Lucknam Park Hotel review: a stately stay in the country

Matthew Partridge tries horse riding at the luxury Lucknam Park Hotel in Wiltshire.

Exterior view of Lucknam Park Hotel
(Image credit: Lucknam Park Hotel)

“Is that you, John Wayne? Is this me?” The quote from Full Metal Jacket rang through my head as I climbed up the steps of the mounting block and eased myself onto the back of the 17 Hands of May, the Clydesdale horse that had been selected to carry me around the 500-acre estate of Lucknam Park Hotel

Thankfully, while the pouring rain, helmet and green riding sheet I was wearing wouldn’t have been out of place in Stanley Kubrick’s film, the hour-long riding lesson wasn’t to be my own personal Vietnam – or Waterloo.

This was down to the teaching skills of my two instructors, Thea and Lucy. Thea has decades of experience of riding horses, while the enthusiasm and dedication of Lucy was clear to see. Between them they patiently took me through the various skills needed to steer the magnificent beast, cause it to halt and get it going again. 

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The highlight was learning how to trot – a skill that involves rising up and down in time with the horse, which can be bumpy at first, but satisfying when finally mastered.

Woman holding the reins of a horse at Lucknam Park Hotel

(Image credit: Lucknam Park Hotel)

I was guiding my steed around bends and through the forest undergrowth by the end of the session. While my efforts may have amused a fawn nearby, I felt a sense of exhilaration I hadn’t felt in a long time when I finally dismounted. 

I had also learned a lot from Lucy and Thea about the management of the horses (which are kept in fields on the estate), with, for example, the difficulty that exists in managing relations between the horses and finding the right combination of animals to house together – much like with people, then.

 The Equestrian Centre at Lucknam Park offers guests a wide range of activities, starting with private or group rides for beginners through to specialised lessons in dressage for more advanced riders. 

There is also a three-hour Cotswolds Explorer horse-riding package on offer, which, as the name suggests, allows the horses and their riders to explore the countryside beyond the estate.

Lounge interior at Lucknam Park Hotel

(Image credit: Lucknam Park Hotel)

A range of country pursuits

The five-star Lucknam Park Hotel occupies a stately home that has existed since the 18th century, when industrialist Sir Arthur Lucknam replaced the Norman farmhouse. It consists of 42 luxury rooms as well as several cottages located on the estate. 

These range from cosy but gorgeous classic rooms, to the grand master rooms, which were previously used by the family as the master bedrooms. I stayed in the elegantly furnished “Geranium” – a manor room with a sweeping view of the grounds. 

The horse-riding is excellent, but there are also plenty of other things to do for those less comfortable on horseback. Bath and Chippenham, for instance, lie within easy reach for day trips – both just six miles away. At Lucknam Park, guests can play croquet, football and tennis. 

More exotic activities, such as clay pigeon shooting, falconry, archery and duck herding are also available. Those seeking peace and quiet can simply amble around the estate and admire the sculptures, which reflect the local wildlife.

Perhaps the biggest attraction of the hotel is the elegant and chic spa. Those looking to exercise may want to use the gym and 20-metre indoor pool, although I preferred to take the more leisurely option of relaxing in the heated hydrotherapy pool, which straddles both the indoor and outdoor sections, while catching up on some reading. 

The spa not only contains sauna and steam rooms, but also a Japanese “salt and amethyst” rooms. Finally, there are a range of treatments available for those who just want to be pampered above all.

Spa interior at Lucknam Park Hotel

(Image credit: Lucknam Park Hotel)

Michelin-starred fine dining

Lucknam Park is a great destination for foodies. The Brasserie restaurant is located next to the spa and it serves a range of tasty food throughout the day. The real treat, however, is the Restaurant Hywel Jones, which has held a Michelin star for over 15 years. The emphasis is very firmly on fine dining, as shown by the seven-course dinner that I enjoyed. 

This began with salmon from Loch Duart in northwest Scotland and concluded with a delicious Tulameen raspberry feuillantine. The hearty breakfast was similarly made up of ingredients grown and reared from family farms around the West Country.

Great riding, an outstanding spa, luxurious accommodation and award-winning food – what’s not to like?

Matthew Partridge was a guest at Lucknam Park Hotel. From £295 per night for a Classic Room, excluding breakfast; from £800 per night in a one-bedroom cottage.

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Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri