Babington House, Somerset, England

The Cowshed Spa, members’ club ambience; heated swimming pools; mini cinema; fully staffed kids’ club and crèche.

The in-demand two-floored family suites get booked up ages in advance – so unless there’s a cancellation don’t expect to snap up a weekend stay there anytime soon.

How often have you heard people gush about a hotel so much that it takes on near-mythical status as a place where the food, the decor, the spa and even the staff sound too good to be true? Then you get there and it’s all a bit ‘meh’ and just like any other hotel.

The thing about Soho House’s family-friendly Frome outpost is that its looks and personality are as good as the hype. In an original and endearingly low-key kind of way. Our stable block room was equipped with all that the fussiest family could want or need (no wonder they’re booked out months in advance): a tiny terraced house where, seemingly, a sybarite with OCD was in charge of fittings.

In the sitting room there’s a special place for each and every item: open the drawers below the iPads (yes: plural) and find Xbox games and DVDs as well as Baby Cowshed products and a microwave. An enormous Samsung TV became a home cinema when plugged into a whopping Jambox speaker.

Our nippers had their own ground-floor bunkroom and a bathroom big enough to skip-rope in, soundproofed away from our bedroom and ensuite above. After dragging them from our giant-cookie-jar-stocked quarters they were even happier doing arts and crafts in the kids club, splashing about in the heated pools (yes: plural), playing snooker, borrowing wellies for a tramp around the grounds…

What left me feeling most sentimental? The image of the kids with newly made friends pushing each other on the swing by a river populated by happy ducks surrounded by green green grass – it’s touching that in a country-house hotel so well kitted out that an old-fashioned bit of wood and rope is such a hit. And the granola. Their house-made toasted oat, seeds, nuts and apricot cereal sums up the attention to detail – add to that the GM slipping me the recipe on departure.

ROOMS: Doubles from £220 per night, room only

Verdura, Sciacca Agrigento, Italy

Swimming pools galore; award-winning spa with an incredible hammam; pizza-making in Liolà; Verura’s colourful take on a traditional local trattoria; fully staffed kids club; bicycles to borrow.

You don’t have a local village on your doorstep – the nearest is a drive from the resort. It can feel very quiet off-season. Such levels of luxury and privacy fit for a superstar costs a pretty penny.

Having arrived in Italy from the UK, less than a couple of hours before, as soon as we stepped into Verdura’s grand, square-angled marble entrance, mum and daughter were desperate for one thing – no, not spa treatments or suntanning – pasta.

Clichés are fine when you’re in Italy. As it was mid-afternoon, and having been given as warm a welcome as they come, we were affectionately guided to a bar seemingly made for grown-ups, La Granita. Settled into our sophisticated sea-view spot our simple spaghetti pomodoro arrived as a feast. Olives, just-baked focaccia – all spread out in a glossy Olga Polizzi-perfected setting for this mum and her lucky five year old. Of course for our next meal, dinner, we were craving pizza – on tap, too – and Verdura delivered that with panache up in Liola.

Since this tribe was there in spring, we put the tranquility of the mod Med resort down to it being off-season. Yet a member of Verdura’s friendly staff assured us that occupancy was actually quite high – this sprawling resort just has that knack of feeling pin-drop peaceful. And there’s always a golf course, beach, spa, tennis courts to lure people away from the main hub so you’ll never be fighting for that sunlounger. No wonder celebrities like to sneak in en famille to enjoy a ‘normal’ holiday. If you call having an award-winning spa, a fully staffed kids club, golf buggies at your beck and call and your own private slice of the Med ‘normal’.

We were only there for a weekend, but it was long enough to feel like an utterly relaxing escape. Within minutes Kitty has made a new best friend the same age in the kids club, while I sneaked off to steal some de-stressing time in the spa. A splash in the outdoor thalassotherapy pools, a sip of herbal tea, a steam in the cavernous hammam – never has a family resort delivered such delicious ‘me time’.

ROOMS: Doubles from £220 per night (coincidentally!), room only

Fellah Hotel, El Jadida, Marakkech

Art-filled family rooms; a huge stunning pool; plenty of playing space; a quirky tree house right by the petting farm; a qualified kickboxer in the open-air gym

The service isn’t the smoothest; Marrakech proper is a good 40-minute drive away

It’s always a good sign when you ask your child something and they not only actually bother to answer, but they do so with gusto. We’re lying on the stylish double sunloungers under a hand-thatched canopy by the vast, clear un-chlorine-y pool and my daughter is sipping mint tea like she is a direct descendent of the King of Morocco. I am asking her for the 23rd time if she could please put sun lotion on. Finally this elicits a monosyllabic grunt. As I pass her the factor 50, I ask what she thinks makes Fellah special, and she looks at me like I’ve asked her which bus to catch to the moon. ‘What other hotel has donkeys, mum? And chickens? And rabbits? Where else have we been that has a tree house like that to play in? And a kids club where you get to make your own pizza? Or try kickboxing? And that maffid* cool library?’

She rattles this all off without missing a beat. That’s how inspiring Fellah is. It is also a hotel that truly has a heart. Fellah means ‘agricultural peasant’ – and it’s the local community and the countryside that is celebrated here. Service can be a little chaotic – but when you understand they’ve drafted in local villagers who have no experience at all of an environment like this, the quality of the food and drink, the unique chic yet rustic interior design, and the many smiles help you quickly forgive and forget.

*Oh, and in case you’re wondering, she hasn’t twigged yet the word is ‘massive’.

ROOMS: Doubles from £116 per night. A full English breakfast or a buffet with Moroccan cakes and pastries, yoghurts, fruit and coffee is included in the room rate.

To book any of these hotels, visit

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