Tell us about the place
Luton Hoo is one of England’s most beautiful houses, to my mind. Although perhaps what really sets this place apart as an hotel – just like the other hotels in the group like the Eastbourne Grand and Ashdown Park – is the standard of its service.
The house is really lovely, but I travel a lot and spend a lot of time in hotels and there’s a really fine balance when it comes to getting the service right. Too over-attentive can be just as irritating as being ignored; and there’s a level of politeness that is the right side of obsequiousness – one grovel too far and it’s all too much. But the Elite group just somehow seems to get it right. They make you feel like you matter, without being too sucky-up.
Apart from the jolly pleasing team of people at the venue, it’s also a totally breath-taking place to stay. There’s a real sense of grandeur about this place – and it’s got lots of charming touches like the staircase that was designed by Charles Mewes and Arthur Davis – the architects who did the Ritz – and the gardens by Capability Brown; yet there’s nothing overbearing about it.
Interiors designed in a Belle Époque style, the house as it stands is largely the product of work carried out in the 18th century, but there’s been a house on the land since 1601. It’s steeped in history, and you can feel it in every room – from the deconsecrated chapel that they use for wedding hoe-downs, to the follies in the beautiful gardens.
Tell us about your stay
The accommodation at Luton Hoo is split into three clear areas – the main house, the new extension and then a smaller self-contained block by the Warren Weir, which is very pretty, and popular for weddings and conferences who just like to have some privacy.
We stayed in the main house and were overjoyed to have the Lady Zia boudoir suite, which has the most beautiful views overlooking the grounds. One could feel a bit E. M. Forster about the whole affair, and I did get a bit carried away with the whole romanticism thing, sitting at the writing desk looking out through the enormous windows to the exquisitely designed gardens. But I can be forgiven for that. It’s rather a magical place.
What did you do on your stay?
We actually only went up originally for a couple of days but fell in love so much with the venue, we extended our stay another two nights. This gave us a chance to make the most of the stuff to do on site. We booked massages, and spent some time in the pool and water spa area.
We ate in all the food areas possible, although we didn’t actually get round to afternoon tea which was disappointing but there’s only so much food even I can shoehorn in during a single day. (A word to the wise – if you’re going to stay here and you want tea, book well in advance.
There’s something like a three month waiting list at weekends!). As well as eating until we almost popped, we also booked a clay pigeon shooting morning with Pete, which was huge fun. We had to watch as – well out of season – a huge cock pheasant wandered across the range right in front of us. I swear he knew it was August.
Bits you liked best?
It’s hard to know where to start. Loved the beautiful house, the charming staff, and the excellent food. They’ve got gorgeous little touches like the 1960s Luton Hoo ‘London’ cabs to take you from the main house to the spa, which is only a couple of minutes’ walk but much more fun to be motored across to by a liveried driver, and good Wi-Fi throughout.
And the grounds are just heavenly. The over-arching sensation though is one of being in a place that has excellent breeding. I totally forgot to warn my dinner partner that he’d need a jacket and/or tie for dinner but the concierge produced a range of ties we could borrow with a flourish.
There was no sneering or eye rolling – just discreet and helpful service. And everyone gets it – from the shiny nouveau riche footballer types with their designer-clad wives and their hair extensions, to the tweed-wearing straight-backed oldies in brogues. I like that.
What could use some work?
Not a great deal. Maybe breakfast going on a bit later in the mornings – we found ourselves at the end of service each time and I think it’s only til 10am, which if you’re on a break rather than at a conference is quite early.
And perhaps if you were there any longer than three or four days you might fancy breaking out for a night. We left the estate for an Indian restaurant one night and there’s not a lot going on locally. But actually I think that’s a plus. It was like being separated from reality for the best part of a week.
Sum it up for us
I would go here again. In fact, I’d go here once a month if I could, just to be in such beautiful surroundings and to feel like a princess for a bit; I’m already looking at a weekend to come back. Come and try it – you’ll find that paradise really is near Luton airport after all!
Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa
The Mansion House