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Ok so Studland in Dorset, while lovely, is not what you’d first think of as paradise. It’s not your idilic tropical island with all the warmth and the crystal blue sea and allure of a foreign land anyway.
But, if you’re a parent looking for a relaxing break without the hassle of travel then it’s the next best thing.
I’d been wanting a little holiday for months, but due to one thing and another we could only manage three nights away so it made sense to stay in England – and make it count.
Choosing the right holiday accommodation is a vastly different experience now we’re a young family, compared with when we were just a couple looking for somewhere to stay on a city break or booking places as we went along our travels of Thailand or Australia (sigh).
The good news though is that there are actually quite a few family-focussed hotels in the UK which I have now discovered, and after much online research (which is definitely the most laborious task ever in this cluttered world of user reviews) we opted for the Knoll House hotel on the Studland Peninsula. It offered so many wonderful services for parents and their children, that we couldn’t resist.
Our expectations were high but that didn’t prepare us for the state of relaxation we found ourselves in soon after arriving. I was a bit worried about what my husband, who can be a bit of a ‘contemporary lines’ snob would think of the cosy decor, but he actually said (and I quote), “Look at that sofa, I love it here already” so this got us off to a good start which only improved.
That’s because they have a traditional, tried and tested approach to providing families with what they really need from a holiday – mainly by removing some of the stress that no family holiday ever normally escapes.
It starts with the overall ambiance which is a lot more comfortable than we’re used to these days. The clinical world of contemporary is replaced with a ‘home away from home’ feeling – which is exactly what you need to settle the kids in a new environment.
And then there is the service they provide for the children. By this I don’t mean they actually look after them for you, which is fine by me as I still want to spend my holiday with Arthur. Except at meal times that is!!
Knoll House has a very simple yet effective way of doing things so you don’t have the hassle. For example, high quality children’s meals are served in a separate dining room to the adults meaning enough mess and noise can be made. It’s bright and beautifully painted and there’s a kitchen which you have access to 24 hours a day to make drinks, heat up bottles or microwave purees etc.
Timings are strict but this means that you don’t spend more than a few minutes waiting for the food to arrive, which when your kids are hungry is a joy to behold.
Also you get to plan your day without needing to think about where and how you are going to provide food. For some people this rigid routine might be annoying, but because we usually err on the disorganised side of life, we found this whole decision-made-for-us approach liberating.
After you have fed your children (or tried to in our case) they are looked after in the playroom for an hour while you escape to eat your lunch (four courses – with wine!) And if that wasn’t enough there is a baby listening service in the evening so you can eat your dinner and – hopefully – fit in a couple of hours at the bar before the service ends at 11.00.
I know it’s all about the food but for me it’s what really made it a holiday – just as much as the lovely time spent building sandcastles on the beach, going on a steam train, or exploring the Purbeck hills did.
Knoll House is the sort of place that I can imagine other parents want to keep to themselves in case they can’t get a booking. I‘m spilling the beans because us mums must stick together and because, if you’re anything like me, you need a helping hand when it comes to this parenting lark.
There are some things however that it doesn’t let you off – if your bedtime routine is anything like ours you’ll struggle to make it down to dinner, spruced up and ready to be seated by 8.15. (I was applying make up over old make up every night.)
And when we go again I won’t waste money for a daily newspaper. We might have been on holiday but getting time to read one was plain wishful thinking!