Luton is perhaps not the first place that springs to mind when one thinks of weekend break destinations. But on the spur of a hill ("hoo" in Saxon) just south of the town lies a Robert Adam stately pile, set in 1,065 acres of Capability Brown parkland. After years of neglect, Luton Hoo has been converted into a five-star golf and spa hotel by the country-house hotel chain Elite Hotels.
You might recognise Luton Hoo's Versailles-like state rooms – all exotic marble panelwork, giant tapestries, elaborate fireplaces and chandeliers – from one of the reception scenes in 'Four Weddings and Funeral'. There is a real sense of a once-great house reawakening. At the weekends, families come for tea in the great drawing room, and despite the liveried doormen, a pleasingly unstuffy atmosphere prevails.
Though newly refitted, the bedrooms at Luton Hoo have the kind of old-fashioned feel that one might expect to find in a private stately home. There's a touch of the 1980s – a splash of peach paint here; stripy upholstery there; gold taps in the bathroom. It's an endearing enough quirk, with none of the frayed edges you'd associate with impoverished aristos' residences. Instead, the rooms are spacious, individually decorated, with comfy sofas and antique and reproduction furniture; there are fine views over the parkland and many rooms have private terraces. The main house has 35 bedrooms, with 109 others in the less-grand, adjacent wings.
The food and drink
The Wernher restaurant, named after the diamond magnate who remodelled Luton Hoo in the early 20th century, is an absurdly grand room in which gentlemen are required to wear jackets. The seasonal, modern British menu is well executed, though on our visit, the kitchen was clearly struggling. Across the lawn is the more relaxed Adam's Brasserie.
There's an 18-hole golf course, a grass tennis court, fishing, boating, clay pigeon shooting and riding. There are the beautiful grounds to explore and a well-equipped spa with an exceptionally inviting pool.
Seven bedrooms are equipped for guests with disabilities; a hearing loop is available in reception. The first child stays for free and additional children are charged £15 for B&B. Dogs are also welcome.
Doubles from £325 per room per night (minimum stay two nights) including breakfast and dinner. Two nights for three offered until 7 September.
Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa, The Mansion House, Luton Hoo, Luton, Bedfordshire, LUI 3TQ (01582 734437; lutonhoo.com)