parents to grandparents, bringing with them children of all ages. Don't worry, your offspring is guaranteed to make a friend or two.
Things to do?
Grass tennis and badminton courts, a croquet lawn, bicycles. Adults can also indulge in massages, aromatherapy and reflexology. In the unlikely event that you exhaust all the possibilities at the hotel, Bath, Longleat and Wookey Hole are near by.
Woolley Grange Hotel and Restaurant, Woolley Green, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire BA15 1TX (01225 864705; www.luxury-family-hotels.co.uk).
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