As a parent, I’ve discovered that finding suitable holiday accommodation is tough. Your priorities completely change. I’ve gone from looking for luxury features to hoping there aren’t too many things for the kids to bash into.
When you’re looking for somewhere to stay with your little family, you find yourself scanning the property pictures for any hazards, and how nice it looks is an afterthought. But your comfort and enjoyment still matter!!!
After a rough few years and going slightly mad managing a 2.5-year-old and 1-year-old, I needed a luxury family break – not just a kid-friendly one. Yes, you can have both; you just have to search hard enough.
I searched far and wide, looking for somewhere special. I wanted somewhere in the UK with an indoor pool, on a farm with facilities and activities for the kids.
After months of searching, I finally found Gladwins Farm in Suffolk. They’ve recently had two new lodges built. Very modern, with a large kitchen, a hot tub, and beautifully furnished rooms.
I’ve not spent much time exploring Suffolk, and I was excited to see what this corner of the country has to offer. I’ve heard many good things, so it was time to find out for myself. However, when we got there, I realised we were actually on the Suffolk/Essex border and probably spent equal time in both counties. Here’s an overview of what it’s like to stay at Gladwins Farm.
Holly Lodge at Gladwins Farm
This dreamy lodge has everything you need to switch off completely. It’s exceptionally well-equipped with all the kitchen accessories, baby bits and home comforts you’d expect. As soon as I set foot inside, I felt a wave of relief. I could see instantly that the kids could have free rein, and I didn’t need to follow them around everywhere, stopping them from hurting themselves. I’ve stayed in places that say they are child-friendly, yet somehow there are tons of hazards.
I’ve also never stayed anywhere with children, that has really wowed my husband. I could see he was smiling like a Cheshire cat when we got there. Mummy did well choosing this place! Holly Lodge just feels special. Having a hot tub is certainly a huge bonus. It enabled us adults to indulge in spa therapy once the kids had gone to bed. After a busy day exploring the local area and chasing the girls around farms and parks, it was so nice knowing we could recover in a warm hot tub with a glass of vino in hand. This enabled us to strike a balance between making sure the kids had fun but were also able to treat ourselves.
You walk into Holly Lodge, and you’re greeted by a convenient open-plan kitchen and living room. It just makes cooking dinner with the kids much more manageable. The lavish velvet effect matching orange sofas (not usually an obvious sofa choice, but it actually felt very uplifting) call out to you.
There’s also a huge smart TV, which isn’t always a prominent feature to look for, but it’s nice to binge-watch TV series in the evenings. There’s also a wall-mounted TV in both of the double bedrooms. On the days when we’d adventured a little too hard, we just hopped in bed and dozed off while watching TV.
The lounge has bi-folding doors that open onto a composite decking area. From what I could see, Holly Lodge appears to have some of the best views of all the cottages. It feels like you could be staying in a woodland lodge in the middle of a forest, which is so calming and peaceful.
You can sit in the hot tub surrounded by a blanket of large green trees and the stars above. The decking area also has a corner sofa, BBQ and as well as the woodland views. You can also catch a glimpse of the ducks swimming in the pond below. We couldn’t ask for a more relaxing spot.
The main bedroom has an en suite shower room, which was handy because it meant we didn’t wake the kids up going to the loo in the night! Plus, a little more privacy. The main bedroom also has lush woodland views, which are very pleasant to wake up to every morning.
An indoor heated swimming pool
Another reason I booked Gladwins is because of the indoor heated pool. Spending hours splashing about in a pool is so much fun for little ones. Going for a swim every day on holiday is fantastic for building up water confidence. Both our girls improved so much over the week. My husband and I also managed to do a few lengths and go for solo swims. The pool is lovely and warm, a decent length and it has changing rooms and shower facilities.
Gladwins Farm Facilities (for kids)
If you’re after somewhere where you can keep the kids entertained on-site, you’ll love Gladwins. It’s easy when you’re on holiday to pack your days with tons of adventures, but sometimes it’s just just to chill out on site. There’s a play park area for the kids, complete with a giant tractor climbing frame, a large trampoline and a little wendy house.
For older kids, there’s a tennis court where you can play basketball and some outdoor games equipment. We loved the fact they also had an indoor gym with a play area next to it. So the kids could play right next to us as we worked out. They also have a lovely woodland trail on-site, where you can see what animals live in the forest. There’s a tree swing and a fishing lake.
Staying on a farm is brilliant for little ones; our girls loved meeting and feeding the animals daily. They have a chicken coop which also has cute little ducklings. The chickens are very tame and friendly. You can even go into their enclosure to feed them and hunt for eggs! They also have three pigs, two little ponies, a goat, sheep, ducks and geese.
Gladwins Farm Facilities (for adults)
I think one of the best things about this place is the balance between kid-friendly facilities and things to help adults relax. You’ve got the lovely heated swimming pool, and if you don’t have a hot tub in your cottage, there’s another one by the pool everyone can use.
They also have a beauty hut where you can book a treatment if you want to indulge in a little self-care. We also took the opportunity to book ourselves a private chef, Made by Marcus. He was recommended by Gladwins and didn’t disappoint. We had an incredible evening tucking into some truly amazing food (I’ll be doing a separate article about our private chef experience).
Places & attractions to visit near Nayland, Suffolk
There are plenty of fun days out within a reasonable distance from Gladwins. We visited Jimmy’s Farm & Wildlife park, which had a brilliant range of different animals to see. From your usual farm animals like goats and sheep to snakes, meerkats and armadillos! Our eldest even enjoyed a meet and greet with a huge lizard and snake, which was an extraordinary experience. We had a delicious lunch there, too, and there were plenty of options for the kids.
We also visited Colchester Zoo, which is great if you want to see impressive animals like giraffes, lions, elephants and leopards. However, we did find it a little busy/overly touristy, which was to be expected, really. It’s better for older children because it’s so large, our toddler ran out of steam eventually, and we didn’t manage to see all the animals.
Another one of our most memorable experiences was hunting for shark teeth and fossils at Walton on the Naze. Though we didn’t manage to find any, our toddler was in her element, digging and searching for hidden treasure in the sand. We did find a few extremely old shells, an elderly man told me they were between 2.3 and 2.6 million years old. Pretty impressive! There’s a shop and information centre where you can learn about what sort of fossils there are to find.
Suffolk has some gorgeous little villages and towns. We didn’t get to see too many just because we were trying to find fun activities for the kids. However, we did manage to pay Lavenham a visit, and we were instantly charmed by it. It’s a picturesque village filled with unique independent shops and cafes.
If you go to Lavenham, you absolutely have to stop off at The Parlour for an amazing hot chocolate. They do dark hot chocolate with the most mouth-watering marshmallows I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Probably the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had – and let me tell you, I’m fussy! They also sell delicious ice cream. Next door to The Parlour, you’ll find a charming children’s shop (Pickles & Lilies) where we bought some dolls and dresses.
Hadleigh is also a lovely little town that’s worth a stop off. I’m always on the hunt for decent breakfast/brunch cafes when I’m travelling, and I found a little gem in Hadleigh called The Jet Lounge. My favourite dishes were the creamy mushroom on sourdough and avocado and feta poached eggs.
Suffolk Food Hall is also well worth a visit. There’s a restaurant, cafe and large shop selling local produce. You can sit outside with views of the river and Orwell Bridge in the distance. The kids had great fun playing in the sand pit and on the enormous jumping pillow.
We had such a wonderful time on our first proper family holiday with both our girls. Suffolk has tons of attractions and is a scenic county. It’s quite calming driving through the countryside and stopping off in quaint towns. I’d like to thank Gladwins for a first-class stay – I expect we’ll definitely be back to stay again in the future.