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Fun for all the family at The Ickworth by Niamh Barker

Posted in HOTELS + VILLAS By Maggie O' Sullivan

Having a young family doesn’t mean you lose interest in great food and a decent thread count – it just makes life’s little luxuries harder to come by. But I’ve found the answer: the Luxury Family Hotels group, whose eight properties not only welcome children, but positively cherish them, offering the kind of laidback luxury the whole family can enjoy. So having already stayed at Fowey Hall and Polurrian Bay, both in Cornwall, with our two daughters (aged 11 and 9), we decided it was time to tick another LFH property off the list and head for The Ickworth in Suffolk.Ickworth was the home of the Hervey family from 1702-1996. When the National Trust took over the house in 1956, the Herveys continued to live in the East Wing. In 2002 that wing was turned into a hotel and the West Wing became a visitor centre a few years later. But the Herveys have not been forgotten: the rooms are named after prominent people in the estate’s history and we were shown to Augustus Hervey (an 18th-century Admiral and politican known as the English Casanova). All of the 27 rooms in the main hotel (there are 11 more in a separate building called The Lodge) are comfortably furnished, mostly in a traditional style, with the odd decorative flourish in keeping with the architecture and Italianate gardens. The Ickworth’s lovely faded grandeur is particularly relaxing for parents of younger children: it’s more like a real home than a pristine showroom.For three blissful days we explored the estate gardens, including the 19th-century Stumpery (essentially a garden of exposed tree stumps – much more interesting than it sounds). We played tennis and croquet, took cycle rides and went swimming; I even managed to squeeze in a lovely run around the estate’s seven-mile perimeter. The Ickworth’s website lists all sorts of activities available in the surrounding countryside, but in truth, there’s so much to do at the hotel, there’s no real reason for going anywhere else.The Ickworth has two restaurants. The grand conservatory is the family-friendly option, with buffet breakfasts and leisurely lunches that spill outside onto wooden tables in the sunshine. Adult-only dinner was served in the less grand but maybe more sophisticated Frederick’s restaurant, though the menus are the same in both restaurants. We ate in the conservatory both evenings, with all the older children wandering outside between courses to enjoy gymnastic displays and badminton together. As we listened to happy shouts from the children, we heard one father declare: “I had never imagined badminton to be that exciting.”

More than anything, The Ickworth feels like the country home of wealthy friends. Comfortable, friendly and relaxed – perfect for a mid- week break before school and work got in the way again.

  • From £349 for a two-night stay, to include breakfast and a two-course dinner each evening; children stay free in parents’ room and children’s meals will be charged as taken. Further information, The Ickworth

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