Approaching Lucknam Park via the hotel’s mile-long, tree-lined driveway should give you some indication of what to expect from this 1720s Palladian mansion; now a proud five-star spa and hotel set amidst a whopping 500 acres of listed parkland. We drove up in our specially rented convertible, spotting horses and deer peek out from behind majestic beech and lime trees as leaves danced in the wind above and a group of guests played croquet on the lawn.
As far as rural British estates go, few could be in a more desirable location than this Wiltshire hideaway. Drive some twenty minutes in any direction and you’ll find yourself in an impossibly pretty Cotswolds village or England’s favourite spa town, Bath. Although when the lights go out at night and silence falls over Lucknam Park, the hotel feels a world away from both. In fact, we sometimes had to remind ourselves we hadn’t travelled to our very own, imaginary countryside manor by mistake (the Relais & Chateaux and Pride of Britain Hotels plaques by Lucknam Park’s entrance certainly helped jog our memory!).
Even before you step through the front doors, there’s reason to marvel: the main building’s facade is weather-beaten in all the right ways, emanating a sense of history and tradition. Cycle around the property on one of the hotel’s readily available bikes and you’ll spot a football pitch, a lavender maze, tennis courts, plenty of contemporary sculptures dotting the grounds as well as an equestrian centre home to 35 horses – setting itself apart from less experiential competitors, Lucknam Park offers equine-assisted therapy sessions anyone with a penchant for stallions will love (though you can ask for a mare, too, we all went through that phase). There’s also the chance to engage in the property’s other activities; from clay pigeon shooting to falconry, archery, cooking classes and, somewhat hysterically, duck herding.
Needless to say, we’d worked up quite the appetite by the time we sat down for dinner at The Brasserie, where we enjoyed pomegranate and muhammara-topped salads, an aubergine steak on sticky rice and coconut ice cream that tasted every bit as fresh and exquisite as what we remember from southern Thailand. The vegan options were so innovative and delicious, we sent our compliments to the chef who, it turned out, was a fellow plant-eater with an understanding that five-star luxury should cater to every taste (if only every hotel knew!). Those celebrating a special occasion might also want to schedule an evening at Lucknam Park’s second restaurant, the Michelin-starred Hywel Jones, although we stayed faithful to The Brasserie and our little dining spot underneath a stunning, Persian silk tree.
Right on time
LHR / BRS
While you’re Out There
Enjoy the grounds – we visited in early autumn and discovered a sunflower garden, a nesting pigeon, forested walkways and more. It’s not often that you don’t even need to leave the hotel behind for a day of exploration, but Lucknam Park’s premises are truly spectacular.
For a nightcap, traverse the ivy-clad, inner courtyard with warm light pouring out onto the lawn from every window, and head over to the Drawing Room, which we found to be the hotel’s single-most gorgeous space alongside the adjoining Library. Both feature authentic antiques and large, French windows that offer views over the grounds, entirely black at night, and framed elegantly by rather aristocratic-looking curtains. Our ‘Cornflower Suite’, a Grand Suite just above the front hall, boasted similarly grand features: fort-like stone windowsills, a storage space with an original layout that felt both quirky and historic, front views of Lucknam Park’s driveway and botany-inspired artworks and tapestries. Modern amenities such as ESPA toiletries in the bathroom, two LCD TVs and radios rounded off the picture; although we thought the latter clashed with the otherwise classy interior. Admittedly, we’ve only seen one out of the hotel’s 42 rooms and suites, but we did notice a few details that were old-fashioned rather than antique; from sitting room chairs to bedside lamps and light switches that rang the ‘soft reburb’ bell for us hotel aficionados (though, arguably, many might not notice).
There’s also some scope to further polish service. While perfectly friendly and helpful throughout our stay, staff seemed just a little overwhelmed when we checked in at the same time as a large group of travellers, and there were moments when individual staff members were so sweet, conversing with them felt almost casual. Don’t get us wrong – we don’t prefer stuffy service, but we’d imagine overseas travellers looking for a quintessentially British experience might expect some degree of formality that’s reflective of Lucknam Park’s long-standing heritage and grandeur. That said, everyone we spoke to sounded genuinely thrilled to work for the hotel, and we were greeted by smiles wherever we looked; something we can’t say about every estate in the UK.
Before you check out, it’s absolutely essential to spend at least a few hours in the property’s popular health and wellness facilities, as well. The spa’s highlight is perhaps the large and open space housing a 20m indoor pool and a mixed indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool alongside a sauna, a steam room, an amethyst room and a Japanese salt thermal cabin. Embellished by a stylish, elongated fireplace running along the main pool’s edge, the spa adds a contemporary touch to the property, and treatments come highly recommended (our massage was nothing short of heavenly, and the perfect way to end our stay!).
Thanks to its second-to-none grounds and history, Lucknam Park no doubt ranks amongst the UK’s most coveted countryside hideaways. And with an injection of just a bit of pizzazz, its appeal could easily expand even further. Not that we’re not already planning our return to this magnificent mansion – although next time, we might just splurge on a stay in one of their dedicated, on-site luxury cottages. When in the country, right?