My husband and I recently stayed at Tiptoe Cottage with Babyfriendlyboltholes.com, which specialises in accommodation suited to families. We visited on our first trip away with our newborn son, and Tiptoe really exceeded our expectations in making it as stress-free as possible.
Tiptoe is a traditional cob cottage, set in the beautiful New Forest National Park. it shares a driveway with another house but feels very private and secluded, surrounded by a substantial garden and backing right on to an expanse of heathland.
Owners Jane and Robin lived here with their daughter, so Tiptoe has a sense of being a genuine family home rather than just a holiday rental. Reinvented with modern interiors without losing its traditional charm, it’s furnished in neutral tones and has plenty of windows flooding it with natural light.
The entrance leads straight into a sunny livingand dining room, with a real wood fire burner. Double doors lead into a bright galley kitchen with wooden work tops and Belfast sink, plus a breakfast bar with high stools. As this was once a family residence, the kitchen comes well equipped with plenty of cooking utensils, oven, microwave, large fridge freezer, dishwasher and washing machine (a tumble dryer is in an outhouse). There’s even a Nespresso machine.
There's three bedrooms - one double located off the lounge with its own bathroom next door. The master bedroom and a single which can be made into a twin are upstairs, along with a wet room with walk in shower and toilet. While it can technically sleep six, the rooms are quite small and we comfortably filled the space with just the two of us and a baby.
Stylish and luxurious, everything is very high spec, from the custom made furniture to the fluffy White Company bathrobes and Molton Brown bathroom products.
Jane welcomed us with homely touches of fresh flowers and fruit, as well as a hamper full of local goodies - which she tailors according to guest preferences. Ours featured a homemade cake, bottle of wine and everything for a cooked breakfast including eggs laid by the chickens outside. Older kids might get a jar of ingredients to make chocolate brownies, while the couple before us received fresh sloes to make sloe gin. Jane can also arrange food deliveries or collect pre-ordered items from the local farm shop.
Our packing list was halved thanks to everything which was provided, including a travel cot, monitors, baby bath, changing unit, steriliser, play gym, bouncer and even a breastfeeding cushion. Dimmer switches in the bedrooms made settling our baby at bedtime much easier. For older children there's stair gates, highchairs and full plastic cutlery sets.
This cottage really comes into its own in good weather thanks to the outdoor space. Full of wild flowers, the garden has plenty of sun traps in which to enjoy a glass of wine while the kids expend pent up energy on the wooden climbing frame. The fire pit is a great spot for sundowners and toasted marshmallows, plus there’s also a bbq, kids paddling pool and sandpit. The showstopper however, is the brilliant outdoor playhouse. The heated ‘beach hut’ style den comes equipped with WiFi, TV, DVD player, basket of games and a sofa bed.
Animal lovers are in their element and I had to prise the binoculars from my husband who was intent on spotting the resident owl. The cottage garden is abundant with wildlife and a substantial bird feeding station played host to many winged visitors during our stay. Guests are encouraged to log their wildlife spots in the house book.
For eating out, we were spoilt for choice with so many wonderful pubs and restaurants a short walk or drive away. The nearest pub - the Rising Sun - is very family friendly and just a ten minute stroll through the national park backing onto the property. Other pubs welcoming kids include the White Buck in the cute village of Burley, where we had an amazing burger and a ‘Buckaneer Platter’ of local ham, cheese, piccalilli and crusty bread.
As a special treat, we headed to the highly acclaimed ‘The Pig’ brasserie in Brockenhurst. Super family friendly they didn't mind up wheeling in our pram and parking up in a corner of their lounge to eat lunch by the fire. Although they made us feel very welcome with a baby, it’s one of a number of upmarket options in the area which is ideal for when you might have a babysitter organised!
In terms of activities, Tiptoe is right in the heart of the National Forest with stunning walks on its doorstep. You can stumble out of the back gate onto the heath or drive further afield for forest, hill and beach rambles.
The coast is pretty close, with the nearest sandy beach being Mudeford. Here you can go crabbing off the quay and catch a small boat over to The Beach Hut restaurant, which has a good menu and welcomes families. Other coastal days out include Lymington, Milford-on-Sea and Barton-on-Sea.
The nearest main town of New Milton has everything in terms of amenities and there’s a number of farm shops selling fresh veggies, meat, cheeses, bread, plus local beers and wines. Closest to the cottage is the Danestream Farm Shop, while the Beaulieu Organic Farm Shop is also worth a visit.
All in all I’d highly recommend a stay at Tiptoe and look forward to returning when our little boy is old enough to appreciate the outdoor climbing frame and play den!