WHAT'S IT LIKE?
Deceptive in appearance, the approach to the 18th century Palladian mansion along a tree-lined driveway gives the impression that Lucknam is going to be very grand. But, in fact, it feels more like a large country house than a hotel.
Reception is in the front room of the main house, which apart from a desk doesn't look much different from how it would look as a family home.
When we visited in winter, there were wellington boots stacked by an open fire with a pile of wood ready for burning at its side, comfortable armchairs and a sofa, a clutter of art on the wall and newspapers in one corner for anyone wanting to relax and make an afternoon of it. Through the open interior doors you could see through the library and into the main drawing room.
The staff help with that atmosphere as well, being friendly and informal without being over-familiar. Larger hotels would kill for this sort of service.
Although many of the staff are drawn from the local area, there were a lot from overseas as well. I chatted with Italians, Spaniards and French during our stay, and was told that there were also Chinese, Thai, Portuguese and Polish. This gives the hotel an air of being something more than just a small country house hotel, as does its membership of Relais and Chateaux and the wise focus on both wellness with the spa, which was being expanded once again when we were there in December, and food, with the Michelin-starred Park restaurant.
That said, this is the sort of place where a discreet note mentions that smart dress is required while dining there (no sportswear), and helicopters can be accommodated, provided prior notice is given. Given the weather the UK has been having in recent months, it might be the only way of reaching the place.
WHERE IS IT?
Six miles from Bath, 90 minutes from Heathrow and two hours from London. The hotel is in 500 acres of grounds, but the spa, restaurants and rooms are all close together around the main building, stable block and some new attractive buildings towards the rear.
There are 42 rooms in total, and all differ both in size and shape and what view they offer from the windows.
The following details the differences. Standard Rooms (starting in size from 14 sqm) are in both the main house and the courtyard. All have a DVD player, a docking station for an iPhone/iPod, and free wifi.
Deluxe Rooms are larger (19 sqm upwards) and are found in the main house, courtyard and cottages. Each has a cosy sitting area within the room.
There are four Park Suites (26 sqm) in the courtyard and cottages which, as well as having views of the gardens and a sitting area, come with a DVD Player, docking station and either a four-poster, sleigh bed or separate walk-in shower.
Grand Suites are in the main house and courtyard and have views across the estate and gardens, all with either separate sitting rooms, open fire places or four-poster beds.
The Grand Master Suites (Coral and Tower) are in the bays at the front of the main house with views of the park, a large sitting area, stately four-poster bed, writing desk, dining table and open fire.
All rooms are non-smoking, but there is a small "sanctuary" in the garden, which is covered but open to the air with underfloor heating.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
The Park is the Michelin-starred restaurant for fine dining under Executive Chef Hywel Jones. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday for dinner and for Sunday lunch.
We didn't eat there, but very much enjoyed the more modern setting of the Brasserie in the spa's walled garden and its contemporary cuisine, and delicious, a la carte breakfast.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES
There are four meeting rooms, of varying size that can cater for between eight to 30 people. All come with complimentary wifi.
Or the whole house can be hired on an exclusive use basis, followed by a dinner that can comfortably seat 80 people in the elegance of The Park restaurant.
Along with the restaurants, it is the spa facilities that provides Lucknam's real claim to fame.
In bad weather the spa is somewhere to relax for the whole day by the side of the 20-metre heated swimming pool. It also features thermal cabins with japanese salt; an amethyst room; aromatic steam; a sauna and tepidarium; a well-being house offering yoga and pilates classes; Haslauer Reflective Sunlight Therapy; a dry floatation and burnout programme, an indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy pool; and an outdoor salt water plunge pool.
As well as a gym, located outside is a large equestrian centre, with 35 horses and a cross-country course, suitable for novice as well as for more experienced riders. It was built by the Willis Brothers, who constructed the Badminton course, and is a full-size all-weather arena. Lessons are available and you can ride in the parkland and woodland.
The cookery school offers a choice of 24 daily courses and can accommodate a maximum of 12 participants and six cooking stations.
The hotel grounds offer plenty of opportunity for walking, jogging and cycling (mountain bikes are available). There is also an all-weather synthetic grass surface for tennis and a five-a-side football artificial pitch, with facilities for croquet, archery, clay-pigeon shooting and hot-air ballooning. Golf and fishing can be arranged nearby.
Absolutely outstanding. The physical product, from the beds, grounds, spa and restaurants are all excellent, but it's the service and ambience of Lucknam Park that raise it above the competition.
- HOW MANY ROOMS? Forty-two, in a variety of styles and each one different. There are ten Standard Rooms, 19 Deluxe Rooms, four Park Suites, seven Grand Suites, and two Grand Master Suites.
- HIGHLIGHTS The restaurants are superb, free wifi, comfortable beds, but most of all the excellent service.
- PRICE Standard rooms are available from £360 per night, based on two adults sharing on a room-only basis, inclusive of VAT, and use of the spa facilities.
- CONTACT Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Bath, Colerne, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN14 8AZ; tel 01225 742777; lucknampark.co.uk