A family break with a difference
PUBLISHED: 11:08 31 May 2013 | UPDATED: 11:08 31 May 2013
Raining Light Photography
BACK in the day, my wife and I spent our weekends traversing the length and breadth of the British Isles, taking advantage of our freedom to enjoy mini-breaks in some of the cultural hotspots and beautiful landscapes this country of ours had to offer.
Then a year ago we had our daughter, and nothing would be the same again. This isn’t the forum for me to elaborate about how the arrival of a child changes your life in ways you never thought possible, but after many “testing” months, we are now coming out the other side and realising that going away for the weekend is actually a possibility again.
Of course, those wine-fuelled city breaks are no longer viable when you’re responsible for the wellbeing of a little person, and you are still tied to places within a reasonable drive, have certain attractions, and actually adhere to that dreaded phrase “family-friendly” without being overtly child-centric.
Even something as simple as enjoying an evening meal can require a marathon planning exercise involving babysitters and long lists of instructions as to how exactly they should look after our beloved offspring.
So to find somewhere that not only embraced the ethos of family getaways, but then took that to the next level, while also offering quality local produce in sumptuous surroundings was a major coup.
The Priory Inn is located a short distance from the centre of the picturesque Cotswolds market town of Tetbury, a former pub which was dramatically revamped into a family-friendly hotel and restaurant nine years ago by current owners Dave and Tanya Kelly.
With a journey time from St Albans of less than a couple of hours, Tetbury is very much on our doorstep, and offers a break away from home without the trials of a long car journey.
Arriving shortly before lunch, we enjoyed a pizza from their wood-oven, before heading out to explore the nearby Westonbirt Arboretum, an internationally renowned collection of trees in a heritage landscape designed for walking, relaxing and nature studies. A remarkable place, and well worth a visit while you’re in the area.
Not wanting to miss what Tetbury itself had to offer, we returned to the inn and walked the short distance into the main shopping area, stopping at any shops which took our fancy.
The town centre has a leaning towards antique shops and clothing boutiques, but we also found a traditional toy shop, antiquarian book store and similar independent retailers, so there’s plenty of variety. We had a couple of drinks in the tranquil walled garden of the Close Hotel, a 16th century town house, before heading back to the Priory in order to prepare for dinner.
This was where the Priory Inn really came into its own. It’s all very well grabbing lunchtime snacks or early evening snacks with our daughter when we’re away from home, but as much as we love her, sometimes it’s nice to spend quality time as a couple, even if the main topic of conversation is our progeny.
The real focus of the hotel is to provide family-friendly accommodation, high quality service and food sourced from within a 30 mile radius. The Kellys know all the local farmers, they can guarantee the welfare of their livestock, and also recognise their deep desire to provide produce of the very highest quality.
They provide travel cots, changing mats, highchairs, a basket of baby essentials and a mini-fridge to keep food and milk cool. But the best thing is that baby listening devices work from the rooms to the restaurant, so you can enjoy a relaxing meal while keeping an ear out in case the little one stirs.
It’s a simple concept, but one which is unfortunately impossible in many big hotels, and when you’re forced to hire a baby sitter then the costs of a night out start to mount. Here that’s not an issue, and it’s a blessed relief to be able to sit down for a few hours confident that you’re just a minute away from your room should there be any problems.
With our daughter down for the night and sleeping soundly, we ventured with trepidation into the restaurant for our meal, but after a few glasses of wine any reservations soon dissipated.
Offering a seasonal menu boasting the best of locally sourced produce, we were spoilt for choice. Highlights included the Priory Inn’s famous 7oz beef burger, served with with Cotswold Blue Brie, streaky bacon and pickled red onions on a soft bap with homemade fries, slow-roasted Kelmscott Country pork belly with apple sauce, Alsace potatoes and green beans, and a West Country venison haunch steak with blackberry and sage jus, dauphinoise potato and carrot purée.
At the end of the day, there’s definitely something to be said for enjoying quality time as a couple, even if natural parental concern did send us scurrying upstairs between courses to check our daughter’s welfare. And you know what, we even managed to steer the conversation away from baby stuff for a change!
If you’re looking to spend a relaxing weekend in the heart of the English countryside, where good food is as important as quality surroundings, then put Tetbury in your SatNav and head down to the Priory Inn for a family break with a difference.
* The Priory Inn, London Road, Tetbury, Gloucestershire, GL8 8JJ, www.theprioryinn.co.uk, 01666 502251.
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