The Dorset coast is the perfect place for ‘3G break’
I can’t say I really blame her – it’s not quite what I had in mind either when I booked our luxury weekend getaway to Dorset.
Truth be told, I had secretly hoped that by taking Mum we would be able to offload some childcare responsibilities, and I’m probably not the only one to have this bright idea.
According to recent research, three-generation or ‘3G breaks’ are all the rage. The increase in popularity is partly the result of baby-boomer grandparents downsizing from large family homes but still wanting to host children and grandchildren.
Still, even without Nanny to help dig up old bones, our rampaging four-year-old twins and their stroppy eight-year-old sister have a whale of a time, charging up and down the shoreline.
And it is quite fun, even if it’s a bit early in the year for the Famous Five scenario of sunny, sandy beaches, secret coves, ice creams, buckets and spades I optimistically pictured.
When a sudden downpour calls a halt to our expedition, my husband and I are momentarily panic stricken.
Laura Milne and family found Chesil Beach to be the perfect place for three generations
That is until we realise we now have the perfect excuse to head back to our hotel. And if you are seeking refuge from the unpredictable British summer, Moonfleet Manor is the place to do it.
This elegant Georgian manor house overlooking the sea, just up the road from the seaside town of Weymouth, is part of the Luxury Family Hotels group.
Situated opposite Chesil Beach, an 18-mile-long pebble spit on Dorset’s world-famous Jurassic Coast, this area was notorious for shipwrecks and smugglers in the 18th century.
Spirits, tea and tobacco were shipped in the dead of night, wrapped in oilskins and submerged in lagoons until customs men were out of sight.
The hotel’s main claim to fame is that parts of J. Meade Falkner’s famous smuggler’s tale Moonfleet (later made into a 1955 film starring Stewart Granger) were written here, adding to the romance.
Decor is quirky, with animal heads and skins decorating the walls and the atmosphere is laid back and relaxed. So no one bats an eyelid when we return sodden, squelching through reception in wet, sandy wellies and dripping anoraks.
The eclectic, laid-back interior of Moonfleet Manor
I realise my mum probably had the right idea by opting to enjoy afternoon tea in the bright conservatory-style restaurant before sloping off to the spa for a luxurious massage, rather than chasing after my offspring.
Yet it seems we are not the only ones enjoying a multigenerational seaside break. On the weekend we visited, there were three other large family groups at Moonfleet.
It’s a place that caters well for families, with a range of suites and interconnecting rooms available to accommodate groups of varying sizes.
Our luxurious shabby-chic style suite, located in a separate annexe away from the main hotel, had a spacious seating area with a big squashy sofa, a separate children’s room, verandah and huge colonial-style bathroom. Mum was given a spacious double room directly across the landing so she could easily escape us when she chose to.
The extensive range of family-friendly facilities includes a heated indoor swimming pool, free creche and a vast indoor play area. There is also an indoor football pitch, trampolines, snooker room, skittle alley, soft play area and ride-on toys for energetic toddlers to tire themselves out on, before heading for high tea.
A baby-listening service is available at any time of day, or staff can arrange a babysitter. We even got to take the hotel’s resident dog Snoopy for a walk.
Once they had dried off and refuelled, the children climbed into their pyjamas and headed for the cinema room to curl up and watch a family movie.
That gave us grown-ups the opportunity to nip off to the restaurant and have a proper conversation, for a change, over dinner.
Among the tasty treats on the menu were local scallops from Lyme Bay and crab from the nearby island of Portland all prepared by chef Stephen Wilson.
At 8 o’clock the next morning one of the creche staff arrived to whisk the three children to breakfast club.
As we enjoyed an undisturbed cup of tea in bed, facing a breathtaking view of Chesil Beach bathed in a golden morning light, I reflected that there’s a whole side of Dorset we hadn’t seen – the 1950s picture-postcard Dorset of steam trains, ice cream and lashings of ginger beer.
But that might just give us the perfect excuse to come back.
THE KNOWLEDGE Moonfleet Manor (01305 786 948/ moonfleetmanorhotel.co.uk) offers two nights from £360 (four sharing), B&B and one dinner. Dorset tourist board: visit-dorset.com