What is it? A three-night break in a medium-sized hotel away from the hustle and bustle of London life.

Where? At the Hatherton Country House Hotel in Penkridge, Staffordshire, a sleepy market town set in beautiful countryside.

Description: Penkridge is a sleepy market town far removed from almost everything – the perfect spot to enjoy a quiet four days in the countryside, as Wendy Sloane and her three daughters found out…[hotel.jpg]

To get away from it all and enjoy a few days in the countryside, exploring some of the local attractions and taking advantage of not having to cook!

Apart from the lovely town of Penkridge, there are many other attractions to visit. Alton Towers, Cadbury World, the Wedgwood Visitor Centre and Drayton Manor theme park are all within easy driving distance (see About Our Stay).

Penkridge is not a huge town although there are some decent pubs and restaurants should you want an evening away from the hotel, as well as many take-away establishments. We spent very pleasant evenings enjoying the hotel fare and didn’t venture further afield past 8pm.

There is no formal childcare available at the hotel.

The hotel has a small health club with a lovely little swimming pool, solarium, sauna and weight room. Make sure you get the access codes to the dressing room, however, or you may be locked out dripping wet – as we were – unable to find any staff to open the door.

Local activities: See Daytime Fun.

Wish we had known: How much the children enjoyed visiting this hotel – we would have stayed longer!

Our top tip: The packed lunches are worth taking with you – we had a choice of sandwiches, fruit, biscuits and a drink, and the kids – who are not allowed a packed lunch at school – found it all very exciting. Book the day before.

Kids say: “I liked the swimming pool and Drayton Manor Park,” says Tilly, eight. “I loved going to the bar and ordering a [non-alcoholic] drink,” added a precocious Josie, ten.

Getting There: Penkridge is about 35 minutes from Birmingham Airport (the nearest big town is Telford). Concise directions on how to get there are on the hotel website (http://www.hotels-stafford.com/directions.html). Focus Hotels is offering two, three or four night packages from L160 based on two adults and two children under 12 years sharing. The package includes: accommodation • full English or continental breakfast • light lunch or packed lunch • three-course dinner with half a bottle of house wine and unlimited draught soft drinks • early check in and late check out • free parking and Wi-Fi • use of on-site leisure facilities (where applicable). Subject to availability. Valid until 31 October 2010. For more information and full terms and conditions please visit www.focushotels.co.uk. To book please call 0844 225 1625.

About our stay: The tiny town of Penkridge may not rate highly in British guidebooks as a top tourist destination, but if you like quintessential market towns, this one shouldn’t be missed. Ten miles north of Wolverhampton and six miles south of Stafford, it boasts a church that dates back to 1180 (and still offers regular afternoon teas) and less than 4,000 inhabitants. The Hatherton Country House Hotel is on one end of Penkridge, adjacent to the church cemetery. It’s more utilitarian than beautiful or romantic, with pleasant, helpful staff and a remarkably good restaurant. Surrounded by a large car park with many bedroom views looking out onto the tarmac, it’s a bit rough around the edges. But for a four-day break with a young family, it’s more than adequate. In fact, we found it very nice indeed. The best thing about the hotel, according to my three young daughters, was the lobby bar. Conveniently located just a hop, skip and a jump from our two inter-connecting bedrooms, it was open from early morning until late at night. As part of our package included “free” unlimited soft drinks, the girls could walk down the corridor on their own, perch on a barstool and order whatever they wanted. A little taste of freedom… The girls also loved the swimming pool and the restaurant, where evening starters consisted of fresh fruit salads, among other delicacies, and the desserts were lavish. We had entrees ranging from lamb to roast beef to fresh fish, and there were no complaints whatsoever from my outspoken trio. No complaints from me either, as our all-inclusive package meant I could forego cooking altogether during our break. [pool.jpg] Penkridge, built on the River Penk, is lovely in and of itself. The adjacent cemetery, which you have to walk through to get from the hotel to the High Street, is stunning, and when we popped in the church to use the toilet the blue-rinse brigade enjoying their cups of tea were more than happy to see us. The town has a fantastic sweetie shop and a bakery that must be fantastic, with queues stretching out the door and down the pavement (we never made it inside). Penkridge is also an ideal base from which to travel around the area. Alton Towers, Cadbury World, the Wedgwood Visitor Centre and Drayton Manor theme park are all within driving distance, and each one is more than suitable for an entire day out. We spent half a day in Cadbury World, where the girls learned a lot about the rather brutal history of chocolate, and also got to sample so many different types of chocolate bars that they felt positively ill. They also loved Drayton Manor, a smallish theme park near Tamworth that was the perfect size for us, and which has a small shopping village where I managed to get some back-to-school clothes shopping done. [drayton manor.jpg] Best of all, Drayton Manor offered an assortment of rides from sedate to scary, which kept both my five-year-old and my ten-year-old entertained. It was great for me too, as I could happily take my youngest on the baby rides, and not risk the embarrassment of vomiting over anyone on the more adult attractions. Now that’s a bonus! * Wendy Sloane is the Travel Editor of entertainthekids.com, a freelance journalist for many other publications and websites, and a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at London Metropolitan University.

Created: 2010-09-18 15:44:25.200

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