Forget hours scouring the internet looking for the perfect hotel or cottage and then panicking about what you’ll find when you arrive. Joanne Robinson crossed the water and found three family friendly gems; one from each part of the island.
Luxury traditional hotel
The Royal Hotel
Belgrave Road, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, PO38 1JJ
One holiday dilemma for all parents is whether to plump for a hotel where your every need is met and there’s not a dishcloth to worry your day (but where you might spend your whole time shushing the kids), or whether to go self catering where the shushing is less frequent (but the washing up still has to be done). I think we at Baby London may just have found the solution; a simply lovely hotel which understands that you need more than a travel cot and the odd high to make a hotel family friendly. As soon as you stagger into the lobby of Ventnor’s Royal Hotel, baby whining, toddler struggling, you’ll find yourself transported to another world; one where nothing is too much trouble for the staff, from pureeing main courses for the baby to fetching bottles of warmed milk and remembering the kids’ names
Within an hour of arriving at the Royal Hotel I stopped looking at my watch and started to relax. Making the most of the winter sunshine, we happily sat in the elegant garden whilst the kids threw themselves into the lovely big sandpit. Squeals of delight filled the air as they discovered the large box of outdoor toys and the grown ups sipped tea and read the paper. From haggard to happy family in ten minutes flat! We took the children for their own special ‘high tea’, which is served every day between 5 and 6pm. Their food was fresh, local, delicious and gobbled up in no time. As they ate in the pretty conservatory, although a separate dining room may be utilised if there are a lot of children staying in the hotel, I lost my usual ‘mother in a restaurant’ state of permanent apology and began to revel in the cooing ‘aren’t they lovely’ emanating from the other guests. Lovely my children may be, but rarely whilst dining. As well as displaying a tolerant and bemusingly delighted attitude to young children covered in Bolognese sauce, our fellow guests were a loyal lot. With 70% of the hotels’ visitors on return visits they must like what they experience. Looking around the relaxed family groups I thought what a wonderful place this would be for a family get-together; I could see Granny and Great Grandma being just as happy here as we were.
The hotel has seven family rooms, four of which will sleep a family of five with the children sleeping in a separate part of the room. Being your average paranoid parents we activated the baby listening service with some trepidation and ambled down to the lovely grown-up world of fine dining, only to hear ‘Mummy, Mummy!’ ringing out through the lobby. Once sleeping heads were restored to order, we felt totally reassured that the staff would come and get us if there was a hint of noise. The hotel’s restaurant has two AA Rosettes for excellent food (an award they have retained for ten years) and they are well earned. The restaurant manager learnt his trade aboard the QE2 and it shows; crisp linen, impeccable service and food so delectable that I almost had to physically restrain my husband from licking his plate, so carried away was he by his sea bream. By the time we were sipping our coffee in the lounge the frazzled parents who’d descended on the lobby only hours before had been transformed into a vision of contentment.
If you want a super-slick modern boutique hotel this might not be your cup of tea. It’s not a shrine to contemporary design staffed by manicured ice maidens. This traditional grand Victorian hotel, the only hotel on the island to be awarded four stars, has its own timeless charm and a genuinely child-friendly atmosphere. The next morning as I sat contentedly in the lovely garden, watching my baby boy lean back in the swing to gurgle at the scudding clouds overhead, and listening to my daughters chat in excitement as they built short-lived masterpieces in the sandpit; I experienced one of those rare moments of absolute maternal bliss. All the worry and drudgery that go hand in hand with everyday parenting had disappeared. The Royal Hotel worked its magic on us. We’ll be back.
To check availability phone 01983 852186 or see www.royalhoteliow.co.uk
Comfy cosy pub
The Crab and Lobster Inn, Bembridge
Nestled right by the harbour in the pretty town of Bembridge and so close to the sea that one local told me you could probably cast a fishing rod from the windows, the Crab and Lobster Inn is a bit of a find. Already renowned by Isle of Wighters as a great place to eat and enjoy a pint with one of the island’s best views just behind your glass, what no one seemed to know is that the Crab and Lobster have rooms, including a family room. If you’re looking for a nice night away with some grand food, lovely beach walks and a bed to stagger to barely ten steps once you’re sated, then try this comfy 4 star, award winning hostelry.
The family room consists of two interconnecting rooms with a bunk bed in one room and a double in the other. We can confirm that a cot will fit as well. Look out for the thoughtfully provided basket of toys and books and remember to ask for colouring at the bar when you eat there. If you’re just travelling with a baby and don’t mind all being in together, you might want to try the lovely front room with a four poster and simply beautiful views across the sea. When you book your room it’s worth booking your table in the restaurant as this pub is packed most meal times. Breakfast was lovely and our walk along the beach to reduce the glorious full fry-up guilt was divine. Descend a few steps from the pub and there you are; enough sand to keep any toddler happy for hours! A local fisherman keeps his lobster pots here so if you order lobster for supper you’ll know it’s gone from pot to plate in 20 steps. You don’t get much fresher than that!
Tel: 01983 872244 www.crabandlobsterinn.co.uk
Savoy Holiday Village, Yarmouth
There’s something about a glossy brochure brimming with pictures of beaming families which leaves me suspicious of a place; I’ve had too many experiences where photos don’t live up to reality. So, I went down to the Savoy Holiday Village, just one mile from the picturesque harbour at Yarmouth, in idyllic West Wight, to see for myself. Happily, I can report that this place is exactly as it describes itself; a holiday village with stylish cottages designed to ensure that you and your family have a relaxing holiday retreat.
The self catering accommodation, available from one bedroom studios to three bedroom cottages, all offer the same high standards, have a garden and terrace area and are contemporary, clean and light. The complex has open spaces for the children to play in and is secure with both gates and CCTV. The ‘Vermont’ cottages are a good eco choice, with grass roofs offering warmth and insulation for the perfect green winter break. However, it’s the facilities which set this island haven apart from the usual self catering options. The Savoy Country club, just a hop, skip and a jump from all the cottages, has indoor sports, a spa, steam room, sauna and swimming pool. With squash courts and tennis courts as well as a restaurant and on-site shop, you can simply park the car and chill out here for the weekend. There’s a crèche for children aged 2 to 8, if you fancy treating yourself to some indulgent adult time, and the charming crèche staff said they often get daddies coming along to the crèche to enjoy some playtime with their precious little ones whilst mummy gets a treat in the spa! You can book all this in advance, then sit back and look forward to a blissful break.
Tel: 01983 760355 www.savoyholidays.co.uk