Located in the Cotswolds area of outstanding natural beauty in Wiltshire, Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa is just six miles from the ancient Unesco world heritage city of Bath and close to Castle Combe, often cited as the “prettiest village in England”.
Castle Combe is also home to a nearby race circuit which hosts regular vintage rallies and car shows. The National Trust-owned Lacock Abbey is a must-visit for fans of Harry Potter – it was used as a filming location for the film franchise (as well as many others).
Why come here?
Everything slows down on the mile-long drive up to the house, lined with beech and lime trees. Nearing the end, the striking 18th-century stately pile emerges into view. It’s not quite clear who built the house and when – it was constructed, adapted, changed and tweaked under different owners. This is evident from a wander around the grounds, where there are all kinds of buildings, outhouses, towers and hedged-off, manicured gardens to discover.
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If you fancy a wander further afield, Lucknam Park is set in 500 acres of wooded grounds; on our wintry visit, we rather felt like film extras, strolling among stark trees, thick grasses and horse trails.
The hotel is home to 42 rooms and suites across the main house and courtyard; it’s also home to a private cottage for six guests. The vibe is classic country house with stunning four poster beds, open fireplaces (lit to order), heavy curtains and thick carpets. The bathrooms are a striking contrast to the rooms – modern, marble and white with huge tubs and walk-in showers. A teeny night light is a thoughtful touch.
The house is serene and grown-up; worn wood, oversized furniture, all golds, reds and emerald greens, with portraits adorn the walls. Huge windows provide views of tasteful animal sculptures dotted around the grounds.
Eating and drinking
A pre-dinner tipple in the gorgeous drawing room is a must; lofty ceilings, glitzy chandeliers and a huge fireplace provide a fabulous, high-society backdrop for one of the hotel’s signature cocktails, a classic like a French Martini or our favourite from the Savoy, a Corpse Reviver No.2 (try it).
The Brasserie is a strange affair; built as part of the spa it’s a little like dining in an airport – a bit soulless and incredibly bright, which is probably fine during the day but on our evening visit didn’t create much of an atmosphere (a few candles and a slightly heavier hand on the dimmer switch would soon fix this).
It’s a shame because the food was really well executed by a polished team – roasted cauliflower soup with a decadent, homemade warm cheddar brioche to start followed by a stunningly well-cooked lemon sole with caper butter; some of their extremely good chunky chips on the side are a must.
The hotel’s principal and most notable food offering is Restaurant Hywel Jones which has held a Michelin star for 16 years; it’s a large, traditional dining room with more glitzy chandeliers, aforementioned lofty ceilings and heavy drapes. There are three tasting menus – vegetarian, seasonal and signature, a steal at £110 with wine pairing an additional £100.
On our visit we tried both the seasonal and signature, and enjoyed elegant, delicious dishes like roast Scottish diver scallop with brown shrimp, razor clam and cucumber and Wiltshire venison with Brussels sprouts, Bromham parsnips and medjool date. Their “Caramelia” chocolate bar pudding, using one of the best Valrhona chocolate blends, served with popcorn ice cream and peanut butter finishes the meal in style.
What to do
Lucknam Park’s newly-renovated spa is quite something; set just behind the house it is bright and airy and looks out onto a high-walled garden that feels just the right side of wild.
Top billing goes to the hydrotherapy pool; bath-tub warm, you can press a button to access the outdoor section and spend a little time warming your soul whilst gazing out across the trees. There are saunas, steam rooms, a Japanese Salt Room and an Amethyst Room (in case you need some further purification) and treatments are tip-top with talented therapists who use ESPA products.
The hotel can arrange horse riding on the grounds and has bicycles to borrow. Thoughtfully, there are plenty of wellies by the door to take on muddy strolls.
Nearby Melksham is worth a visit for those who like a good antiques hunt; two notable troves to track down a bargain are King Street Curios and Melksham Arcade.
Our journey began in the dark hours of a Friday morning, cruising out of London in the new Lexus LC coupé. A concept turned production car, it’s all muscle both on the outside and under the hood, featuring a huge five-litre V8 engine giving growl and guts – it sounds spectacular. Inside, though, it feels different – it’s built around extreme comfort, clever thinking and ease of use, balanced with the feeling that you’re sitting in a cockpit. One of our favourite moments was discovering the “hud” button which projects your speedo into the windscreen – so very Blade Runner.
The LC has carved out its own identity, doing things differently in the category. Is it a sports car? Yes, but it feels like a car that’s designed to be driven, not raced – a ten-speed gear box is set to auto by default, though there are magnesium gear levers behind the wheel for those wanting to take charge. As the sun came up and the weather warmed, we hit the magic button, dropped the roof and enjoyed a bit of fresh air. Not to wax overly lyrical but it was bloody economical to boot – London to Chippenham and back on a single tank with change.
For a slightly more pedestrian route, you can get a train to Bath or Chippenham, both on a direct route from London, though you’ll need a cab to ferry you to your final destination.
Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Colerne, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN14 8AZ. Rooms start from £330 per night; lucknampark.co.uk
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