Menzies Hotels seem to have stuck a very good balance with their MIK (Menzies Important Kids) scheme. Children under 16 can stay free (see the terms for full details), and there's a whole host of things they do to make your stay family-friendly.
We were invited to stay at the Derby Mickleover Court Hotel last weekend. I have to say, the Menzies hotel I an more familiar with is Flitwick Manor, which is a stunning Georgian country manor house furnished with antiques and period features so it took a bit of getting used to seeing the modern decor of Mickleover Court.
But whilst the style wasn't to my taste, I can honestly say that everything else about our stay was faultless.
The check-in was friendly, courteous and prompt- the desk clerk was obviously on an internal telephone call when we strolled up to the desk, but she quickly finished the call with a chirpy "I'll call you back in a moment" and tended to us straight away - what a refreshing change!
Ruby was issued with her own MIK wristband which made her feel uber important and gave her access to unlimited free fruit juice from reception. She was also offered a complimentary ice cream which kept her happy while we got our bags from the car and found our room.
We stayed in the Millbank suite which had a large bedroom with an enormous king-sized bed, an ante-room with a comfortable sofa bed made up for Ruby and a huge en-suite bathroom. Everything was spotless, fresh smelling and welcoming. The air conditioning in the room could be independently controlled so we were able to switch it off at night and not hear it.
I was very impressed with the amount of space we had. Often in 'family rooms' there's just a camp bed crammed in at the bottom of the parent's bed with barely enough room to swing a cat. It also usually means you're forced to either go to bed when the kids do, or talk in hushed whispers all evening. But not here, we were able to put her to bed after dinner, happily snuggled down watching TV as a treat, while we watched our programs in the other room. There was even a balcony, and whilst the view over the main road outside wasn't much to write home about, at least I could get some fresh air without having to go all the way downstairs.
The beds were certainly very comfortable, and the room was well equipped with iron and board; TVs, tea and coffee facilities; hairdryer; mini bar; phone; cosy bath robes and slippers and lots of soft white towels.
The bathroom was again spacious and clean, with double sinks, a bath with shower over and separate multi-jet power shower cubicle. There was a good selection of quality toiletries, and the only improvement would be if the ample towel rail had been heated - it would have saved us using so many towels.
I had a relaxing bath while Ruby and her Dad went off exploring and to check out the pool. She declared it to be like 'paradise' and was absolutely in love with the fountains and the jacuzzi. I got the chance to use the pool with them on Sunday morning. The Romanesque styling was a bit too much for me, but we had great fun. There's a large shallow part to the pool, perfect for kids, but also a big enough deeper section if you want to swim some proper lengths. There's also a steam room and of course the jacuzzi which was a lovely way to start the day.
The changing rooms were ample big enough with cubicles capable of fitting in a parent and child. A nice touch was free lockers and free towels offered at the leisure suite check in (there's also a well equipped gym and beauty rooms). If you don't fancy a swim, you can take coffee in the bar overlooking the pool and watch the family. Note that as with most hotels, there is no lifeguard though so clearly children can't in go unattended.
The food at the Menzies Mickleover Court was also excellent, and here you can see their dedication to keeping their little guests (and parents) happy. At dinner we were seated at a table in the corner which was great because I didn't need to feel embarrassed when she decided to move seats a hundred times throughout the meal as is her want, or run around the table, or indeed, sit under it!
She was promptly presented with some activity sheets, colouring and crayons and entertained herself with word searches and mazes while we looked over the menu.
It made such a wonderful change to have a really substantial children's menu offering lots of choice and there was only one dish featuring chips and beans, unlike a lot of restaurants where that's pretty much all that's on offer. She chose vegetable crudites and dip to start, followed by pasta then ice cream (obviously!) despite me trying to coax her towards the fresh fruit and yoghurt option - there are some disadvantages to her new-found reading skills! Best of all, children aged 5 or under eat free.
The adult meals were also very good, generous portions and very well cooked. I'd say the quality and style of food was on a par with a decent gourmet pub.
Breakfast the following morning didn't disappoint either, with a vast array of hot and cold options, there was everything you could possibly want to set you up for the day - full English; kippers; porridge; cold meats and cheese; fruit; pastries; toast; cereal...
We had a lovely stay and it made a very nice change for children to feel genuinely welcomed and catered for.
The Mickleover Court hotel is ideally situated for Alton Towers (check out the special packages); and for visiting the pretty Derbyshire town of Matlock and tourist attractions such as the Heights of Abraham and the Tramway Museum.
Do also follow Menzies Hotels on Twitter or Facebook for special deals and discounts such as their current 7 day sale - rooms for only £35.
Disclosure: We were accommodated on a dinner, bed and breakfast inclusive package free of charge for the purposes of this review. However, all images, words and opinions are my own and are an honest reflection of our views.