A won­der­land for kids and adults


Rochdale Observer - - TRAVEL -

A SPA break, with chil­dren? It was the very ques­tion we asked our­selves. Spa con­jures up images of get­ting away from it all (in­clud­ing the chil­dren) for a night or two.

Why would you take lit­tle ones with you? Well, Rock­liffe Hall showed me why. A five-star ho­tel in Hur­worth, County Durham, a few miles south of Dar­ling­ton, it is a pre­mier des­ti­na­tion in the north east.

It’s owned by Steve Gib­son, the owner of Mid­dles­brough Foot­ball Club and has a top class rep­u­ta­tion for golf, din­ing and of its spa.

But with chil­dren in mind the re­sort has re­cently in­vested heav­ily in a new range of ways to en­ter­tain kids.

The main at­trac­tion is ‘Mis­chmasch’ which is a huge Alice in Won­der­landin­spired play area.

Mis­chmasch, which means ‘a dis­or­derly mix­ture of things,’ was the ti­tle Lewis Car­roll gave to a pe­ri­od­i­cal he wrote for his fam­ily in the mid-1800s.

Car­roll grew up in Croft, the neigh­bour­ing vil­lage to Hur­worth.

The area, on fields just be­hind the main hall, boasts a large play area plus an in­ter­ac­tive wa­ter fea­ture where chil­dren can dash about try­ing (but usu­ally fail­ing) not to get soaked.

There are also six ‘pods’ which can be booked by guests.

We booked out one and headed to it when we ar­rived.

Each one is a small wooden build­ing, dubbed ‘cu­ri­ous cab­ins,’ with some­thing dif­fer­ent in each.

With 18-month-old Amelie in tow, the best op­tion was the soft play which of­fered plenty of room for her to throw her­self around and on top of her par­ents!

The oth­ers have a mini cinema, a pool ta­ble and dart board, a lit­tle li­brary and a small din­ing space.

Throw in a trip to the play area and wa­ter fea­ture and you’ve got a full morn­ing or af­ter­noon of ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren of all ages.

Af­ter­wards we headed for a dip in the pool. As you’d ex­pect, the main swim­ming pool is only open for chil­dren at cer­tain times (8am to 11pm and 3pm to 6pm) so we took Amelie for a splash.

With small chil­dren you’re of­ten con­cerned about their im­pact on oth­ers – es­pe­cially those on a re­lax­ing spa break – but the trip to the pool was per­fect.

There are so many spa ar­eas at Rock­liffe and re­lax­ing cor­ners that chil­dren in the main pool don’t have much im­pact on those around.

Noth­ing works up an ap­petite for young ones more than swim­ming, so din­ner in the brasserie fol­lowed.

Eat­ing out with chil­dren can be an­other worry for par­ents but the staff in the brasserie were ex­cel­lent.

They couldn’t do more to be ac­com­mo­dat­ing and it made the meal a stress-free af­fair.

The healthily-sized chil­dren’s por­tion of fish, chips and baked beans, fol­lowed by ice cream, also helped.

An adult equiv­a­lent for me and a chicken dish for my wife, Gail, were top qual­ity. When Amelie had had enough of sit­ting nicely, staff also ar­ranged for the adults’ desserts to be sent to our room to en­joy at a more leisurely pace.

I’m sure all par­ents would agree that spend­ing time with your chil­dren is great, but, there comes a time when you just need a break.

And that’s where a new ser­vice at Rock­liffe comes in – babysit­ters. Child­care is of­fered from be­tween one and four hours from 9am till mid­night. We made life eas­ier for the lady watch­ing Amelie by get­ting her to sleep then nip­ping to the spa gar­den.

For older chil­dren (they will look af­ter chil­dren from six months to 12 years) the staff will en­ter­tain them at Mis­chmasch or in the guest bed­rooms.

For us it was an great op­por­tu­nity to have a cou­ple of hours of re­lax­ation in the amaz­ing spa.

In­doors is the usual mix of Jacuzzi pools, saunas, steam rooms and re­lax­ation ar­eas. But the spa gar­den, which opened three years ago, is an ex­tra bit of class. It has an ‘in­fin­ity’ edge swim­ming pool with Jacuzzi loung­ing ar­eas. Even in win­ter or on a cold day (as it was when we vis­ited) it’s great to sub­merge your­self in the warm pool and look out over Rock­liffe’s grounds, es­pe­cially with a glass of pros­ecco in hand.

Buf­fet break­fasts at ho­tels are great for kids – they can choose what they want and go back for more. Amelie was a lit­tle young for that but was de­lighted at be­ing able to dig into even more baked beans and an end­less sup­ply of yoghurts.

I’d had my doubts. But if there’s enough to en­ter­tain your chil­dren (and babysit­ters!) it turns out a spa break with the whole fam­ily can work.

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