Wylde World: Lucknam Park

Words by Thea Lewis-Yates

An all-too-early ‘summer’ holiday back in spring (the effects of which
disappeared soon after), an impending house move and seemingly-endless
school holidays call for one thing come late July; Escape. So, early one
Saturday morning we find ourselves at Paddington Station, coffee-fuelled and
Wiltshire bound, in search of 36 hours of R&R. The train journey is a mere
hop from London, and within an hour and a half, we arrive. Our taxi drives
through a mile-long double avenue of 400 lime and beech trees, which
provide the lushest of green canopies, elegantly framing our first view of the
picture-perfect Lucknam Park.

In creamy Cotswold limestone, the handsome late-Georgian mansion is
reminiscent of Jane Austen's England. Set amongst 500 acres of countryside,
the grounds feature a flotilla of facilities which include; pools, tennis courts, a
croquet lawn, equestrian centre and impossibly pretty walled gardens,
bursting with wild roses and hydrangeas in a spectrum of pinks that would
make Barbara Cartland blush. We send the bags to the room, and head
straight to The Brasserie for lunch, a relaxed spot which shares a building with
the spa. Slumping into comfy cream armchairs, and admiring the wood-fired
stove, our stresses dissipate while we enjoy lemongrass and ginger poached
chicken and delicious grilled Cornish mackerel served with sweet potato and
pickled lime. Both dishes are zingy and light enough to ensure there's no
unseemly belly flopping into the pool.

The spa area is a chicly understated oasis: a dazzling azure pool for lengths,
loungers everywhere, heated ceramic beds in the Tepidarium, an open-air
saltwater plunge pool, plus an indoor hydrotherapy pool. The turquoise water
shimmers hypnotically in the sunlight, but we tear ourselves away for our
60 minute ESPA Inner Calm Massages. Before we start, my instantly-likeable
therapist presents me with three small bowls of oils and asks me to pick my
favourite. Checking (as she does throughout) that the pressure is comfortable,
she makes gentle sweeping movements up my back, but applies more pressure around my neck and arms, before moving to the back of my legs and
thighs. Inner calm? Any more serene and I'd be hospitalised.

We drift off to dinner, eager to sample the delights of Chef Hewel Jones’
eponymous, Michelin-starred restaurant. Glass of champagne in hand and
taste-buds tingling, I choose what turns out to be a sex-bomb of a starter;
Roast Scottish scallops served with Jerusalem artichokes, melted leeks,
lemon thyme and hazelnut, followed by delicately flavoured roasted sea bass,
cauliflower and shellfish emulsion, and brown shrimp butter. My companion's
Breckon lamb is fiendishly good; full of flavour it cuts like butter. We finish with
a show-stopping pudding, a banana parfait on top rum and raisin sponge with
a banana and passion fruit sorbet on the side, a glorious modern update to
that 70's classic, rum baba.

Our room, the 'Periwinkle', is the epitome of country-house chic. Think antique
finds, a marble bathroom, and sumptuous soft furnishings, curated to feel
charming, not stuffy. Our king-size bed ensures a heavenly sleep, and I
awake so abnormally refreshed I blitzed 20 lengths in the pool before
breakfast. Trust me - I'm not usually one of those guests. For breakfast, we
feast on fresh strawberries steeped in lavender and lemon from the garden,
moving onto home-smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Sunday lunches are
serious affairs here, catering to both traditional and adventurous tastes,
though sadly we remain defeated by brunch. We idle away our Sunday,
exploring the grounds and reading in the dappled sunlight, delaying the sad
inevitability of returning to normal life.

Rooted in simple pleasures and luxurious quality, the ethos of Lucknam Park
ensures the kind of relaxation normally found after a week in the Caribbean.
Delightful staff, exquisite surroundings and meticulous attention to detail define
this truly special place. Now, how quick was that train journey again?