We stayed in Knoll House over two weekday nights during the Easter holiday. We booked a family room on full board (2 adults and 2 children) and a single room for one adult, having heard positive things from two families who'd stayed here over many years - middle aged parents who'd visited the hotel when they were little and wanted to re-live the experience with their children.
We have stayed in many family friendly hotels of a similar price over the years - including Fowey Hall, Woolley Grange, Bedruthan Steps, The Bull Hotel in Bridport, The Elms in Abberley, and Priory Bay on the Isle of Wight as well as the Flying Boat Club in Tresco - and I can only suggest that the many who write of their stay at Knoll House in glowing terms on this site are simply unaware of what else is available for the money, or more precisely, how much the other child friendly hotels have improved while Knoll House has preserved everything but its prices in 1970's aspic.
We paid £1,327.70 for the two nights - it would have been an extra £32 had we not spotted the 'cancellation insurance' charge added without previous mention (thanks to another Tripadvisor reviewer for pointing this out). It was removed from our bill with an apology when we pointed it out.
As previously said, Knoll House is stuck in the 1970s - stone cladding, woodchip walls, and the smell of past dinners permanently infused into the garish carpets. If you're hoping for WIFI, you'll need to linger within a few yards radius of the reception desk as that's as far as the signal travels. Our bedroom was extremely basic - a Premier Inn has better facilities. No TV (apparently you have to ask if you want one but the hotel didn't inform us of this), no phone, no tea making facilities, cheap bed and bed linen, hard foam pillows, and - an peculiar 70s throwback - the handbasin located in the bedroom rather than the bathroom, so if you need to wash your hands after visiting the lavatory or if you need to clean your teeth after your partner has dropped off, you have to do this in the bedroom. One of the children's beds was an extremely basic, elderly camp bed - a fraction of the size of a standard single bed and very uncomfortable.
At mealtimes they sit you on the same table throughout your visit, so you find yourself sat adjacent to the same families for each meal, looking out on the same view. The food is stunningly mediocre - real school dinners stuff. Most telling is breakfast though - a meal that's actually quite hard to do badly these days. Clearly no one has told the chef you no longer have to cook fried bread by floating it in the deep fat fryer, serve damp uncrunchy toast, provide only long life orange juice as well as woefully weak and watery coffee. As a nation currently awash with coffee houses, we all now know what decent coffee tastes like. Yet this hotel doesn't even possess a proper coffee machine - from what I could see not a single bean is freshly ground on the premises. The waiting staff were attentive, but of the few that served us, one Eastern European and another Japanese lady found it difficult to understand our orders (needless to say a request for 'soldiers' to accompany a child's boiled egg was unsuccessful). Everything served appeared to be the cheapest quality or cut - the bacon was tough, fat and tasteless, the egg yolks of the palest yellow. It's a breakfast that would shame most self-respecting B&Bs.
Our first day at the hotel was cold with a particularly bitter wind. The children were keen to swim so we thought we'd make use of the indoor swimming pool I'd been told about when making the booking. For the avoidance of doubt - it's not an 'indoor swimming pool'. It's a 'plunge pool'. And most extraordinary of all, it's only open for three hours in the day - one hour in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.
There were some positives - the staff, particularly those in the children's dining room, are very helpful and friendly. And our kids liked the tea menu - including chocolate rice crispie cakes like they used to make them when I was a child and jelly set so firm your teaspoon bounces back off it at the first attempt. And the hotel of course enjoys a famously fabulous setting, with lots to do in the locality, particularly for children. But in terms of catering and basic amenities and facilities, our stay was very palpably not worth anywhere near the money we paid for it.
We discussed our visit to Knoll House with friends in the forties who are regular visitors with their kids. Their visits are paid for by elderly parents, who've been taking them since the 1970s - the annual stays have become a tradition they're happy to maintain. There are faded photographs of our friends playing in the wooden pirate ship which still stands in the playground by the car park. They know the cost is going up and up, that the food is ordinary at best and the bedrooms spartan, however they keep going back to keep the memory alive and share it with their children. But this can't go on indefinitely. The new families Knoll House needs to attract, families that lack the collective memory of idyllic past holidays spent there, but who have stayed at the many British luxury family hotels charging similar room rates for vastly superior facilities, will simply refuse to pay the kind of prices Knoll House is currently charging.
- Also Known As:
- Knoll Hotel Studland Bay
- Knoll House Hotel Studland Bay, Dorset