Staunchly British Beauty
Most of us don't get the opportunity to live like lords and ladies but sometimes you get to pretend for a weekend, which is exactly what we did at Lucknam Park in the lower Cotswolds. Situated in a 500-acre private estate, the Lucknam traces its history back to 1199 as Saxon settlement. Since then it has become one of the most striking properties in the area. Guests enter through a seemingly interminable drive flanked by centuries old lime and beech trees to reach a greystone Palladian mansion that dates back to 1720 - a stunning wisteria-clad edifice where we spent a blissful 24 hours.
Standing out from its competitors, Lucknam Park boasts a Michelin star at its eatery Restaurant Hywel Jones, a cookery school, a fabulous spa with all the amenities, and a world class equestrian centre with paddocks spread across the grounds and plenty of real estate to ride through. The hotel itself is traditional but not in the least stuffy, replete with lofty ceilings, elaborate moulding, wood panelling and 19th century portraiture. Our room (one of 42) featured a canopied bed, claw-footed bathtub with view of the grounds, walk-in shower and sofa. It was amply spacious and smacked of old-world country gentility.
On Saturday night we repaired to the drawing room for pre-dinner gin martinis, which were skilfully stirred. There was a palpable air of excitement as guests received menus and placed their orders for the evening. From there we were chaperoned across the building to Restaurant Hywel Jones. His gastronomic acumen was fully on display, taking us on a three course odyssey with plenty of amuse bouches and palate cleansers that went from poached free range chicken with sweetbreads glazed in pancetta, marinated shimeji and Wiltshire truffle to pot roast pigeon with creamed brusself sprouts and chestnuts, cep mushrooms and blackberries to a Manjari chocolate cremeux with caramelised peanut, raspberry and milk sorbet. By the time we arrived back in our room we were deliriously satiated.
There are so many diversions available to occupy oneself - floodlit tennis courts, a 20 metre long indoor pool, thermal cabins, yoga and pilates - but on Sunday we chose to go for an hour long ride at the Equestrian Centre, where there are horses and instructors to suit all skill levels. Following this we borrowed mountain bikes and retraced our tracks along the periphery of the grounds for some added cardio. We were almost surprised when the time arrived for us to check-out as there wasn't a dull moment.
We strongly recommend Lucknam Park for anyone wanting a special weekend away.