What is it? Just how varied and good the kids’ food would be. If we’d known, we wouldn’t have been so lax about the kids snacking before supper The children’s menu at the hotel offered a range of choices from light bites, like beans on toast or a children’s finger tea of sarnies, fruit and cake, to pasta and roast chicken. They also offer half portions of any adult dish or will prepare special requests, subject to availability.
Where? Watch young children at the pool very carefully and bring your own floatation aids or any swimming equipment you need. The pool is all one depth, around adult chest height, so is very deep for young children. That’s usually the case with most spa pools, but often there are floats and toys available – that’s not the case here.
Description: Legoland is about 10 minutes’ drive away (Chessington and Thorpe Park are further but all within driving distance). Berystede is the closest four-star hotel to Ascot racetrack, so it’s hugely popular with race-goers. Nearby there’s Windsor – with its castle, history and boat trips along the Thames.
Savannah said: “It was kind of them to give us the colouring books and crayons. I liked sleeping in the same room as Mum and Dad. It was nice watching them as I fell asleep.” Imogen: “More pasta please, Mummy!”
Macdonald Berystede Hotel and Spa is a mile away from Ascot racetrack and can be contacted on 0870 400 8111; www.berystede.com. Prices, for weekend B&B with two adults and two children sharing one room, start at L141 (L111 per room per night based on two people, plus L15 per child). Family rooms start at L188.50. Legoland packages start at L170 per family (two adults and two children sharing one room, including breakfast and four two-day Legoland tickets). The hotel and spa are owned by the Macdonald Hotels and Resorts group which has more than 60 hotels throughout the UK. Visit their website www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk or call 0870 400 9090. For information about Legoland contact 08705 040404, www.legoland.co.uk.
Ascot on a raceday is an exciting place to be. You don’t even need to be trackside to soak up some of the atmosphere because Ascot racecourse is right by the road, and plenty of the action (grandstand, enclosures and people milling around) can be seen as you drive by. As we drove to Berystede on a Sunday afternoon, there was a meeting at the track and our girls were awed by the size of the recently refurbished grandstand, the number of smartly-dressed people and the brief glimpses of the shiny-with-sweat muscles of a thoroughbred. Having spent some of my childhood at racetracks – Newmarket in particular – I was keen to see what my girls might make of a day at the races. But Al, practical as ever, pointed out that at three and six they’d be happier on the rides at Legoland and feeding the swans in Windsor. The turf would have to wait for now. It’s worth mentioning, however, that kids under 16 go free at Ascot. There’s also a free supervised creche for children aged two to seven, and there are four annual dedicated Family Days, which include entertainment such as fairground rides, face painting and jugglers. But on this trip I had to make do with a virtual-reality experience of Ascot at the Berystede. As the hotel is merely a mile from the track, it has always been closely associated with Ascot. The hotel’s bar and restaurant bear names associated with Ascot horses and races. There’s a great sense of history about the Berystede. The original building, which burnt down in 1886, was built in 1870 as a family estate. The ghost of a maid, who ran back to save her belongings but perished in the fire, is said to haunt the building. The rebuilt house became a hotel in 1903, and this year has undergone a huge redevelopment. As well as the addition of the spa, all rooms now have air conditioning, free ADSL internet access and mini bars. We arrived at the hotel after spending a couple of hours in Windsor, which incorporated a boat trip down the Thames, feeding the town’s abundance of swans and an outside look at the magnificent castle. Experience has told us that a mini taster of castles is always preferable when you have a three-year-old in tow. [Windsor_castle.jpg] At the hotel, we went for an afternoon dip in the new pool, which we had to ourselves. There’s a joint disabled and family changing room so we were well catered for. And the swimsuit-drying machine in the women’s changing room was a huge hit with the girls. Then it was down for dinner, which we all heartily recommend. The restaurant has an AA rosette, and despite the sophistication of the setting we felt perfectly comfortable accompanied by a couple of guests who sometimes forgot their cutlery and turned fidgeting into an art form. The strawberry meringue was particularly popular. It was a deliciously huge mess of crushed meringue with chopped strawberries and whipped cream – yum! The girls were sharing our room, so once they were tucked up Al and I retired to bed to read as they fell asleep. And it wasn’t long before we joined them. Legoland was on the agenda for the following day. Staying close by (some seven miles away), meant a leisurely awakening and breakfast. Reception even printed out directions to the park from the hotel for us, so it was as easy to find as it was swift. [Fun_at_legoland.jpg] Legoland, as any parent of young kids will tell you, is pretty much unbeatable. “I wish I lived here,” declared Savannah as we dragged her away from the numerous rides ten minutes before the park closed. “Could they build me a house of Lego to live in?” (Tanya Spriggs is a journalist who has worked extensively for parenting magazines and the parenting sections of daily newspapers. She lives in Kelvedon, Essex, with her husband, Alan, and two children.)