By Rachel Ducker
Tucked away in 1,800 acres of rolling parkland is The Ickworth Hotel, part of the Luxury Family Hotel Group.
Unmistakably grand, it has all the aristocratic touches you’d expect of an 18th century ancestral home, complete with its own striking Rotunda.
At over 100 feet high, this impressive building was the brainchild of Fredrick Augustus, 4th Earl of Bristol and the Bishop of Derry – also known as the Earl-Bishop, it is steeped in history including its Italianate gardens designed by English landscape architect Capability Brown.
Despite its grandeur, The Ickworth Hotel welcomes the sound of little feet and paws too, offering excellent facilities for families both inside and out.
After the recent arrival of our second son Indie, along with my husband and two-year-old Leo, we needed a ‘family friendly’ escape.
As a busy mum, what I love most about ‘The Ickworth experience’, is that the team try and take the hassle out family travel, ensuring before you arrive your room is fully stocked with all the necessities you may need during your stay. This could be anything from nappy bins, cots, bottle warmers and bed guards, it also means more space in the car!
Out and about
If you love the outdoors, make sure you bring your walking boots! The National Trust is literally on the doorstep, with plenty of activities to enjoy, including trails to cycle, with bike hire available at a daily rate.
The National Trust have constructed an all-weather 9.4km (six-mile) trail at Ickworth. The trail is split into sections, so you don’t have to do the full distance!
There’s also a National Trust adventure playground, plenty of trees to climb and dens to build! The house is closed over Winter to enable the conservators to work their magic to preserve the precious collection.
The indoor swimming pool is situated just a short walk from the hotel, both our boys have now enjoyed their first swims here.
Whilst the hotel doesn’t have its own spa area, there are dedicated treatment rooms in the main building, offering an extensive range of treatments for men, women and teenagers from the award-winning ELEMIS range.
I simply had to take advantage of this during my visit – it was my first massage since having another baby and it was absolute bliss!
For the little ones
Whilst I was enjoying some “me time” my husband entertained the boys.
There is a dedicated games room where you’ll find table football, a play station and table tennis. When your day draws to an end and the little legs are tired, there’s a film showing every day at 6pm in the Cinema Room.
Babies and children up to 8 years old will have great fun in the hotels Ofsted-registered Four Bears’ Den, where they can play, explore, and get creative under the supervision of the hotels brilliant crèche team.
As a guest, each child is eligible for a free 90-minute session for each night stayed. On Wednesday and Sunday mornings there’s also the Children’s Breakfast Club for 18months+, from 8am to 9.30am.
Rooms and suites
All of the hotel’s rooms are name after regular guests during its halcyon days.
There are 27 rooms in the main building, all individually furnished and in keeping with the classical style of the building. There are a further 11 apartments in The Lodge and a three-bedroom apartment in its Butler’s Lodge.
Decorated in traditional country house style, it is impressive to still see original features. If you look closely, in some rooms you will also notice old photographs dotted around, of how the rooms used to look before the renovations took place, a gentle nod to its former days.
Food and Drink
There are two restaurants at the hotel, The Conservatory, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner – is available to the whole family, whilst the adult-only restaurant, Frederick’s, has Two Rosettes and is more sophisticated fare, serving fine modern European cuisine by candlelight in the evenings.
Family mealtimes are easy and convenient with menus geared-up for children, served from 5pm each evening.
When the kids (or pups) are safely tucked up in bed you can enjoy some adult time with the peace of mind that your room has a baby listening system – plus the added addition of a visual baby monitor which you can check out at reception when needed.
Dinner was impressive. The Ickworth’s expert chefs create seasonal menus using the best local ingredients.
Tuck into dishes from farm and field, steaks and classic seafood in the Conservatory, while the kids devour a smaller antipasto grazing board or one of the chef’s famous pizzas.
As for breakfast, an informal buffet is served at weekends as well as a cooked selection from the breakfast menu.
During your visit you may also wish to treat yourself to Afternoon Tea. The Ickworth’s Afternoon Tea theme has been inspired by the season and features an array of classic and inventive flavours that are sure to tantalise your taste buds depending on the time of year.
Near by attractions
The large, historic market town of Bury St. Edmunds is a 10-minute drive away and has a huge range of shops, cafes, and restaurants in its pretty centre from international chains to independent boutiques. There are plenty of attractions to visit including the ancient cathedral and abbey, and the popular Greene King Brewery with tours available.
The Ickworth Hotel proudly boasts a strong family vibe – as a young family it presented us with a place to come together, whilst providing us with a few little luxuries.
A weekend stay here was long enough to escape the chores of everyday life for a few days. The small personal touches during our stay made it really special, in fact by the end of our stay we felt right at home.
We have visited this hotel three times now, once when dating, once when our first son was born and now with our second. This is certainly a place we will be revisiting again… for the fourth time, who knows – maybe a third child?
Nightly rates at Luxury Family Hotels’ The Ickworth start from £109 per night for a Lodge Double room on a B&B basis based on two adults sharing. For more information or to book please visit www.luxuryfamilyhotels.com / www.ickworthhotel.co.uk
Address: Horringer, Bury Saint Edmunds IP29 5QE
Phone: 01284 735350