JC Stays: Luton Hoo hotel, Bedfordshire

Whether you're looking for a luxury escape or an airport hotel with a big difference, Luton Hoo should be on your list


Those seeking a bed before an early departure from Luton could not find anywhere more different from your typical airport hotel than Luton Hoo. So jaw-droppingly grand on approach it seems more like a stately home; no surprise to hear that the Queen honeymooned here.

The curious name comes from the family who occupied a manor house on the site for four centuries until the death of Lord Thomas de Hoo in 1455. The palatial mansion of today dates back to 1762, when the great architect Robert Adam built it for the Earl of Bute.

But today’s Luton Hoo is, more than anything, the labour of love of diamond tycoon Sir Julius Wernher, who bought the house in 1903 and gave it the Belle Epoque treatment which makes it so gloriously over the top today.

He restyled the main staircase to ape the Ritz, for example, the hotel he so adored opposite his London pad and wished to pay tribute to - though under Wernher’s ownership it remained strictly a private home.

Rooms are so enormous, it seems inconceivable there could be a couple of hundred of them in what is now a sister hotel to the Grand in Eastbourne.

Mine, overlooking the sumptuous gardens at the back, was huge, completely oval and reached via a private hallway containing a sunken marble bathroom.

While the bedroom furnishings were somewhat dated, they’re in no way shabby and the huge, draped bed was gloriously comfy.

A large lounge overlooks beautiful formal planting and the formal Wernher restaurant is impressively grand. Arriving on the night it was closed, I ate in the country club brasserie within a converted stable block, far away enough to need transporting across the estate in one of the black cabs the hotel retains for just such ferrying purposes.

This room was warm, modern and inviting and the food good, although the bar, isolated from the eating area, oddly dispiriting.

Those bound for the airport will be impressed that top-quality hot breakfasts are cooked to order within barely a couple of minutes from as early as 7am, and the terminal is less than a 10-minute drive away.

But despite its convenience for travellers, this is a place to arrive early enough the day before to fully experience its langorous pleasures.

These are many, including an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, shooting, a full spa as well as those same glorious and expansive grounds walked by the lovestruck young Elizabeth and Philip 70 years ago.

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