Ian Gillis and partner Josephine head to the Herts and Bedfordshire border to stay at one of Britain’s most historic mansion houses.
Best of the Best travels just 30 miles North of the hustle and bustle of London to the idyllic 1,000 acre country estate of Luton Hoo, the jewel of which is the Mansion House, home to the majestic Luton Hoo Hotel, owned and operated by Elite Hotels. The Mansion House has a rich tapestry of history, most notably its role during WWII when it was commissioned by the Eastern Command to play host to training camps and hospital facilities. The surrounding grounds were also used to test Britain’s wartime tanks, constructed at the nearby Vauxhall Car Works. In 1948 Sir Winston Churchill addressed over 110,000 people in the grounds to thank them for their support during the War.
We arrived at Luton Hoo following a pleasant winding drive through the grounds, taking in the beautifully landscaped scenery and panoramic views of the estate, including the immaculately kept 18-hole golf course. Upon arrival we were impressed by the professionalism of the concierge and reception staff who gave us a warm 5-star welcome as we settled in. Having arrived slightly earlier than planned, we decided to try out the afternoon tea session in the beautifully appointed drawing room, offering panoramic views of the listed parklands and the large serpentine lake formed by the River Lea, which runs through the estate. The menu was extensive, offering plenty of choice from light snacks to hearty offerings. We decided to keep it light and settled for soup and fish cakes, both exquisitely presented, rich in flavour and deceptively filling.
After a couple of refreshing Pimms we met up with Operations Manager Frederic Billet for a tour of the hotel and the grounds. We were shown examples of the many room styles on offer, the most basic of which would put many a top room in most other hotels to shame. All the rooms were spacious and well presented, with most including jacuzzis, double sinks and plenty of living space. Mr Billet provided an expert commentary as we were shown around areas synonymous with the hotels rich heritage and its more modern facilities, ranging from Sir Winston Churchill’s War Room (which today is adorned with his own paintings) to the recently constructed Parkland Wing, built in a style that compliments the main house so much that it could have been built at any point in the house’s history.
At this point our sense of déjà vu was overwhelming; the mansion house and grounds have been featured in many films including Four Weddings and a Funeral, The World is Not Enough and Red 2. After a look around the many wedding and conference facilities, we took a short drive through the grounds to the rear of the house, observing the many areas set aside for outdoor pursuits including scenic walks, fishing, rambling, cycle trails, boat rides and clay pigeon shooting. After a pleasant and efficient check-in we were shown to our suite overlooking the Formal Gardens in the South-West Elevation accessed by the majestic grand staircase and home to the suites formerly used by the Mansion House’s 20th Century owners Sir Harold Wernher and his wife Lady Zia, Countess Anastasia Mikhailovna de Torby and where the Queen and Prince Philip enjoyed part of their Honeymoon in 1947.
Our suite offered the epitome of comfort and elegance, strikingly decorated in a classy yet timeless style offering a large bed, comfy sofas and a well-stocked minibar. Alongside this were more modern conveniences including a flatscreen TV, WiFi and a fully equipped modern bathroom. After a few hours unwinding, relaxing and making full use of the amenities in our room, we headed down to the Wernher Restaurant located in the original State Dining Room.
Named after Luton Hoo’s most renowned former owner Sir Julius Wernher, the restaurant offers a splendidly decadent grandeur; constructed from four different types of marble complemented by intricately designed gold relief’s and adorned with three vast tapestries created from a warm palate of reds, creams and greens, offering an exotic dimension to the prevalent ‘Beaux Arts’ style of design. Suspended from the ceiling are three ornate eight-foot chandeliers made of cut glass balls and droplets, reflecting the light thrown out by sculpted bronze candelabras on each wall. After being shown to our table we were taken through the impeccable protocols that make up a truly silver service dining experience, starting with the wine selection where we settled on a full-bodied and aromatic rose. The menu selection was rich in choice and flair encompassing adventurous dishes with traditional British classics, exactly what you’d expect from Executive Chef Kevin Clark.
Kevin’s impressive experience includes The Grill Room at London’s Savoy Hotel and Ritz, as well as Gleneagles in Scotland. Despite the variety on offer, including pan fried pave of brill, moorland grouse and beef fillet, we both settled for the ‘tasting of lamb’; poached loin with a herb crust, roast rump and pulled shoulder boulangere, with sautéed black cabbage, cauliflower puree and minted jus. The meat was succulent, cooked to perfection with a pink centre, exquisitely presented and again, deceptively plentiful leaving us no room for dessert as we settled for coffee and petit fours instead. After such an opulent and rich dining experience we retired to our room feeling relaxed and content for a great nights sleep in the comfy and spacious bed ahead of our Spa experience the next morning.
Having underestimated the sheer luxury and comfort of our Suite, we slept right through the appointed breakfast time and left ourselves with little time to prepare for our visit to the Spa. Although just a short walk from the main Mansion House, the hotel provides a complimentary shuttle service for guests utilising vintage London taxis parked outside the main entrance. Upon arrival we filled out a short questionnaire before being introduced to our therapists who took us through what to expect from our treatments. We both opted for the 5 Senses Body Signature Treatment, eighty minutes worth of heaven that left our minds, bodies and senses in a total state of harmony.
The treatment commenced with a series of slow body stretches and relaxation
techniques before warm oils were poured on our bodies and scalps, followed by a
classic full body massage and ending with a relaxing foot reflex massage. The
combination of the dimmed lighting, music that seemed to be in harmony with the
treatments running order and soothing commentary from the therapist resulted in
many instances of losing myself in the moment. Still fresh in my memory is the sensation at one point of feeling like I was lying in the ocean with the water gently lapping over my back.
‘The ‘taste’ sense was served with a relaxing lemon and ginseng tea ingested in
the Relaxation Room replete with soft mood lighting, relaxing sounds and a
hypnotising fish tank. Reluctantly realising that our desire to stay in the Relaxation Room forever was sadly financially and socially unsustainable, we took ourselves off to the oak framed 18-metre swimming pool and vitality pool offering splendid views over the grounds through light absorbing wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows. We took in the ambience for an hour or so before making use of the sauna and steam room. Feeling fully refreshed and revitalised, we headed back to our Suite having first taken full advantage of the complimentary two-hour checkout extension.
Our checkout was conducted with the utmost professionalism and I was most impressed with the head concierge who had first greeted us the day before remembering our names and saw us off with a warm and friendly goodbye and express wishes to see us again.
Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa is the epitome of class, elegance and a truly 5-star experience. Ideal for travelling groups looking for a premium experience, couples wanting a romantic getaway or individuals simply looking to escape the rat race. We are already planning our next stay and cannot thank all the staff enough for providing a breathtaking experience.
- Rooms/Suites range from £280 to £1,000 per night based on double occupancy and inclusive of breakfast and tax.
- Dining in the Wernher Restaurant costs from £47.50 per person for two courses
- Wide choice of Spa treatments range from £45 to £120 including full use of all facilities.