'Child Friendly’ is a much misused term, happily brandished about to lure in unsuspecting parents. We know that being ‘child friendly’, and especially ‘baby friendly’ involves much, much more than a tatty old travel cot and some broken crayons. You need somewhere clean, fitted out with everything your baby or toddler requires so you don’t have to pack cases full of necessities, a genuine welcome and a little extra spark of imagination. We’ve scoured Somerset and found three places that tick every box; a luxury hotel for a truly pampering treat, a gorgeous and unique B&B and perfect self catering. They are all absolutely ‘baby and toddler friendly’ with a lot more besides!
Babington, Nr Frome, BA11 3RW
Nestled deep in the Somerset countryside, Babington House is the ultimate luxury country house hotel. Not only is it the boutique hotel of your dreams, with chic interiors, incredible food and a renowned spa, but they have covered every imaginable base when it comes to families with babies and toddlers. Rob Puffett, the manager here, told me when I arrived at the hotel, that babies and toddlers are catered for “and a bit more”. He was definitely understating the case! As a parent your every need is met, making a stay here a luxurious and practical treat for a mummy in need of some pampering, without leaving baby behind!
Babington House has five family suites. On the ground floor of each is a sitting room with an imaginative bank of drawers containing absolutely everything you might need, including the hotel’s own maternity and baby products. Next door is the children’s bedroom with bunk beds, baby changing and a play cooker. There’s also a fantastic wet room on the ground floor where your whole family can bath, shower and splash to your heart’s content. Up the stairs is the sumptuous adult space; luxurious, modern and sleek with a sunken bath, enormous bed and a balcony for views and fresh air. It’s family luxury on a scale you’ll struggle to find anywhere.
If you want to relish some ‘alone time’ safe in the knowledge that your little one is happy and secure, then you can use the Little House crèche; perfect for babies, toddlers and older children. Whilst they are happily entertained here (even learning to cook!) you can be indulging yourself in the spa, doing a few laps of the pool or just curling up with a book and enjoying the escape from the grind of everyday life!
Babington House is well-known for its fantastic food and little ones won’t miss out. Children eat for free from a daily changing menu in a lovely dining room of their own. Or you can all eat together until 7pm in the restaurant, or use room service and eat in your gorgeous family suite. There’s a baby sitting service so you can enjoy some treasured ‘grown up’ time in the stunning restaurant whilst baby is sleeping soundly.
With its walks, cricket pitch, five-aside football pitch, ducks to feed and rabbits to chase this is the perfect hotel for families looking for a complete break. Take advantage of your little ones being free from the restrictions of school term times whilst you can; Babington House is booked up in the school holidays and bank holidays for months, if not years in advance!
Tel: 01373 814907 www.babingtonhouse.co.uk
Wookey, Wells, BA5 1NJ
As we drew up in the car park of the Burcott Mill I heard squeals from the back of the car, ‘Look! A playhouse!’ cried my youngest daughter, closely followed by ‘Mummy, swings, out NOW’ from our toddler. I allowed myself a smile of self-congratulation; I think I may just have found the perfect B&B for families looking for some time out in rural Somerset. Burcott Mill lies beneath the Mendip Hills, less than two miles from the lovely cathedral city of Wells. It’s an absolutely beautiful Grade II listed building dating from the 1750s and as well as having some of the largest family rooms I’ve ever come across in a B&B, it also houses a traditional Victorian flour mill. And children under two stay free!
The Mill is set in two and a half acres of lovely countryside, with an apple orchard and plenty of room for guests to wander at will. The play area was a hit with my little ones, as was the guinea pig run and the free range chickens; little guests can even collect eggs and feed the chickens. Steve and Louise who own and run the Mill (and have become millers as well as running a guest house!) have two pre-schoolers themselves and their own experience as parents shines through; they have thought of absolutely everything families staying here with babies and toddlers might need. Sometimes it takes a parent who’s in the same position as us to realise that it’s the small things that make a difference, right down to little girls getting their breakfast on a princess plate and little boys getting something more to their taste!
All the accommodation here is on a generous scale, with plenty of room so you’ll never be squeezing around a cot. Over the years, as our family has expanded (now at four children and out) we’ve increasingly found ourselves really struggling to find rooms we can comfortably fit in; a gripe I’ve heard shared by many other parents. One of the things that sets Burcott Mill apart from many B&Bs is that the rooms are really spacious and imaginatively set up so you can comfortably fit in. Louise is very flexible about rearranging rooms to fit your needs and will also guide you about which room would be most suitable for you (are you a cot by the bed or a cot in a separate room kind of family etc). All rooms have TVs and DVDs as well as changing mats, baby baths, children’s towels, travel cots and extra beds if you need them. There’s also a self catering option, with Mill Lodge offering flexible space for families. My favourite thing about the lodge was the view from the window above the kitchen sink; you can watch the mill at work whilst you wash up!
Breakfast is served in a light and airy room overlooking the garden, and in fine weather you can eat outside with the gurgle of the mill pond to serenade you. You’re guaranteed a delicious home cooked breakfast. All ingredients are carefully and locally sourced, from the sausages to the jams and yogurts, nothing has travelled far and everything is tasty and supports other local food producers. Make sure you leave room for toast, the bread is made on site with flour ground in the mill; you don’t get much more ‘homemade’ than that! Whilst you enjoy a lazy breakfast the children can run around in the garden; total breakfast bliss, what a perfect way to start the day! The problem of an evening meal is solved by the location of the watermill, straight across the road from a fantastic pub, the Burcott Inn, which serves great food and welcomes children. If you’ve got a sound sleeper then Louise is happy to be left with a baby monitor whilst you enjoy a grown up meal in the pub!
As well as being a B&B, Burcott Mill has a tea rooms open at the weekend between April and September and it is a working mill. Little ones are able to watch the process of grain being traditionally ground to flour being demonstrated here. The watermill in action, followed by a cake made from the flour is a great way to demonstrate where food comes from in a memorable and tasty way! I went home with a large sack of flour which is sitting proudly on my worktop and making divine tasting bread!
If you’re looking for a good value, rural, ‘getting away from it all’ break, then I think you’ll love Burcott Mill. Toddlers in particular will be in seventh heaven and make sure you bring home a bag of freshly milled flour!
Tel: 01749 673118 www.burcottmill.com
Self catering cottages
By The Byre Whitechapel Lane, Beckington, BA11 6TQ
Self catering can be a great option for families with little ones, but you really need the right kind of cottage. By the Byre is the perfect self catering accommodation for families with babies and toddlers. This tranquil and sensitive retreat for families includes four contemporary cottages and three newly built eco-friendly cedar lodges all equipped with everything you might need for a break away with little ones. By the Byre pride themselves on being really baby-friendly and have gone out of their way to provide the type of equipment that helps make your life easier and create a home-from-home environment. Full sized wooden cots with good mattresses are available, along with highchairs, sterilizers, changing mats, stair gates (as many as you like), bottle warmers, toy and books. They have enough of each item never to be caught short; just let them know what you need before you arrive and it will be there. As well as all the necessities that you really need, you’ll also find those special ‘extras’ that set the Byre apart, like the tub of toys suitable for the specific ages of your children which is arranged prior to your arrival. Another added bonus is the babysitting which can be arranged for you with trusted local babysitters.
Breaks here are offered at an all inclusive price. There’s no need to bring tea and coffee and you can forget packing the washing up liquid; it’s all here. They even have a welcome pack of provisions. Situated in the heart of farmland on the edge of the Somerset-Wiltshire borders, you’ll find beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and a lawned area for young children to play. With pre-schoolers in mind a good selection of toys, books, DVDs, outdoor toys and ride-ons are provided. You can also pre-book a Visiting Spa Therapist & Massage Therapist for a bit of holiday self-indulgence! Meal and hamper deliveries can also be arranged before you arrive so that once you arrive you can sit back, relax and switch off!
Tel: 01373 830381 www.bythebyrecottages.co.uk or www.babyfriendlyboltholes.co.uk