The Long Weekend: A child-friendly country house just half an hour from central London

 
Julian Harris
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Frazzled urban parents may be left without the energy to plan a faraway escape – and this is where Stoke Park comes into play (Source: Stoke Park)

City life can be tough, especially if you have a toddler intent on destroying every moment of peace and quiet in your so-called “spare time”.


Frazzled urban parents may be left without the energy to plan a faraway escape – and this is where Stoke Park comes into play. Jump on a fast train from Paddington to Slough, then hail a cab into the surprisingly lush Buckinghamshire countryside. Minimal planning or booking required.

The stay

For the lazy, Stoke Park offers a top-end spa with a range of treatments, a large pool, relaxation rooms, saunas, steam rooms, an outside hot tub... the works. We dumped our beloved 15-month-old at the creche and indulged in two hours of massage, aromatherapy and back-scrubbing. Happy parents duly returned to the creche to discover an even happier daughter. No tears – a miracle.


The sport

For the active, much of Stoke Park’s estate is consumed by a 27-hole championship golf course, with experts on hand to help improve your game. It is also renowned in the sporting world for hosting an annual pre-Wimbledon grass court competition (The Boodles), and has three indoor courts for when the British weather threatens to spoil your fun. On such days, children can occupy themselves with table tennis and air hockey in the games room, while little ones can head to the playground once skies are clear.

The food

After a gruelling five-setter, you may wish to gorge on a mega plate of pasta in San Marco, a restaurant at the sporty side of the pavilion. However, for a finer dining experience head to the mansion and take a table at Stoke Park’s prized restaurant Humphry’s. It ain’t cheap, but this is not a place for the frugal (as the car park’s Maseratis and Ferraris make perfectly clear). On our day of arrival we took afternoon tea beside a bay window, gazing out upon acres of cropped lawn while a log fire crackled within. The following evening we returned to the mansion for dinner, where the staff seamlessly combined high-end service and plush adult food (halibut with miso-glazed octopus, for example) with a kids’ menu and smiley tolerance of little people tearing around the place.

The set

Arriving in our room we noticed, alongside the four-poster bed and ice-bucket of fizz, several old DVDs – Goldfinger, Wimbledon, and Bridget Jones’s Diary. How retro, we thought. It turns out these are just three of many famous flicks to feature scenes from Stoke Park, including some awkward moments between Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth.

The history... and the future?

The Domesday Book of 1086 lists Stoke Park as the residence of Norman toff William Fitz-Ansculf, whose family later purchased the estate from the Crown. The mansion itself dates from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but it was not until 1908 that Stoke Park was transformed into a US-style country club. Today it is owned by International Group. Reports last year said IG was looking to sell the site, but it has now been taken off the market. To re-tempt them into selling, you’ll need around £75m. A short stay, however, can be yours for as little as £240 a night B&B.

Need to know

To book go to stokepark.com, email info@stokepark.com or call 01753 717171