Condé Nast Johansens X Sartorialee: Stylish family getaways to Lucknam Park
Do as we did and begin your adventure in Bath, the honey-coloured gem of a town that’s famed for its decadent Georgian architecture and restorative mineral rich natural hot springs; a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to the Roman Baths themselves is an absolute must, located below street level and within earshot of the city’s towering abbey. With its crumbling columns watched over bystatues of Roman emperors, it’s about the closest you’ll get to being in Rome while in England. And whilst you can no longer bathe in its healing waters, you can check in to the the New Royal Bath – a fusion of glass, stone and light with a rooftop pool and spectacular views over the city. In essence, it’s a British take on Iceland’s Blue Lagoon complete with hanging mist in the colder months.
Bath is a very walkable city, so you can take in the majesty of its other landmarks, such as Pulteney Bridge and its pièce de résistance Royal Crescent easily, although The Circus just down the road with its stunning curvature of townhouses is just as easy on the eye. Don’t miss taking the children to No.1 Royal Crescent, a museum which has been decorated and furnished in the style of the late 1700s. It’s a wonderful life-sized doll’s house in effect, that gives a fascinating insight into what life was like for Bath’s fashionable residents of the time. As well as being a history lesson brought to life, the whole family can have fun dressing up in the many costumes kept in the Servant’s Quarters.
Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa is a mere 25-minute drive from the centre of Bath, passing the undulating hills of the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – and the panormas don’t disappoint. Traditional lesser-spotted farming techniques are still practised in these parts – idiosyncrasies such as wheat sheaves arranged into stooks at harvest time are quite a sight – almost like you’ve stepped back in to a Thomas Hardy novel. The mile-long tree-lined approach to this luxurious Palladian mansion, set in 500 acres of extensive parkland, is equally impressive. It leaves you feeling like you’ve arrived at an exclusive private hideaway far from the madding crowd. We arrived in the late afternoon and checked in to our 54-square metre Grand Master Suite, which felt more like a private cottage. Dinner on our first night was in The Brasserie restaurant. We dined on Burford Brown scotch eggs to start, followed by sublime halibut, topped off by a Cheddar (as in Dorset) strawberry “Eton mess” – all washed down with a rather unctious Croatian Malvazija Istarska Alba white wine from bijou producer Matošević.
The following day our daughter, an avid horse rider, went out on a morning hack organised by the on-site Equestrian Centre while my son and I played table tennis and enjoyed a kickabout on the five-a-side Astroturf pitch. After lunch, an afternoon of epic pampering ensued for yours truly. I put the ESPA Triple Effect Back, Face & Scalp Massage to the test – part of Lucknam’s Men’s Therapy Collection. 90-minutes later I emerged from my cocoon-like state, feeling revived, my tensions unravelled and complexion instantly boosted. The highlight for me was the stress-reducing scalp massage. As the treatment came to an end I was in such a tranquil state that I could literally have levitated from the bed. When I came to my senses, I joined my family back at the indoor pool where my wife and I relaxed in the hammam and sauna while the children flitted between the pool and Jacuzzi.
The evening afforded a magnificent dining experience at Michelin-starred Restaurant Hywel Jones. Executive Chef Jones has held a Michelin star here since 2006 and it’s not hard to understand why. The evening began on the terrace with cocktails and canapés before we were invited through to be sat en-famille in the grand dining room. The elegant surroundings with lustrous taffeta draped curtains and high ceilings made us feel like we’d been transported back to a bygone era. We all plumped for the Signature Tasting Menu containing a delectation of roast fiver scallops, Cornish day boat turbot and vanilla crème brûlée. I added the wine pairing option to mine; the highlight of which was a sublime Granito Cru Alvarinho by Luis Seabra from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal’s verdant north.
Keen to burn off the excess calories from the night before and to sample some of that clean Cotswold air the region is so synonymous with, the next day saw us clamber onto mountain bikes loaned to us by the property and saunter in to the neighbouring village of Colerne. This sleepy backwater, close to Chippenham, boasts a couple of traditional inns and one of the highest churches in England. My wife and son then spent the following day at the Cookery School, a stand-alone property on the estate, just a short walk from the hotel. They were both enrolled on the Michelin Magic course and concurred it was the favourite part of their trip with the added bonus that Hywel Jones himself led the majority of the masterclass, accompanied by Cookery School Head Chef Ben Taylor. They also ate the fruits of their labour afterwards, including grilled Cornish mackerel and roast crown of guinea fowl, and took away a most magnificent passion fruit tart for the four of us to share on the way home.
But just before we arrived home, we made time to visit Castle Combe, a 20-minute drive from Lucknam, a quintessential chocolate box English village. We also stopped at Lacock, a firm favourite with film and TV producers, most notably for its picturesque streets and historic cottages that have seen the likes of Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary in Downton Abbey, grace its hallowed pavements. Scenes from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince were also captured here.
Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa
Colerne, Chippenham (Near Bath), Wiltshire SN14 8AZ, England