|Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, a Relais & Châteaux property, occupies nearly 500 acres of English countryside.|
An ideal way for any super-experienced traveler to spice up a trip to London is to visit Bath, Winchester and more of the top destinations and hotels just outside of the city. Here’s our pick from a recent jaunt across the pond.
Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa (Wiltshire)
A two-hour drive from London, Lucknam Park is a country estate that transports you back in time, or, even better, into a Jane Austen novel. Sitting on nearly 500 acres with 42 rooms and suites, this Relais & Châteaux property is nothing like the busy streets and congested sidewalks of London and provides the perfect setting for families.
Just the thing for family travel, nearly all the suites at Lucknam Park can fit multiple guests. The Jasmine, for example, comes with a large canopy bed, a roomy sitting area and a sofa bed; the room can easily fit three. Need more room? The Jasmine is in the same private building as the Snowdrop room, and it’s possible to request both suites, making your own private, large accommodation to sleep five.
Lucknam also has activities to please the whole family. The spa offers nine treatment rooms with a couple’s room and pedicure area. There is also a swimming pool that closes at 10 p.m. (a late night swim is a must). The spa has eight therapists; we suggest making reservations in advance. The treatment you shouldn’t miss is the dry floatation table, which helps fight jetlag. While the adults take advantage of the spa, the children enjoy the equestrian program with multiple trails and programs for all levels.
If it rains (it does frequently), a day inside may be necessary, and the cooking school is entertaining for the whole family. It’s possible to fit as many as 12 people in a class; however, you must be at least 16 years old. The classes usually start around 8:30 a.m. and last until late in the afternoon, but there is plenty of eating (and wine) involved. There are even changing rooms and showers upstairs to freshen up after a day of cooking.
While staying at Lucknam, a trip to Bath is an absolute crowd-pleaser. Even the teenagers will be thrilled. Bath is only about seven miles from the hotel; however, traffic can be heavy, so it’s best to do the drive early in the morning. Bath is known for its thermal springs and ancient Roman bathhouse. The tour of the bathhouse showcases its original structure and history. Younger children will enjoy talking with the Roman-costumed actors, and guests can even taste the thermal water, which is said to have healing properties. For a VIP experience, schedule a private tour of the Roman Bath with a company such as Luxury Vacations UK. A knowledgeable guide will lead you through the site between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
|Taj 51 Buckingham Gate has numerous themed suites, such as this one inspired by and named for the Jaguar sports car.|
It’s easy to live like a Roman in Bath — just visit the Thermae Bath Spa, which is Britain’s only natural thermal public spa. It has pools filled with thermal water you can swim in. We suggest doing so in the rooftop pool, which affords full views of Bath’s skyline (Note: Minimum age for swimmers is 16).
Lucknam guests can also access a private pool, which can be lit up by candles and is filled with filtered thermal water. The private pool holds up to 12 people and accepts children as young as 12. Agents should reach out to Sara Elston ([email protected]; 011-440-122-574-2777), director of sales and marketing, for details.
Chewton Glen (Hampshire)
This luxury country house in New Forest, Hampshire, is the ideal place to stay if guests are looking for a mix of English heritage and modern touches. This is also the prime hotel for guests cruising from Southampton — it’s just a 30-minute drive from the docks. We suggest ending your cruise vacation at Chewton Glen, because it’s the perfect place to unwind and relax at before heading home.
As for accommodations, there are multiple options and no two rooms are the same. The Croquet Lawn rooms were refurbished at the end of last year and come with either a balcony or private terrace. Both have their appeal, but if you’re traveling with children we suggest the terrace for optimal space. These rooms also come with a separate shower and bath. Another option is the Marryat Suite (the largest room in the hotel). This suite, on the first floor, can easily sleep four, has a sitting area and a large private balcony terrace. Fun Tip: The terrace can be used as a cocktail-hour location.
|Chewton Glen offers a mix of English heritage and modern touches.|
For those looking for privacy, lots of space and an added touch of luxury, the Treehouses are a must (these are the largest accommodations). There are six Treehouse “pods” set away from the main property and surrounded by trees, of course. Each pod has both a six-person and a two-person suite. Yes, it is possible to request both suites to make one giant accommodation. The six-person suite has a living room, bedroom, large bath with tub and shower and a deck with a hot tub. Kids will love this suite’s ladder that leads to the second floor, which has twin beds.
While at Chewton be sure to take advantage of the natural landscape. There is a golf course, indoor and heated outdoor pool, bikes and more. We suggest taking the short 15-minute walk to the beach, where the Isle of Wight is visible in the distance. Added Touch: If the rain rolls in, there are complimentary Hunter rain boots and umbrellas guests can borrow at the hotel’s front door. After a day at the 135-acre resort, enjoy a meal in the dining room. The dish that can’t be missed is the Chewton Glen Twice-Baked Emmental Soufflé.
The Life of Jane Austen
While staying at Chewton, learn a bit about one of England’s most famous writers, Jane Austen. First, visit Winchester, once the principal capital of England. Here you will be able to see the house where Austen lived toward the end of her life. She died of an unknown illness in 1817 and had come to Winchester to seek treatment. Travelers can take photos of the yellow home, but it is now a private residence so travelers can’t go inside. Next, head over to Winchester Cathedral, where the author is buried. The cathedral also houses the 12th-century Winchester Bible.
The best place to learn about Jane Austen is in Chawton — a short drive from Winchester and Chewton. Once in Chawton you will get a sense of her life and can visit her once primary home. The brick home is now a museum and houses the actual desk where Austen wrote. Before leaving Chawton, take a stroll around and enjoy the scenic streets. Maybe you’ll even get a little inspiration of your own.
Direct any queries to Leigh Jenkins ([email protected]; 011-440-142-528-2266), director of sales and marketing.
On the way back into London, a stay at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate will make any guest feel like royalty, as Buckingham Palace is just a short four-minute walk down the road. With 85 suites in three buildings, Taj 51 Buckingham Gate has a suite to suit every guest. Families should book the two- and three-bedroom suites (with in-suite washers/dryers). For guests who want the ultimate view, book a room on the seventh floor that overlooks the tranquil courtyard or Buckingham Palace.
Movie buffs will be happy to learn that “A Room with a View” was filmed on property, and it is possible to book the “Cinema Suite” with its 85-inch TV. The suite has unique Hollywood touches; the walls are painted the same color as Marilyn Monroe’s favorite lipstick. The “Jaguar Suite” is another specialty suite that pays homage to the Jaguar car brand. The multi-room suite comes with a full kitchen, living room, dining room and bedrooms. As an added touch, all the leather used in the suite is the same leather its namesake luxury car company uses.
While on property, guests should book a spa treatment such as the popular deep-tissue massage. Since there is a small team of three masseuses, reservations should be made in advance. Teens and children can also receive spa treatments or shortened massages, but a guardian must be present.
Private boat tours on the Thames and private helicopter rides over London can be arranged for any guest. For those looking for a night out before a private transfer back to Heathrow (about 17 miles from Taj), the concierge team can arrange private tables and chef’s tables at the most acclaimed restaurants in London. For more information, contact General Manager Digvijay Singh ([email protected]).
Pubbing Around Wiltshire
After a long day touring the English countryside, a pub stop is well deserved. Kevin Molloy, senior tour guide for Luxury Vacations UK gives Luxury Travel Advisor the inside list of the best, authentic pubs that are worth a visit in the Wiltshire area.
George Inn: High St, Norton St Philip, BA2 7LH. 011-4413-7383-4224. This pub has a front bar area full of character, while the back restaurant affords great countryside views.
Crown Inn: Off the A46 at Dyrham, SN14 8HZ. 011-4412-2589-1166. Crown is a traditional favorite of those driving in on the direct route from London.
The Old Mill: Town Path, Salisbury, SP2 8EU. 011-4417-2232-7517. The Old Mill is a 16th-century pub on the edge of town. It has a picturesque setting next to a mill pond with a great view of the famous Salisbury Cathedral across a meadow.
Black Dog: Salisbury Road, Chilmark SP3 5AH. 011-4417-2271-6344. Visitors will love the garden in summer and the warm fireplace in winter.
Spread Eagle: Stourton BA12 6QE. 011-4417-4784-0587. For a taste of traditional food such as fish and chips, this is the place to go, but it does get busy at peak hours.