Seaside Escape

Kitty Dimbleby discovers a Dorset family hotel that offers the promised land of luxury and lie-ins

There are a few things I miss about my life before becoming a parent: The freedom to use the bathroom without an audience is one, the ability to ‘pop’ out without having to pack a bag for every toddler eventuality is another. But by far the biggest thing is the Sunday morning lie-in – you remember those, don’t you? Reading the papers in bed with a cup of tea in hand and the promise of a leisurely full-English when you finally decide to get up at 11am.

These days, my husband and I are woken at 6.30am by our exuberant two and five-year-old jumping on us. While I love them to distraction, I long for the occasional lazy morning. So when friends told me about a hotel that offers a Sunday Morning Breakfast Club for their youngest guests, allowing parents to stay in bed while the children are taken care of in an Ofsted-registered crèche… well, it sounded too good to be true.

But it wasn’t. Moonfleet Manor is part of the Luxury Family Hotels group, which prides itself on offering U.K holidays that work for all the family. Moonfleet was built in 1603, but extended and altered in the 18th Century in fine Georgian style. The 36-room hotel sits on the Dorset coast overlooking Chesil beach and is reached by a sweeping drive. Inside, Georgian features are offset with quirky colonial artefacts and modern touches. Our children were enthralled by the stuffed animal heads and huge, open fires. I loved the faded-luxury furnishings – sumptuous sofas to sink into, nicely worn enough you make you relaxed about sticky fingers and snotty noses.

Our suite was amazing, tucked away in the attic with partial views of the sea and a huge bathroom. The kids’ room was separated from ours by double doors and a seating area, and they were thrilled to have their own TV and DVD player. We were welcomed with Champagne in an ice bucket and smoothies, locally made chocolates and a bag of sweets – touches that made it clear the children were valued guests too.

Moonfleet Manor had thought of everything to make a break with them enjoyable, regardless of the weather. The giant play barn was child-heaven with a climbing wall, trampolines, table tennis, soft-play area and mini sports pitch.

“Can we stay forever?” asked my daughter, Chloe, while two-yearold Max charged up and down with delight at the space and freedom.

At high tea, the children devoured crudites and hummus followed by pasta, while I enjoyed an espresso martini and my husband sampled the local beer. We then let them watch a film in bed (such a treat) while we drank our Champagne and got ready for dinner. We used the hotel listening service while we ate – the receptionist listened to our children via the telephone in their room and came to get us if there was a problem. Exhausted by an earlier swim in the hotel’s indoor pool, Max didn’t stir and we only had to go and settle Chloe once. It was a truly relaxing evening, and we were spared the niggling anxiety of the cost of another hour of babysitting.

The next day, we visited Weymouth, a quintessential seaside town offering donkey rides on the beach and fairground fun. The children were in heaven. The afternoon was adult time – we dispatched the children to the crèche for their two hours of complimentary childcare and they were soon happily engrossed by a staggering array of toys. My husband headed to the coastal path (metres from the hotel) for a guilt-free run and I went to the spa for an Elemis facial. By the end of the day we were all so tired the kids’ bedtime was a dream and, after another delicious dinner, my husband even dozed off on the sofa in the downstairs drawing room, in front of the fire, while I read my book.

On Sunday morning at 8am, a subtle knock on the door alerted us to the arrival of a capable nanny in charge of the crèche. Max and Chloe trotted off while we settled back into bed with a cup of tea and the papers. Two hours later, after a quiet breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we collected them. We had time for a final swim and play in the play barn before heading home – the children full of excitement about their stay while, for the first time since becoming parents, my husband and I felt truly refreshed after a break with our offspring.

Rooms start at £120 for a double, B&B. For more information, visit or telephone the rservations team on 0844 482 2152. Kids are free when staying in parents’ room.