What is it? A short break just outside London at a luxury resort hotel.

Where? Just a few minutes from Watford in gorgeous Hertfordshire countryside.

Description: [hotel.jpg]Half-term just can’t be half-term without a break in the country. So Wendy Sloane took her husband and three daughters to a luxury resort hotel just outside London that caters to families and businesspeople – and manages to do both equally well

To relax in a peaceful oasis that is, remarkably, just on the outskirts of London.

The myriad entertainment on offer changes daily, including everything from treasure hunts to croquet tournaments to rugby and tennis. The Movie Lounge offers six children’s films daily, and the Kid’s Club is open until 6pm. Then there’s the Sequoia Spa, the garden, the swimming pools, the sandy beach…

The Grove has three restaurants, each with its own bar and outdoor terrace, and the last film at the Movie Lounge begins at 9pm. Then again, you may just want to retire early and enjoy the comfort of the rooms.

Parents will revel in The Grove’s Ofsted-inspected kids’ club called Anouska’s, where children are kept happily entertained doing a variety of activities, from playing in the fantastically equipped playground to drawing and doing arts and crafts. They are even served a hot lunch, if desired. Other babysitting facilities are available upon request.

The incredibly luxurious Sequoia Spa is available free to residents and has a beautiful black-tiled swimming pool, sauna, steam room and whirlpool. It also offers a variety of ESPA treatments – at a cost – including everything from facials to wraps to manicures and massages. Day spa packages and spa breaks are also available, as well as his and her treatments, bridal packages etc. Children age eight and over are allowed in the spa during specific times.

Local activities: London is just a hop, skip and a jump away – but I’d keep it that way!

Wish we had known: If you plan to visit the buffet at The Glasshouse restaurant, leave plenty of room before you set out as the selection is enormous. And save space for the over-indulgent dessert table.

Our top tip: That you need to book treatments about six weeks in advance. Damn.

Kids say: “The spa was the best,” exclaimed Josie, 8, who was allowed to visit the spa during children’s hours. Six-year-old Tilly loved the arcade, while Clementine adored running through the long corridors and admiring all the wall art.

Getting There: The starting rate for accommodation at The Grove (in the contemporary West Wing) is L280 per room per night including breakfast and VAT, subject to availability. Visit www.thegrove.co.k or email reservations@thegrove.co.uk, or ring 01923 296010. This summer, The Grove are introducing a great deal for families this summer, as families won’t have to pay for their children’s food and drink. Prices are from L280 per night based on two people sharing a room in the West Wing, including breakfast and VAT. In addition, children sharing their parents’ room stay for free – or should parents want their own space they can enjoy 25% off on adjoining rooms. To add greater value, children can also get involved in a wide variety of fantastic complimentary activities (e.g. treasure hunts, swimming, Ultimate Frisbee, remote control car racing, volleyball.) and parents can also benefit from unlimited free use of the Kids’ Club, Anouska’s.

About our stay: Luxury resorts are finally starting to cotton on that making their facilities appealing to children as well as their parents will draw in a bigger clientele. So it was with a sense of excitement, not worries about whether the kids would wreck the expensive furniture or colour all over the pristine walls, that we approached The Grove, which advertises itself as “London’s Country Estate”. As Londoners, we found that The Grove couldn’t be more convenient – just a few miles outside Watford off the M25. But if you think that means the hotel is annoyingly urban, think again. Located on 300 acres of beautiful park and woodlands, including an impressively designed and lovingly maintained enormous garden dotted with elegant glass installations, it felt tranquil and serene – and as far away from the capital as you could get. [clementine_grove.jpg] The main building for decades was home to the various Earls of Clarendon, and became a decadent place to “weekend” in its latest years. It 1996 it was bought by Ralph Trustees Ltd and has now been restored to its former splendour and beyond: an eclectic selection of modern and antique furniture fill the common rooms, including a bizarre library with red velvet couches flanked by silver partitions, and a sitting room with a grand piano that is entirely white. We stayed in the West Wing, a large red-brick building which fits in with the bucolic surroundings on the outside but is unusually modern on the inside. The hallways were filled with a collection of modern “paintings” the children loved – each sporting little figures under the glass, made by German artist Volker Kuhn. I loved the Perspex hall table boxes, filled with everything from butterflies to plastic farmyard animals to sheaves of wheat. Bizarre but effective. But while my three daughters were impressed with the decoration (at least eight-year-old Josephine was), they really loved the fact that so much catered to kids. The bathrooms had both fantastic showers as well as large Victorian bathtubs (on black pedestals instead of claws), one of the couches easily made up into a third bed, and we had glass doors which led directly onto a private terrace, and the garden. Best of all, chocolate cookies, glasses of milk and cuddly toys awaited them. The Grove has loads of activities on offer which appeal to all ages. Following a stroll through the gardens we paid a visit to the Movie Lounge, a former high-ceilinged common room now filled with two couches and loads of floor pillows. The screen showed kid’s films – we saw Robots – and a table offered bowls of fruit, drinks, sweets and popcorn. The kids were in heaven. For dinner we opted for buffet dining at The Glasshouse, which advertises various Asian foods, as well as a carvery, huge salad table and more. The girls loved the sushi and the desserts, but the stir-fries were disappointing. You can’t really make stir-fried noodles or seafood, then let it sit in a slowly simmering wok for several hours. The result: soggy noodles and overly cooked everything else. Breakfast, however, was delicious, and the smoked salmon was a hit with both us and the girls. Next morning Josephine and I visited the spa while the younger kids went to the Kid’s Club, Anouska’s. While we swam and went in the steam room they drew pictures and admired the outdoor man-made sandy “beach” adjacent to the pool in the Walled Garden. Sadly it was raining, but we all met up and went in the indoor children’s pool and had a whale of a time. [swimming_pool.jpg] Businesspeople will love The Grove because of its elegant, almost decadent conference rooms, choice of restaurants and golf course. Families will love it because of the great service, plethora of activities, and special touches for kids. We even had kiddie-sized towelling robes in the bathroom. What more can I say? Wendy Sloane is Travel Editor of entertainthekids.com. She divides her time between writing and taking care of her three small daughters.

Created: 2009-04-22 17:07:46.100

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