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Hotel Highlights

  • This rural retreat is designed with families in mind
  • Worcestershire’s emerald and gold scenery
  • Boredom-banishing activities for youngsters and adults

Overview

This grand, ivy-covered country estate might not look child-friendly on the outside, but The Ivy hotel in Worcestershire is a decadent playground for the whole family. With sprawling manicured gardens, a child-friendly spa, tennis courts, orchards and a veritable laundry-list of activities, the hotel has more than enough to keep guests of all ages busy. At the end of the day, unwind at the regal Library Bar and dine in either the low-key casual café or the wonderful (and more formal) fine-dining restaurant.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking The Elms with us:

A bottle of prosecco on arrival and 20 per cent off spa treatments

Facilities

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The Elms hotel – Worcestershire – United Kingdom

Need To Know

Rooms

23, including one two-bedroomed suite.

Check–out

11am but flexible, subject to availability. Check-in, from 3pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $197.06 (£117), excluding tax at 20 per cent.

More details

Rates include full English breakfast.

Also

Look out for the friendly four-legged residents, George the cat and Tickle the chocolate labrador.

At the hotel

Gardens, child-friendly spa with four treatment rooms, relaxation room, gym, bar, DVD library, Ofsted-registered crèche, outside dining area, tennis court, orchards, playground, free WiFi in the main house. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, free bottled water.

Our favourite rooms

To feel like true country-house gentry, book into Colwall. The aubergine and gold colour palette, heavy Tudor-style bed with sumptuous sink-into mattress, opulent swathes of fabric draped by the windows and the garden views add up to a lord-of-the-manor setting. Colwall is also one of the hotel’s most spacious rooms, boasting a pretty sitting area overlooking the lemon-and-lime scenery.

Poolside

Dip into the indoor heated swimming pool or soak in the indoor-outdoor hydro pool, both of which are family friendly.

Packing tips

Bring loose clothes for cream-tea gorging and trainers for post-cream-tea strolling; some understated chic for the stylish restaurant and bar; your iPod for tuning out giggles and squeaks.

Also

If you want to bring a pet, book up an animal-friendly Coach House room.

Children

Very child-friendly set-up in terms of facilities and activities for all ages. Children are welcome in both the swimming pool and hydro pool.

Read more

Pet‐friendly

Well-behaved pooches – kept on a lead in public areas – are welcome, but you’ll need to bring your own bed, food and squeaky toys. There's a £10 a night room-cleaning fee, too.

Food & Drink

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The Elms hotel – Worcestershire – United Kingdom

Hotel Restaurant

For fine dining in a romantic setting, head to the hotel’s Brookes Restaurant. This grand and gregarious space is decked out with ice-bright chandeliers, an ornately carved fireplace, pale-olive sash curtains, crisp white tablecloths and a grandma-pleasing array of fine china. Though the setting has a stately formality, relaxed staff take the edge off with friendly and laid-back service and the award-winning food is sublime. Chef David Hammond oversees a polished menu of modern European fare, including dishes such as baked cod loin with a pinenut crust, and partridge crown with a pepper sauce. For meals en famille, visit the Garden Café at the spa and enjoy unfussy and wholesome sandwiches, salads, burgers and pasta, served all day.

Hotel Bar

All that time preening and pampering in the spa and helping your little ones paint, paddle and play-act in the crèche may make you forget you’re deep in the country. For a stylish reminder, head to the Library bar, a regal-rural drinking den. Pull up a worn leather armchair by the roaring fire and sip a whisky, cognac or daytime coffee with petits-fours, surrounded by treacle-dark wood and glittering bottles.

Last orders

Breakfast is served at Brookes 7.30am–10am, lunch is 12 noon–2.30pm and dinner is plated up between 7pm–9.30pm. The Garden Café offers lunch and dinner at similar times, with an all-day menu of lighter bites served 10am–9.30pm.

Room service

Room service is available between 7.30am and 9.30pm, with a selection from the Garden Café's menu.

Smith Insider

Dress code

If you’re heading to Brookes, bring out that dress or shirt you’ve been hiding from baby. Understated glam will suit this relaxed yet regal space. Anything goes at the informal Pear Tree Brasserie.

Top table

Request a table by the bay windows to get the best lawn views at Brookes Restaurant. At the Garden Café, sit out on the terrace on sunny days.

Local Guide

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The Elms hotel – Worcestershire – United Kingdom
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

Unwind at the hotel’s spa, which offers a wide range of holistic and therapeutic treatments and massages (including treatments for expectant mums). There is a hydrotherapy pool and separate adult area, known as the quiet zone, where off-duty parents can escape. Daredevils should try mountain boarding (an extreme sport derived from snowboarding) with the Out to Grass Mountain Board Centre (+44 (0)1886 880099) at Woodend Farm. They offer free instruction for beginners (children must be at least 8); there are different tracks for different levels of experience and all the equipment is available for hire. To get up close and personal with a lion without leaving the UK, head to the West Midland Safari and Leisure Park (+44 (0)1299 402114) which has miles of safari trails, elephants, rhinos, wild dogs and others and 30 rides in its theme park. To explore the great outdoors, horse ride or cycle through the Malvern Hills (see www.malvernhills.org.uk), gather some fishing kit and escape early to one of the many angling spots in the area or take one of the walking trails leading you as far as the Cotswolds. Visit Whitley Court and its impressive gardens – this spectacular ruin was once one of the most famous estates in the country, with rooms recently restored. Shakespeare country, Stratford upon Avon, is within reasonable driving distance - book ahead to watch some thesps thesping.

Local restaurants

Great for lunch or dinner, Crown & Sandys gastropub (+44 (0)1905 620252) on Ombersley village’s main road is a 10-minute drive from the hotel. The eatery was recently renovated and serves up classic pub fare. Hadley Bowling Green Inn (+44 (0)1905 620294) on Hadley Heath dates back to the 16th-century. Today, this traditional country pub is known for its imaginative food that champions local ingredients and produce. If you fancy going bowling while you’re here, this green is the oldest in the British Isles. The award-winning The Chequers at Cutnall Green (+44 (0)1299 851292) is a 25-minute drive from the hotel and the kind of pub you can spend hours hunting for in big cities: privately owned, traditional and friendly, with stylish wooden interiors in the main restaurant and fantastic food. If you’re after a Michelin-starred dining experience, head to Le Bécasse (+44 (0)1584 872325) at 17 Corve Street in Ludlow, a 50-minute drive from the hotel. Alan Murchison’s moreish mains, such as duck breast and foie gras ballotine with caramelised chicory, gingerbread, carrot, orange and vanilla purée are more than worth the journey.

+ Enlarge
Amid the Malverns

The Elms

The Elms Hotel & Spa, Stockton Road, Abberley, Worcestershire, WR6 6AT, United Kingdom

Surrounded by rolling, riverine countryside, the Elms is in westerly Worcestershire, north of the county town and just outside Abberley.

Planes

Birmingham International is 30 miles away, and is served by routes from the Continent (www.birminghamairport.co.uk); for regional flights, try Flybe (www.flybe.com). The airport offers a 24-hour taxi service, or book a pick-up with Brookside Taxis (+44 (0)1905 748473).

Trains

The train station in Worcester is 15 miles away: connect via Birmingham New Street (www.londonmidland.com) or London Paddington and Oxford (www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk). There is a taxi rank at the station, or to book a minicab, try AA Taxis (+44 (0)1905 700555).

Automobiles

Reach the Elms by road from the M5 (junction 5 from the north; junction 6 from the south): the hotel is off the A443, about two miles after Great Witley (not in Abberley itself), roughly a 20-minute drive from Worcester. Free parking is available. Unless you’re planning 48 hours of decadent downtime, you’ll want some wheels to help you explore the Worcestershire countryside.

Other

A helipad is available: book your helicopter in through reception before you arrive.

Reviews

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The Elms hotel – Worcestershire – United Kingdom

Anonymous review

by Alastair Lee , Digital dynamo

Having three young children makes it a little hard to envisage being able to grab a relaxing boutique-hotel break. With Master Smith (five), Miss Smith (three) and Baby Smith (four months) in tow, leaving the safety of home is usually characterised by frantic behaviour management, furious spending, even less sleep than usual and counting the hours until the relative peace of the journey home. &lsq…
Read more

The Elms

Anonymous review by Alastair Lee , Digital dynamo

Having three young children makes it a little hard to envisage being able to grab a relaxing boutique-hotel break. With Master Smith (five), Miss Smith (three) and Baby Smith (four months) in tow, leaving the safety of home is usually characterised by frantic behaviour management, furious spending, even less sleep than usual and counting the hours until the relative peace of the journey home. ‘Surely “child friendly luxury” is an oxymoron?’ grumbles Mrs Smith when I propose our trip. It’s been a long winter.

A month later, however, the sun is shining as we turn off a country road just outside Abberley in Worcestershire onto the long tree-lined drive that leads up to The Elms. These Smiths are in hopeful mood.

‘Are we going to that castle?’ shouts Master Smith as he catches a glimpse of the stately Queen Anne mansion between the trees. ‘It must be a castle. It’s big and has a flag on top!’ It seems cruel to set him straight, and it is indeed a sight to behold. The kind of house that deserves to be approached in a vintage roadster instead of our stolid seven-seater. The Elms so far is a slice of pure, romantic England.

Bounding into the lobby we are met with atmosphere of laidback comfort. The house, built in 1710 by architect William Gilbert, a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren and the man behind the guildhall in nearby Worcester, offers half a dozen or so generous reception rooms with high ceilings and beautiful cornicing throughout. Period furniture and ornate wallpapers combine with large blackened fireplaces and flagstones to create feeling less of a hotel and more of an enormous family house. The well-fed Labrador certainly looks at home.

Grand, yet low-key, this luxury hotel looks comfortable and lived-in. We see immediately that there is no furniture too special for a muddy shoe to land on, no vase of flowers perched precariously on delicate side tables and there’s a distinct absence of prim staff ready to tut at our brood’s latest slip up. Instead, we are welcomed by a broad grin and ‘You’re just in time for Animal Man! Go on over and we’ll take your bags up to the room’.

Animal Man, it turns out, is one of the regular entertainment sessions laid on in the ‘Bears Den’, a purpose-built crèche kitted out with everything your kids wish you had at home; from babyfoot to activity tables to doll’s houses, sandpits and stacks of toys. As we arrive, Animal Man is showing a group of children a boa constrictor. Next he unveils a living, breathing hedgehog, a meerkat, a skunk and, weirdest of all, an armadillo. He talks us through their diets, characters and fields questions regarding toilet habits with great aplomb. ‘I think this might be the best adventure ever,’ observes Master Smith as he tickles a tortoise. I glance over to Mrs Smith; she is definitely softening.

Our accommodation is in the Elms’ main house, at the top of the wide-carpeted staircase. The two rooms are cleverly joined via ensuite bathrooms meaning that we can get to the Junior Smiths, but they also feel like they’re on their own. Traditional decor (chintzy in a good way) makes it feel comfortable and large windows look out over the croquet lawn a to a finely trimmed hedge and trees beyond.

After a quick visit to the spa complex to try out the wonderfully warm pool and hot tub, we eat at the informal Pear Terrace Brasserie. Here, kids are well catered for, with something to satisfy even the fussiest palate, and all reasonably priced.

A good night’s sleep (baby Smith notwithstanding) in a very comfortable bed later, and we trot down the sweeping staircase with a spring in our step. The thought of ‘free crèche’ is never far from our thoughts. Breakfast is taken in the main dining room and we arrive to find a handful of other families with children of a similar age tucking in to a sumptuous buffet where eggs and waffles are on demand.

Junior Smiths are soon exchanging names and ages with those on the next table and a trampoline competition is brewing. ‘I can do a somersault’ says one boy forcefully. ‘But it’s not summer yet!’ our offspring is heard to reply.

Next stop Bears Den for a swift drop-off, shortly followed by a latté and magazine on the terrace while Baby Smith naps. I swear I witness Mrs Smith’s shoulders loosening before my eyes as she peruses a copy of Elle Deco. Post lunch there is much trotting between the trampoline, the swings and the table tennis. But the highlight? The ‘Fairy Trail’. Watching our little ones tearing around the grounds in a gaggle of excited kids on the hunt for miniature doors in trees and collecting the names of the resident fairies proves worth the trip alone. Childhood magic.

High tea that afternoon is a buffet of cottage pie or macaroni cheese, jelly and rice pudding, sitting around large tables with other families. The relaxed vibe makes it feel much less like a luxury hotel and more like a large holiday cottage shared with lots of new friends.

Little ones in bed and listening service engaged, we make our way downstairs to the deliciously old school wood-panelled bar. Sinking into leather Chesterfields we order prosecco and a G&T. For the next few hours we remember what it was like to be just us. Two adults, engaged in grown-up conversation, uninterrupted, except by the call to enter the dining room next door when the time came. ‘Would you like to walk this way sir?’ Well, if you insist. Monkfish wrapped in pancetta you say? Oh, go on then.

So there you have it. It can be done. Even Mrs Smith has to agree. The key ingredient is kids having fun, making new pals and releasing all that energy without you needing to, well, try. I’d wager our stay at the Elms will stick with our children for years to come. And while they had a ball, we can take it easy. Book a massage, take a dip, or just sit in peace for a moment and drink in the surroundings (or a Hendrick’s and tonic with a cucumber stick). Not so much ‘child-friendly luxury’ as ‘child happy, we happy’.

The Guestbook

Reviews of The Elms from Smith members

Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

Amazing food and very friendly staff, and a lovely spa. There were lots of activities for children.

Rating: 9/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The staff were very pleasant and helpful and the room was very spacious.

Don’t expect

We had a three-course meal on one evening but found the menu very limited.

Rating: 7/10 stars