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LUXURY HOTELS: Luton hoo, bedfordshire, uk 

Style:  Elegance is all

Scene: Set in extensive grounds

Seen in the lobby: Brides, weekend escapees ,budding country gents

AS OUR CARRIAGE enters the grounds of Luton Hoo the house glows golden in the evening light, the horses stamp their feet and my skirts swish on the gravel as I alight. Ok, this isn’t really a scene out of’ Vanity Fair’ - although parts of the film were shot here - and I didn’t really arrive by carriage (although the Mercedes we’ve hired is pretty plush).  However it is hard not to have an attack of the Becky Sharpes despite the lack of petticoats and lace when staying at Luton Hoo, because this amazing house has a history and a pedigree stretching back centuries.

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LH The Wernher Restaurant
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Built in 1767 by architect Robert Adam for the 3rd Earl of Bute. It was virtually destroyed by a fire in 1843, only to rise phoenix-like from the ashes to become one of England’s most impressive houses after it was purchased by Sir Julius Wernher, royal advisor and life governor of DeBeers Corporation (that’s diamonds to you and me).

Sir Julius wanted a house grander than the grandest of hotels, so he employed architects Charles Mewes and Arthur Davis the original creators of the Ritz London and French interior designer Georges Hoentschel to transform it into a glittering Belle Epoche palace of style. As I walk into the Grand ballroom with its mirrored walls and glittering gold leaf I am indeed reminded instantly The Ritz.

The ballroom has seen life. Sir Julius and his wife, the beautiful socialite known as ‘Bridie’, became darlings of the wealthy social scene, throwing many lavish parties a trend that didn’t stop when their son, Sir Harold Wernher and Lady Zia inherited the estate. Winston Churchill gave a rousing speech on the steps of Luton Hoo and Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip spent part of their honeymoon here and were regular guests over the years until the house became a hotel.  I can see her Maj feeling quite at home amongst the velvet and brocade of the impressive Elizabeth Suite, once her favourite room.

In its more recent history, Luton Hoo, a member of the exclusive Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, has welcomed Hollywood and been used as the setting for many films, including James Bond films ‘Never Say Never Again’ and ‘The World is Not Enough’, as well as ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘Four Wedding and a Funeral’, “vanity Fair”  and, more recently,  ‘War Horse’. Which explains why there are film stills all over the walls of the brasserie restaurant housed in the old stables. Where these days you’ll also find an impressive spa, fitness centre and golf pro shop.

The stables are set in the vast grounds of the estate but luckily after a glass of wine too many we can summon one of the quirky old green Luton Hoo taxis to take us back to the main house.  I also bicycle down to the lake on one of the estate bikes and stroll the beautiful Capability Brown -designed grounds and formal gardens.  It’s fortunate that there are over 1000 acres of grounds to explore because I seem to spend a lot of my time at Luton Hoo eating and I need to walk it all off again.

The clink of silver spoons on fine bone china can be heard in the spectacular drawing room where high tea is served. Fresh scones piled high with jam and cream, finger sandwiches and a tea menu are all hard to resist. In the evening we head to the fine dining Wernher Restaurant with its green marble wall, silk drapes and sparkling chandeliers. Executive Chef, Kevin Clark has picked up two coveted AA Rosettes, so the food is as spectacular as the surroundings. Pre-dinner I stop the lift one floor before we need to get out just so I can walk down the incredible spiral staircase, a meal at Werner demands a grand entrance and this is the very grandest of staircases. Later I notice a number of other guests instagramming themselves walking up and down the stairs.

As we retire to our vast Mansion Principle Suite I notice the first Lord Bute staring down from an oil painting. He looks a little smug, as well he might. His estate is still one of the most beautiful in England –except now we can all share it. 

 

 

Check in: Luton Hoo Hotel & Spa, Luton, Bedfordshire UK
Ultimate Luxury:  Book into the circular Boudoir state suite. Soooo romantic.
Most Indulgent Moment: Walking down the grand staircase
Insider Secrets:  Some of the original manor house staff now work for the hotel
Junior Luxies: Welcomed with special activities
Dress code: Smart country casuals
Dent in the platinum:

Luxury Hotels Link: www.slh.com www.lutonhoo.co.uk 

Luxury Travel Link: www.visitbritain.com

Hilary Doling, 10/3/15
 
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