Category Archives: Spas

Luton Hoo: a classic country house (with Hollywood glamour)

It isn’t often you get to share a sink with Hugh Grant but the sign in our bedroom at Luton Hoo hotel and spa proclaimed it to be true: the rather quirky sink-in-a-cupboard in the corner was indeed the very same one that Hugh balanced precariously on in Four Weddings and a Funeral while some rather saucy post-wedding celebrations were happening in the room – our room! – outside.

luton hoo hotel and spa
The rather lovely Luton Hoo which has played host to everyone from James Bond to the Queen

While I was tempted to recreate Hugh’s famous perch, the fantastic view from our window was calling us out to go for a walk in Luton Hoo’s seriously large 1,000-acre estate. But then, as if by magic, there was a polite knock on the door and a bottle of champagne was delivered. That settled it. We would admire the view from afar, while pretending to be Hollywood stars ourselves.

luton hoo hotel and spa
Luton Hoo’s grounds are beautifully ornate by the main house but there is plenty of woodland and open spaces to roam around in too

Luton Hoo, it turned out, is no stranger to the big screen, having featured in a whole variety of features: as well as the mega-hit Four Weddings it can also be seen in War Horse, Eyes Wide Shut, Enigma and The World is Not Enough.

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However for such a celebrity location, Luton Hoo is far from diva-like and is in fact an almost perfect rendition of a traditional country house hotel, which is only to be expected from a building whose credentials are so impeccable that Winston Churchill addressed a crowd of 110,000 after the end of the Second World War and where the Queen and Prince Philip spent part of their honeymoon here in 1947. Continue reading Luton Hoo: a classic country house (with Hollywood glamour)

Hartwell House: A stay with the Downton Abbey factor

You know you’re in good hands when you arrive at a hotel spa and find Downton Abbey‘s head butler Carson (aka the terrific actor Jim Carter) lounging in the hot tub.

Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire might not be on as grand a scale as Highclere, the real-life Downton Abbey, but its traditional country house atmosphere would certainly make Lord and Lady Grantham feel very much at home.

Hartwell House Buckinghamshire
Hartwell House is a 17th century stately home which has welcome everyone from deposed French King Louis XVIII to Bill Clinton

Hartwell House is no stranger to notable guests, having hosted everyone from the Queen Mother and Kylie Minogue to Bill Clinton and Oliver Reed (presumably not all at the same time) and most recently was chosen by Chancellor George Osborne to host the G7 finance ministers’ summit.

Hartwell House Buckinghamshire
No visit to an English stately home would be complete without my yellow photobombing car

However the hotel, given to the National Trust by Thomas Cook heir Ernest Cook and managed by Historic House Hotels which also owns Bodysgallen in Wales and Middlethorpe Hall in York (all three are part of the Pride of Britain Hotels group) is certainly no celeb-hangout, but a very discreet country retreat which provides a perfect escape from the outside world. Continue reading Hartwell House: A stay with the Downton Abbey factor

The Grove Hotel: luxury country living at its finest

There was nothing around to disturb the peace of my morning stroll around the 300 acres of Hertfordshire countryside which surrounds The Grove hotel – nothing, that is, until a helicopter suddenly swooped down and landed on the immaculate lawn just outside the main building.

Any hotel where the guests arrive by air is usually full of the super-rich or the super-busy, but thankfully The Grove is large enough to absorb all sorts of guests without feeling too full. In fact one of the best things about our stay is that in spite of there being 225 rooms at The Grove – 26 in the older Mansion House and 191 in the more modern West Wing – it never felt crowded.

The Grove Hotel Hertfordshire
In spite of being just by the M25, The Grove is surrounded by 300 acres of countryside

Owned by the Ralph Trustees, the privately-owned family group which also owns the Athenaeum and Runnymede hotels, The Grove used to be the family seat of the Earls of Clarendon before becoming, over the decades, a gardening school, health centre, riding school and a girls’ boarding school.

It was even the secret HQ for the London, Midland & Scottish Railway during the war and was bought by its current owners in 1996 who rescued it from near ruins.

The Grove Hotel Hertfordshire
Its rural setting makes it the perfect spot for a relaxing walk

Opened as a hotel in 2004, The Grove now attracts a rather well-heeled clientele, with the vast car park full of the more expensive type of car – Jaguars, Daimlers and even a Rolls-Royce could be seen next to my rather more humble Fiat 600 . It also has its own 7,152 yard championship course which has played host to the likes of Tiger Woods, and its popular luxury spa, Sequoia.

Continue reading The Grove Hotel: luxury country living at its finest