Honeymoon in Bath

An ancient English city with up-to-the-minute appeal

If there is a honeymoon made in heaven, it must be a summer week in the picture-book countryside around the Georgian spa town of Bath. To wake up in a canopy four-poster in a mansion of a hotel above a perfect English garden is to know that all is right with the world—and let's ring for a pot of tea!

As the two of you snuggle into the window seat and gaze out on the quilted Somerset or Wiltshire fields, you may marvel that the English make a habit of weekending at these posh country-house hotels. And yet a honeymooning American couple can do it almost as easily: A flight to London, a 90-minute intercity train to Bath that takes you past fields of brilliant yellow rape and blood-red poppies, then a short car ride, and suddenly you're spinning up a pebbled drive and stopping before a stately, sprawling house out of Masterpiece Theatre. Picking your honeymoon haven is key. As it happens, there are three choice properties in the countryside around Bath, and an elegant hotel or two within the fair city itself. Perhaps the stateliest of the lot is Lucknam Park, a 42-room Palladian mansion just six miles northeast of Bath. Set at the end of a beautiful avenue of centuries-old lime and beech trees, the mansion is stunning to behold, all dormers and chimneys, towers and turrets. In no time, you will feel like king and queen of the castle, as comfortable in the chandeliered main drawing room and library with French doors leading onto a terrace as you will in your own digs. The Coral Suite is a spacious boudoir that will spoil you with its big fireplace, golden carpet, and views to swoon over.

Nature enfolds you in its arms the moment you step outdoors—roses and clematis tumble over high garden walls. Lucknam sweeps across 500 acres, secreting an equestrian center with 30 horses. Let a groom (guide) take you on a ride of the grounds or off into the countryside. Play a spot of croquet, swat tennis balls, get in a round of golf on one of three nearby courses, or pamper yourselves in Lucknam's recently expanded spa.

A few miles south of Bath are two hideaways with equal appeal but different approaches to English country life. Ston Easton Park is a quietly elegant Palladian mansion with a 450-year history. The 23-room hotel is filled with antiques and paintings that had disappeared during a long period of decline and were painstakingly tracked down and reinstalled in recent years. You'll bed down in a Chippendale canopy four-poster in the main building or in the lovely Garden Cottage out back. On a stroll of the 36-acre grounds in the late twilight, you'll find the scent intoxicating, the romance irresistible. Steal a few moments in the Cutting Garden, amid a series of small recesses thick with flowers, where milady and her swain once retreated for private embraces.

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