Lucknam Park is the hotel that has it all: Michelin-starred restaurant, 500-acre estate and even stables home to 35 glossy-flanked horses. Lucky fillies and stallions – their Chippenham stomping ground is peaceful and private, the gardens gorgeous. Tennis courts, croquet lawn and a football pitch are further feathers in this handsome hotel’s hat.
11am (unless you're staying in one of the cottages, in which case it's 10am). Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £292.67, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast (from £22 a person).
Get on your horse at the hotel's equestrian centre.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, personal trainers, fitness classes, 500 acres, children's playhouse, library of books and DVD/CDs, equestrian centre, tennis courts, croquet, bicycles, walking trails, football pitch and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, Ruark DAB Bluetooth Digital Radio, tea- and coffee-making kit, free bottled water and ESPA products.
Our favourite rooms
The Coral Suite is the Grand Master, both in name and in appearance. Striped yellow wallpaper, a four-poster bed with a pleated canopy and tapestry cushions, ornate chandelier, fireplace and postcard-worthy views of the grounds make this our hands-down favourite. The romantic and feminine Juliet Suite (a Grand Suite) is more wallet-friendly. The four-poster bed is swathed in blue and cream silk, trimmed with beads, and windows are hung with chinoiserie silk curtains in a matching blue.
Take your pick: there’s an indoor heated pool, an indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy pool and an outdoor saltwater plunge pool.
The award-winning spa (open 8am to 9pm daily) has eight luxurious treatment rooms, thermal cabins, sauna and steam rooms and a fitness suite.
Jodhpurs, riding boots, Barbour jacket, cashmere and pearls.
Lucknam Park offers valet parking and a concierge service. Try to book restaurant meals, spa treatments and equestrian pursuits before arrival, as they can book up fast.
For £25 a night each, up to two dogs can stay in some rooms. Dogs must be on leads at all times and can frolic on the lawns. Beds, bowls and Lily's Kitchen food is provided. Just let the hotel know when booking. See more pet-friendly hotels in Wiltshire.
This hotel goes out of its way to keep children entertained, with croquet, riding lessons, football, games and more. For £15 a night, extra beds (suitable for children up to 12) and cots can be added to some rooms and suites, on request.
Any age, as long as they’re not scared of horses.
Suites are spacious and there are several interconnecting and adjoining rooms, ideal for families with tots. Extra beds (£25 a night) and cots (£25 a night) can be added to some Manor Rooms, Junior Suites and Grand Suites.
Horse riding, swimming, tennis and football – there is so much scope within Lucknam Park’s 500 acres for actively staying put. Explore the gardens to find the Hideaway (open 10am–12.30pm and 1.30pm–5pm daily), a converted cottage with table tennis, arts and crafts, a dressing up box, board games, jigsaws, a baby playroom with a nature wall… the list goes on. Please note, though, that children must be accompanied by older Smiths. Then there are more relaxing pastimes, such as wandering the walking trails, chalking up rounds of croquet, breaching the boughed beauty of the arboretum, or slinking off to the spa for a treatment or two. Boredom is well and truly off the menu.
Children are allowed in the heated indoor pool from 7am to 11am and 3pm to 10pm (9pm on weekends), but keep an eye on less confident water babies.
Little Smiths are allowed in the Brasserie. There’s a children’s menu, highchairs and packed lunches are available. Staff are happy to heat up baby food and milk. Over-fives can eat in the main restaurant.
Babysitting with a local nanny is available (£40 an hour; book in advance).
No need to pack
Board games, DVDs and CDs are provided.
Food is organic and locally sourced; waste is recycled; the majority of staff are local; the hotel is a member of the Carbon Trust.
Jackets, ties, elegant frocks and jewels; turn up to Restaurant Hywel Jones in a t-shirt and trainers and you may find they can't fit you in (smart denim is OK). Casual threads are fine for the Brasserie.
Chef Hywel Jones earned the restaurant its Michelin star (and the restaurant's named after him); he’s stayed put for thirteen years, turning out elegant culinary creations such as loin of lamb with crushed peas, wild garlic, pancetta and morels and passion fruit cream with lemongrass, palm sugar sorbet and a mango shot. Tear your eyes away from your plate to admire the high ceiling, studded with opulent crystal chandeliers (the dining room was once the ballroom). Under-fives can enjoy breakfast, afternoon tea and Sunday lunches in Restaurant Hywel Jones, but at all other times, only kids over five can dine here. Then there’s the Brasserie, which shares the same building as the spa. This is a much more relaxed affair: open kitchen with a wood-burning stove, comfy cream armchairs, wooden tables and views of the garden. Sunday lunch here is a lavish affair with spot-hitting roast chicken, thick Aberdeen Angus steaks and desserts that will send you into a food coma for the remainder of the day.
The Drawing Room is an elegant affair, perfect for postprandials. Stick with English tradition and have a G&T or Pimm’s in summer, and a whisky in winter.
Drinks are served in the Drawing Room till late. Restaurant Hywel Jones serves breakfast (7.30am–11am) and dinner from Thursday to Saturday (6.30pm–10pm); the Brasserie is open 12 noon–10pm, with Sunday lunch from 12 noon–4pm.
A full room service menu is available until 10pm, after which time you can order light snacks and sandwiches.
Bristol airport is 40km away; flights land here from other parts of the UK and across Europe.
It’s only seven miles from Lucknam Park to Chippenham train station, or nine miles to Bath Spa, both on the mainline from London Paddington and both served by First Great Western (www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk).
If you’re planning more than a two-night stay, wheels will be handy for exploring the Cotswolds, Bath and Castle Combe (where Spielberg's War Horse was filmed). Park for free on site at the hotel, which also has valet parking.
There is a helipad within the extensive grounds at Lucknam Park for guests arriving by chopper; please notify staff at the time of booking.
Worth getting out of bed for
You could easily while away a week here without leaving the hotel; with the hotel’s flotilla of facilities (pools, five-a-side football pitch, tennis courts, croquet lawn, bicycles and nature trails) mean boredom isn’t just unlikely, it’s downright impossible. The spa really is stunning – treat yourselves to a hot-stone massage, a salt exfoliation or a deep marine purifying facial – and there are yoga and pilates classes alongside a gym with personal trainers, ensuring you come back from your stay in tip-top condition. If you’ve always dreamed of having your own Black Beauty or Desert Orchid, head down to the equestrian centre. The 35 resident horses are used to both beginners and pros, there’s a training pen and even the chance to attend specialist classes with top riders from around the world. After a riding lesson or two, up the horsepower at Castle Combe’s racing circuit, where you can take a selection of seriously fast cars for a spin – or keep it simple and try a spot of go-karting. Bath is only six miles away; it would be a shame not to acquaint yourself with the scenic city’s Regency architecture, chic boutiques, bustling bars and colour-rich countryside.
The beautiful Castle Inn in Castle Combe is a great place for a pint and some classic pub fare. Dress up for the Bybrook Restaurant at the Manor House Hotel in Castle Combe, which sources many ingredients from its own orchard and kitchen garden and boasts an idyllic setting. The White Hart – a restaurant and pub in nearby Ford – is just a five-minute drive from the hotel; Hendrick's gin-cured salmon, Gloucester Old Spot sausages and crispy confit duck leg with pak choi sit alongside slabs of perfectly prepared Yorkshire steak on their mouthwatering menu.
Have a drink at the Smith-approved Kings Arms in Monkton Farleigh.
There comes a time in every youngish man’s life when the one-bedroom flat he calls home starts to feel a bit poky. For me, that moment came when Mrs Smith moved in… and started unpacking her clothes. Five years on, she’s still unpacking. Then a certain Master Smith arrived bringing his own spatial requirements and suddenly [deep sigh] we’re househunting. Problem is, estate agents will only show us places I can afford, not places I think would suit me. It’s a dispiriting tour of crushed dreams and views over railways.
A restorative break is in order, and while a sun-drenched drive through rolling English countryside is a tonic, it’s not until Lucknam Park Hotel’s gates open to reveal a mile-long double avenue of 400 lime and beech trees that I feel fully restored. The avenue – so capacious that the RAF hid planes along it during the war – leads to an elegant, honey-coloured country house set in 500 acres of glorious parkland. Harry the managing director is there to meet us, and charms us instantly by greeting infant Master Smith by name. That’s pretty classy. And so is our room, located in the former stables across a picture-perfect courtyard of Oxbridge college-grade lawn and spectacular flowers. If you crave modernist minimalism in your interiors, keep walking – but only as far as the stunning new spa building behind – because the bedrooms at Lucknam Park are studies in comfort and restrained luxury. Patterned fabrics, wallpapers and hand-woven carpets cohabit in sumptuously good taste.
My eye settles on a welcome plate of strawberries, chocolates and a half-bottle of iced champagne which I’m about to pop when Mrs Smith drops the bombshell that she has booked us a session at the hotel’s Equestrian Centre. Fine for her, she’s a proper horsewoman; I can only stop by falling off. Nevertheless, after half an hour’s expert tuition in the ‘lunge arena’ my hands-free rising trot is looking sharp, and my charming instructor and I set off on a hack round the estate. By the end I’m cantering through stunning woodland, ducking to avoid low branches, euphorically channelling my inner Errol Flynn. (Memo to estate agents: in future only show me properties with stables.)
Afterwards, I take a creaky-thighed stroll through the hotel’s exquisite gardens. Each corner reveals a new delight, from a traditional English walled garden with broad floral borders, to a modish Oriental style sub-tropical garden, all linked by a pathway of pleached trees. The wide lawns beyond gently slope away to far horizons of perfect Wiltshire countryside. It’s heavenly.
For our first evening we opt for a quiet night in with room service and a DVD, so next morning we are up bright, early and ravenous. An exemplary full English Breakfast is a hearty start, but happily I find room for some pastries, and oh wow: the orange and chocolate muffin is the lightest, most ethereal mouthful of sweet loveliness I’ve ever eaten.
Next stop, the spa, where I’ve bravely plumped for the 90-minute Deep Clean Detox Facial. I say bravely because the last facial I had was in a Taiwanese salon in New York where the pore ‘extraction’ was so fierce that the therapist practically knelt on my throat to get purchase. Today’s experience is something else entirely. Wonderful, fragrant Anne Semonin potions dabbed on and massaged in, an ice-cold mask slathered over then peeled off (I retrieve it from the bin afterwards and use it to spook Mrs Smith for the rest of our stay) and an extraction as light-touched and pleasurable as can be. Better yet, I look about 14 afterwards.
During Mrs Smith’s treatments I explore the other facilities at this world-class spa. The pool is perfect for notching up lengths, or for idlers like me just to laze on the shallow steps. But I’m spoiled for choice for lazing locations: there are loungers everywhere, heated ceramic beds in the Tepidarium, an open-air saltwater plunge pool in the terraced gardens that melt seamlessly into the surrounding grounds, an indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy pool with jets and nozzles a-go-go, and thermal cabins that run the gamut from steam to sauna via Japanese salt and amethyst rooms. (There’s also a state-of-the-art gym. Apparently.)
The afternoon teas at Lucknam Park are legendary, but we have grand plans for supper so instead we drive off to the Georgian glory of Bath, 15 minutes away, and the biscuit-tin Cotswold villages of Castle Combe (so quaint it hurts) and Lacock, filming location for everything from Cranford to Harry Potter.
Back to Lucknam Park for an eagerly awaited supper at their Michelin-starred restaurant. The hotel arranges a delightful babysitter, allowing us to dress up and repair to the library for pre-prandial champagne cocktails. Evening sunlight streams in, bathing the whole place in the golden hue it deserves. We choose the Gourmet Menu, and it’s a fabulous meal. Seven courses begin with mini ice-cream cones of salmon, take in superb loin of local Wiltshire lamb with white asparagus and morels, and end with a show-stopping pudding of banana tart, salted caramel ice-cream and popcorn foam. The waiters have something in common with everyone working at Lucknam Park: that indefinable essence that epitomises exceptional service. Nothing is too much trouble, every request is met with ease, and most wondrous of all you just really like them. That’s rare in individuals, but to find it in an entire staff must be almost unique.
Leaving Lucknam Park is a genuine wrench, and on checkout day we cling on in the spa as long as we decently can. A delicious, healthy lunch in the brasserie keeps the dream alive a little longer but we are only delaying the inevitable. Back to London, and back to the drawing board with the estate agents. If I can’t have a mile-long drive, a dovecote, a croquet lawn and an arboretum, I’m not moving at all.