Roger St. Pierre reports from Luton Hoo Hotel Golf & SpaIf you are guided by the motto ‘Location, location, location’, then Luton Hoo Hotel Golf & Spa may fit the bill. It is a stately pile set less than a mile off the M1 motorway, five-minutes from half-hourly trains from London St. Pancras – the Eurostar terminal – and 10 minutes drive from London Luton airport.
This remarkable venue also has other elements in its favour, not least the fact that the opulence of the main mansion can make Buckingham Palace seem like a council house in comparison.
Basking amid a glorious 1,000-acre estate of rolling parkland, laid out above the River Lea and a man-made 50-acre lake by the redoubtable 18th Century landscape gardener Capability Brown, the house was originally completed in 1767 by genius architect Robert Adam as a new country seat for the third Earl of Bute. Following a fire in 1843, it was rebuilt by Robert Smirke, who added the crowning glory of a grand entrance portico supported by six massive Portland stone columns.
Julius Wernher, a diamond magnate and one of the world’s richest men, acquired the property in 1903 and endowed it with an Aladdin’s Cave collection of exquisite furniture, priceless paintings, porcelain, objets d’art and what was at the time the world’s most fabled collection of Fabergé artefacts.
In more recent times, the house has been lavishly restored to its former glory through a no-expense-spared £20m programme and it opened as a hotel in 1999. It is operated as one of four exceptional Home Counties’ properties under the Elite Hotels banner and is a member of the Pride of Britain and Small Luxury Hotels marketing consortia.
Visual feasts abound within, from the glorious oval sweep of the elegant main staircase and the spectacular private chapel with its painted ceiling to Versailles’ proportioned public rooms, majestically gargantuan guestrooms – ours had an amazing 35ft ceiling – a huge first-floor sitting room providing panoramic views over the park and a dining room featuring not only elaborate wood carvings by renowned Victorian craftsman Grinling Gibbons, the acknowledged maestro of the idiom, but equally artistic cuisine featuring a melange of adventurous contemporary dishes and timeless British classics, all using the freshest of mostly locally sourced produce – fine dining at its zenith.
Featured in numerous movies and TV series, including a James Bond epic, it’s a truly special venue, oozing with the ‘Wow!’ factor.
Across the estate there are 18 meeting space options, 12 of them in the main house, including the two biggest – the Romanov Suite and the Fabergé Suite, each of which has a capacity of 130 theatre-style.
Warren Weir is geared to cater for up to 400 delegates in its spacious and light-filled meeting rooms while its lower ground floor spa showcases an impressive 18-metre indoor pool, complete with whirlpool, as well as a Technogym kitted fitness studio and a snooker room. The Country Club spa provides a full range of treatments, other amenities including a gym, a further 18-metre pool and a relaxing 19th Hole Bar, in a striking oak framed building.
Leisure facilities are comprehensive, with boating and waterskiing on the 50-acre lake, a Clay pigeon shooting school, falconry, archery, grass and hard court tennis, mapped bird and wildlife walks and one of the longest golf courses in the UK, a 7,107-yard par-73 masterpiece. Less than 50 miles from Central London and with several options for getting there, Luton Hoo is not only the epitome of that “Location, location, location” mantra, but well worth the journey.