It’s Friday the 13th. The day gets off to a fraught start. It’s snowing, and icy gale force winds buffet the car. We have to do a u-turn to pick up my forgotten coat (containing purse). We nibble often and anxiously from a tin of cheese biscuits, wondering if booking a luxury spa break on this most inauspicious of dates was as terrible an idea as it’s seeming.And then we pull up just in front of the pillars supporting Luton Hoo’s spectacular 18th-century main mansion house, and our bad luck checks out as we check in. The evocative smell of woodsmoke pervades the Grade 1*-listed, five-star hotel’s entrance, emanating from a huge fireplace surrounded by equally-sizeable sofas. The whole place makes you feel Lilliputian – we’re whisked past a vast red-carpeted, Robert Adam-designed staircase whose curves are every bit as alluring as Beyonce’s, and which comes from the same stable as the one at the Ritz.
The suite life
With a marble bathroom featuring his’n’hers sinks, a big, comfy bed with reassuringly heavy covers and a pelmet, a desk and dining table, and that classic country house decor, our Master Bedroom is pretty damn ritz-y, too. Its much-welcome toasty warmth is surprising for such a high-ceilinged space, making us wince at the thought of the hotel’s heating bill.
We get to peep into the seriously impressive Orthodox Russian Chapel, commissioned by Luton Hoo’s early 20th-century owner Sir Harold Wernher for his Russian wife, Lady Zia. I have no delusions – this is true grandeur. Many a posh dinner occurs within its walls and, although the gorgeous ecclesiastic aesthetic prompts wild imaginings of it as the perfect wedding venue, I learn that the chapel never been deconsecrated and is therefore not one of the locations the venue offers for public ceremonies.
Set in 1065 acres of Capability Brown-designed parkland and gardens, Luton Hoo offers wonderful walking opportunities. It also offers the wonderful opportunity to be whizzed from pillar to post in one of the hotel’s own black cabs. Having expended ample energy exploring, it’s in one of those that we pull up to The Country Club.
A fine way to unwind
For me, a signature spa treatment; for LB, 80 minutes of lazy lengths, poolside reading, and generally making the most of the oak-beamed conservatory which houses an infinity swimming pool, vitality pool, and heat therapy suite.
Meanwhile, I’m supping a cup of Luton Hoo-blend herbal tea in the relaxation room, where I’m met by my therapist Daisy. I feel in capable hands right from the foot ritual-cum-consultation during which we chat about muscular tension, preferred pressure, and the way I want to feel post-treatment. And, after more than an hour of Balinese massage which incorporates an aromatic oil pour, hot stones, and long, sweeping strokes, I know this Miss Daisy is one I’d drive to see again.
For now, my oil-smoothed, super-relaxed legs wobble me to LB’s lounger in a Bambi-ish manner. He’s jealous enough of my post-deluxe treatment glow to want to drown me in the pool, but kindly refrains from doing so. After all, he’d then be devoid of a dinner buddy.
Before that dinner, we sink a drink in the cocktail lounge where a spot of assured ivory tinkling provides just the right ambience. It’s all thoroughly civilised and makes one wish this was the precursor to every evening meal.
Dinner and decadence
The Wernher Restaurant is Luton Hoo’s most formal eating establishment. Jackets and ties are requested for the fellas, and it seems only right to look and feel a million dollars when each chandelier is worth £250,000. Tapestries and floor-to-ceiling marble inspire more awe as we work our increasingly-merry way through a good-value three-course menu (£42.50) which includes ham hock terrine, roasted duck and red cabbage, and a salted caramel tart; plus bouche-amusing nibbles, a soupcon of soup, an inter-course sorbet, and a lot of theatrical cloche action.
We had planned to sweep up the stairs to bed, but after all the indulgence, it all feels like a bit too much like hard work. So we scurry to the little lift and back to Room 29, and head to bed for a bit of Netflix, the whole bag of complimentary fudge, and one of the most solid sleeps I’ve enjoyed in ages.
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