More about The Ickworth Hotel
Lording it up at Ickworth
OK, it's not perfect. We stayed 3 nights mid-week and got good late booking rates...we would not pay the published rates because to be honest it just wouldn't justify them.
BUT, we would return, if we could get a similar deal.
The facilities for children are excellent. Our son, aged 3, spent most of his time on the huge trampoline and on one of the "big boys' bikes". He also went into the creche for a look and refused to leave, especially once he spotted the train set. The creche was spotless, the staff welcoming.
The swimming pool was another attraction, with plentiful towels and well-kept changing areas. Unlike some of the previous comments we found the general state of cleanliness in the hotel very good, especially in an environment where small children are constantly squashing crisps into the carpet etc.
We also experienced the hotel bikes, and have to agree that some of them are rather ancient, but they saw us round the red cycle trail. The main problem was the lack of cycle helmets that actually fastened - no point in providing them if they don't do up!
Our room, although not the biggest, was of a decent size, with plenty of room for a child's bed, and a sofa. Our mattress was a bit squidgy, but perhaps some people prefer this. The bathroom was fine but the shower needed descaling.
It was quite warm in the room and worryingly the sash windows only opened from the bottom up, meaning we could not leave them wide open, as my son could have fallen out.
The staff were all approachable and pleasant, and service generally good, although sometimes a little slow.
The only comment I have is that if you don't provide a bar area you need to have staff conspicous at all times to take orders for tea, coffee, etc. It seemed every time we sat down in the garden for a drink the staff miraculously all disappeared meaning we had to trail back inside to find someone.
Overall the food was good, although as has been mentioned some of the dishes in Fredericks, the adult only restaurant, had some bizarre twists. Chef, ditch the "foam" thing. It may the new "jus", but it looks like cuckoo spit.
The grounds at Ickworth are beautiful and we really enjoyed walking out after breakfast and having them to ourselves, it was glorious.
I would be concerned that at peak times the service and facilities would struggle, but the atmosphere is very relaxed and we really enjoyed our stay.
Just a few miles outside Bury St Edmonds stands Ickworth House. Built by the 4th Earl of Bristol in 1795, its most distinguishing feature is the rotunda. It was designed by Mario Asprucci, one of Italy's top architects. The Earl was, in addition to his royal title, Bishop of Derry in Ireland; this gave him access to a huge amount of wealth. So he had ample resources to travel, and was particularly inspired by what he saw in Italy.
Ickworth House has some outstanding gardens, landscaped by Lancelot "Capability" Brown. He was England's most famous landscape architect.
Ickworth House and Gardens
Ickworth House was built by the 4th Earl of Bristol (don't fall asleep yet) who wanted to create an Italian style palace in England with formal Italianate gardens, a woodland and a vineyard.
Today there are miles of walks, cycle route and adventure playpark. Interestingly... (if you aren't asleep yet!) there is also an underground bat hibernaculum - several species have been seen here and they hibernate over winter in this specially built vault under the central rotunda.
Full details regarding accessibility for mobility impaired visitors, opening times and ticket prices can be found on the National Trust website listed below.
Family Weekend in the Country
We enjoyed a memorable weekend at the Ickworth Hotel, which is set in a truly stunning location, but conveniently close to Bury St Edmunds and the A14. With three children aged 9, 11and 13 we decided to opt for one of the self catering apartments located in Dower House, which is a short distance from the main hotel. Although we had no intention of catering for ourselves, the apartment was well equiped and tastefully decorated with lovely views over the mature gardens. The kids disappeared within minutes of our arrival and returned triumphantly on bicycles which were provided free of charge by the hotel. These proved very useful and we enjoyed several bike rides through the 1800 acres of parkland.
We were very fortunate with the weather and were able to sit on the Hotel patio for our first meal. The staff seemed very friendly and I could not fault the standard of service or the quality of the food. The children soon discovered the swimming pool, the games room, the trampoline and the horses, etc. Within a few hours they were shattered and we decided to have a light supper in the Inferno cafe, which was relaxed and informal.
The following evening we enjoyed a wonderful meal in the more formal suuroundings of the Fredricks restaurant, while the children were looked after by the babysitting service.
Overall we found Ickworth to be a relaxed and friendly hotel of a very high standard which is set in the most stunning of locations and it is very rare to find a hotel with such a relaxed attitude towards children. So much so that ours can't wait to return!
Not woth the money
My wife took me to Ickworth with our 2 1/2 year old twin boys for my birthday treat. We were really looking forward to the w/e break after speding £1000 for the 2 night stay.
I will start with the plus points. The hotel has a stunning location and our room was was spacious . The food at all times was very good and the service great. The kids den was very well equiped and our boys seemed to enjoy themselves whilst they were there.
On the downside, and these may sound a bit picky, but when you are spending £500 a night you expect nothing but perfection.
We wanted to take 2 bikes out and when we got to the bike shed there were none left, on asking the duty manager he explained that a lot of people just leave them by the apartments, so he can't help us (the apartments were 300 yards away). Finally a few hours later we found 2 but after only 5 minuites the chain broke and I had to push it back.
My wife had arranged a birthday cake to be delivered to the room which was done but no plates or cutlery were supplied, after a phone call, 5 minuites later they were delivered but with no knife. The suprise had been lost!. The suite ,whilst being a good size, lacked a seperate shower and the one over the bath was full of limescale and went hot and cold the whole time we stayed.
Looking at my complaints they do seem very trivial but as I stated at £500 a night you expect nothing but perfection and the Ickworth feel short of that.
in my opinuim just not woth the moneyl.
Staff and service unsurpassed shame about the cleanliness
The Ickworth is a lovely hotel, in beautiful surroundings, with wonderful staff. Its lived in appearance is generally appealing and adds to a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.
This is let down by some VERY jaded areas such as the kids playroom where the carpet was not only dreadful but also dangerous, threadbare and patched in several areas, ( more annoyingly it could be replaced for a very small sum of money). Also the conservatory needs both windows ,walls and skirting boards given a very deep clean. There were areas with historic stains (from beverages) and obvious build up of dust/cobwebs. Shabby chic i like, but this was lack of attention to basic hygiene.
With some tweaking and a little more attention to the basics this could be a truly wonderful family hotel, something lacking in the SE of England, my feeling is they dont have enough competition at present so are able to charge significant amounts of money without going the extra mile with fixtures and fittings. (I would recommend they stay for a few days at the Crieff Hydro in Scotland to gain a few ideas,as they target a very similar market , but in a better way at a more reduced cost)
It would be improper not to mention the front of house staff, who without exception were excellent in terms of approachability ,friendliness and pro-activeness thus ensuring an excellent break.
The raison d'etre of this place is simple. Entertain the kids by day, and then at night allow mum and dad to eat, drink and be merry to the best of their ability.
When the sun shines, tick the first part. The grounds (you're in one wing of a National Trust property) are staggering. Not manicured, just massively manipulated and landscaped parkland, with astonishing views. Excellent. And there's a nice pool too if it rains for a bit. Bring your own bikes though, as the ones provided by the Hotel have no gears.
But if it rains a lot (and this is England) then the creche / nursery won't keep a 4 year old busy for long (and its in the basement, next to the games room which no one uses so far as i can see cos its a soulless hole).
Either way... the evening should be the good bit, no? No. Nice bar. Bad restuarant. I sent back my starter three times, and the third time gave up. That was the first night. Perhaps coincidentally, my wife spent the next day throwing up. The last night, we went back. Not a lot better. And when it came to our bill at check out, it took two hours to get it right.
The service trod the fine line between casual and .... well .... casual. And too often ended up too casual by half.
The room, a suite, was rather grim and shabby. Nice bathroom though and great public rooms generally.
Just about OK
Stayed in apartments for two nights with wife and 3 kids.
Apartments fairly bland and uninspiring, not helped by lighting being so dim one could not read in the evening. Bathrooms dated and tatty.
Food OK at best, but plenty of nice pubs around.
Grounds and swimming pool superb and made the holiday, although if you can bring your own kids bikes do, you can't guarantee getting one.
Need to pay more attention to details like making sure games still have most of the bits and instructions, bikes work etc.
Overall, nice enough, but really worth the prices
On our way home from a Norfolk weekend, we stopped near Bury St. Edmonds, Suffolk to visit Ickworth House - a lovely National Trust property and a unique country house. It had a very good restaurant called The West Wing (not a joke) and one could spend hours hiking the many acres of forests and gardens. Ickworth has a unique rotunda built by its very eccentric first owner. See Travelogue below for more photos.
Ickworth House gardens
Detail on Ickworth House's rotunda