Monday, 28 April 2014

Destination: The Luton Hoo Hotel - A travel review

Born of aristocracy, the Luton Hoo Hotel is a destination that has five stars. Rather brilliantly, it is also toddler friendly. 


Now I don't know why, but I am always pleasantly surprised when a hotel of this calibre comes up trumps for small children. It's probably the be seen and not heard thing. After all, there are people visiting this hotel, paying a lot of money to do so, that do not wish to be disturbed by a screaming tot. 

Of course this is exactly how our 2YO Sofia, made her entrance into the Grade I-listed mansion. Ironically, and rather embarrassingly, I had already indicated to reception that she would. Indeed, my words were: 'My husband is waiting for our 2YO to wake up - he is sat in the car with her. When he comes in will someone please show him up to our suite? You'll know who he is. He will be the one with a screaming toddler under his arm.'


Sofia Faith did eventually settle and was good as gold. As was her big sister Esme Grace. Potentially down to the fact that before leaving home I had said to them both if they could not be good, they would not come with Mummy to review the next supposedly family friendly hotel on her list. That seemed to do the trick. Anyway, here we go...


DETAILS:

Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa 
What: 5* Grade I-listed Mansion House Hotel
Where: Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 3TQ 
Phone: 01582 734437
Price: Doubles and singles from £280 per night, suites from £600 per night 
Breakfast included: Yes
Disabled friendly: Yes
Family friendly: Yes
Nice touch: The welcome addition of chocolates for adults and goody bags for children, found in the room upon arrival
Garden: I'd say...


...A formal garden designed by 'Capability' Brown no less, (an indication to the history Luton Hoo holds), plus, a hidden gem of a secret garden neatly tucked away, which the GraceFaith blog girls spent an age discovering. When they weren't posing in archways, or trip trapping over bridges, they were tree climbing. Again. (Yes. For all the pretty dresses, there's no denying their tomboy tendencies).



That history I mention spans the 3rd Earl of Bute, Tsar Nicholas I, Winston Churchill and Hugh Grant. Colourful huh? Astonishingly, I predict most of you will want to know about the last one on the list. Oh alright then... Remember that scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral? The one where the very proper (yet somehow always improper) Charles stumbles into a hotel room to knock his head against a brick wall? The one that ends up with him hiding on a sink with the newly-weds furiously busy consecrating their vows beside him? That will be Luton Hoo's orgasmic room 6 then.




Luton Hoo has had a rich affair with film production, earning a living as a filmset until it was bought by Elite Hotels 15 years ago and completely revamped. The result is an elegant place to stay, offering guests the chance to experience first class luxury first-hand.    

WHAT WE LOVE:
Luton Hoo's staff are friendly, amenable and great with children. The grounds are spectacular, which considering the location (Luton Airport and the M1 are right on the doorstep), is a pleasant surprise. There is so much space here for children to run, as well as be seen and heard. Ours did just that the morning we sat out on the terrace, refilling fresh coffee and finishing the papers.



Amenities here include a top-notch spa and an amazing swimming pool. So amazing that Esme and Sofia didn't want to get out, although they had to; for Luton Hoo cleverly shares the space between family fun and serious swimmers. Some parents may find that frustrating - but I respect the need for both, and think designated times for 'relaxing' and 'potentially taxing', are needed equally. After all, all paying guests want the best experience they can possibly receive, and all have individual needs.




That is why Luton Hoo works as a five star family hotel for young and old alike. They have facilities in place to accommodate younger children. Such as a fabulous playroom and all manner of other kid-friendly activities set up each morning, over at the beautifully converted stable courtyard. Along with the spa and pool, this area also houses an informal bar, and relaxed dining facilities.




Adam's Brasserie is the place to eat with children at Luton Hoo. Separate to the main house formal dining experience, this is definitely how to enjoy five stars with toddlers at the table.

The exquisite menu was organic, allergy-friendly and varied. For starters... I had scallops, sat on pea puree, with pancetta, all sprinkled in toasted hazelnuts with an intriguing caper jelly decoration. 


For my main, I enjoyed a gluten free choice; a dish of spiced pulled lamb, with mash potato and haricot beans. (I have to confess to finishing Esme's cheeseburger too - which I only note, as it was the best cheeseburger I've EVER had). Esme couldn't eat it all as she had eaten one main already. Yes, seriously. Although she made space for her ice cream pud - naturally. 


Having been ferried across to the stable courtyard in a golf cart - and next day, a Luton Hoo taxi; what fun! - we strolled back through the estate to find the lovely Chris, who offered us another spin. After three circuits around the forecourt, I decided that the GraceFaith blog girls, (now high as kites), could probably benefit from going back to our rooms.





A BIG bubble bath later, (jacuzzi jets the works), it was bedtime for them. Oh and how the children loved sharing a room - although I can tell you now, that won't be happening at home any time soon, for the chance of a good night's sleep in our own boudoir, passed us by. Never mind, the sumptuous breakfast (in the equally sumptuous state dining room) more than made up for that. 


All in all, the suite experience was quite something. But then, of course it was; the entire hotel is draped in decadence, with floor to ceiling marble in places, original chandeliers, (now worth a quarter of a million pounds each), and stunning architecture; it is all so spectacular. Yet wonderfully, you can feel totally at home here. Even if your child is throwing a tantrum! 

KEEP IN MIND:
My room service request of some fresh milk for a cup of tea, took an age to materialise. I'd imagine that was a one off, but it surprised me seeing as I was invited there as a guest for review purposes.

Also, if you are hoping to leave the children in the playroom, or leave them to participate in an organised activity, think again. Although the Luton Hoo hopes to be able to provide trained staff for this at some point, they are not in place yet.

LIFE AS IT IS BLOG - THE VERDICT:

Family friendly beyond doubt; Luton Hoo is a remarkably fabulous place to stay. But let's be honest, for what it costs, it was always going to be. Expensive? Of course. Extravagant? Indeed. But even more than that, this is a hotel where a beautiful bygone era continues to exist, and families, even those with a toddler, can be a part of that experience. 

Emma Oliver and family, were guests at the Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa, in exchange for a review on the parenting/lifestyle blog LIFE AS IT IS.

For DISCLOSURE & DISCLAIMER, please view my page on LEGAL STUFF


The Luton Hoo is one of four distinctive venues from Elite Hotels. To read Emma's review on another Elite hotel, Tylney Hall, look out for the Summer 2014 issue of Baby London Magazine