Why We Went
Wanting to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, but not particularly keen to receive something made out of tin (the rather uninspiring traditional gift for a decade of matrimony, and so NOT a diamond), Ben thoughtfully came up with the idea of whisking me away for a couple of days. A colleague of his had recommended an elegant and luxurious country house hotel called Lucknam Park, just on the outskirts of Bath, which sounded absolutely perfect for an extra special treat. Now all we had to do was find someone to look after Stella, 4, and Jago, 1. Step forward Ben’s lovely Mum and Dad, who not only agreed to take over childcare duties, they even suggested travelling up to us, thus causing minimal disruption to the children’s routines. Gosh, you’ve got to love the grandparents!
Pulling up the Lime and Beech tree lined driveway of Lucknam Park takes a few minutes, being one of the longest and most impressive we’ve ever encountered. As we took in the stunning views of the parkland in the wintry, dappled sunlight, the house finally came into view, and if it’s possible to fall in love at first sight with bricks and mortar (albeit of beautiful golden limestone, so typical of this area), then I honestly think we did. A Palladian mansion dating from 1720 (it was occupied by various well-to-do families until 1987 when it first opened it’s doors as a hotel), the house manages to be exceptionally grand but not at all imposing or stuffy. It was an impression further compounded by the warmth and hospitality of every staff member we proceeded to meet, from the smiling concierge and chatty receptionists to the wisecracking room service and genial housekeepers.
A quick tour of the property familiarized us with the amazing library and lounge (festooned with antiques and paintings) through to the courtyard (superlatives are starting to fail me here, but suffice to say it was beyond gorgeous), leading to the stables and spa. We were then shown up the sweeping staircase to our first floor room, quaintly known as Tea Rose, where we were immediately captivated by the view from the ornately draped, sash window – a lavender maze framed by an arboretum, with a Victorian dovecote thrown in for good measure!
A huge bed dominated the room (yes, I admit, we did bounce on it), while off to the left was a large dark wood and white marble bathroom, complete with freestanding, claw-footed bath, strategically positioned by another window to offer further views of the grounds. With Ben opting to flop, I had booked myself in for a treatment at the spa, so having changed into the requisite fluffy white robe and slippers I made my way across the courtyard for what would prove to be one of most fragrant and indulgent full body massages I’ve had the pleasure to receive – utter bliss!
That evening, after an exquisite bath in the company of a gin and tonic, I adorned my glad rags to head down for dinner with Ben, who’d also dressed up for the occasion. We were due to eat in the Michelin-starred The Park restaurant (dress code smart/elegant), but before that we were ushered into the lounge to peruse menus, sup on aperitifs and sample a trio of amuse bouche – all terribly civilized and so unlike our usual dinnertime chaos with the children!
Having decided to throw caution to the wind and go with the gourmet-tasting menu with wine pairing, we were then escorted to our table where the feast commenced. Normally I would find the prospect of seven courses overwhelming, but such was the deftness of touch in the kitchen that everything was light and delicate, yet packed full of the most sublime flavours. Of particular note was the Brecon lamb two ways with smoked onion risotto, cured ham and wild mushrooms while a double cream Brie with black truffles was, as the waiter rightly said “a true revelation”.
After a glorious night’s sleep and a much-needed lay in, we headed down the next morning for breakfast, still feeling somewhat full from the night before. But once sat in the light and airy Brasserie (the less formal dining option next to the spa annex, with huge windows overlooking the gardens), our appetites miraculously returned. A ham and tomato omelette for me and poached eggs and crispy bacon for Ben were, as anticipated, cooked to perfection!
Things to Do
With 500 acres of grounds to explore, there really is no need to leave Lucknam Park, should you so choose (and with time being at a premium we wanted to soak up as much of the hotel’s incredible atmosphere as possible). So after breakfast and a brisk stroll around the parkland, taking in the handsome horses (there’s an equestrian centre on site, along with a cookery school, children’s playground, tennis courts and croquet lawn), we went back to the room, donned our swimsuits and robes and went for an invigorating swim in the glass roofed, state of the art pool, before relaxing in the indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool. We departed Lucknam Park as very different people from the stressed out, sleep-deprived parents who’d arrived. And as we drove back down that mile long driveway, with the house disappearing from sight, we vowed we wouldn’t leave it another decade of matrimony before our return.
A one-night stay in a classic room at Lucknam Park costs from £290 per night (two sharing), including use of the spa. Visit prideofbritainhotels.com for details.