St Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster proved a hit with this family on a break to London
What is it?
St Ermin’s Hotel is a grand and classic London hotel which balances its history with a relaxed attitude to children.
Where is it?
This hotel is ideally situated in the heart of Westminster, between Parliament and Buckingham Palace, right opposite New Scotland Yard. The area feels very safe and quiet in the evenings so there’s no noise to wake the little ones.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, the staff enjoy children being around, breakfast is relaxed, the outside entrance has a little green space and the Budding Bonds themed package offering a treasure hunt for youngsters is a nice touch (see more under highlights).
The hotel’s budding Bond’s package
We stayed in a lovely family suite at St Ermin’s which boasted two big beds and the added bonus of two bathrooms. It was nicely decorated and a good size for London where hotel rooms are usually on the small side.
It had a large TV and sofa for relaxing on.
Food and drink
Breakfast is very tasty but the real treat was an afternoon tea. The sandwiches and cakes are beautifully presented and our children loved the experience. There is champagne for the adults and on a warm day you can eat outside on the balcony overlooking the wonderful entrance to the hotel.
The Caxton Grill is the restaurant for evening meals, it is quite formal but lighter bites (perhaps better suited to children) can be eaten at the Caxton Bar next door.
The bartender will even mix a child’s cocktail which certainly impressed our son.
It is walking distance to Buckingham Palace, St James’ Park, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Southbank. There are plenty of restaurants on the main road towards Victoria, about a five minute walk from the hotel.
*The Bond theme. This hotel is where MI6 were based during World War Two and the 007 package is a perk for budding James Bonds. Staff handed our son a sheet with clues to solve around the hotel. It’s a great way to explore – the staff really embrace it, pretending to be security officers if you ask them for help – and when you’ve finished you get a couple of special prizes.
The hotel interior
*The entrance. It gives a real wow factor for children and adults thanks to the tree lined entrance and grand staircase next to reception.
*The history lesson. St Ermin’s housed MI6 during World War Two and more recently it was the venue where Boris Johnson amazed the country by pulling out of the race to become Prime Minister.
*Exploring. The hotel is large with plenty of nooks and crannies, an old library and corridors to venture into. Our children enjoyed exploring such an historic building.
St Ermin’s Hotel, 2 Caxton Street, Westminster, London, SW1H 0QW.
How to book
This is a brilliantly-located and child-friendly hotel in the heart of London. For more information and room rates visit their website St Ermin’s
We stayed as guests of St Ermin’s for this review. All views are our own.
We take our children to review the all-inclusive Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach in Corralejo, Fuerteventura
“Everybody is naked,” said my brother in a mock whisper.
The glorious beach at our hotel in Fuerteventura is full of surprises.
Not only is Corralejo bigger and sandier than any beach I can remember. With gently crashing turquoise waves, perfect for the children to try out their new bodyboards. And camel rides along sands which stretch for miles from the front of our hotel, the Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach Resort.
Bodyboarding in the sea on Corralejo beach
But one day as we turn right out of the hotel and venture further along in search of rock pools, we unwittingly gatecrash a naturist section.
This eye-opening experience was not part of the plan for a family trip away to celebrate my mum’s 70th.
My embarrassed mum picked up her pace, I tried not to snigger like a child while the actual children with us didn’t bat an eyelid, except my eight-year-old nephew who asked if it was legal.
While I had carefully dressed my son and daughter in their UV swimsuits, the youngsters in this area were in their birthday suits, while relaxed adults strolled in and out of the sea.
And the giggle we had about it later (apologies to naturist readers) confirmed this as a holiday to remember.
The Riu Oliva Beach is a huge, all-inclusive resort set back from the sands.
We are Riu regulars and love the good food, child-friendly pools and fun feel of their hotels.
We knew this one was soon to be refurbished but the location more than made up for the slightly tired surroundings.
One of the pools at the Riu Oliva Beach hotel, next to the beach
The hotel is divided into a main tower and a lower rise annexe area better suited to families, where we stayed.
Our family room had a lovely large balcony, double bedroom and two single sofa beds for our children.
There are two swimming pools – the fish-shaped one was where we spent most of our time. It is well designed for children with varying depths and an island to swim around.
The fish-shaped swimming pool at Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach Resort
On one side is a handy shop, filled with temping inflatables for the children and buckets and spades.
On the other side of the pool is the smaller of the two main buffet restaurants.
There is also a restaurant specialising in Asian cuisine and another boasting Canarian favourites.
Our party of 11 – aged from three to 70 – all found something to their taste.
There is children’s entertainment daily with a party at 5pm, plus an adults’ show every night at 9.30pm.
A children’s disco would also have been welcome in the early evening which we have had at other Riu hotels.
All-inclusive here means just that, all we paid for all week was a camel ride along the beach. And our inflatable dolphin for the pool!
Having all your food and drink included certainly makes it easier when you are in a big group as we were.
The nearby town of Corralejo has a pretty square, markets, a water park plus a ferry to nearby Lanzarote.
But we found plenty to entertain us at the hotel.
A camel ride along Corralejo beach
Mornings in the pool, afternoons at the beach and evenings enjoying the food, drink and entertainment.
One magic show for children was especially good.
You might find plusher venues in the Canaries but I doubt you will find one in a better spot to enjoy the landscape.
Just remember to watch where you walk if you want to explore the sands.
Or pack extra sun cream.
*For a more detailed review of the hotel, see here.
Accommodation: We stayed as guests at Clubhotel Riu Oliva Beach Resort, an all-inclusive hotel in Corralejo, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, Spain, for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.
We review The Quiet Site at Ullswater in Cumbria.
I have a real soft spot for the Lake District. We lived here for two blissful years and it was on the shores of one of its more remote and beautiful lakes where my husband proposed.
It is the quieter spots which fill me most with joy. Like Ullswater, which despite being the area’s second biggest lake, attracts nowhere near the hordes which flock to its largest, Windermere.
As well as being more peaceful, it’s arguably more breathtaking – framed by peaks which include Helvellyn.
And at only 10 minutes from the M6, it couldn’t be easier to reach.
The Quiet Site
Our accommodation in this part of Cumbria reflects our tranquil surroundings – The Quiet Site is a campsite half way up the western side of Ullswater.
Various levels of luxury are catered for from bring-your-own tent to a luxury cottage.
Their latest option are intriguing hobbit holes – underground spaces four times bigger than their insulated wooden camping pods – built into the side of a hill.
A hobbit hole
Camping pods at The Quiet Site
But we are firmly above ground – our home for three nights is a spacious three-bedroom cottage.
This former smithy is full of character, with high ceilings, exposed beams and equipped with everything we could need. Plus extras like a playhouse, toys, books and shelves groaning with children’s DVDs.
And I don’t know who was happiest about the giant trampoline in the garden – but it started the holiday on a high for us all.
Enjoying the trampoline in the garden of our cottage
The site also has a playground and an indoor soft play area, conveniently adjoined to the bar in a cosy barn.
I can see why The Quiet Site was recently the top-rated holiday and glamping park on Tripadviser out of 190 listed in the Lake District.
We crammed lots into this summer break – around the lake and on it.
Ullswater Steamers, which sail between Glenridding in the south and Pooley Bridge in the north, are the popular mode of transport in these parts.
We caught one to Howtown, in the middle, where we climbed part of Hallin Fell and enjoyed a memorable picnic with the lake glistening in the sunshine below.
Ullswater Steamers are a familiar site on the lake
You don’t need to be an expert map reader to find a rewarding spot by the lake but tackling the directions on the nature trail at Askham Hall Gardens, east of Pooley Bridge, tested and thrilled our son and daughter.
The trail winds through gorgeous gardens, with farm animals at the end. Completion brings you to a play area, plus a cafe with a pizza oven and delicious cakes. All the ingredients for a perfect few hours for us.
Other family-friendly trips include the wonderful waterfall Aira Force.
I kept a firm hold of our children by some steep drops on the woodland walk up but they were both suitably impressed by the spectacular sights and sounds.
We were lucky with the weather but if you need undercover fun, head to Rheged. Sadly, the fabulous Lego exhibition we enjoyed was only temporary but there is plenty of permanent entertainment here for little ones. Choose from pottery painting, soft play and an outdoor playground.
Throughout our stay at Ullswater, we found plenty of quiet coves with flat water ready to be disturbed by children’s stones. They were also the perfect settings for picnics, making up adventures and taking in the glorious views.
William Wordsworth was inspired to write the poem Daffodils after seeing the flowers growing on the shores of Ullswater.
“It is the happiest combination of beauty and grandeur, which any of the lakes affords,” he said.
And I may just agree.
For a more detailed review on The Quiet Site, see here.
*For more ideas, see Cumbria’s official tourist board website.
Accommodation: We stayed as guests of The Quiet Site, Ullswater, for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.
We review Chateau Rhianfa in Anglesey and explore the surrounding area, beaches and attractions with our young children
It is not every day you wake up in a castle.
And the spectacular sight from our ridiculously comfortable bed through a large picture window means getting up is not appealing.
We are in Anglesey and our view takes in the waters of the Menai Strait, framed by majestic Snowdonia.
Other families we know holiday in Anglesey yet we had never been so we had decided to visit the beautiful island off north Wales for a half-term break.
Chateau Rhianfa is more decadent than your average venue with its grand decor and tiered gardens sweeping down to the water (click here for our full review of Chateau Rhianfa).
Fans of ITV’s Cold Feet will recognise it as it recently featured in an episode for the wedding of Spanish nanny Ramona.
It was built in the mid-1800s in the style of a French Renaissance chateau as an aristocratic country retreat.
This fairy tale venue is impressive from the outside and fascinating on the inside.
Inside Chateau Rhianfa
Our children loved exploring the grand drawing and music rooms and were excited to discover cosy cubby holes in turrets.
And we were all happy to find an atmospheric wine cave among the rabbit warren of spaces.
The hotel rooms and suites are lavishly finished.
A hotel room
The Gate Lodge
Or you can stay in equally beautiful self-catering accommodation in the grounds.
We were in the Gate Lodge, a two-storey cottage with arched entrance and miniature turrets, where attendants of visitors to the chateau would once have stayed.
It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/diner and lounge area.
The Gate Lodge self-catering accommodation
With the space and the large grounds to enjoy, I could have stayed there all day. But there was an island to explore and two children eager to get going.
We were spoilt for choice for beaches and our favourite was Newborough, a wide sweeping bay backed by sand dunes and woodland walks.
We also liked Lligwys Beach near Moelfre – quiet and good for rockpooling – and the more rugged and windy Rhosneigr which was home to kitesurfers and kayakers.
Our daughter never tired of throwing stones into the water and our son loved hunting for crabs among the rock pools and paddling in the sea.
And we discovered exactly how crashing waves worked through clever replications at Anglesey Sea Zoo.
Everything in this aquarium is found around the British coast, and we found out plenty thanks to the friendly staff as they fed the fish and lobsters.
You can enjoy a feed too at the well-priced cafe and outside there’s a playground, bouncy slide, crazy golf and more.
Back at our castle, trying the food is a must as it has previously won Hotel Restaurant of the Year (Welsh Food Awards).
We had a delicious breakfast on our last morning and also risked our young children in the quiet and refined dining room for an evening meal.
Thankfully they behaved. Or at least, nobody was looking when they didn’t.
It was a small, thoughtfully put together menu. There were no separate options for children. But the chefs were happy to adapt one of the dishes to suit them. And my steak was the best I have ever tasted.
The food lived up to expectations, as did the venue, as did Anglesey itself.
We are one more family won over by its charms.
Chateau Rhianfa on the Menai Strait
Have you been to Anglesey? Where do you recommend for children?
(We stayed as guests of Chateau Rhianfa. All views are our own).