Having promised my daughters we were going to stay in a castle, it was with some trepidation that we set off for The Elms, a Queen Anne-era mansion in Worcestershire's rolling hills. I need not have worried. As we swept up the driveway towards the neo-classical entrance it looked every inch the stuff of young girls' dreams.
But, as any parent knows, being ensconced in a hotel room with two children can be the stuff of nightmares.
The Elms, however, offers a different experience. The equation here is straightforward: happy child equals happy parent. Free crèche facilities, babysitters and state-of-the art baby listening devices allow mum and dad a little down time, too.
Spread out over two interconnecting rooms on the top floor, we not only enjoyed commanding views but the hope of a little privacy from slumbering offspring next door. Each chamber has a vast bed, mounds of pillows and ensuite facilities. DVD players and plasma TVs will guarantee parents an extra half an hour in bed in the morning. The décor is elegantly executed in classic country-house style.
The food and drink
The hotel's intimate Brook Room Restaurant was voted the best in Worcestershire last year, and head chef Darren Bale's food combines superb local ingredients. The current vogue for seafood foams and vegetable purées is well represented. In contrast the soups are hearty, and the award-winning cheeseboard steals the show. An excellent children's high tea is served in the lounge. Room service is delivered with the same attention to detail as in the restaurant.
The Aquae Sulis Spa is set in a new Scandinavian-style building. There are four treatment rooms, a 12-metre pool, an indoor/ outdoor spa and sauna. Staff provide 40 wellbeing therapies.
A £3m building programme due for completion this summer will make six rooms suitable for wheelchair users.
Classic doubles start at £210, with an interconnecting deluxe upwards of £450, including dinner and breakfast, for two adults sharing.
The Elms at Abberley, Stockton Road, Abberley, Worcestershire (01299 896666; www.theelmshotel.co.uk).