Nestled in 1,800 acres of rolling parkland, designed by English landscape architect Capability Brown, you will discover The Ickworth. It’s unmistakably grand, with the high ceilings and the aristocratic touches you’d expect of an 18th century ancestral home complete with its striking Rotunda.
At over 100 feet high, this impressive building was the brainchild of Fredrick Augustus, 4th Earl of Bristol and the Bishop of Derry – also known as the Earl-Bishop. Its purpose was to house his estranged family and provide galleries for his art collection, but more on that later.
Despite its grandeur, The Ickworth welcomes the sound of little feet (and paws too), offering excellent facilities for families both inside and out. After the recent arrival of our son Leo, my husband and I were looking for a ‘family friendly’ escape. The Ickworth seemed like the perfect destination for us, it wasn’t too far from home with child friendly facilities and most importantly some time for mum at the Treatment rooms.
We were excited about taking Leo swimming for the first time, and I must confess, I was looking forward to getting out of my mummy clothes, into some heels – enjoying a little glass of wine and spending some adult time with my husband, all made possible by The Ickworth’s loaned baby monitors – meaning we could watch Leo sleep soundly whilst dining downstairs.
Our room was a first floor room, named ‘Lord Bristol’ with views overlooking the beautifully designed gardens. All of the hotel’s rooms are name after regular guests during its halcyon days. There are 27 rooms in the main building, which are individually furnished, in keeping with the classical style of the building.
Decorated in traditional country house style, it is impressive to still see original features. You will also notice old photographs dotted around, of how the rooms used to look before the renovations took place, a gentle nod to its former days.
After settling in, we couldn’t wait to take Leo a swim (or splash in his case), so we headed straight down to the swimming pool after checking in. The pool is a minutes walk from the main building, with unisex changing rooms, lockers, hairdryers and complimentary bags for your wet swimwear.
The afternoon soon passed and after remembering how to get ‘going out’ ready, whilst feeding Leo, we prepared for dinner. There are two restaurants at the hotel, The Conservatory serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is available to the whole family, whilst the adult-only restaurant, Frederick’s, has Two Rosettes and is more sophisticated fare, serving fine modern European cuisine by candlelight in the evenings.
In all honesty, I felt uneasy about leaving Leo, but we made the decision to take advantage of the baby monitor on offer and dine in Frederick’s, as this is a rarity at most hotels. With the monitor glued to my hand I browsed the menu. I was delighted to see a range of interesting vegetarian dishes.
To start we chose the Artichoke Risotto, with fermented Cicioni, Hazelnuts and Candied Kale. The flavour of the hazelnut complemented the artichoke perfectly; it was a really interesting and tasty vegetarian starter. This was all followed by a main course of Wild Mushroom and Wild Truffle Mac and Cheese. It was a whole new take on the creamy pasta dish I was used to, a very generous portion too.
This was actually our second visit to The Ickworth and as I sat in the drawing room (after begging my husband to go and fetch Leo), I reminisced about the last time we were here three years ago. We were lucky enough be given a guided tour back then, by the restaurant manager at the time, who knew pretty much everything about The Ickworth, and gave us a fascinating insight into The Ickworth’s history and workings.
He showed us how the household functioned, there are staff tunnels in the basements, while the historical treasures lay above ground, including a Gainsborough, Titian and Velasquez – reflecting how the other half once lived. Plus a secret room, but ask about that on your visit!
After a much-needed nights sleep, (with Leo actually sleeping the whole way through the night), I was looking forward to breakfast in the Conservatory, but mainly so I could finish it and have some me time at the hotel’s Treatment rooms!
A breakfast buffet is served at weekends and for guests dining in the hotel you’re also welcome to order from the breakfast menu. I don’t get much time to myself these days, so a back massage with the award winning ELEMIS products was more than needed. Be sure to check out the hotel’s pamper packages on their website.
If a relaxing break is what you are looking for, you can also opt to snooze by the fire in one of the plush drawing rooms. If you have children the hotel has its own crèche in which you can have two hours free childcare per day. There is also a cinema room– a movie is played daily at 6pm.
If you are looking for something more energetic to do during your visit, the grounds are extensive, perfect for enjoying a relaxing stroll or borrowing a bike (some of which have toddler trailers) and setting off around the estate.
Overall, The Ickworth presented us with a place to relax in as a family, whilst providing incredible food and first-rate service. This is certainly a place we will be revisiting again soon!
Address: Horringer, Bury Saint Edmunds IP29 5QE
Phone: 01284 735350