As an Autism family, it has been really stressful for us trying to find “Autism Friendly” breaks in the past. For this reason, I have decided to review any trips we make from an “Autism Family” perspective. I hope that by doing so, other Special Needs families will be able to make a thoroughly informed decision before booking their break. I have decided to split my review of Ribby Hall into two parts. This post is all about our accommodation, and my next post is all about the on-site facilities and stuff to do.
Earlier this month, we travelled to Ribby Hall for a family break in one of their Diamond Cottages. (“We” being myself, my husband, my 4 year old son, Sam who has Autism, and our 2 year old daughter, Sydney). Finding the park was straight forward. We used the SatNav on my iPhone to get there, and had no issues at all. When we arrived, we parked up and I went into reception alone. There were 2 people in the queue in front of me, so I was waiting around 2 minutes. All I had to give was my full name and booking reference, and I was then given the key, our activity passes and the information booklets I’d need. The reception area was well lit, and there was a bit of an echo inside, but not too bad.
Once we had our key, we drove up to our Cottage – We could park right outside, which made unloading the car much easier than at other holiday parks. We stayed in a 3 bedroom, Diamond Cottage, which could sleep up to 6 people. It was beautiful. There were no steps up to our front door, and it locked with the key from the inside – PERFECT if there’s a “runner” amongst your family. The windows are all unlocked, but you do have a key to lock them if you need extra security. This is something which other Holiday companies should definitely offer too. Syd referred to our Cottage as our “Blue Holiday House” for the duration of our trip.
Once inside the front door, you were in the hallway. From here, there were doors leading into the 3 bedrooms, main bathroom and the lounge / kitchen area. There was also a cupboard to store coats in. This contained an iron, ironing board and cleaning equipment, but no toxic products.
Each room was much larger than you usually get in self catering accommodation. We took Sam’s pop up sensory tent with us, as he usually gets a bit overwhelmed by the small living area on holiday. We didn’t need to put it up at all though, as there was plenty of space for him to run around, explore and disappear into when he wanted a bit of quiet time.
The Lounge had two comfortable sofas, a HUGE wall mounted TV, a 6 seater dining table and the open plan kitchen was at the rear of the lounge. The TV was mounted onto a unit which had a Blu-ray player, and a TV input panel to allow you to safely and easily connect your own gadgets to the TV if you wanted to. (It had HDMI, USB, and component connectors). The unit had 2 small glass shelves around 1.5 feet from the floor. These were non removable and did cause me a bit of uneasiness. They were really strong, but I did try to keep Sam away from them as I had visions of him having a meltdown and breaking them. The Coffee Table was wooden but had a glass top. This actually moved, so I’d advise hiding it in the cupboard to prevent accidents.
The view from our patio doors was stunning! We were opposite the Spa, so looked out onto the beautifully landscaped pond, with a huge fountain in the middle. The French Doors in the lounge opened up onto a small, decked area with a private BBQ and seating area. This was open plan though, and Sam kept running straight onto the road. This was a problem for us, as we were near the Spa so there was a lot of traffic. We didn’t use the outdoor area after the first night as it was too high risk. I have since found out that you can actually call Ribby Hall and request a Cottage which is away from the road. I’d definitely recommend doing this, as the grounds are beautifully landscaped, and it really was a pleasure to spend time outside – in safe areas. (The Village Garden was definitely my favourite spot to relax and let Sam explore, but I’ll go into that more in my next blog post about the facilities).
The kitchen had an American refrigerator, cooker, dishwasher and washing machine. All of the equipment you’d expect to find was there, but we did have a faulty vegetable knife. We told reception, and this was replaced within minutes of us mentioning it to them – Amazing service!
The two twin bedrooms both had 2 full size single beds, which were separated by a wall mounted bedside table. This meant you couldn’t push the two beds together. They also had a wall mounted TV, a set of drawers and a mirror fronted wardrobe. Both of these rooms had plenty of space to fit a travel cot in, without restricting access to anything.
The Master bedroom was even bigger! It has a huge wardrobe with sliding doors – this was easily double the size of our wardrobe at home! There was also a full size dressing table and a freestanding chest of drawers. There was a hairdryer with both a diffuser and a nozzle in the master bedroom, as well as an En suite Shower room! All of the furniture in the bedrooms (including the beds) were high quality. I slept in 3 out of 5 of the beds, and all 3 were very comfortable.
The En Suite had a shower which didn’t require a degree to use safely! It also had a towel radiator, toilet and a sink with an illuminated mirror. There was also a bath mat, to prevent slipping! The En suite was decorated to a high standard, it was clean and very stylish too.
The main bathroom had a full sized bath with an overhead shower, a toilet, sink and illuminated mirror. One thing we did notice a lack of was storage space in the bathrooms – there weren’t any shelves or a cabinet to put your toiletries out of the kids’ reach. We kept everything in toilet bags inside our cases in the end to make sure the kids couldn’t get to razors, nail cutters, make up etc. There were plenty of warnings telling you the floor would be slippy when wet though, and another bath mat in the main bathroom – brilliant if your child is restless in the bath, like Sam is!
The main bathroom was decorated to the same high standard as the En Suite. The Bath had a glass shower screen, but it opened up to allow access to safely bath children or people requiring assistance.
All told, we were delighted with the internal layout and high quality finish in our cottage. It was squeaky clean, too. We pushed the single beds together and there wasn’t a speck of dust underneath either of them. When we did this in Center Parcs last year, it was obvious the cleaners hadn’t ventured under there in quite some time.
We couldn’t connect to the free on-site wifi in our Cottage, and phone signal was very hit and miss. (I had 3G in the master bedroom, but no service in the lounge). If you need constant access to wifi for work, you’ll probably end up spending a lot of time in Starbucks! (No hardship if you like coffee half as much as I do)!
The typical price for a 3 night stay in a 3 bedroom Diamond Cottage in June is around £529.
I would give the Diamond Cottage 4/5 from an Autism Family perspective – losing 1 mark due to the location. I would give it 5/5 from a typical family perspective, and we’d definitely stay in one again (as long as it was away from the road, of course)!
This is not a sponsored post. We were provided with the 3 night break for the purpose of this review. Keep an eye out for my review of the on-site facilities – coming soon!