I’ve just been on a ‘mumoliday’. No, I didn’t know what one was either – but I can now highly recommend it.
Apparently this rising phenomenon of a ‘mumoliday’ or ‘mumcation’ is when Mums holiday together with friends, Dads are left at home and the focus is on having fun with the girls and kiddies.
And that’s exactly what I did. My oldest best friend, Vikki and I were in desperate need of a catch up. But living 300 miles apart tends to put a spanner in the works – not to mention the two children. So we opted for a weekend away, roughly halfway between our homes.
Moonfleet Manor proved the perfect spot. It is set in a World Heritage site in West Dorset’s idyllic countryside overlooking Chesil Beach. It’s off the beaten track, but just five miles away from the seaside resort of Weymouth, so was easy for both of us to reach.
So in true ‘mumoliday’ style, we packed our cars to the brim and squeezed in my nine-month-old Thomas, and her three-and-a-half-year-old Jessica, for a weekend of family-friendly fun. Not a single pair of heels in sight, but with the odd glass of wine added for good measure.
Moonfleet Manor couldn’t have been a better choice. It prides itself on being so family-friendly, and has thought of every little detail so you don’t have to. This was evident the second I sat down to have a spot of lunch whilst waiting for Vikki and Jessica to arrive.
It goes without saying there was a high chair for Thomas, but what I was impressed with was when asking for water for myself, a sippy cup quickly appeared ready for Thomas. Then plastic plates, bowls and cutlery for his lunch – even when I was giving him my own food from home. In my limited experience of dining out with a baby, this was a first!
The provision of useful baby equipment continued in our room – travel cot, bedding, change mat, and nappy bin. I could have had a steriliser, bottle warmer potty or nightlight had I needed them too. All essential kit you don’t have to bring which makes a huge difference when packing what already seems like your entire house for two nights away.
The room itself was also spot on for a family break. We stayed in a deluxe two-bed family room, which slept two adults and up to three children in a huge king-size room, and an equally huge twin room, with the option of an additional cot or Z-bed. There was a hallway, a seating area with drinks-making facilities, televisions in both rooms, and a huge bathroom. It couldn’t have worked better for us.
Built in 1603, the Moonfleet was then passed between various families and during the Second World War was used by American and British troops. In 1944, Fleet was a concentration area ahead of embarkation of the Normandy Landings, and on D-Day the US Rangers left from nearby Weymouth for Omaha Beach. It was converted into a hotel in 1945 and later was taken over by Luxury Family Hotels. It is one of eight hideaways the company run, from a fairy tale castle to a New Forest hunting lodge.
So what were we going to do all weekend with a baby and pre-schooler? The position was perfect to explore Dorset’s coast. Weymouth was just a few miles away for a classic seaside resort of deckchairs, sticks of rock, ice-creams, donkey rides on the beach, fish and chips, and shops. There are dozens of secluded beaches and rocky coves to explore along the coast, and just a few miles away is the famous Durdle Door dramatic rock arch with its two sheltered shingle beaches. For those of you donning your walking boots, the South West Coastal Path is easily accessible from the hotel itself, or the Jurassic Coast resorts of Charmouth and Lyme Regis are just 45 minutes away for a day of fossil hunting.
We threw stones in the sea on a rather breezy Chesil Beach, and we had a lovely wander around nearby Abbotsbury complete with lunch and a cream tea. But mostly we wanted to stay at Moonfleet to make the most of what the hotel offered the children.
Most popular was the swimming pool – or should I say three separate swimming pools, ideal for all ages. There is a separate baby pool for parents and babies to enjoy a safe dip together. But if your child is anything like Thomas, having had swimming lessons since the age of two-months, he was happier in one of the bigger pools, splashing around with Jessica. The changing facilities are unisex, helpful for families, although could be a bit bigger.
Another highlight was the hotel’s outdoor play area, complete with huge sandpit, buckets and spades. Lovely memories were made by Jessica showing Thomas how to build his first sandcastle, and trying to stop him eating the sand.
There was also a climbing frame, swings and a slide they were able to enjoy. Toddlers can join other little ones on a ‘Toddler Waddle’ guided walk through the grounds, discovering mini-beasts along the way, whilst older children can run wild and play on the trees and lawns, play tennis on the hotel’s hard courts, walk along the coast with Moonfleet’s spaniel Snoopy or try Geocaching.
If the weather isn’t so kind, it won’t ruin the fun – the hotel has an indoor play centre called the Verandah which is a huge space full of ride-on toys, trampolines, a skittle alley, indoor football pitch and under-fives soft play area. For older ones there is table tennis, a pool table, traversing climbing wall and air hockey. Pretty much heaven for any child.
But if the adults fancy a break from all these child-friendly activities, they can easily have their own fun – the hotel has a creche, offers baby-listening and babysitting services, perfect for mums and dads to have a romantic meal, or pay a visit to Moonfleet’s spa.
And that’s exactly what I did. My willing babysitter was Aunty Vikki – she took the children to the indoor play, whilst I was lucky enough to have an hour to myself for a spot of pampering. Moonfleet know that whilst the children are being entertained, parents can unwind too and return feeling relaxed, precisely how I felt after my amazing facial.
All this fun is bound to work up an appetite, but isn’t eating in a hotel just a complete pain with children? Well Moonfleet has done everything it can to make sure it’s not.
Breakfast is served from 7am for those early (and hungry) risers, and there is a choice of cooked breakfast items for (I don’t want to wait) children you can help yourself to, whilst adults can order from a traditional cooked breakfast menu. There are lighter and child-friendly meals offered at lunch time or a packed lunch you can take out on your adventures, and a traditional afternoon tea with all the yummy trimmings is available later on. High tea for those who wish to feed smaller children early is served from 5pm, or the whole family can dine together between 6pm and 7.30pm. Vikki and I were able to choose from the delicious AA rosette menu, a blend of Mediterranean and British tastes, whilst Jessica and Thomas could opt for something off the children’s menu – which helpfully came in toddler or child-sized portions. On a beautiful day, you could eat on the sunny terrace overlooking Chesil Beach to the sea, but if the weather isn’t perfect for alfresco dining, you can still tuck into your locally-sourced plates whilst enjoying fabulous views across the Fleet from inside the restaurant.
I’ve stayed in ‘family-friendly’ hotels before, but nothing beats Moonfleet. It literally has everything you could think of to keep the children entertained (even the dog is welcome) and prides itself on knowing that happy children make happy parents. Nobody wanted to leave after our two days here, but we did with smiles on our faces, feeling refreshed, wondering whether our biannual ‘halfway get togethers’ might become a regular visit to this gem of a hotel.
To stay at Moonfleet Manor costs from £180 per night. More information is available at www.luxuryfamilyhotels.co.uk or by phoning 0844 4822152. Follow Luxury Family Hotels on Twitter @LFHotels, or Facebook www.facebook.com/luxuryfamilyhotels