We drive through the gates into the Luton Hoo estate and after a few twists and turns, see a grand neo-classical country mansion in the distance. Grade I listed, it is it is situated on the crest of a hill overlooking acres of beautiful gardens and was built for the 3rd Earl of Bute, then prime minister, who bought the estate in 1763.

We stop outside to look up; I can see why Dr. Samuel Johnson referred to its “magnificence” when he visited in 1781. As we step past the imposing columns we are all smiles as we have come to celebrate my mother-in law’s birthday.

The lounge is huge and the dark green mantelpiece is the tallest and widest I’ve ever seen! The crackling log fire, gives an immediate sense of warmth and homeliness. On the other side of the room is a bounteous flower arrangement filled with vibrant tropical flowers.

At one o’clock, we’re shown into the opulent salon that is the Wernher restaurant. We’re given the seasonal menu for our Sunday lunch. We order some wine. I sit there fascinated to see every wall panelled in marble. The crystal chandeliers cast a shimmering light onto the Beauvais tapestries. I look out of the windows and see miles of rolling parkland as far as the eye can see.

The food arrives. I begin with Parma ham with fresh figs mozzarella and wild rocket followed by a lamb roast. The dessert trolley is filled to the brim with cheesecakes, fruit tarts and chocolate delicacies.

After lunch we take a stroll into the gardens. I take in the frosty December air and smell the evergreen. We walk towards the side of the hotel and stand at the top of the steps overlooking the grand fountain; we pause to face the formal gardens and see a perfectly symmetrical harmony, with a lawn on each side, topiary trees and domed stone garden houses.

As we walk down the stone steps onto the gravel path and draw closer to the fountain, I’m fascinated to see mermen carved in stone, their muscular torsos and fish tails resting against the central column; strange choice of mythic creature, I think to myself.

I look forward to exploring the rock garden and the rest of this thousand-acre parkland next time, maybe I’ll visit the spa and who knows even stay overnight and enjoy some eggs royale in the morning!