What is it? A short break in the sweet West Sussex country town at a charming hotel that dates all the way back to the 12th century.

Where? At The Spread Eagle, in Midhurst, West Sussex.

Description: [spread_eagle.jpg]Dating back to the 12th century, the Spread Eagle Hotel in Midhurst, West Sussex is full of eccentric charm, intriguing antiques and even a wig closet, should you need to store your wig. Wendy Sloane and her three daughters found this old coaching inn to be full of surprises…

To step back in time – and enjoy ourselves while we were at it.

There is plenty to do further afield – see below – but if you want to simply enjoy all the hotel and its immediate environs have to offer, then Midhurst is a lovely, quaint little town.

Apart from the restaurant the hotel doesn’t have much in the way of evening entertainment, but there are several bars nearby and the areas is lovely for an evening stroll.

None are available, but if you ask at the front desk they may be able to find someone to sit for you.

The Hotel has its own relatively new Aquila Spa, which has a great swimming pool as well as hot tub, steam room, gym and sauna, although everything but the pool is off-limits to children. You can also book appointments for one of the many pampering treatments on offer – but book in advance.

Local activities: The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum is nearby, and staff can help with tickets. The hotel is also ideally located near the South Downs, which has just been made a National Park. We made an afternoon trip to Bognor Regis, and enjoyed the promenade as well as a paddle on the beach – everyone loved the worm casings. There is also racing at Goodwood and Fontwell.

Wish we had known: That there was so much to do in the area. We would have tried to stay longer!

Our top tip: If your children are unduly rambunctious – and whose aren’t? – you may want to ask in advance for a private eating room, if available.

Kids say: All three children were impressed by the fact we had our own wig closet, although six-year-old Tilly loved having her own room the most – even though she ended up in our bed in the morning!

Getting There: The Spread Eagle is located in Midhurst, West Sussex, just seven miles from Haslemere mainline station and not too far from Chichester. Accommodation is from L112 per room per night including breakfast and VAT. To book or for information call 01730 816911, email spreadeagle@hshotels.co.uk or visitwww.hshotels.co.uk. Over the May half-term holiday, The Spread Eagle is offering families a special rate of L198 per room per night which includes dinner, bed and breakfast and entry to the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum (www.wealddown.co.uk). From Monday 25th – Friday 29th May 2009 between 11am and 4pm, children of all ages will be able to enjoy Weald and Downland unattended and learn about the natural world through trails, scavenger hunts, arts and crafts and a host of outdoor games at the museum. This offer is valid for families of up to four and children up to the age of 12.

About our stay: My three daughters have seen it all, yet they are always willing to try something new – and usually they appreciate it as well. So when I told them were going to visit a hotel that has perhaps the only remaining wig closet in a hotel in England, I was met with choruses of “But Mummy, we don’t have wigs! Why are we going?” [wig_closet.jpg] The answer, of course, is that along with a wig closet and other bizarre eccentricities, The Spread Eagle Hotel in Midhurst, West Sussex also has a lot of charm. And a good restaurant. And a swimming pool. And, to top it all off, it’s not that far from the seaside. What more can kids want? We stayed in the Queen’s room, home of said wig closet, which also had an enormous four-poster bed the children adored. Tilly, six, was happy because for the first time in her life she had her own bedroom, connected to the main one where the four of us slept. Her boudoir led to a sitting room no other guests were using, so although it was officially communal we were able to call it our own. The entire hotel is seemingly built on a slant, it’s so old that if you were to roll a marble on some floors it would roll back toward you. There are nooks and crannies everywhere – one room reportedly has a secret passage used in the past by smugglers – big fireplaces and even an ornate cuckoo clock. We didn’t have a chance to see the very oldest rooms in the Market House, part of the original coaching inn across the road, but they looked enticing. Along with the antiques there were also modern amenities. Our bathroom, of course, was flawlessly modern, with an original wooden beam incorporated in the ceiling – and even part of the shower. And the relatively new Aquila Spa was bang up to date, although the kids were disappointed they weren’t allowed to use the steam room or sauna – especially eight-year-old Josephine, who became a sauna convert in Finland, where they allow kids to roast away. [josephine.jpg] We set off exploring the area, starting with a small duck pond adjacent to the hotel. We then took a long walk along Midhurst’s winding roads, stopping at a 21st century newsagent’s to get a much-needed ice cream before purchasing some hamster bedding we found hard to find in London (another surprise!). Then back to the hotel for a swim in the large, bright pool – sans sauna. Dinner was in the hotel restaurant, which has been awarded two rosettes by the AA Restaurant Guide. Our lovely waiter smartly gave us a small room to ourselves, so the kids could be as vile as possible without insulting other guests. Most of the food, while good, was a bit too haute cuisine for children, although Tilly adored her Croque Monsieur and they all fought over the homemade fudge which came on a plate as their joint dessert. Clementine, four, was only a bit disappointed that the waiter referred to her as “Miss” instead of “Madame”. I explained she has a way to go yet, but as she still doesn’t understand why she wasn’t age four when she was born I am fighting a losing battle. Would we go back? Definitely. Next time, however, I may bring a wig… 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 17:36:37.600

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