Great British Boltholes: Luton Hoo Hotel, Bedfordshire

Check into a magnificent stately home designed by Robert Adam and once owned by a diamond magnate

Check into a magnificent stately home designed by Robert Adam and once owned by a diamond magnate

Why go? To relax in a Grade I-listed hotel with 1,000 acres of parkland plus a spa, golf course and fine dining restaurant. Luton Hoo is only ten minutes from London Luton Airport
(london-luton.co.uk) so a good choice if you have something to celebrate and want to jet off the next day.

Make an entrance: the oval staircase at Luton Hoo

Best for: Luton Hoo looks and feels as grand as a big name central London hotel – but also offers extensive grounds, sporting activities and bags of fresh air. It’s only been a hotel for five years and is a popular venue for weddings, business events and family get-togethers. It’s very big on afternoon tea (from £27.50), especially at weekends when you need to book several weeks in advance. While there are things to see and do in the area, most guests spend all their time here, enjoying the hotel and its parkland.

The look:
The main building, known as the Mansion House, was built in 1767 with the grand pillared façade added in 1843 by Robert Smirke, who did a similar job at the British Museum. Edwardian features were later added by the same architects who worked on the Ritz Hotel in Mayfair. The grandest of the hotel’s 228 bedrooms are here, including lavish suites commemorating the fact that Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh spent some of their wedding anniversaries here in the early years of their marriage. 38 bedrooms are located in the Parkland Wing, 59 in the Flower Garden Wing and another 12 at the Club House. These are all set apart from the Mansion and include some less pricey options – if it’s raining, you can hop in one of the hotel’s customised London taxis that ferry guests around.

Bedrooms are decorated in a comfortable but dull and traditional style. While Luton Hoo looks luxurious, at times it feels more like a four-star hotel set inside a five-star shell. It’s partly because it’s so busy – service can be slow and you can feel a bit processed. It’s a pity the grand front of the main house is used as a car park, and the public areas are not always that relaxing – although there’s some great peoplewatching…

Five-star cuppa: enjoy a leisurely afternoon tea at Luton Hoo

I’m hungry… Wernher Restaurant (named after the diamond magnate who bought Luton Hoo in 1903) has an opulent interior inspired by the palaces at Versailles, with marbled pillars and cut-glass chandeliers. The menu is appropriately upscale with traditional British and French dishes, but the experience is not sensational. A three-course Sunday lunch costs £35, note that it’s closed for dinner from Sunday to Tuesday. Breakfast is a mixture of buffet and cooked selections (£21). You can also eat at the more informal Adam’s Brasserie, in the stables, which has a modern British menu featuring dishes such as rump of lamb (£19.50) and passionfruit cheesecake (£6.75). Rather than spend a lot of money on grand meals, a better way to enjoy the hotel is to have tea or a drink in its bars and lounges – a glass of house wine cost from £6.50, or go for the splendidly-named Luton Sunburst cocktail (gin, passionfruit, lychee liqueur, £11.60).

While you’re there…
If the weather’s good, go for a walk in the ‘Capability’ Brown-landscaped grounds – ask for the hotel’s map which offers three options including one designed, most thoughtfully, for the ‘high heeled’. If it’s not, head for The Spa, housed in the former stables, which has an airy, oak-framed indoor pool, steam and sauna rooms, a gym and six treatment rooms that use English organic products created by Circaroma. To get totally relaxed, book the 100-minute Luton Hoo Spa Five Senses Body Signature Treatment (£120) which features an aromatic foot soak, body stretches, a warm oil full body massage and reflexology. There’s also a 18-hole golf course, tennis and a Shooting School where you can try some clay pigeon shooting (from £95) and archery (from £72).


And relax: the indoor swimming pool at The Spa

Dress code:
The Werhner Restaurant is a jacket and tie, dress-up sort of place, and there’s a no denim after 6pm rule in public areas. Think executive swank without going mad.

Book now:
Luton Hoo, Luton, Bedfordshire LU1 3TQ (0800 089 3929; prideofbritainhotels.com). In October, double rooms cost from £199. Wifi and parking is complimentary. A taxi from Luton Parkway rail station takes around £15 minutes and costs £15.

Info: Luton Hoo has starred in over 30 films and TV dramas, including Four Weddings and a Funeral and Inspector Morse – you can see stills from some of the best known on the walls of Adam’s Brasserie. For more information on the area, see experiencebedfordshire.co.uk.

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