An Unforgettable Night at… Cliveden House

Though sparkling new hotels twinkle their way onto the UK hospitality scene every year, often, they enjoy only a momentary dalliance in the spotlight. Earning, and then keeping, a name for yourself among the well-respected inner circles of discerning travellers is no easy feat for a property these days, and even less so within the clutch of five-star staycation offerings. In this sense, Cliveden House is somewhat of a unicorn within the country’s smattering of hotels, as its name seems to be eternally dangled into conversation about ‘where to go’. Asking for the best spots for a sumptuous spa break? Cliveden. Wanting rich countryside views? Cliveden. After a property with as much history as modern charms? Cliveden. In short, the vast 17th-century hotel reigns supreme, whichever way you look at it. 

It’s allure is immediately obvious. Turning off the quiet country road, just 45-minutes from London, and onto the wide driveway – sandwiched by the grand Fountain of Love at the beginning and the aristocratic country pile at the other – the grandeur of it all is evident; the latin transcriptions across the top of the house, the honey-hued facade, its lofty view above the Thames, which tumbles down toward the water through perfectly-manicured gardens, follies and woodland. What is less evident on the initial sighting of the property though, is its heart – of course, a level of formality is expected (indeed welcomed) at places like Cliveden, but it comes without pretence and instead with friendly, down-to-earth staff and a sense that you could potter down in your pyjamas for a nightcap at the resident’s bar without so much as one sideways glance. 

As it happens we didn’t head down to the crackling fire and softly-worn velvet chairs of the private lounge in our pyjamas, because we stayed with our baby. However, we did order a clutch of DVDs via the iPad in our room and enjoy these from the comfort of our separate lounge, accompanied by a smattering of dishes from the room service menu (the oak-smoked venison tartare being the most memorable) and people-watching from our windows (which boasted views across the front of the hotel and over the lawns and the Thames toward the back). 

Rewind slightly though and our time at Cliveden had begun with a meander around the grounds. We weaved our way down toward the river – where you are able to rent one of the glamorous Cliveden flotillas, with a picnic provided by the Dining Room if so desired – and spent a happy few hours roaming the lush banks and detouring through the woodland and water gardens on our way back to the house.

And though we didn’t dare dip our toes in the Thames, we did manage several lengths in the spa pool (not the one famed for the infamous Profumo affair, that’s outside, beside the glittering, golden ornate clock tower, surrounded by a smattering of sun loungers and two large hot tubs), a restorative herbal tea in the orangerie-style relaxation room and an Oskia facial, which was, incidentally, the best facial I’ve ever had (in part thanks to the luxuriously silky products but also the stress-relieving massage techniques of my therapist). 

During the day, visitors are in and out of the hotel for spa days, afternoon tea in the grand dining room (a real hit here), flanked by ornate French windows, and tours of the house and National Trust-run gardens (376 acres, to be precise). As the sun dwindles though, a peace descends over the house, a sense that everyone left is enjoying something special, a stately home as it perhaps would have felt all those years ago: private, intimate and with possibility around every corner. 

Bedrooms are elegant, split between the plush main house – complete with four-poster beds and peppered with antiques – and the more modern additions of the hot tub rooms which sit closer to the spa. Then there are the suites, many with separate living and dining spaces, as well as views out across either the impressive drive or the lawns, and Spring Cottage, down by the riverside. Decor is often traditional – think wooden panelling, patterned wallpaper, gold-framed portraits and characterful furniture – with the addition of slick, modern marble bathrooms.

On the day of our departure, we moved seamlessly from the breakfast buffet – served in a delightfully embellished room beside the main dining space – to a light lunch at the Astor Grill, the hotel’s brasserie-style dining option (think: salads, burgers etc.). Wooden dividers and horse-paraphenalia let you know you are in a converted stable, while also serving the purpose of dividing up the space to offer privacy within bonket-clad booths. 

We took a brownie to-go (which, needless to say, came elaborately packaged with napkins, cutlery and delicately-sliced strawberries) and pottered around the rose garden before enjoying a cocktail in the main lounge, peppered with people enjoying lavish afternoon teas, as our swan song. 

On reflection, it’s hard to pinpoint what I most loved during our stay. The interiors (namely the grandiose fireplaces, Gothic Revival mahogany staircase – bedecked with paintings – and elaborate ceiling roses), the atmosphere or the surroundings. Is it greedy to say we soaked it all up and would do so again in a heartbeat? 


Taplow, Berkshire, SL6 0JF