Like to keep things private? Or prefer to get together in one big happy huddle? You’ve got options at Wiltshire’s Top Hat House. Open up the double doors from one end of the house to the other for sociable Susans, or close them for a more-intimate atmosphere. However you play it, the wows run throughout.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Top Hat House, sleeping 16 plus two dogs in delicious comfort, was a grand Queen Anne house built in 1692 and passed through the generations by the Fortescue family. In fact, it dates from this century. Once you’ve got your head around the traditional-yet-modern ambience, it’s the toys you’ll turn to next.
Inside, everything’s stately yet homely, with the fun continuing in the games room. Pick from table tennis, board games or snooker. At night, get together around the lounge’s TV with full Sky and BT packages. Cook on the four-oven Aga, eat in the baronial dining room, tinkle the grand piano, discover the science of silence at night.
Run amok with your kids and dogs in five acres of wonderfully landscaped country gardens. Stop running and leap into the 38-foot pool, heated to 28 degrees from May to September, then replace lost fuel with a poolside barbecue in the heated and lit rondavel.
Recovered? Great. Your presence is requested on the all-weather tennis court. Your mission after this, should you choose to accept, is to spot all the quirky Alice in Wonderland sculptures among the lovely landscaping. Ten points for each. Your prize? A woodland walk, or a picnic by the stream or pond. How civilised.
Get your friends, family, rellies and a couple of pooches together and get down to rural Wiltshire to enjoy a bit of family flexibility. For the perfect party, open up the sets of double doors that run throughout to create one sociable space, or close them to allow smaller groups to do their own thing.
That thing could be a game of snooker. It might be table tennis. Or just board games from the games room. It could be a music evening around the grand piano. Or burying your nose in a novel from the full bookcase.
Get together in one of the lounges as darkness descends to pick a match or a movie from the full Sky and BT packages. Or bring your DVDs, and Netflix and Amazon passwords. Set up your soundtrack on the Sonos. Check the weather with Alexa. Send the kids off to play never-ending hide and seek. Burn some logs. Pop some Prosecco.
Cook on the four-oven, two large hob Aga or outside on the Big Green Egg ceramic barbecue with meat from local Sumbler Brothers. Or feel free to be lazy and call upon the culinary skills of a private chef. Eat in the everyday room or the conservatory. Fresh eggs from the resident chickens for breakfast? Yes please.
For al-fresco dining, or a poolside barbie, a heated rondavel waits in the wings. What’s a rondavel? It’s an African-style hut with a conical roof. Stock up your fridges and freezer with goodies from the The Food Gallery deli, The Lawn Farm Shop and Waitrose. Tuck into a take away from Tale of Spice, Pizza Express and Get Plucked.
Eat out at the Red Lion Chisenbury, a thatched restaurant on the edge of Salisbury Plain where they do things properly – from hand-pumped beer to fine wines, tasting menus and doggie treats. Tackle the five-course menu or Chateaubriand for two. Or try The Bell at West Overton for Goan fish and prawn curry or spiced-honey duck breast.
The Oddfellows in Manton serves fresh food with the best local ingredients, while Dan’s at The Crown in Marlborough offers chilli-glazed octopus, loin of venison or grilled halloumi. Rick Stein’s needs no introduction, so step in for a taste of Cornwall in the shape of crab linguine, monkfish with sauerkraut or chicken paillard.
Top Hat House sleeps up to 16 in seven beautiful bedrooms, plus two four-legged guests. Sleep here explores the science of absolute silence, so sweet dreams.
Bedroom one is a kingsize with TV, en-suite with bath and separate shower and a dressing room, all connected. Bedroom two is a king with en-suite bathroom, while bedroom three offers another king and en-suite shower. Bedrooms four and five are also king-size, while bedroom six is a twin and bedroom seven sleeps four in two bunk beds, best suited to children.
While the first sight of a huge country house will draw a wow or two from the kids as you crunch along the gravel, you might have to manage expectations if the place isn’t packed to the gunwhales with toys and trinkets. Fortunately, Top Hat House doesn’t disappoint on either front.
From May to September, you’ll struggle to keep them away from the garden pool, 38 foot by 18, heated to 28 degrees and ripe for games of water polo in the summer sunshine. When they’ve worked up an appetite, the heated rondavel awaits with its Big Green Egg ceramic barbecue for poolside parties.
Energy left? The all-weather tennis court beckons. Or how about croquet on the lawn, a tour of the five acres through the woodland trails or a picnic by the stream or pond? Visit the chickens and feed them up before returning to collect your eggs for breakfast.
Indoors, you’ve games galore and snooker and ping pong to get through, or just a simple book by the fireside. Get together for BT and Sky TV in the snug, and stream stuff on the 4G before being tucked up tight for a well earned nights sleep in the child-friendly bunk room.