A favourite story that the staff at Lucknam Park love to tell their guests is of the manor house's role in World War II. The Palladian mansion was transformed into a temporary headquarters for airmen from the neighbouring aerodrome, and the more than 400 lime and beech trees that line the sweeping mile-long driveway leading up to the house once concealed a fleet of Spitfire and Hurricane planes, the vast leafy canopies providing the perfect camouflage from enemy eyes.
That story is all the more impressive when you yourself have only just picked your jaw up off the floor following the journey up said driveway, flanked by acres of unspoilt parkland and with eyes transfixed on the honey-coloured house at the end of the track.
With a column-fronted doorway and climbing vines, Lucknam Park would be striking even without its grand entrance. Located in Wiltshire’s Chippenham – 30 minutes from the historic spa town of Bath, two-and-a-half hours from London – the exact origins of the historic property are vague, having passed through the hands of seven different families before it became a hotel in 1984. Historians estimate that the main part of the house was built in the late 18th Century by then-owner James Wallis, a wealthy merchant from nearby Bristol. Centuries of alterations, extensions and renovations followed to create the property as it stands today, with five acres of gardens set among 500 more acres of listed parkland.
The hotel’s heritage is honoured in the interior design. Not one for minimalists, Lucknam Park is lavished in brocade wallpaper, antique furnishings and oil paintings that recall the lives of its former residents. Each of the 43 bedrooms has been individually designed, although you can expect Egyptian cotton bedsheets and elegant interiors in each. The Grand Master Suites, the largest of them all, were once the house’s master bedrooms and are home to sumptuous four-poster beds. For a more secluded retreat, book one of three country cottages that are nestled within Lucknam Park’s grounds. Thatchers Cottage, the newest of the trio, sleeps six and benefits from its own terrace and garden area.
Dinner is served in Restaurant Hywel Jones, which has held a Michelin star since 2006. Tasting menus of contemporary British dishes are informed by seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients, with dishes including roast diver scallops, heritage beetroot and buffalo ricotta tart, and butter roast pear. The more informal The Brasserie offers all-day dining, with ingredients plucked from the kitchen garden and dishes served in a glass-walled dining space that allows guests to enjoy views of the surrounding grounds.
Don’t just admire them from afar; this is parkland to be explored, with four-legged friends and picnic hampers in tow. Take to two wheels on bicycles borrowed from the hotel reception, or saddle-up a horse at the resident Equestrian Centre and steer your trusty steed through woodland trails. Challenge your family to a friendly game of football, tennis or croquet, or try your hand at clay pigeon shooting, archery and falconry.
Moments of tranquility can be sought in the elegant walled garden, where the ESPA spa offers massages and facials within a bucolic setting. A large swimming pool, an indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool and an outdoor salt water plunge pool are among the facilities, along with eight treatment rooms and thermal cabins featuring specialist Japanese salt, amethyst, steam and sauna rooms. Overlooking the spa garden and arboretum, The Studio is the destination for wellbeing classes; practise your best downward dog at a yoga session or engage your core with Pilates – all classes are complimentary for hotel guests.
Lucknam Park’s extensive grounds make the hotel feel utterly secluded, but some of Britain’s best attractions are easily accessible by car, and not to be missed. From Stonehenge to Longleat Safari Park to the Roman baths, it’s worth venturing beyond the estate’s walls – if only to experience the thrill of the journey home, back up that tree-lined driveway and into the honey-hued house.
From £375 per night, lucknampark.co.uk