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Cliveden House: The Country Pile With A Past

Cliveden House – a country pile with quite a past – was built for entertaining. Famed guests, from Churchill to Chaplin have all spent the night – or a long, lazy weekend – here.

Set in 376 acres of National Trust-owned land in bucolic Berkshire, an invitation to dine/stay/stroll about seems all but irresistible… Still, with only 48 rooms the guest list remains, if not exclusive, then certainly limited.

Recent rises in UK staycation bookings has seen Cliveden spring to the top of the country’s most sought-after stays. But then, Cliveden’s popularity is hardly something new. Built in 1666 for the second Duke of Buckingham, Cliveden became home to the Astor family in 1893. In recent years, John Profumo and Christine Keeler’s shenanigans re-established the house’s rebellious streak and today, the fabled hotel is privately owned, part of Relais & Chateaux.

The Vibe

Decadence, scandal, and intrigue abound at Cliveden – a celebrated haunt for politicos and literati.

The Rooms

Each room at Cliveden is named after famous past guests from Churchill to Chaplin who have helped form the manor’s checkered history. Most rooms are similar in style and colour scheme, but the spec – from ceiling height to room size – shifts based on the room type you choose. Ask for a suite in the main house, overlooking the gardens, rather than rooms on the ground floor (these are located by the car park).

Things get pretty special when you reach the Mansion Deluxe Suites level upwards – which include Buckingham, Westminster, Blakeney and Henry James. We loved the Blakeney for its delicate feminine scheme in soft beiges and pinks and south facing views. Marble bathrooms are sleek and come stocked with Asprey toiletries. The power showers are excellent – but the free-standing, XL bathtub in the Blakeney is the real star here. If you’re looking for a little extra space and seclusion, opt for a stay at Spring Cottage, a cute three-bedroom cottage in the grounds that sleeps up to six and offers plenty of indulgent features (including a private chef and a butler to see to your whims for an extra charge). Pets are welcome in some Junior Suites, most deluxe Doubles, and all Classic and Club rooms for £35 a night. On arrival, treats and a dog bed will be provided.

The Little Extras 

The honesty bar is complimentary in the upper-level suites – guests can help themselves to champagne, homemade fudge, an assortment of decadent truffles, and other delights.

Craving something else? Log onto the in-room iPad to make a variety of requests from room service to tray collection, more towels, extra ice… whatever you need.

The Food + Drink

The chandelier-dominated Cliveden Dining Room serves as the location for guest’s morning and evening meals. Breakfast here is a la carte – amongst the tempting plates you’ll spot The Lord Astor (two eggs, Cumberland pork sausage, back bacon, vine tomato, and Portobello mushrooms); American pancakes served with caramelised banana, pecan nuts, and maple syrup; and The Lady Astor (poached egg and crushed avocado on sourdough toast). For more of a mix choose the Cliveden Continental Breakfast and enjoy a range of fruits, cereals, yoghurts, cheeses, and meats, plus juices and coffees.

It’s also in these surrounds that Afternoon Tea is served (starting at £40 per head) – many day trippers availing of a taste of Cliveden at a fraction of the cost.

Come evening, when day trippers have departed and a hushed chattered descends on Cliveden, with guests experiencing the Dining Room in a new light. A menu of elevated local fare – from a light heritage beetroot salad to winter black truffle risotto and roasted halibut is on offer, and for dessert – the vanilla soufflé and white chocolate panna cotta of course. There’s also a tasting menu available, should you wish to leave decision making to someone else over the course of your stay.

Pre- or post-dinner, the swagged hotel library bar offers a secluded spot for private chatter, while the dramatic, red-toned Great Hall serves up classical piano music three nights a week. Sip on signature Cliveden champagne cocktails by the imposing fireplace for the remainder of the evening.

Looking to host an intimate dinner? The Cellar Dining Room – Lord Astor’s private wine cellar – is the perfect choice for an informal dinner space (and is great for hosting wine tastings too). For something less formal, there’s also the option of The Astor Grill (located in Lord Astor’s former stable block). While interiors are characterful – adopting an equestrian theme for its décor – the gastropub-style menu doesn’t particularly impress.

The To-Do List

Set in the rose- and lavender-filled gardens, The Pavilion Spa boasts a heated indoor and outdoor pool (where the Profumo affair was kick-started), an indoor Jacuzzi, plus outdoor hot tubs, a sauna, an aromatherapy steam room, a gym and fitness studio, seven treatment rooms all with water mattresses, and a manicure, pedicure and hair-dressing studio. Phew. Where treatments are concerned, guests can choose from Sarah Chapman’s Skinesis facial treatments and OSKIA’s nutritional facials or try one of the hotel’s own unique body therapies, which use Cliveden’s own brand of products. There’s also a spa restaurant, should you get peckish between pampering sessions.

Post spa explore the 376 acres of National Trust parklands (best observed outside of public hours), which include a maze and water garden. Drink in the vast, magnificent tree-lined parterre. For a different perspective, charter the Cliveden Flotilla (available for residents and non-residents alike). Set off from the Cliveden Boathouse on the River Thames for as little as one hour to a whole day. Boat rental starts from £200.

What to Pack

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