Driving up the long, beech-lined sweeping driveway up to Luton Hoo’s grand façade, it’s hard to think of a more perfect place to spend a cosy country weekend.
Set in 1,065 acres of Bedfordshire countryside, Luton Hoo is surrounded by stunning parkland and feels a long way from London, despite being just a short drive from London’s Luton airport.
Dating back to the 18th century, this Grade I-listed Mansion House is steeped in history. One notable guest was Queen Elizabeth who chose Luton Hoo to spend part of her honeymoon in 1947 – the same suite and original 300-year-old bath is still being used today! Luton Hoo also played an important role during the Second World War as the grounds were used to test tanks before they were sent off to war, and the estate also hosted the memorable visit by Sir Winston Churchill on 26th June 1948, when 110,000 people gathered to hear him address the crowd and thank them for their support during the war. Eventually Luton Hoo was bought by wealthy diamond merchant Sir Julius Wernher in 1903, who commissioned the architects of the Ritz Hotel in London to redesign the interiors in a lavish Edwardian ‘Belle Époque’ style.
This style is particularly apparent in the opulently decorated Versailles-like Wernher Restaurant (almost an exact replica of The Ritz dining room) where dining guests eat in spectacular surroundings. With floor-to-ceiling marble panels, large gold-plated mirrors hanging above ornate fireplaces and glittering chandeliers, this dining room is nothing short of impressive. At breakfast-time we recommend enjoying your full English breakfast (and extensive breakfast buffet spread) at a table by the window, with views over the immaculate gardens.
The estate has been a very popular filming location – being used for films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Eyes Wide Shut – before being purchased by Elite Hotels in 1999 and undergoing an extensive restoration programme with a £60 million investment, reopening as a hotel in 2007.
As we arrived, we were greeted by their friendly operations manager, Frederic, who took us on a grand tour around the main house whilst the porters took our bags upstairs.
The estate feels grand yet cosy, with roaring fires and the kind of sofas that you sink into, making it almost impossible to get up. A sweeping marble staircase takes you up to the bedrooms which are elegantly decorated in traditional country home style.
We stayed in a Mansion House room which was decorated with floral fabrics and traditional furniture, with a modern ensuite marble bathroom with huge Jacuzzi bathtub and large rain shower, fluffy bathrobes and a lush selection of Molton Brown products. Both the bedroom and bathroom benefitted from sweeping views over the ground from every window.
We then explored the grounds in one of the free on-site London cabs, past the nine-hole golf-course, clay pigeon shoot and lake, towards the estate’s spa. In addition to the indoor infinity pool, sauna, hot tub and stream room there are six treatments rooms that offer everything from reflexology to Reiki treatments to indulgent massages and balancing facials.
After some serious pampering, we headed back in time for the ‘Meet the winemaker’ wine-tasting dinner. We passed the Wernher Restaurant and continued down a long corridor to an enormous room with beautiful intricately painted ceilings and a large dining table taking centre stage.
Frederic introduced the host of the evening who talked us through the wines produced at his vineyards in Australia. Each wine had been carefully selected to complement our three course meal, and the evening ended on a sweet note with a delicious dessert wine.
Feeling comfortably full and merry, we retreated to our room to indulge in a glass of Frederic’s very own Cremant de Bourgogne bubbly – in a bath full of Molton Brown bubbles.
Book it – The next ‘Meet the Wine Maker’ Champagne Dinner takes place on Saturday 14 November, £85 per person.