Lovely Husband works ridiculous hours and I am permanently shattered from the demands of our three smalls. We don’t spend enough time together. Weekends are full of chores and catching up. We still don’t spend enough time together. Consequently, we’ve decided to try and get away for a long weekend once a month to preserve precious family time. Our smalls are growing up fast. Despite the demands on our time, they won’t wait. They’ve growing to do and we don’t want to miss it.
We’re not unique in the push-me-pull-me of everyday family life. We’re fortunate to be in the position that we can make a decision to spend more time together away from social and household demands and squirrel ourselves away. I’ve done extensive Googling on suitable destinations and I’ve been shocked at the lack of reviews by other parents to help me find family friendly self-catering cottages in the UK. So I thought I’d share our experiences with you, so if you’re looking for somewhere to go, perhaps we’ve tried it first and can guide you. This weekend, we bunged our stuff in the car and took our first trip.
Twin Cottage, Burley (New Forest)
I simply Googled ‘luxury self-catering, New Forest’. That’s all. I was thrown up with results of camping and hotels and then Twin Cottage caught my eye. As a parent of tiny smalls, the idea of a weekend away almost doesn’t seem worth the bother. We need a travel cot, toys, books, steriliser, Bumbo, a billion different options for whatever the weather, food, wine… Plenty of wine. Twin Cottage seemed to clear the boot space for the wine.
When I say that even if you have a four-year-old, a two-year-old and a 20-week-old like we do, you only need throw a bag of clothes in the boot, I really do mean it. We walked into a cottage with an unrivalled welcome pack. Bread (baking in the bread maker), wine, milk, eggs, bacon, sausages… A pack of Peppa Pig cookies ready to bake and both Calpol and Baby Nurofen. Seriously, you only need clothes.
Boasting a fully stocked playroom and a stable full of outdoor toys, one crate of packing was no longer needed. The toys were perfect for our smalls. Medium fell in love with a Woody doll, and he was consequently treated to a National Trust and a Buckler’s Hard (v interesting) outing. The only way we managed to leave him behind was by telling her that Woody had to go on a special mission to find Jessie. Fortunately, she’ll be finding Woody and Big will be finding Jessie in their stockings this year. I’d already bought and wrapped them so it’s nice to know this year’s gifts will be a hit!
Walking through to the dining room and our girls were thrilled to discover wrapped presents waiting for them. Perfectly chosen gifts that they were delighted with. Even Little had a Lamaze cloppety horse (we love Lamaze toys). Alongside, we found chocolates and wine for us. The night ahead looked good.
Upstairs and the girls’ room had more toys, a fabulous nightlight and friendly owls waiting on their beds for them. The bathroom boasted REN toiletries for us and baby friendly ones for the girls. I really didn’t need to pack their bath stuff.
A full compliment of DVDs and books completed their entertainment options and a steriliser, baby monitor, night light and Bumbo meant Little’s needs were catered for.
One thing that always annoys me about self-catering cottages is having to buy dishwasher tablets and sundries when you’re only there for a few days. Really, I’d rather pay a bit more and have enough loo roll for our stay. We stayed at a wonderful house in the summer with five bathrooms. Not one had hand wash. I bought five dispensers of hand wash for a week’s break. And left them there for the next occupants. This bug bare was not brought into play at Twin Cottage where there was hand wash, hand cream, dishwasher tablets and every other domestic product you can think of. Really, the owner had thought of everything.
The house was clean, comfortable and homely. We settled in immediately and our four night break felt much longer. We loved being able to walk straight from the door into the New Forest and see ponies, deer and pigs. We had a lovely family walk and built some precious memories. We’re not thrilled by the eateries (we’re a bit foodie) but maybe we just didn’t find the right places to go.
The most precious gift Twin Cottage gave us though, was family time. We weren’t endlessly unpacking, packing and cleaning. It was done for us. So thank you, Amanda. We’ll be back.
*If you own or manage a family friendly self-catering property and would like us to review it, please get in touch. We’re not looking for freebies. We’re looking for places to go where we don’t need to pack the world into the back of the car. Recommendations gratefully received for venues within two hours of West Sussex.