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As someone who spent the first 18 years of her life in Luton during the 70's and 80's, the words luxury and Luton didn't sit well together. That was until I had the opportunity to stay at Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa where I discovered that Luton and luxury are very much in partnership.

A Grade One listed mansion house standing in some 1000 acres of listed parklands laid out by Capability Brown in 1767, Luton Hoo is a magnificent gem of a place. A family home for the diamond magnate Julius Wernher until the 1990's, the estate was purchased by Elite Hotels in 1999 undergoing a £60million refurbishment and re-emerging as a five star hotel in 2007. With 228 bedrooms and suites spread out between the main Mansion house, the Country Club and Warren Weir, a fully self contained conference complex, you get a feeling of space and exclusivity. A fleet of London black cabs are on hand to transport you around the Estate, though in reality the Country Club and Mansion are only a short walk away from each other, but the cab ride was much appreciated after an hour or two in the spa on a damp Autumnal afternoon.

We stayed in Room 6, Lady Butter, in the Mansion. One of the luxurious and vast state rooms, the room boasted a supremely comfortable bed, a sitting area with sofa's and bathroom filled with Molten Brown toiletries, fluffy dressing gowns and separate whirl bath and shower. Luton Hoo has been used as a location for many films over the years, the most well known probably being Four Weddings and a Funeral. Oh yes Hugh Grant had spent some time hiding in the small closet in our very room! One of the nice touches of the Mansion is that each room has an explanation of its history and any events or films that may have been filmed there. In the Mansion each of the 35 state rooms and suites are different, with varying features such as silk lined and paneled walls, marble fireplaces and ornately decorated ceilings. Several boast having far more aristocratic visitors than Hugh Grant - Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh spent some of their honeymoon here, Queen Mary, Edward VII, Lord Mountbatten and Winston Churchill have all been guests over the years. In the Country Club the rooms are more standard but nonetheless still spacious and comfortable, each one having views over the extensive parkland and golf course.

Dining options range from the exquisite fine dining in the grandeur of the Wernher Restaurant through to more relaxed informal dining at Adams Brasserie in the Country Club. We ate in the Wernher Restaurant early on a Sunday evening and enjoyed their 'all day' Sunday roast menu - cooked to perfection and beautifully presented. The dessert trolley was heaven, so heavenly we managed to find space for a second sampling. All the food was delicious, the kitchen managed by Executive Chef Kevin Clark (previously of The London Savoy, The Ritz and Gleneagles), yet special mention has to go to the pastry chef - the muffins at breakfast were quite simply the most wonderful muffins we have ever eaten and we have eaten a LOT of muffins in our time! As you would expect the service was discrete and attentive, yet friendly and relaxed without the stuffiness and pomposity that sometimes goes hand in hand with such fine dining. The restaurant boasts an extensive wine list, and it was pleasing to see also a varied and wide selection of wines available by the glass.

Pre and post dinner drinks can be taken in the Pillared Hall, just one of the elegant public rooms available to relax in. The Italianate Drawing Room overlooks the formal gardens and south terrace and is a very popular spot for afternoon tea, especially on a Sunday. We will definitely be returning to sample afternoon tea!

Adams Brasserie is located in the Country Club and is rather more informal with its light contemporary setting. The walls are lined with stills from the many films and TV shows that have been filmed there over the years including Eyes Wide Shut, Inspector Morse, Nicholas Nickleby, Vanity Fair, Bleak House and of course Four Weddings and a Funeral. Adams Brasserie is set in the historic Robert Adam Stable building and the adjoining Adams bar contains an interesting array of pictures and artifacts dedicated to the family's prized horses.

For those in need of nourishment before or after a round of golf there is The 19th , offering a relaxed and casual dining option with hot drinks, warming soups and light salads.

Luton Hoo is one of those places where it's just nice to hang out, whether that be lazing in the comfort of your room, reading and enjoying morning coffee or afternoon tea in one of the public rooms, strolling through the parkland to the Rock Garden and pet cemetery, or partaking in one of the activities such as clay pigeon shooting or golf. The shooting is a new addition to the hotel and the instructors are so confident in their teaching they offer a money back guarantee that you will hit at least one target!

The golf course opened in 2008 and at 7100 yards off the back tees is a true test for anyone. The groundstaff of 30 keep the course and the surrounds in excellent condition all year around. Certainly fits the description of a "parkland" course, not too severe elevation wise, lots of trees (many of which in time on the front 9 especially will enclose the holes somewhat more than they do at present), water hazards early on and a plenty of big mature trees on the back 9 to make sure that accuracy as usual is at a premium. One slightly unusual thing about the course is the lack of bunkering compared to many courses, not necessarily a bad thing if sand play isn't your forte mind you!

Of course the other relaxing place to spend a few hours is the Spa. Certified as a Soil Association manufacturer the spa's emphasis is on organic products created by skilled aromatherapists. There are six treatment rooms for a whole range of therapies treating your whole body from tip to toe. All guests have complimentary use of the hydrotherapy pool, saunarium, sauna, steam room and gym. For tennis fans there is the restored Victorian tennis court or two modern all weather courts.

Sitting just on the Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire border Luton Hoo is just 30 mins by train from central London and just minutes from London Luton airport and junction 10 of the M1. It is very easy to forget when you are enjoying the beautiful rural setting of the extensive parklands just how well served it is for transport.

Whether you are looking for a romantic weekend away for two, or an enjoyable golf trip away with friends and family Luton Hoo will not disappoint. Luxury and Luton are definitely synonymous here!

For more information visit the Luton Hoo Website or call +44 (0)1582 734437











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