Ashbury is a sprawling complex of hotel, golf course, tennis pitches, ice rink, soft play, swimming pools, archery halls, dining rooms, glass etching workshops and gokart tracks. It’s the only place I’ve ever heard of where you can go ten pin bowling, do candle making and then have a massage before a buffet lunch. It’s extraordinary.
The hotel is in Devon and surrounded by glorious hills and fresh air. The building is a warren of corrugated walkways and pebbledash. It’s a monstrous maze but all very practical.
We arrived before check-in (3pm) but we could still use the facilities. You have to sign up for any activities you want to do and it’s first come first served which always puts us Olivers in a spin of FoMO. And when the sign up board resembles your brain on a Monday morning, it’s all a bit overwhelming.
There is an enormous number of things you can do. I can’t even list them. Films, bowling, ice skating, tennis, golf, picture framing, jewellery making and on and on. The facilities are spread over two site: Ashbury and Ashbury Manor. We were in the former and it was quieter and calmer and smaller.
We then spent the afternoon in the soft-play and the pool which had two excellent but safe little slides in. Boys were beside themselves.
The Wig Wearer and his dad went off for golf and for once I wasn’t worried about how I was going to entertain the kids! Our day went like this: soft-play, swings, go karts, swimming, soft-play, swings.
After six weeks of hanging off the fridge door wondering what to cook for the kids, it was a relief to know that mealtimes were included. The food is buffet style and actually way better than I thought it would be. There weren’t masses of options but what there was was well-cooked and tasty. Jack pots, macaroni cheese, lasagne, salad bar, chips, curry. Standard buffet fare. Plus the bar was cheap. Whoop!
TWW came back in time to take William for his first every try at tennis. Our son is not a natural for coordination but he really gave it a go and it was so nice to have a whole court to run about on. And watching my handsome husband patiently teach William (‘That’s it. Now next time try and hit it’) whilst also chatting golf with his dad and balancing Alex on his hip- well, that made me a bit swoony.
TWW sloped off for another round of golf and so MIL and I took the boys up to the other site at Manor.
What an extraordinary place. Just trying to find the loos we passed an ice rink, a hall for bowls, a basketball court and two tennis courts- all indoors. The soft-play was good here too and empty so my two could charge about whilst I ignored them and my MIL went for a massage.
The bigger boys came back and joined us for buffet lunch before MIL and I went and got our craft on. All craft activities are run at cost so my hour and a half of fabric painting was £7 and I got to keep my masterpiece
The swimming pool at Manor has huge tunnel slides and all sorts but out two armband reliant doggy paddlers didn’t fancy it so we went back to Ashbury for a session.
Our evenings were uneventful because a) we had to put the kids to bed and stay in the room with them, b) we were exhausted anyway and c) the communal spaces had all the atmosphere of a dentist waiting room so we weren’t missing out really.
As we sat chewing our way through another buffet fried breakfast, we all agreed that three nights was enough.
The boys were wrung out and we were all ready for our own (less rock solid) beds. We figured we could squeeze in one more round of swings/karts/swim before we hit the road.
The in-laws also kindly took the boys so TWW and I could go for a massage each. It was £36 for an hour’s neck, back and shoulders massage. And it was emotional. Literally. I cried. It was heaven. It was TWW’s first ever massage and he came out of it a new man: ‘Do I look different? I feel different!’
Before we went to Asbury, my MIL had warned us: ‘Don’t expect luxury. It’s no beauty but it’s great fun and the kids will love it’ which would prove to be a helpful summation of Ashbury. There’s a lot of pebble dash and brown pleather and pub carpet and golfers but more noticeable is the helpful staff, the happy children, the generous food, the brilliant activities, the excellent facilities. And the sheer size of the place means you can’t help but admire it.
Six of us went for three nights in the summer holidays. It cost £850 which included all the pools, sports, play areas and food. Craft activities and some sports like clay pigeon shooting have a small charge.
Rooms are basic but there’s still kettles and tellies etc. The mattresses were in need of replacing but rooms were warm and bright.