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The summer months seem like a lifetime away and last Autumn seems like yesterday. It’s funny to think how quickly the seasons change throughout the year. I have to say I am truly happy to see Autumn in England once again, especially when all the leaves are changing from mellow yellow to vivid red in soft multi-coloured piles on the ground, with the scent of Chai Tea latte wafting around and knowing it’s time to think about layering our outfits with plenty of wool and cashmere from the drawer.
Right now, this is what I am doing, packing some of my outfits for a short weekend away in Wiltshire, a classic Great British Break to recommend to you this week. Lucknam Park Hotel is a stately country pile that’s all gorgeous grounds, glossy fillies and gourmet delights and where I will be staying for a few nights. This is a charming country house hotel sitting within a 500-acre estate that encompasses meadows, paddocks and woodland. The best way to arrive is to head for the main entrance and drive along the mile-long avenue of lime and beech trees. As soon you see the magnificent Palladian Mansion dating back to 1720 right in front of you, then you know instantly that this is a picture-perfect country house retreat and I am eager to find out what they have to offer as soon I get out of the car. It reminds me very much of the TV adaptation of Pride & Prejudice – a pivotal telly moment for me.
This mansion once served as a family home until 1987, when it opened its doors as one of the UK’s top country house hotels. It lies on the outskirts of the classic Georgian town of Bath in Castle Combe, a picture-perfect village in southern Cotswold, only ten minutes from Bath by car. The main building is beautifully symmetrical, a typical Georgian style back in the day, and covered with creepers on the outside walls. As soon I walk inside, the public rooms welcome me, looking opulent and elegant with a traditional country house feel. As you can imagine, everything is on a rather grand scale, with plenty of function rooms to wander through, including a panelled library with antique books covering its walls, a drawing room filled with plush sofas and an abundance of chairs along with heavily draped curtains and dazzling polished chandeliers. It is completed and complemented by a corniced ceiling, an ornate fireplace and Georgian period-style furnishing throughout all the rooms.
I am invited to relax in the drawing room while the bedroom is being prepared, as I am a little early for the room check-in at 3 pm. The drawing room itself is full of history and I lose myself gazing around the room from floor to ceiling until the waitress interrupts my thoughts by bringing me the drinks menu, covered in antique leather. At every top hotel, I get to visit in the UK, I always like to have my English breakfast tea served in a teapot with a traditional tea set to play with, something I hardly ever do at home. But what a treat, this kind of service with an added touch – a hearty biscuit to dip into my tea, yum!
A perfect place to indulge an afternoon tea if you wish.
There are 42 individually styled rooms, with around half in the main building and half in former stables and cottages set around an attractive courtyard laid out with lawns, meticulously tended flowerbeds and hanging baskets. All rooms come with a variety of antiques, floral and avian wallpaper schemes and grey marble bathrooms which set the bedrooms’ refined, muted tones. From classic rooms to suites which have their own names rather than numbers on the doors, some of the rooms furnished with sofas and armchairs, plus capacious bathrooms with claw-footed baths and large walk-in showers – I have seen all these in the hotel’s brochure and am very curious to see what room I will be staying in.
My room is ready and it is set in one of the cottages, just behind the courtyard right next to the award-winning spa complex. My attention is immediately caught by the stunning four poster bed, draped in damask silk with tassel trim, oozing with old-school charm and a door sweeps open to reveal the grey marble bathroom, which does indeed boast a claw-footed bath and a large walk-in shower. I feel as if I am dreaming in this junior cottage suite with its out-of-this-world amenities providing 5-star luxury at every turn.
The property itself includes a luxurious spa complex with a 20-metre-long indoor pool, a substantial half indoor/ half outdoor hydrotherapy pool and various thermal cabins such as sauna, steam room and various other experiences. A vast range of treatments is on offer, as are yoga and pilates classes, which take place on most days in the Wellbeing House, and a separate cottage in the grounds where you can enjoy sunlight therapy and a dry flotation session. There is lots more besides an equestrian centre with 35 horses catering for all levels of ability, a cookery school, floodlit tennis courts, and bikes for adults and children (though the grounds are better explored on foot, with wellies available from reception), as well as a five-a-side football pitch. Everything is under one roof, which is perfect, whether you are staying for a weekend break or a long escape.
One more thing to mention, once you are all blissed out and ready for the type of refined French-inspired cuisine surrounded by an epitome of elegant decors in the restaurant. Yes, that’s Michelin-starred by Hywel Jones, who serves an elaborate and creative cuisine, with surprising combinations of ingredients and sauces – perhaps you might fancy scallops with a pork croquette, or venison in a sloe gin sauce? The dessert is to die for, a blueberry soufflé with vanilla ice cream – the high point of the meal.
I could easily ask for more and retreat back to my room. If you are looking for a more down-to-earth atmosphere, I would recommend you try out The Brasserie which offers more classic European fare such as risottos, steaks and burgers. If you’re staying for two nights, you could really treat yourself and try out both restaurants!
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Whichever restaurant you choose for breakfast, Restaurant Hywel Jones or The Brasserie, expect a full à la carte menu – no informal buffet style. You will enjoy beautifully presented fruit salads, baskets of fluffy pastries and croissants, homemade smoothies and freshly squeezed orange juice. The best idea is to order all of these choices and get them delivered to your room as you enjoy a longer lie-in. This is my plan for the day and to enjoy the country air after, who will be joining me?
Lucknam Park Hotel, a five-star hotel located in Colerne, Chippenham, and less than 20 minutes from Bath, rates from £220 for a double room on a B&B basis.