When planning a family city vacation, it is always a challenge finding a good destination and itinerary that satisfies both the kids and adults. Paris is routinely popular as is New York. But with easy direct flight access from every major US airport, and lots of great kids’ activities, London is a perfect family getaway as a standalone or as a launch pad to further European travel.
This summer, one of our Travel Managers, Alexa Hack, had the opportunity to introduce her toddler to London’s cosmopolitan charm, pairing it with a quick Scottish getaway. It was the perfect inaugural international trip for Alexa’s little one.
Where to stay in the UK
London: With so many world class hotels in London, we do not have “favorites” as much as favored recommendations depending on our member and trip purpose. The options are also dynamic as there are many new hotels opening (Raffles at The Old War Office building in Whitehall; the Peninsula in Belgravia)! The ones below are just a few that are well set up for families.
- Corinthia Hotel: The Corinthia is a great option for family groups, particularly for first time visitors. It is located in Whitehall area so accessible to both East and West, but feels quiet and tucked away. The wellness facilities are a standout, large and well appointed. Big Ben, Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace are just a few nearby landmarks, and just across the Thames is the London Eye.
- Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park: Often overlooked, the Mandarin is a timeless gem that was extensively renovated a few years ago. It has Knightsbridge in front and Hyde Park in back, with easy access to Mayfair (close by is Bulgari, a sexy hotel we love for couples). The family amenities, like their newly launched Little Rangers Adventures programming, as well as proximity to luxury shopping and cultural sites make it an ideal choice for many families. Alexa loved being able to pop over to Hyde Park’s many playgrounds with her daughter. Insider tip – most mornings, the King’s Calvary horses trot directly by the hotel!
- The Beaumont: Originally opened in 2014 by Jeremy King, one of our favorites hosts anywhere, the Beaumont is a classic and stylish art-deco hotel in the far section of Mayfair near Oxford St (nearby is the Twenty-Two, which we love for couples and those looking for fun and style). The Beaumont’s superpower is its ability to combine old-world elegance, great design and craftsmanship, with intuitive and seamless service. We love the suites here in particular. Although King is no longer involved in the Beaumont, he is opening three new restaurants in London including a reimagining of the Caprice in the same space, but re-named the Arlington.
- Claridge’s: Many of our members have stayed at Claridges, one of the most iconic hotels in the world. Now it is more regal than ever after a nearly one billion dollar renovation (including a 60,000 pound a night penthouse suite with 75 works by Damien Hurst). But for the family traveling, the refurbished Claridges offers all new rooms (much lighter and brighter than before), a fantastic spa, additional dining options, and a luxury subterranean shopping gallery opening soon.
- Perthshire: Nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Perthshire, Gleneagles, is a world-renowned luxury resort offering a wide array of family-friendly activities, including golf, falconry, and a dedicated kids’ club. With over 850 acres of surrounding estate, the so-called “Glorious Playground” offers no shortage of amenities and activities. Alexa’s family loved spending the day training and snuggling with the property’s beloved gun dogs, before enjoying the afternoon at the spa and huge family pool. For foodies, hire a babysitter for the evening and head to Andrew Fairlie, the resort’s 2-Michelin-star restaurant.
- Edinburgh: Expanding the brand beyond the countryside, the newly opened Gleneagles Townhouse offers a vibrant taste of historic Scotland with the ultimate in chic and private accommodations in the heart of Edinburgh, with just 33 rooms, a lively member’s club, and an excellent subterranean gym. We also love The Balmoral, part of the Rocco Forte collection. With its commanding presence at the intersection of Princes Street and North Bridge, the Balmoral has been a cherished landmark since 1902. Its central location makes it an ideal starting point for exploring the city’s landmarks, including the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, and the National Museum of Scotland.
How to get around
As everyone knows London black cab drivers are the best in the world, subjected as they are to grueling testing. That said, catching them in rush hour can be a challenge. If you have a busy itinerary with kids, we often recommend hiring a private driver to avoid the stress. That said, do take a cab and do try the tube if your kids are up for it. Travel from London to Edinburgh is most convenient by air. Alternatively, if you have the time you can opt for a train journey between the two destinations (about 4.5 hours). The trip from Edinburgh to Gleneagles is just over one hour by car.
When to go
The best time to visit the UK is during the spring and summer months (May to September) when the weather is most pleasant. In Scotland, August offers the added charm of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a vibrant cultural event. London’s attractions are delightful year-round, but be sure to check for seasonal events like the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. And don’t sleep on festive season in the UK! There is nothing more charming than a winter holiday in London – the city covered in dazzling lights, with Christmas markets and carol singing throughout the city. In Scotland, you’ll find Gleneagles decked out with 200 Christmas trees, a visit from Santa, live reindeer, and an ice skating rink on the main lawn. A truly magical winter wonderland!
What to do
The main museums and cultural attractions are easily accessible in London. Some favorites are the British Museum, Tate Gallery and Portrait Gallery (a must). Marchay organizes many insider and original activities for our members like a private visit to Churchill’s War Rooms, a private viewing of the Crown Jewels, or specialty-themed excursions (Harry Potter, street art, food tours, etc). In Edinburgh, get fitted for a traditional kilt before taking a private tour of Edinburgh Castle or take a day trip to a whiskey distillery for a private tasting. Gleneagles, of course, offers the very best in outdoor pursuits, from fishing, shooting, riding and more – not to mention golf!