Imagine driving the length of a majestic and almost endless avenue of four-hundred lime and beech trees, planted in 1827, while the morning mist wraps around the trunks like a scarf of silver and light. This image becomes a reality at Lucknam Park, a five-star hotel just ten minutes from the city of Bath, whose five-hundred acres of grounds provide a distinctly rural setting. The building dates from 1720 but has been fully modernised and transformed into a splendid hotel offering five-star accommodation. Indulge yourself at the luxury spa with its exclusive products from Paris, enjoy a game of tennis or the delights of the equestrian centre where activities are available for guests of all ages and skill levels. However you choose to occupy your time here, it will be a real escape from the stresses of the city.
Country-house hotels offer a door back into an age when these stately homes and mansions, now converted into opulent hotels and resorts, were the homes of the upper classes, the theatres in which they lived and loved and played out their games of power and politics. In addition to Lucknam Park, we've chosen four more of these stylish destinations from around the UK, a total of five locations where a life of luxury is more than just a figure of speech.
Boath House Hotel (Auldearn, Nairn, Scotland)
This Georgian mansion in the north of Scotland boasts an ornamental lake that is home to ducks, wild geese and swans. The grounds are criss-crossed with paths, along which guests can stroll exploring the gardens or stopping to enjoy the secluded seating areas and terraces. The treatment room offers a series of relaxation and de-stressing therapies, based on techniques and principles from India, where the effects of natural plant and flower extract therapies perfectly complement the sense of well-being created by the beautiful surroundings.
Pool House (Loch Ewe, Scotland)
Take time out to visit the mythical Scottish highlands and discover Pool House, a place that has been described as one of the most romantic retreats in the UK, on the shores of Loch Ewe. The sumptuous rooms are decorated with antiques and curios from around the world. Pool House is owned and managed by the Harrison family who are proud to offer a unique and very special experience for their guests. Where else could you wake from a snooze in a comfy chair in a Victorian library to make your way to the dining room where the ceiling is dotted with hundreds of hand-painted stars?
Cliveden House (Cliveden, near London's Heathrow Airport)
Just a few miles outside London, in the heart of Berkshire, close to the River Thames, we find this absolute architectural gem, now one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. It's perfectly located so you can slip from the hustle and bustle of Heathrow Airport to this natural haven in just a few minutes. Works of art adorn the walls and a warm hearth welcomes guests who will walk around the same corridors and sleep in the same rooms that have witnessed the presence of British monarchs as well as such familiar names from the world of culture and politics as Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, President Roosevelt and George Bernard Shaw.
Ardanaiseig Hotel (Kilchrenan by Taynuilt, Argyll, Scotland)
In a remote and quiet location of almost unbelievable natural beauty, where the slopes of Ben Cruachan descend to the clear waters of Loch Awe, a small but luxurious and wildly romantic country house now operates as a hotel. It sounds like the setting for a story we'd all like to star in, but in fact it's a description of Ardanaiseig Hotel, built for the Clan Campbell in 1834. Today Colonel Archibald Campbell no longer paces the corridors, but guests who visit can still enjoy the antique furniture, artwork, and library, complete with fireplace, that he would have used almost 200 years ago. There's even a room in which chamber music is occasionally played, just as it would have been back in the days of true British country-house luxury.