It was during our first evening at Calcot Manor that I felt a strange sensation. As I racked my brain to work out what it was, I realised that, although faintly recognisable, it wasn’t something that I’d experienced for a long, long time. Then it came to me, I was feeling relaxed.
I love my children. Who couldn’t love a gorgeous, chatty, blue-eyed four-year-old girl and a curly-haired blond angel of a baby boy? But much as I adore them, I don’t find them exactly relaxing. And that’s not something which changes when we go away. The old days, when holidays meant recharging the batteries with long lie-ins, are gone.
That’s why our stay at Calcot was such a surprise. And one from which I simply did not want to come home.
I realise that I sound ever so gushing, but I’m not going to apologise. Calcot had everything I wanted. It has two restaurants, a kids’ playzone (which my daughter loved), a delightful spa, and most importantly, baby listening. What could be better?
I was, I admit, desperate for a holiday. The wonders of London can get ever so wearing, and it was time for a change of scene. Calcot provided that, and more. It’s even in a good location, near the pretty town of Tetbury in Gloucestershire, not far from the Cotswolds in one direction and Bath and Bristol in the other. Not that we went out much. There was far too much to do on site.
I had a good feeling as we pulled up in the car. The main building – a former farmhouse - was pretty but unostentatious, and everything seemed to have been carefully thought out. The family rooms, for example, are dotted around the main building, rather than inside it. That means there is little need for paranoia if your child decides to wake up screaming in the night.
Our accommodation was an absolutely beautiful suite. It was like having our own little house, complete with a small garden which our son, Robbie, immediately began to explore. Both children also enjoyed trying out our four poster bed, as well as sampling the biscuits and fruits laid out for our arrival.
The suite was also a boon because it meant that Jessica had her own bedroom, rather than sharing with us. In other words, when she got up, obscenely early as usual, she didn’t have to wake up the rest of the family and could play by herself. She also had the opportunity to watch CBeebies in the living room.
But Calcot offers a lot more than accommodation. It is set in beautiful countryside, and there is even a little football pitch at the rear, as well as a small play area which proved very popular.
The hotel has two restaurants, a smart one called the Conservatory, and another “gastro-pub” called The Gumstool Inn.
The food in the Conservatory was delicious, although I was initially a bit concerned about the lack of vegetarian options. This was before I found out that there is an entire vegetarian menu.
The Gumstool was also enjoyable, although not up to the standards of the Conservatory. However, it also costs a good deal less.
Both restaurants offer breakfast, with a buffet at the Gumstool and a la carte menu at the Conservatory. Both had an impressive array of delights, but the Conservatory also boasts a children’s menu complete with boiled egg with soldiers.
On top of all this comes the Spa, a relatively new addition to the hotel. On our first night, we put the children to bed and took advantage of the baby listening facilities. Feeling happy that our offspring were being monitored, we went swimming, then to the sauna and outdoor hot tub. As we sat outside in the bubbling Jacuzzi, we both felt truly relaxed – just like the old days. To follow that with a delicious meal which I hadn’t had to cook myself was almost too much (but not quite!)
The most wonderful thing about Calcot is the way it takes children into account. It has kids’ meals (a choice of three courses from a special children’s menu, with not a fish finger in sight) and a huge barn called the Playzone.
The Playzone is unsupervised for over-eights (it has computers and its own cinema) but supervised for smaller children. One morning we popped Jessica in for a couple of hours. We later found it difficult to persuade her to leave.
In the interests of fairness, I have been trying hard to think of something bad to say about Calcot. We went in September, and the weather was perfect, but the facilities are so impressive, the hotel is worth a visit all year round. All I can come up with on the negative side is the price, which, is of course, a huge factor. You may want to save your visit for a very special occasion.
Calcot Manor, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, GL8 8YJ, 01666 890 391
This article originally appeared in the Jewish Chronicle