What is it? The Tudor Farmhouse Hotel

Where? In the small village of Clearwell, nestled in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

Description: [Tudor_Farmhouse_Hotel.jpg]If you’re looking for a relaxing, family-friendly holiday away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, this 13th-century hotel is about as peaceful as you can get. And don’t confuse peaceful with boring: Wendy Sloane found that her three small children loved every minute of it

A gorgeous hotel break in a tranquil setting, with fantastic home-cooked food and lots of local attractions for kids to sink their teeth into

The landscaped garden was a big hit with the kids, as well as play area about a ten-minute walk away with climbing frames, slides and a multitude of grazing cows and goats to adore – from a distance. More than anything, our three girls loved picking tomatoes, peppers, broad beans and other vegetables from the hotel garden patch – then seeing them magically reappear at dinner.

We had a fantastic meal in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant, complete with canapes beforehand and a lemon sorbet to cleanse our palate before the main entree. All the food is from local suppliers, and much of it is sourced from the hotel’s garden. A twilight stroll through the tiered gardens, stopping to admire the view from one of the many tables placed around the area, completed the perfect evening. And if you fancy a village pub crawl, a pub is next door, with several more are along the road.

We spent our two evenings with the children, but the hotel staff gave us an ample supply of kids’ videos to keep them entertained while we read upstairs (correction: I read and Duncan watched the footie). I am sure the staff could find local baby-sitters if asked in advance.

If you’re looking for a manicure, facial or tanning session, this is the wrong holiday. Real pampering comes from peace and tranquility, which were in abundance here. If you’re desperate for a spa experience, however, some of the rooms – our included – have Jacuzzi baths.

Local activities: Attractions for children are in ready supply, some a car ride and some a short walk away. They include the pre-Roman iron ore mines at Puzzle Wood (01594 833187), the treasure hunt at Perrygrove Railway (01594 834991), and the underground adventures at Clearwell Caves (01594 832535). Older kids will like Go Ape (0870 444 5562), where you can pretend you’re Tarzan (or Jane) for a day. We also spent a day at Chepstow Castle overlooking the River Wye in Wales, a 45-minute drive away (01291 624065).

Wish we had known: That visiting the scary underground of Clearwell Caves would almost scare the pants off our girls, who started whimpering to leave almost the minute we left the safety – and light – of the entrance. Perhaps older children would like it more – although when questioned afterward, our kids found it more interesting than they’d admit at the time.

Our top tip: Try to stay at least three nights to make the most of your stay. We had just started to relax and then it was time to go! Also – there is a fridge in the room – at least there was one in the Cottage Suite. We had bought ice to keep soya milk fresh for Clementine, who is allergic to cow’s milk. It was nice to have a fridge and not have to worry about it.

Kids say: ‘I loved eating all the vegetables,’ says Josie, six. ‘I didn’t like the caves at all,’ adds Tilly, four. ‘It was scary down there. And we lost Daddy.’

Getting There: The Tudor Farmhouse Hotel is located on the High Street, Clearwell, Royal Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. GL16 8JS. For complete directions, depending on where you’re coming from, look at www.tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk/location/ Or phone 01594 833046 or freephone 0800 7835935. Prices vary, a family room that sleeps four in October starts at L120 per night You can also email info@tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk for more information, including special offers.

About our stay: The unassuming website gave us little idea of what to expect, and it wasn’t with baited breath that we drove through a corner of South Wales and into Gloucestershire to spend two nights at this 13th-century hotel. But once we arrived, it surpassed our expectations. Honest. It was like a little piece of heaven at the beginning of grey autumn, a tiny sliver of sunshine in what we had all assumed would be an unremittingly murky and not very interesting month. Josie, six, Tilly, four, and Clementine, almost two, enjoyed the freedom, the fresh air, and the farm animals staring at them from the fields beyond the hotel’s garden (they especially liked watching two men in wellies catch some runaway sheep and carry them over their shoulders back from whence they came). I liked the peace, the quiet and the delicious brandy in our room’s glass decanters. Duncs liked the footie (on TV) and the food. And our Romanian au pair, Renata, declared the hotel was the nicest place she had ever visited in England – a high compliment indeed. [Tilly_picking_apples_in_hotel_garden.jpg] We were given the Cottage Suite, which has a family room with a fold-out bed leading to a bath and twin bedroom downstairs, along with a double bedroom with en-suite bath upstairs. The girls loved having their own bathroom – and their own telly – and we loved the privacy of being on a different floor. For the first time, we even put the baby Clementine in with them in a cot bed instead of with us – and it worked. Smiles all round. The gardens were the best part of the hotel. Overlooking the gorgeous Wye Valley, they seemingly went on forever, and the girls climbed and ran around for hours, picking apples and plums, going on the small garden swing and skipping over the ambling creek that ran almost past our front door. A member of the hotel staff, Gordon, very kindly showed us the vegetable garden and offered us a private tasting of many of the exotic produce: broad beans, peppers, even a leek or two. Unfortunately for the other guests, however, Gordon ended the tour by showing us two huge pots of ripe cherry tomatoes, still on the vine, telling Josie she could have as many as she wanted. The pots were almost empty when Ms Greedy Guts finished. I’m sorry Gordon, I should have warned you. When we ventured from the hotel, local activities were in abundance. Josie and Tilly loved the Perrygrove Railway best, a mini steam engine that runs through 20 acres of woodland. We spent four hours on a treasure hunt, searching for clues both in the woods and at the four platforms, before finding a special treat back at the main station. [looking_out_castle_window.jpg] A morning at Clearwell Caves was less popular, however, with all three girls scared of the dark and cold. A morning running through the ruins of Chepstow Castle and admiring the on-site museums was a bigger hit, as was the hotel restaurant and the abundance of kids’ videos available for free hire to help them wind down in the evenings before a Jacuzzi bath and bed. Everything was easy, within reach, relaxed. Pure bliss.

Created: 2006-10-16 14:48:58.090

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