Life is often rather manic here and with a husband who is rarely home, we don’t get to spend much quality time together. So when we were offered the chance to enjoy a family break at Chicheley Hall in Buckinghamshire recently, I jumped at the chance. My eight year old son loves the whole idea of staying away from home, and even just a night away feels like a holiday to him. I learnt a while ago, that actually just having the opportunity to unwind in a different location as a family, does us all the world of good. When you have a setting as beautiful as Chicheley Hall, it’s an added bonus.
The 18th century mansion is set in 80 acres of grounds and although only 15 minutes from central Milton Keynes, you really do feel like you are in a different world. It certainly has the wow factor as you approach along the gravel drive.
There’s ample parking for the 48 rooms which are housed in the main mansion and the North Wing. We parked right outside the Reception area which is handy if you don’t travel particularly lightly.
I’m always a little anxious when travelling with my son as to how he will be greeted, but I need have had no worries as we started a family break at Chicheley Hall. The Receptionist was very welcoming and instantly made my son feel at ease. In fact everyone was very friendly and helpful during our stay. We were given a little tour of the ground floor, and information about the history of the building and I could see instantly why Chicheley Hall would be a great venue for a wedding. Flowing staircase, pillared hallway, it really has it all.
The mansion is owned by the Kavli Royal Society, and instead of having numbers, all of the rooms are named after eminent scientists. Each room has a plaque providing information on the named scientist too. The Royal Society often hold residentials at Chicheley Hall, and along with a couple of meeting rooms within the main mansion, there’s the Wolfson Centre right across the car park as well.
If you decide to take a family break at Chicheley Hall be sure to look out for a rather unusual subject on the curtains and wall paper in the breakfast room. It’s not often that you see the flea celebrated, but it was a member of The Royal Society that saw the flea under a microscope for the first time. It definitely provided a talking point and had my eight year old enthralled.
We were staying on the second floor, which can be reached by both stairs and lift. We never got to try the lift as my son realised there were two different staircases that would lead to our room. Well I’m all for keeping up with my daily steps.
Our room, Blackett, is the largest of the Superior Rooms available for a family break at Chicheley Hall and there was ample room for us with a king size bed and fold out bed for my son.
My son set up part of his train set (he doesn’t travel light) and he loved the fact that he could play trains without getting in our way at all.
The room offers a dual aspect with glorious window seats overlooking the gardens and lake.
We could all have spent hours just sitting in those windows, me with a book and my son just looking out at the swans and geese and ducks.
It was idyllic and so quiet. In fact I think it’s probably the quietest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in, and with my old Export job, I’ve stayed in a lot over the years.
The room offers all the facilities you would expect, from refreshments and fruit, iron and ironing board, dressing gowns and slippers through to a TV on a huge table. We didn’t make use of any of these facilities during our stay, but it was nice to know they were there if needed. I can tell you that the free WiFi is excellent.
The bathroom features a bath as well as a fixed head shower and all the normal toiletries are provided.
Everywhere was bright, clean and airy. I like to be warm at all times, the bedroom might have been a little warm for my husband, but it didn’t stop my son from sleeping for eleven hours solid!
The grounds of Chicheley Hall offer a relaxing way to unwind, obviously with smaller children you would need to be aware of the deep water in the lake. But it’s a lovely way to blow away the cobwebs and admire the swans gliding by. We also discovered that Chicheley Hall was home to the SOE during World War II and that the lake tested miniature versions of the bombs used during the Dambuster raids.
Chicheley Hall is home to ten peacocks, a fact that caused great excitement upon our arrival, and my son was soon off in search of them. We found three over the course of the weekend, we’ll have to return to find the rest.
There’s a bar area where we enjoyed coffee and apple juice, it also has a fully stocked bar and it’s possible to eat there too, although probably not an ideal space to eat with children.
We also spotted a library and board games area, although I always travel with our own books and games. But another nice facility that you could make use of if needed.
The dining room serves evening means from 7pm and I always book us in for a meal as soon as the dining room is open when we’re staying in hotels so my son doesn’t eat too late. I’m also aware that other diners might not want to share their evening with a not always quiet eight year old.
Whilst I wasn’t expecting a menu featuring chicken nuggets, I was a little surprised that there was no form of children’s menu, not even half portions/pricing of the adult options. I do feel that this might put families off dining whilst staying at Chicheley Hall.
For starters my husband opted for the Soup of the Day – Sweet Potato and Coconut whilst I decided on the Thai Spiced Fishcake with Cucumber and Sesame Salad.
There weren’t any really ‘child friendly’ options but as my son likes fish cakes generally, he agreed to try some of mine when it arrived, and he actually really enjoyed it. It had a hint of heat, but nothing too overpowering, and the salad was a refreshing accompaniment. The soup went down well too, full of flavour with a little touch of coconut.
I think I might have confused the waiter with my son and I sharing a starter, as we had a bit of an issue with my main meal not arriving with the others. When it became apparent that my meal would be served a bit later than my husband and son, I was offered a complimentary drink. Mix ups happen and it was dealt with well overall.
We picked the Beer Battered Haddock Fillet with chips for my son. It should have come with mushy peas which he won’t eat, but there was no issue to substitute these for some carrots instead, and mayonnaise instead of tartare sauce. It was still an adult portion though, so he just couldn’t eat it all, but he did enjoy what he had.
My husband had the Aberdeen Angus Burger, served with Monterey Jack Cheese, Lettuce and Tomato and Onion Chutney. This was served with chips and coleslaw. I had the Roast Chicken Breast served with Gratin Potato, seasonal vegetables and red wine jus. Both options were again full of flavour and much enjoyed.
The desserts were really very good, whilst my son went for plain vanilla ice cream, my husband had the Pear and Almond Tart, served with ice cream and I had the Chocolate and Caramel Cheesecake, which was sublime.
For breakfast there is a self-service option offering a continental style breakfast with cereals, meats and cheese, rolls and pastries. There are a number of fruit juice options as well as tea and coffee which is brought to the table for you. I thought it was a nice touch when my son was asked if he’d like his own pot of hot chocolate. Full English Breakfast was available to order and we all enjoyed our choices very much. The perfect way to end a family break at Chicheley Hall.
With a final walk around the grounds it was time to say farewell to the peacocks and head off on our next adventure. We all felt thoroughly relaxed after our stay and if you’re looking for a base out-of-town, offering a little something different then I’d thoroughly recommend Chicheley Hall. My son certainly fell in love with the place and would love to go back.
disclosure: we were given a complimentary stay on DDB basis in exchange for an honest review