Lucknam Park review | spa hotel, Wiltshire, UK
The Quick Read: This refined, romantic hotel set in fairy-tale grounds near Bath is one of our favourite spa hotels in the UK and will make you feel completely cosseted. The smell of fresh flowers greets you wherever you roam, and service is impeccable. Wander the vast grounds, hole up in your gorgeous room or camp out in the spacious and light-filled spa, which provides an unexpected but fitting contemporary contrast to the hotel’s more traditional interiors. If you can’t run to a stay, you can still enjoy a good-value spa day or simply treat yourself to a decadent afternoon tea.
Budget: ££££- £££££
Who it’s best for: Couples keen for a romantic getaway, friends who fancy an upmarket yet unpretentious spa getaway, or solo travellers who need some serious ‘me’ time. Lucknam is also child-friendly: there’s babysitting, a dedicated children’s menu, children are allowed in the spa at certain times and the grounds make the perfect place for hide-and-seek – but it is a sophisticated setting, so not every parent might feel completely relaxed with under-eights.
What you can do: We could easily while away a few days (or more) curled up by a fire with a book or working our way through the spa menu. The spa has three brands, covering most tastes – Carita for lovers of high-tech effective beauty (fellow guests raved about the facials), ila (one of our all-time favourite brands) for sublime nurturing organic treatments, and Anne Semonin for spa standards. Leighton Denny and LonGELity sort out nails and waxing/tinting services are also on tap. Kings aren’t missed out – there’s a small Men’s Therapy Collection – while the Little Miss Collection caters for princesses.
Swimmers will enjoy the large pool for lengths; the less energetic can watch from the loungers all along one side. Behind these you’ll find a range of thermal cabins – from the gentle Amethyst Room through the Japanese and Aromatic Steam Rooms to the classic sauna. An inside-outside hydrotherapy pool is a great idea, with jets perfectly placed for aching muscles – sitting in the sunlight watching the black and cream tulips wave in the wind is glorious, and jets are perfectly placed for aching muscles.
We particularly like the relaxation room, for its floor to ceiling windows which opened easily, large wide adaptable wooden loungers graced with Sage green throws, and properly delicious Tea Pig teas served in beautiful Rhinefeldt pots.
Lucknam is set in Alice in Wonderland gardens – all mellow walls, cleverly clipped hedges and hideaway corners. You can wander for hours and always find something new (watch the horses, prowl around the walled garden, discover a tucked away lodge to curl up with a book).
If you’re feeling more energetic, there are a host of trails through the 500 acres of listed parkland – walk, jog, borrow a bike or a horse and explore. The equestrian centre offers lessons in its own schooling ring (perfect for nervous novices). There are also tennis courts, a 5-a-side football pitch and, oh so quintessentially English, a croquet lawn. Fancy brushing up your culinary skills? Book into the Cookery School. Or have a shot at clay pigeon shooting, golf or hot-air ballooning.
There’s also a Wellbeing House, where retreat meetings, yoga classes, Pilates classes and some treatments take place including sunlight therapy and dry flotation. We love the yoga room here and the concept of the house, but in comparison to the rest of the hotel we’ve found the place a little lacking in warmth and character on our visits.
Lucknam Park runs a series of other short retreats, including Spa and Wellbeing breaks, Saddle and Spa weekend breaks, Yoga retreats with Ben Parkes, Pilates retreats with Vanessa Pearce and Gourmet Getaways. They also have a Cookery School. We experienced the Renewal retreat with Jayne Morris.
Where you stay: Lucknam Park is a Palladian mansion dating from 1720 (although the Doomsday Book mentions a house on this site – so its roots are ancient). The house may be large but its proportions are reassuringly human-sized and the overall feel is warm and welcoming. Fresh seasonal flowers are everywhere – when we visited it was all about spring bulbs and the arrangements were delightfully informal. Real log fires make it tough to move from the sofas in the library and the drawing room. There’s nothing to frighten the horses in the décor here – it’s classic country house style – sink-into-sofas, curl-up-in-chairs, floor to ceiling books (in the library) and two tables of enticing ‘drink me’ bottles (some great cognacs and whiskeys there) in the drawing room.
42 bedrooms range from the simple and snug to the seriously spacious – including 13 suites (some have four poster beds and romantic balconies). Once again, it’s all about classic elegance: swagged curtains, floral prints or stern stripes, crisp Egyptian sheets and a sprinkling of antique furniture and fittings. Bathrooms are mainly marble, with underfloor heating and Anne Semonin toiletries (alas, we’d hoped for ila). However we firmly approve of Tea pigs and Hildon water on tap.
How it was for us: ‘The fire’s all laid, just ask when you want it lit,’ I was told as I walked into my suite. An open fire in the bedroom? Total heaven. With a stack of DVDs borrowed from reception, a deep bath with salts scented with herbs from Lucknam’s own garden, and a taste-tempting room service menu, I could happily have holed up in my suite for my entire stay.
But the spa majors in ila treatments (my all-time favourite brand) so the siren call was loud. The Kundalini didn’t disappoint – an hour’s back treatment that is apparently ‘ideal for emotionally exhausted souls’. Gentle yet focused, it relaxed me so deeply, I could barely stand upright for my yoga session afterwards. The yoga was a no-nonsense hatha class, taught clearly and kindly.
The spa is nice enough during the day but, come dusk, it really comes into its own as the lights go down and one side of the pool is lit by a dramatic bank of flickering fire. I swam a few lazy lengths and then settled in the hydro (it runs continuously so no need to fiddle with on/off switches). Indoors was good but lying back and watching the stars through swathes of steam in the outdoor section was pure magic.
What we took home: A bagged up ‘picnic’ of water, sinful chocolate and caramel, and a pot of Lucknam’s own strawberry jam. Plus a deep desire to head back again ASAP.
People watch: Everyone at Lucknam is just so damn nice. Yes, everyone. Our massage therapist, Katy, was sublime – she didn’t just have a great technique but was so warm and caring we almost forgot she wasn’t our best friend.
Food watch: Food is big at Lucknam Park. Executive chef Hywel Jones has held a Michelin star at The Park, Lucknam’s fine dining restaurant in the main house, since 2006. We didn’t eat at The Park but fellow guests reported that the food is fabulous but the atmosphere can be a little ‘stiff’ (there’s a strict dress code). The Brasserie is far more relaxed – based in the spa building, it’s light and airy (if maybe a little bland – in warmer weather it spills out onto the terrace which would be lovely. It’s quiet at breakfast time – often it’s just you, the staff and the large TV (with the news on subtitles). Most people seem to prefer room service (and no surprise as the breakfast menu is vast and includes gorgeousness such as Eggs Florentine). The chefs here poach a mean egg and we loved the berry smoothie.
Overall the menu is hugely flexible. There’s a set menu at lunch (two courses for £22) or you can go a la carte. Fellow guests raved about the dressed crab with skinny fries and the fish gained plaudits too. There are some inventive vegetarian choices – violet aubergine, saffron and ricotta tart, or wood-fired pizza, for example – but the menu doesn’t change quite frequently enough for long stays and vegans in particular would become mighty bored. The healthy menu has light options such as fresh pistou or stir-fried greens with buckwheat noodles or salmon with avocado salsa. The menu is the same for dinner as for lunch (minus the set menu).
Still peckish? Afternoon tea looked divine with some seriously decadent cakes – served in the library, drawing room or on the terrace (from £25). Or grab a light snack from the brasserie or room service: for example salmon and cream cheese on organic bread (£10), home-made soup (£7) or club sandwich baguette and fries (£11).
What’s queenly: Lying in bed watching the fire flicker in your bedroom, and lying in the outdoor hydro watching the stars.
What’s lowly: The pool area gets very wet and slippery. All the extras can soon add up.
Insider tip: Take your trail shoes or walking boots – the grounds are simply gorgeous. And pack your own shower gel and shampoo for the spa if you prefer to go chemical-free.
Price with a companion: From £340 per night, based on two sharing, including full Wiltshire breakfast and use of spa facilities. A Spa & Wellbeing two-night break costs from £1,105 per room and includes breakfast, dinner, two treatments and use of the spa.
Price going solo: From £290 per room per night for the most affordable rooms (Ash, Rose and Ivy), including full Wiltshire breakfast and use of spa facilities. Suites with four poster beds, marble bathrooms and working fireplaces for cosy log fire (such as The Coral Suite and The Tower Suite) cost from £1,355 per room per night including breakfast and use of the spa.
Value for money: It’s pricey without a doubt, but the hotel is simply gorgeous and the service is stunning. Some treatments (the sunlight therapy for example) are overpriced (many European spas don’t charge for it).
© Queen of Retreats