Before becoming a Mum, one of my favourite things to do was to grab a coffee in one of many local cafés. I don’t even really like coffee that much but there’s something really special about the ritual of it; taking 15-20 minutes out just to really enjoy your drink whilst reading your book/newspaper or let’s face it….scrolling mindlessly through Facebook or Insta – it’s heavenly.
Since becoming a Mummy, a quiet coffee (or indeed tea) is quite hard to come by but there are some amazing places in Gloucestershire that are making it so much easier! Here are my top 5….
The School House Café, Cheltenham
I’d heard a lot about this place from other local Mums on my social media feeds and so I finally got round to trying it out this week. I wasn’t disappointed!
A community not-for-profit café, this place is making waves in Cheltenham as one of the best places to go if you have young kids with you. I only had the littlest one with me when I popped in but there were plenty of activities going on for slightly older children (it’s the Easter hols so I know some of the activities were based on this). As its’ name would suggest, the café is based in an old school house and as such it has a huge amount of room for younger ones to run around in (think old assembly hall and you’re not far wrong). There’s also plenty of room to get your buggy in and out – something which is areal issue for so many other places in Cheltenham.
At just £1 for a pot of tea it is an absolute bargain as well. A latte will only set you back a couple of pounds, and most impressively their iced lattes/milkshakes (HELLLLLO SUMMER!!) are under £3. Compared with bigger brand names, this place is an absolute steal…..and that’s before we’ve even got to the good part – cake!
I had a sticky toffee flapjack (only £1.20) and it was delicious but there were plenty of other excellent choices to be made. Whether you’re popping in for a slice of cake, a sandwich, or something a bit heartier, the menu has plenty of choice. They have a kids’ box option (healthy snacks/sandwich meal for just £3.75) as well which will provide littles ones with enough food to last at least as long as it takes you to drink your coffee!
A real winner in my eyes, and I will definitely be heading there with the toddler!
2. Portivo Lounge, Gloucester Quays
Always a popular option after a morning of shopping, Portivo Lounge is a great place to grab some lunch even when you have the kids with you.
With a kids’ menu offering options for both bigger and smaller appetites, the toddler is always happy to give something a try. Her favourites include the macaroni cheese (who doesn’t like mac’n’cheese!?) and the chicken lollipops too. The kids’ mains all come with a Cawston’s juice drink and some crudités and hummus – she gets the crudités, I get the hummus – and at around £5.95, it won’t break the bank either. With plenty of choice for adults too, my favourite has to be the tapas option as I can’t resist the temptation to eat a bit of everything!
“She gets the crudités, I get the hummus”
What I love about Portivo (and indeed Cosy Club in Cheltenham which is part of the same franchise), is the fact that there are lots of toys for the kids to play with. There’s always colouring on hand as well and a general feeling that should your kid be the one to have a meltdown that particular day, you’re not going to be ushered out in fear of upsetting other customers. They are truly welcoming and nothing is too much hassle for the staff in there.
3. The Find, Cheltenham
Another Instagram hidden gem that I stumbled upon…yes I do spend a lot of my time looking at food on Instagram!
Relatively new to Cheltenham, this place is indeed a real find! Based in the prom (at the back of Regent Arcade), The Find offers both an amazing place to get coffee, as well as a base for people who want to get a bit of work done (they also own The Workplace upstairs).
Boasting an array of hot drinks and snacks, it really is the pastries and cakes that make this place special. I had a chocolate mousse cruffin….it was incredible! I combined it with a luxury hot chocolate which was perhaps a little over the top given the pairing with a cruffin but oh my – it was worth it!! One thing I was impressed with was the range of teas on offer here, something normally lacking in many coffee shops. They have an absolutely massive choice – plenty to lure you back with!
Whilst it isn’t the easiest to get into (there are some fairly steep steps), the staff went out of their way to make sure that a lady with a buggy was able to make it inside safely. They were then super friendly and welcoming – again a huge plus when you’re out and about by yourself!
I only had the littlest one with me when I popped in but they do have an attractive looking kids menu for days when you have bigger ones with you! I’m sure the toddler would love to try out the bacon bap and smoothies if nothing else!
4. The Willow Tree, Cheltenham
The most recent of my Instagram finds, this local gift shop and coffee shop is an ideal place to visit with kids.
Not only do they serve a good range of hot/cold drinks and some yummy looking cakes, but they also offer a huge variety of creative workshops. I paid a visit (with both girls in tow) to The Willow Tree as they were holding a fingerpainting craft morning, hosted by the fabulous Victoria of BabyPrints Cheltenham.
For just £5 we were given all the paints and materials (and a lot of wipes!!!) to create some wonderful fingerprint keepsakes. The toddler’s choices were a magic wand and a card for Daddy but there were lots of crowns, masks, door hangers among others things being produced. We also bought our own fingerpainting kit home which is bound to keep us busy for a few hours on a rainy afternoon.
Amber, founder of the Willow Tree, seems to have struck the perfect balance creating both a beautiful gift shop and a welcoming café which provides more than enough entertainment for the kids so that you can enjoy a hot drink too. Not only this but Amber also offers a range of workshops for adults (think Etsy 101, business networking and a range of creative workshops to mention a few).
I will definitely be keeping an eye out for upcoming workshops I can take the girls to, as well as seeing what I can do by myself but in the meantime I have some beautiful prints (created by the extraordinarily talented Amber) to put up in the house and I’m sure I’ll be heading back to finally sample some of that delicious-looking cake!
5. Gloucester Services, M5 (between J11a and 12)
Now some people may be confused by the entry of a motorway services into my top 5 but to be completely honest, it is probably the place I have been to most since being a mum of 2.
Not your average motorway toilet stop, Gloucester Services is essentially a really great farm shop (the scotch eggs are delicious!!) and café.
A little on the pricey side (as most services are), they do have some slightly cheaper lunch options. My personal favourite is the Miso bowl which normally comes in at a reasonable £5. They do also have a lunch deal for kids where they can pick so many items – the toddler absolutely loves this, especially the little pots of raisins and grapes.
But the best is yet to come with Gloucester services. Once you’ve eaten your lunch/cake or just had a coffee, the little ones can play in the fantastic natural wood indoor play area. Complete with slides, climbing walls, bridges (depending on which side of the motorway you’re on), the kids are entertained and all for free. As I said, I have come here a lot since the littlest one was born. If she needs feeding I can sit at a table and do that quite happily whilst still watching the toddler play without her leaving my sight. Not your average soft play, that’s for sure. They do also have an outdoor play area but we haven’t ventured that far yet.
All of this, and free parking, the real question is why haven’t you tried it yet!?
These are just 5 of my favourites- there are so many amazing places in Gloucestershire I am yet to try! Have you got any recommendations? Where are your favourite places to take the kids? Or to go when you have a rare moment to yourself? I’d love to know!
Or if you would like some more ideas on where to go in and around Gloucestershire, be sure to check out Gloucester Rocks.