The main draw for the girls was Sharkie’s Reef – and we were soon racing down to the new family adventure pool with its four-metre slide, a rotating umbrella fountain and bubble jets.
It features designs by Disney and Warner Bros sculptor, Justin Pook (of Christopher Robin, Beauty and the Beast and Puss in Boots fame) and the girls (mummy might have had a go too) merrily splashed down the slide for hours – its all brilliantly equipped with huge family-friendly changing rooms with everything from spare swim nappies to armbands and goggles by the pool.
Rather than trying to find things to do, you will struggle to fit in all of the hotel’s activities into a single weekend.
When we visited there was an artificial outdoor ice rink overlooking the picturesque fishing lodge, tennis lessons, a Highwire Adventure obstacle course featuring zip wires, tree canopy bungee jumps and high ropes – and bicycles if you prefer to keep your feet closer to the ground.
A host of animals are on hand to entertain the children including two Shetland ponies, Milo and Dougal, a state-of-the-art equestrian centre and a falconry experience with a host of feathered friends that the girls loved stroking and learning about.
There is also a complimentary Kids for All Seasons club offering crafts and games, treasure hunts, football, story time and movies.
For teens, there is a games room which has table football and air hockey, as well as video games and films.
With the children happily occupied we headed to the spa. My treat was a Hampshire Herbal massage, which takes you on an aromatic journey of Jane Austen’s herbal remedies including steamed poultices filled with lavender, chamomile and English peppermint, and a soothing cold stone facial massage.
I floated back to the kids club to collect two happy faces and an armful of jewellery they had made.
All of that activity had worked up an appetite, but thankfully the hotel has a host of dining options, all child friendly.
Next to Sharkie’s Reef is Café Santé, offering Caribbean and Thai-inspired lunch and delicious juices, while the Wild Carrot bar and restaurant boasts classic British dishes with locally sourced ingredients.
If you have booked a babysitter (they are available through the hotel) you can enjoy a host of cocktails inspired by the history of Dogmersfield Park in the very Instagrammable bar. We sipped a ‘Meeting of the Monarchs’, inspired by the meeting of Catherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur at the house in the 1500s in the form of Knob Creek bourbon whiskey, Campari and Aperol.
We dined on Loch Duart salmon with celery apple and bergamot gel followed by Dingley Dell pork belly with celeriac puree, apple, raisins and pine nuts. Delicious.
There is also a great Saturday brunch menu – don’t miss the Decadent Oreo waffles – while the complimentary Little Ones menu is for babies up to 18 months and has dishes like oodles of noodles and fruit purees, as well as warm bottles of milk.
For children up to five, meals are also complimentary and include risotto primavera and grilled sirloin with chunky chips.
Even the children’s buffet breakfast is laid-out on a low separate table so little ones can help themselves.
Piling back into the car after our staycation, we felt like we had been away for much longer than a weekend.
I can see why Jane Austen wrote: “Ah there is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.”