Moonfleet Manor Is The Perfect Family Weekend Getaway

Hotels
By Alice Olins | 26th July 2023
moonfleet manor review

Successful hotels aren’t only about interiors, food and service. They are about helping you to create moments. I had this realisation at about 8.45pm on the first evening of our stay at the wedding-cake style manor house that is Moonfleet Manor, overlooking Dorset’s eerily beautiful Chesil Beach.

First Impressions

‌After a relatively tedious car journey down from London – we have a trio of children ranging in age from 3 to 11 – I am sitting with my husband in the newly refurbished restaurant with a large gin and tonic in hand. Outside, but very much in view, our children are raucously tearing up the playfield, darting from the giant Connect 4 to sandpit hilarity with wanton abandon. They are being loud, but I can barely hear them, such is the distance from which their fun, and our increasingly tipsy joy, sit.

moonfleet manor review
moonfleet manor review

This really is a tale of two halves. With its newly renovated bedrooms and quietly formal lounges, Moonfleet is an elegant, adult escape. The house is steeped in history, with parts dating back to the 17th century. The Farrow and Ball-hued walls, which bring the pebbled beach inside, whisper luxury and sophistication. The gigantic play barn, known by staff as ‘the Verandah’, is an explosion of primary hues and excitement. The Moonfleet team knows their dual audiences and pitch each element of this sprawling, relaxed hotel accordingly.

‌The sweeping staircase, which greets you as you step through the entrance, is a charming historical feature. For all of the modern, subtle updates that place this hotel firmly in the 21st century, the house’s bones whisper of a distinguished past. With mentions of the house rolling all the way back to Thomas Gerard’s 1620s novel, Coker’s Survey of Dorsetshire, you can’t help but be transported somewhere more majestic.

The Venue’s USP

moonfleet manor review

In short, Moonfleet Manor allows parents to feel like real, sophisticated human beings again and children to run riot without any tutting. In fact, they are positively encouraged to do so, such is their generosity when it comes to complementary biscuits, popcorn and soft serve ice cream, not to mention the expansive play equipment, pool and access to the very special Chesil Beach.

‌Time away from the usual parenting grind is a welcome theme across the weekend. Framed historic newspaper clippings peer out from unexpected walls, and coastal artefacts perch quietly on shelves and in grand, glass cases. The shark’s jaw was of particular interest to our animal-obsessed son.

‌Owned by the Luxury Family Hotels, Moonfleet is one of 5 such establishments dotted across the South and East of England. The company are fast becoming leaders in the British family weekend escape market, with renovations like at Moonfleet (which completed in April 2023) rolling out across the group in due course. Perfect family moments is the currency these hotels run on.‌

The Bedrooms

moonfleet manor review

Each of the 34 rooms and suites at Moonfleet is decorated with consideration, refinement and fun. We occupied a Deluxe Two Bedroom Suite, and absolutely lived up to expectations. The adults caught up on shut-eye in a modern, wrought-iron four-poster bed, while the children, next door, slept on velvet bed-headed singles, under a wall of finely drawn grey fish. The designers didn’t take the job too seriously, which added a welcome ease to design proceedings. TinTin posters pop up unexpectedly, yellow and white deckchair-style blankets hug the ends of children’s beds, and in the lounges downstairs, floor lamps come with Deco fringing.

moonfleet manor review

The Facilities

This is very much a family affair. I’m not sure I’d visit without children, but for parents, it’s a safe haven of fun and splendour. The aforementioned Verandah Barn is something to behold: an indoor climbing wall, basketball, a slackline, table tennis tables, air hockey, retro computer games, tween-friendly modern consoles (my girls aren’t allowed video games at home, so this was pure heaven for an hour or so each day). For under-three’s, there’s a separate area with playhouses, toy kitchens, the works. Couches line the Verandah’s edges, and there are limitless hot drinks.

‌Walk across the neat hotel lawn, through an old gate and around a set of brambles, and you have a natural playground for your children. Despite moans as we prised them away from the indoor fun, we had a wonderful few hours squelching in wet sand, searching for fossils and accidentally trespassing on a friendly local’s tiny rowing boat. Chesil Beach is part of Dorset’s fascinating and mystical Jurassic Coast. The tiny coves, covered in cool seaweed and beautiful shells, across which dinosaurs will have walked and swam, gave us a place and chance to discuss our earth’s extraordinary past at a time when children need to learn, more than ever, to protect it. This was another precious moment provided by Moonfleet and its situation.

Food & Drink

moonfleet manor review
moonfleet manor review

Tucking into a chicken escalope with poached eggs, capers and spring greens helped me forget the service station stop-off on our way to the hotel. It also reminded me that I wouldn’t need to cook for the entire 48-hour period, which probably added to my deep enjoyment. The kids had their own menu, their own serving times, and when I peered over at the tables with weaning babies in tow, I could see that children’s food spanned all ages. Our oldest sometimes picked from the main choices and at other times stuck to reassuringly simple – and delicious – pasta dishes and family favourites with fries.

There could have been more fresh fruit at breakfast, mainly to cancel out the multiple ice-creams consumed, but the basics were there and dippy eggs were enjoyed by all. The coffee was strong but enjoyable, especially when we took our second cups outside on Saturday morning with the newspaper under our arms and children playing happily elsewhere. The waiting staff couldn’t have been nicer, especially Tom, an obsessive Rubix cuber, who saw my daughter’s own commitment to twisting and solving and sat down with her to share some long-learned tactics. Soft-serve ice-cream on tap was the literal cherry on the cake (waffle cone).

Things To Do Nearby

moonfleet manor review

The Verdict

‌Moonfleet is very special; a friendly, beautiful antidote to frazzled family life. A hug in the shape of a hotel – you arrive one person (read: parent) and leave another. It felt like a proper escape, despite not even using the Ofsted-registered kids club. Having our children nearby, but far away enough to sit and talk, remind each other, even, why we got married in the first place, is a moment that happens too infrequently. Moonfleet gives the whole family space and time to reset, it calms your soul knowing everyone is happy and you’re just a few steps from the sea. We left Dorset, ready for the 4-hour trip back to London, happy, sandy and sun-kissed.

How To Get There

Travel from London requires some effort, but it is totally worth it. We drove and it took just over 4 hours. South Western Railway operates an hourly train from London Waterloo to Upwey. Tickets cost £60 – £150 and the journey takes 2h 50m. Alternatively, there is Megabus UK, which costs between £30 and £45 and takes 4.5 hours.

How To Book

For more information about the hotel, including rates and availability, head to moonfleetmanorhotel.co.uk.


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