12 UK half-term breaks to book now
The May half-term break is days away, and with it the chance for a sun-doused pause and some bonding time with the children.
From forest camps at swishy treehouses in the Peak District to parental pampering in a Romanesque spa while children embark on treasure hunts through the New Forest, here are the best last-minute UK half-term breaks to book.
The Lakes by Yoo
Dubbed the ‘Hamptons of the Cotswolds’, The Lakes by YOO puts an elevated spin on the rental-with-facilities format. Very elevated. In fact, the starry names behind the designs (Kate Moss, Philippe Starck, Elle Macpherson) feel worlds away from your humble riverside cabin. Families can hurtle out of the city for a morning paddleboard to organic breakfasts at the Lakes Bar and Kitchen, or a suspended rope course along the Woodland Tree Top Trail, crossing a lake with a zip wire. The Lakes by Yoo have conveniently opened their new The Lakes Kids’ Club in time for half-term, with exploration and into-the-wild capers taking centre stage. Smaller children can dive into various arts and crafts workshops, embark on teddy bear picnics in the surrounding meadows and visit the farm animals while their parents dart to the local gastro pubs or set off on a long, sun-dappled ramble through the fields. After days spent kayaking on the lakes, playing cards on the deck and e-biking around the estate, families can hunker down in sleek, lakeside cabins, watching the water and planning tomorrow’s escapades.
From £1,050 per night in a three-bedroom lakeside apartment; thelakesbyyoo.com
Just outside Leatherhead lies a legendary Surrey pile steeped in extraordinary history. Wartime cabinet minister and former proprietor of the Daily Express Lord Beaverbrook hosted some of the 20th century’s most illustrious characters here, from Charlie Chaplin to Sir Winston Churchill. Children will relish its lore of James Bond author Ian Fleming pacing its gardens, or Rudyard Kipling seeking inspiration. With 470 acres to work with, Beaverbrook has gone to town on children’s activities, with entertainment maestros Sharky & George (famous for putting on royal parties) lighting up the kids’ club with bug hunting, den building and night safaris. And it’s not all weather-dependent — designated family swim times and afternoon film screenings ensure there’s no moping at a rainy window. Having worked up an appetite with a packed schedule, children can marvel at the Dining Room’s bento boxes or tuck into kitchen garden Italian favourites at The Garden House or Pizzeria. The hotel has also just launched its Love is in the Air dining experience in stationary hot air balloons — children aged over 13 are welcome. Better still, a School’s Out offer (May 27-June 4) includes children sharing a room for free with at least one adult, plus a complimentary Sharky & George session for tots.
From £505 per night in a Cosy Room in The Garden House; beaverbrook.co.uk
The Fife Arms, Scottish Highlands
The Highlands rarely fail to enchant children (and their parents), particularly the Cairngorms National Park, on the fringes of which sits the Fife Arms, iconic art duo Iwan and Manuela Wirth’s reimagined coaching inn. For children, it’s diving into the pages of a fantastical novel full of taxidermy, four-poster beds and fireside adventure-planning with maps. Beyond the Fife Arms’ glass cabinets and quirky doors lies a craggy, hilly playground, all carpeted in purple heather and ancient forests. Families can embark on a tour of the surrounding wilderness led by in-house forager Natasha Lloyd. They’ll learn what can be plucked for teas, tinctures, condiments and cosmetics. From cycling and walking routes curated by the ghillies to Highland picnics of smoked Scottish salmon and followed by treasure hunts back at the hotel, the Fife Arms is a masterclass in how to weave children into a swishy, art-focused hotel.
Nature & Poetry Suites from £434 per night; thefifearms.com
Bruern Cottages, Cotswolds
Lording over its landscaped gardens somewhere between Chipping Norton and Burford, Lady Astor’s Bruern Abbey is the sort of wisteria-smothered dwelling Americans imagine that English nobility have clung onto. This is biscuits and board games territory, where sofas and armchairs engulf families for hours and children weave around topiary in the manicured gardens. The interiors may have a traditional feel but the grounds are filled with family-focused elements — from playrooms to an elaborate Wendy House and climbing frame. The blend of hotel facilities with the privacy of a cottage is a boon for parents.
From £630 per night; bruern-holiday-cottages.co.uk
Wildhive Callow Hall, The Peak District
Hovering over acres of Winnie-the-Pooh-style woodland on the fringes of the Peak District, Wildhive Callow Hall taps into both children’s and parents’ treehouse fantasies. Two cleverly designed, luxurious perches provide families with oodles of space, sleeping up to five people, a well thought-through kitchenette and large wraparound deck for al fresco evenings in the tree canopy. Families can set off on adventures through the Peak District (the Tissington Trail is nearby) either on foot or by bike. The hotel is putting on a Forest Camp over half-term, where 9-12s spend the morning shelter building, campfire cooking and constructing animal houses with an expert guide.
Treehouses from £614 per night; wildhive.uk
Fowey Hall, Cornwall
If there’s one thing this clifftop Victorian mansion excels in, it’s multi-generational fun. Peering over the storybook harbour town of Fowey, this coastal pile is part of the Luxury Family Hotels group (known for putting the sprogs first). Naturally, then, half-term is packed with activities, from Lego club and scientific experiments to lawn games and sensory play for the smalls. What’s more, the nearby Eden Project is rolling out its Festival of Imagination for families from May 27 to June 4. With 1.5 hours of complimentary childcare per night’s stay, parents are free to unwind in the recently upgraded spa, or snatch a moment à deux on the room balconies overlooking the estuary.
Rooms from £225 per night; foweyhallhotel.co.uk
Four Seasons Hampshire
Before even considering this rambling pile’s pretty landscaped gardens, its morning pony hacks and fantastical indoor waterpark (Sharkie’s reef), Four Seasons Hampshire’s main draw is its proximity to the big smoke. No draining motorway expeditions home with moaning children, in fact, city sprogs arrive at this Hampshire hotel with a spring in their step, ready for its dizzying spread of activities — from a highwire adventure obstacle course to falconry and kids’ yoga. Half-term will give budding football stars a chance to show off their skills with a series of ball games on the Zen Lawn, and the hotel has even put on themed ‘Dinky Discos’ (which translates as a child-free evening in the Library Bar). With small-but-mighty touches such as swim nappies alongside the pool and under fives eating for free, The Four Seasons Hampshire is testament to the idea that a swishy, 5* hotel can, in fact, make for a cortisol-free family escape.
From £476 per night; fourseasons.com
Another Place, The Lake
Perched along the shore at Ullswater, it’s all about watersports here, which are launched from the hotel’s private jetty, as well as making the most of the natural splendour, whether that’s swimming in the glass-encased infinity pool, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, or tearing off into the fells, en famille. Once filled to the brim with fresh air and Beatrix Potter lore, families can retreat to their modern-classic rooms, rustic-luxe treehouses or shepherd’s huts, the latter with fire pits for roasting marshmallows. Two-hour Kids’ Zone sessions (think bushcraft and orienteering skills) leave enough time for parents to dock into the spa, sink into a hot tub or sample the cocktail menu in the library.
From £210 per night; another.place
Calcot & Spa, Cotswolds
Comprising acres of fields, renovated cottages, tennis courts and woodland galore on the edges of antiques-centred Tetbury, Calcot & Spa has mastered the family stay formula with the ethos that parents should be worthy of as much entertainment and pampering as their broods. This is made possible with a truly superb Ofsted-approved crèche and Playbarn (a fantastical, light-filled space brimming with fancy toys and craft boxes), where children can be happily docked as parents skip off to the spa, to stew in the spa’s lavender-lined terrace courtyard tub or flop on their tummies for a long overdue massage. This half-term, the Kids’ Club activities programme will feature scavenger hunts, nature art, bug hotels and pirate treasure hunts among other activities they’ll scramble down from breakfast for. The new family suites recall a private cottage, just with Calcot’s polished finish and all the tot paraphernalia you can wish for (cots, monitors, baby baths, room service of organic mush). All-day grazing spot, the Hive, has made children’s mealtimes a breeze with its easy-going feel and a pizza packed menu, with healthy options (and plenty of cocktail options for parents).
Doubles from £259 per night; calcot.co
Duncombe Arms, Derbyshire
Laura and Johnny Greenall (of the gin dynasty) have cracked the new-age pub enigma: how to make a community Derbyshire pub appeal to those further afield, without draining it of local charm. They started with its looks – the boarded-up-boozer was in serious need of some TLC, which it received in droves from Laura’s sharp eye. They then focused on the food – which shortly won a Michelin Bib Gourmand with its elevated riff on classic pub fare (think bouillabaisse of salmon, bream with mussels & cockles, and rabbit ragu). This is where to take the children for a Swallows & Amazons-style half-term, walking, climbing, horse-riding and biking through unspoilt countryside. The Duncombe Arms may sit in prime walking location on the edges of the Peak District, but the macaque monkeys of Trentham Estate’s Monkey Forest are an easy car journey away, as is Peak Wildlife Park and the resplendent Chatsworth House, with its half-term lamb feeding sessions and flower-crown making workshops.
Bedrooms from £195 per night; duncombearms.co.uk
Chewton Glen, New Forest
Purge the lungs of city soot this half-term in the New Forest’s grande dame, Chewton Glen – whose slick, safari-style treehouses were chiselled together with families in mind. The joy lies in their clever mix of five-star hotel service, with breakfast hampers and room service, offering the sense of seclusion of a self-catered getaway, just with the hotel’s Romanesque spa, scrumptious restaurants and activity programme a brisk ramble away. The packed Kids’ Club itinerary for half-term includes salt dough decorating, jewellery making and forest walks with bird spotting. And along with herding ducks on Chewton Glen’s farm, flying kites pulled from Chewton Glen’s activity hampers and sauntering down to the beach with the full clan.
From £375 per night; chewtonglen.com
Carbis Bay, Cornwall
Another hotel that has occupied that clever middle ground of hotel and private stay, Carbis Bay, spanning an enormous green stretch of the Cornish coast. A traditional, antique-clad main house moves to the rhythms of a clipped country-coastal hotel, with some interconnecting rooms. Of all the self-catered options, the rustic-luxe Beaches Lodges are the most seductive proposition for families, perched right on Carbis Bay’s own Blue Flag beach. Children can let off steam in 125 acres of Poldark country, where lush fields, dense woodland and landscaped gardens roll on to meet the beach, and where storybook fishing villages offer a warren of art galleries, ice cream shops and seafood pit stops (such as nearby St. Ives). Following a lazy breakfast, parents can drop off broods at the 5+ Kid’s Club before sampling the C Bay spa’s new Bamford treatment menu or tucking into an early lunch at Adam Handling’s superlative, seafood-focused menu. Amid the seaside crafts, the tie-dye creating and pot painting, children will have long forgotten they even own parents. In fact, Carbis Bay’s family-friendly genius continues past 5pm, when children can head to film club, games night or pizza and mocktail masterclasses while their parents can get the smaller ones ready for bed, or take a well-deserved, uninterrupted walk along the beach.
Lodges are from £1800 per night B&B (sleeping 6) and Family Rooms are from £440 B&B; carbisbayhotel.co.uk