My youngest is very pleased when he reads the notice at breakfast: ‘Make your own fresh pancakes here’. The sign is on a silver box-like machine in the restaurant of the Cambridge Holiday Inn. My son presses the button on the front of the machine, puts his plate to the side of it and waits expectantly. After a couple of minutes a small, round pancake drops onto his plate. He smothers it in chocolate sauce and devours it happily.
Meanwhile my husband is reading the i newspaper and eating a bowl of fresh fruit. Apart from the pancake machine, all of the usual breakfast options are on offer. I go for scrambled egg and mushrooms and, pancake inhaled, my son is thrilled to find a mini packet of Coco Pops amongst the cereals. The joy of hotel breakfasts for him is eating his weight in things we never have at home but for me it’s letting someone else do the work while we sit down and eat together.
We’re staying in the hotel in a double executive room with a sofa bed for the youngest: the eldest is on a school ski trip. The room is comfortable if a little snug with the sofa bed extended. The decor is neutral with good quality furnishings: a large pale wooden desk, white cotton bed linen and, something I really like, sliding wooden shutters instead of curtains. Our room has all of the gadgets you might expect: a safe, a chargeable minibar, an iron, a trouser press (does anyone ever actually use these?) and a TV. The only gadget I ever really want in a hotel room is there too – a kettle. When we arrive there’s a welcome KitKat left for us next to the kettle too which is appreciated but I wish there’d been one for each of us.
The pool and gym
Guests are welcome to use the hotel’s health club with its gym, 15-metre indoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. The pool is busy when I go but there’s enough room for everyone. It’s divided into two sections so that those who are swimming lengths are separated from the kids who are just playing. There’s no lifeguard at the pool when I’m there, so you’d definitely need to keep an eye on your children in the water. After my swim I have the sauna and steam room to myself while my husband finds just two other people at the gym when he goes there.
There’s plenty of comfortable seating in the public areas of the hotel, a children’s play area is enclosed in a central courtyard and there’s lots of free parking outside. The staff we meet are all very helpful and friendly. After breakfast the restaurant serves food until 9.30pm and there’s also a bar at the hotel which serves snacks and light meals. I think this is a good place for families to stay apart from the fact that there’s no free WiFi available anywhere. If you want to pay for it, WiFi access will cost you £5 an hour, £10 for four hours or £16 for 24 hours, which I think is pretty steep.
The hotel is in a quiet spot in the village of Impington, just outside Cambridge and makes a good base for families exploring the city and the surrounding area. Cambridge has some great family-friendly places to visit including the Fitzwilliam Museum, The Polar Museum and the University Botanic Garden. The Imperial War Museum at Duxford and the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate are also nearby.
We stayed in a double executive room with a sofa bed at the Holiday Inn Cambridge as guests of the hotel for the purposes of this review. The room costs from £69 per night, including breakfast. Family rooms cost from £74 and cots are available free of charge but must be requested at the time of booking. Children under 12 sharing a room with their parents stay and eat for free.