There are very few Manor House hotels that allow you the sense of stepping back in time and experiencing what it was like to be a guest of high society, all while enjoying modern day comforts, in a home from home setting. Welcome to The Ickworth.
Back in January, feeling the usual blues, boredom and cold weather, we decided we needed something in the diary to look forward to. So we booked our last family holiday as a three, our ‘family babymoon’.
So that’s when we turned to the Luxury Family Hotel Group, who we’ve stayed with before (Moonfleet Manor) when Louis was small, as it had delivered everything it promised it would. That’s ‘affordable escapes in some of England’s finest locations’, Ofsted-registered crèche time, activities inside and out, swimming pool, babysitting and/or listening service, fine dining, spa and culture, and with 6 currently in the portfolio, there were plenty to choose from.
This time around we chose The Ickworth in Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, which is surrounded by 1,800 aches of National Trust land and history. Once a fine country home and estate to the famous Hervey family, it is now part Luxury Family Hotel and part National Trust visitor centre, giving you all the benefits of a first class holiday experience on National Trust grounds – sounded perfect to us too!
We took advantage of a mid week winter deal, paying just under £350 for a 2 night stay with 2 course fine dining dinner and breakfast, in one of their family suites. On arrival we were taken a back by the size of the room, it’s period features and furniture; as well as picturesque views over the Pleasure Gardens. As we settled in to our room, we got a real sense of how guests of the Hervey family would have felt one hundred years a go.
Having arrived around midday, we unpacked our suitcases and enjoyed a cup of afternoon tea from the Breakfast tray, before heading out for an explore of the grounds. Taking in the National Trust visitor centre, we enjoyed walking amongst the Pleasure Gardens, searching for ‘the Dragon’s Eye’ in the ‘stumpey’ and watching Louis scoot along the paths. Taking in the rolling countryside, the fields were dotted with newborn lambs and it provided the perfect backdrop to our lunch in the sunny Organgery Cafe. Entrance to the NT part of Ickworth is included in your stay.
As the weather started to turn cooler, we decided to check out the hotel’s heated swimming pool, located in one of the out-houses. One of the best bits about the pool is that it’s externally heated too, so if like me you fancy lounging at the side in your costume, you can. However with my 32 week bump, I also enjoyed using some of the swimming noodles to prop under me and just float about, all while the boys jumped in and out and played with the complimentary pool toys.
With a day of exploring and pool time under our belt, it was time to head back to the main hotel and enjoy dinner. Louis was booked in to the ‘Children’s High Tea’ at 5pm, which we paid around £5 a night for. This session offers a family friendly setting in the conservatory, where parents can enjoy a pre-dinner drink, while the kids enjoy helping themselves to the usual toddler friendly delights at the buffet – result!
So on to some adult time – having discussed the listening service with the hotel staff we decided that we would take advantage of their monitors and enjoy a tot free meal together. Using your monitor or hotel listening service in a hotel is a very personal subject, but for us the set up felt slick and we were comfortable with it. So with Louis tucked up and asleep in bed, we headed directly downstairs to the adult only restaurant, Fredericks. This restaurant offers a choice of fine dining courses from the seasonal menu, as well as a vast selection of wines (lucky Ant!).
For an example of the menu click here.
Waking up on our second day of our break, taking in the view of the countryside, we enjoyed a lazy lie in, before heading down to breakfast in the Conservatory, which provided a continental and hot buffet or a menu of egg dishes and hot sweet treats. Afterwards we took our coffees through to the library, to take advantage of a variety of magazines as well as baskets of toys and play tables.
At 10am, Louis was booked into the first crèche session of the day. Having visited it with him the day before, he was very excited about diving into the space, full of games, crafts, dressing up clothes (and quiet zones for naps and feeding).
With some tot free time, we decided to book ourselves on to one of the free tours that the National Trust offer of the house and grounds. The building itself is beautiful and culture rich, and having currently experienced 24 hours of life ‘upstairs’ we were very interested to hear about what life was like for those who worked at Ickworth ‘downstairs’, so off we set off for an insightful tour of the servants quarter. As a side note, the following day, while Louis was at creche, we were lucky to get a tour of the fine art inside the Rotunda, an area of the estate reserved purely by the Hervey family for entertaining guests and giving us insight into how the ‘other half live!’.
With Louis collected from creche, we decided to embark on a family activity, so off we headed to the bike shed, next to the hotel, offering bikes to hire in a range of sizes, including toddler seats and helmets. In the hotel itself you can find a map of an easy bike trail, which takes about 90mins in total to cycle around the estate. We happened to choose a very muddy day to take the bikes out on, but it was worth it for the laughs. Alternatively we could have walked it and taken advantage of the complimentary wellies and boots on offer, but… the power of hindsight!
Having filled our boots at breakfast, we decided to warm up with some afternoon tea back at the National Trust Cafe, where we managed to bag a seat in the Orangery, which overlooks the Italiante Gardens, and sampled Ickworth’s famous Cherry Bakewell Scone, delicious!
Later that afternoon we repeated the previous day’s routine with a trip to the pool, High Tea for Louis and a SECOND child free evening meal for us! Louis didn’t fancy the film they were offering in the Cinema Room, so instead we let him stay up for a bit longer to play with other children and hypo-allergenic pooch that roams the property, in the Sitting Room, while Ant enjoyed a pre dinner drink, and I had a long soak in the roll top bath in our bedroom. If you do have a dog, it’s worth mentioning they do allow you to bring yours along too!
The following day and the last morning of our stay at The Ickworth we went via the adventure playground on the National Trust ground, as the small outdoor play garden on the hotel grounds (with swing, slide and trampoline) was looking a bit too muddy.
On our way home we headed towards Ipswich, 40 mins from the hotel, to investigate the famous Jimmy’s Farm, where we had a tasty lunch, a look around the independent shops and explore of the Farm & Wildlife Farm.
So that’s a review of our stay at The Ickworth. Would we go back? Absolutely, we can’t wait, in fact we’re already looking into one of the festive breaks for Christmas and New Year that the hotel group offer. Would we say it’s good value?- Well given we barely spent anything more than what we paid for the stay, apart from our evening drinks, absolutely. The menu in Fredricks isn’t extensive, but it’s seasonal and changes every evening, allowing you to try something new and perhaps that you wouldn’t cook at home. However if you don’t like the look you can opt for more British traditional dishes in the Conservatory.
So after almost 3 days of fun and relaxation at The Ickworth, we headed for home, buzzing with memories and feeling extremely relaxed, exactly what we wanted for our family babymoon. So can I recommend a stay? I can’t recommend it enough!
Thanks for reading