If you’re heading to the Cotswolds and looking for a child-friendly place to stay where delicious meals are dished up and a welcome smile greets you the moment you arrive, then try The Priory Inn.
Situated in the thriving market town of Tetbury, the inn is owned by Dave and Tanya Kelly, who’ve worked in the hospitality industry for over a decade so know what visitors want. Having children themselves, they also understand what parents need when travelling with their little ’uns. Not only have they created an environment where all ages feel at home, but they’ve introduced many of those practical bits and pieces parents need (and would rather not squeeze into the boot of the car). So, you’ll find a supply of, among other things, nappy sacks, bottle brush, baby lotion, changing mat, toys, etc. in the family bedrooms; travel cots are available if needed, too, plus a microwave for warming up baby food/milk and a bottle steriliser in the guests’ lounge.
Upstairs, there is one family room where children sleep on sofa beds and two sets of interconnecting rooms providing ample space and two bathrooms, which is always useful; it’s nice to see free wifi available in all the rooms, too.
We stayed in Rooms 13 and 14, containing a double and two single beds. Pieces of art adorn the walls while there is plenty of storage and hanging space. The rooms contain an iron, tea and coffee-making facilities, a TV/DVD combi, coffee table and chairs…well, just about everything needed for a comfy night. The bathrooms, although rather cramped, have a bath and shower plus complimentary toiletries, including local lavender body lotion.
In fact, the Kellys should be commended for supporting and promoting local industries, something evident throughout the inn, which is housed in a converted ancient stable block. Down in the cosy restaurant, a wooden plaque hangs above the grand fireplace. Engraved on the wood are the words, “Dining in a 30-mile food zone”. Browsing through the folder of information in our bedroom, Dave and Tanya had written, “We’re not into ego-cooking but just enjoy applying old-fashioned values and a spirit of the local community to our chefs’ seasonal dishes. We are very privileged to be surrounded by a wealth of exceptional producers in this very beautiful part of England and we enjoy showcasing their produce and drinks.”
The Kellys have drawn a 30-mile radius around Tetbury and acquire 90% of their food and drink from within this region. So, in the bar you won’t find any of the large multi-national brands; instead, you can sample local ales, ciders, lagers and even a sparkling wine from nearby Malmesbury and liqueurs made from local hedgerow fruits.
The bar and restaurant are found in the same area of the building. Lunches are served between 12-3pm while dinner is 5-10pm. We enjoyed an evening meal under the exposed beams, sat close to the huge log-burning fire which acts as an impressive focal point within the room.
A friendly, relaxed air fills the restaurant, where the walls are covered in pieces of art and the waiting staff are polite and helpful. While my wife tucked into fish and chips (it’s worth pointing out that the chips are pre-salted so ask if you don’t eat salt), my two children and I chose the freshly-cooked pizzas straight from the wood ovens.
Dave and Tanya have come up with a lovely idea whereby kids can create their own pizza at the table; it’s another great way of making children feel at ease. However, if pizza isn’t a favourite, they can choose from a full kiddies’ menu – and it’s lovely to see children’s drinks reasonably priced (squash 50p, milk 60p or fruit juice from 60p). If they fancy something a little different, there is a selection of “extra juicy drinks” to choose from, starting at £1.50. The “Pink Panther” (£2.70) containing lemonade, grenadine and ice cream sounded very interesting!
Another novel idea which helped whilst waiting for the meals to arrive was the pot of questions on our table. Written on myriad strips of paper are lots of questions, such as “What is your favourite dessert?” It’s a great idea.
We returned to the restaurant for breakfast (served from 7am during the week; 8am at weekends and bank holidays) the following morning, just before leaving. A locally-sourced “fresh from the farm” cooked breakfast or a continental option of juice, cereals, yogurt, muffins and homemade jam and marmalade are available. Being vegetarian, I was pleased to find they supplied veggie sausages on request; if like us, though, you also drink soya milk, it’s worth mentioning this when booking because it’s not always readily available.
Sadly, our short stay at The Priory Inn was soon over. However, we’d stayed long enough to know that Dave and Tanya had achieved their goals of combining a family-friendly atmosphere with good food and quality staff.
As it’s just a short distance from the town centre, we explored Tetbury before heading home. Centred around the 17th century market house, Tetbury is a regular winner in the RHS Britain in Bloom competition. Wander around the streets but ensure you make time to visit nearby Cirencester, too.
But no visit to this corner of England is complete, however, without exploring Westonbirt Arboretum. Just three miles from Tetbury, it boasts one of the world’s most impressive tree collections. We visited in early November and were lucky enough to witness the last days of the trees’ autumnal hues. Reds, oranges and yellows lined the many paths heading in all directions around the area (and I’m pleased to say many parts are dog-free so children can run and explore without the worry of what they’ll step in!).
Originally planted by the wealthy Holford family in the early 19th century, amid the heyday of Victorian plant hunting, it’s now maintained by the Forestry Commission within the picturesque Grade I listed landscape. While many visitors, like us, choose to explore independently, there are guided walks organised throughout the day – plus a whole raft of activities and events (check the website for full details).
There are around 18,000 trees (many among the tallest in Britain) and shrubs within the 600-acre site, where you’re free to roam the 17 miles of marked paths. It’s a wonderful place and will easily occupy a large chunk of your day – you won’t regret visiting, that’s for sure.
The Priory Inn
Glos. GL8 8JJ
www.theprioryinn.co.uk, t: 01666 502251
Westonbirt Arboretum, www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt, t: 0300 0674890
Reviewed: November 2015