The drive leading down to the five-star Lucknam Park – a Cotswolds hotel standout in an area awash with gorgeous destinations – is straight out of Downton Abbey. Sitting in my car I feel like I could be arriving with Lady Crawley in a Rolls-Royce. But of course, I’m not. I’m sitting next to my boyfriend in a shiny Volvo. But, hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?
The mile-long gravel road to the front door is flanked by rows of impressive beech trees – it certainly makes the two-and-a-half-hour drive from London worth it. We arrive in the drizzle, but that doesn’t take away from the grand façade of the 1720s Palladium mansion that greets us.
Inside, away from the rainy Cotswold countryside, warm fires are blazing and we can hear the tinkle of cocktails being served at the end of a grand wood-panelled lounge – all of which sound extremely inviting. But, arriving late on a Friday night, we have no time to dawdle. We need feeding.
We can hear the tinkle of cocktails being served at the end of a grand wood-panelled lounge.
We’re beckoned through to The Brasserie, which is hidden away outside next to the spa, passed an ivy-clad courtyard. Trying not to be tempted by the soothing sounds and smells of massages in progress, we take to our seats for dinner. During the day, you can come to The Brasserie dressed in your robe for a light lunch, which might explain the more paired-back, modern interior scheme. But we arrive well past the cut-off, so it’s strictly normal attire. We tuck into wood-fired pizzas, washing them down with warm glasses of red wine – we feel instantly relaxed.
The food is rich, decadent and delicious.
There’s melt-in-the-mouth Scottish scallop topped with dill and sweetcorn, wild mushroom tart seasoned with the subtle umami flavour of truffle, right through to dainty Wiltshire partridge paired with duck liver and smoked ham. To finish? A lavish caramel chocolate bar with peanut butter and popcorn ice cream. It’s rich, decadent and delicious. By the end, we have to roll ourselves from underneath the table to go to bed.
The other dining option is the Michelin-starred Hywel Jones Restaurant in the main house, which we enjoyed on our second evening. Much like the rest of the hotel, the design here is very much ‘old manor house’, with heavy, tasselled curtains, white starched linens and gold-framed oil paintings. For variety, we choose both the signature and seasonal tasting menus, each with seven courses. From start to finish, each mouthful is an explosion of flavour, expertly curated from seasonal country flavours but reimagined with exciting displays of colour and finesse. It’s no wonder the Michelin star has firmly remained in place since 2006.
When we return to the same room the next day for breakfast, it’s almost impossible to find space for a hearty breakfast of eggs Benedict. Almost.
Lucknam Park offers unbound peace, which can be best explored on calming walks through the grounds or on two wheels (which are provided). However, we bring our own bicycles to embark on a larger tour of the Cotswolds. We weave through country lanes, getting splattered by mud and stop off to warm our cockles at a nearby pub for a hearty pint. It all feels so quintessentially British. For those with time, there are also the Roman baths of the aptly named Bath to explore. But we find ourselves enrapt by Lucknam Park’s very own hydrotherapy facilities.
When we walk into the pool area, there’s a fire built into the wall down one side of the pool – very Bond villain chic. Like children, we dip in and out of the steam room, the sauna, the experience showers and even chuck a few cups of ice over each other from the ice fountain.
But the main treat for me is the inside/outside hydrotherapy pool. I feel a little put out that the rain might dampen our experience (excuse the pun) but on the contrary, it’s glorious. The cold drops of water landing on our heads accentuate the warmth of the pool, and the soft blue glow from the lights underneath the water surrounds us in an ambient glow as we gaze up at the stars. The spa has in fact recently partnered with 111SKIN and the local, sustainable brand Natural Spa Factory, which provides home-grown products all created in nearby Bath. The joint collaboration means that guests can get the best treatments for their bodies with products based on both Harley Street science and natural ingredients.
The main treat for me, is the inside/outside hydrotherapy pool.
We’re here to relax, but there’s plenty to do for those with short attention spans. Croquet on the lawn, tennis on the courts, sculpture spotting, riding (choose from 35 horses at the hotel’s very own stables), falconry, clay pigeon shooting, cooking classes, painting with the resident artist, hot air balloon rides, even, rather bizarrely, duck herding. The latter seems to involve watching a dog guide ducks over and around various obstacles. Something for everyone, I guess.
But we want to kick back, and other than the spa, the best place to do that is in the comfort of your own suite. Ours is just above reception. As with the rest of the hotel, there is something that feels quite dated about the bedroom’s interiors. While charming and quaint, it could perhaps do with a bit of modernisation. A few of the sofas and chairs perhaps feel more old-fashioned than cute. But there’s no taking away from the fact that it’s made to feel like home. The giant bathtub allows plenty of time to wallow in foamy water, and in the morning, we draw the curtains to a gloriously crisp view of the drive. Safe to say, Lady Crawley would love Lucknam Park. We certainly do.