Cliveden House is synonymous with the grandiose history, politics, and scandal that form the fabric of contemporary English sensibilities. Ever since I moved to London, I’ve always wanted to visit this fascinating mansion and explore its grounds at great length. Recently, I was able to indulge in the pleasure of staying at Cliveden House, and the experience was no short of spectacular. It offered an intoxicating blend of luxury, intrigue, drama, and delight, so unique that leaving after our stay was a most reluctant separation.If I were, to be honest, the first point of captivation with Cliveden House is its interesting historic significance. It was first built by the Duke of Buckingham in 1666 and has been burnt and rebuilt twice since then. Over the course of its existence which spans over three centuries and more, it has housed an Earl, two Dukes, three Countesses, a Prince of Wales, and the Viscount Astor. It is then not surprising that Cliveden House has been the backdrop of many historic British chronicles. It was the hub of intellectual exchange when the Cliveden Set met in the early 1900s. It was also the site of lusty scandal when John Profumo, the then Secretary of State for War, stumbled upon 19-year old Christine Keeler, his soon-to-be-lover, in 1961. And today, it is a National-Trust property that attracts thousands of curious visitors and stay-in guests all through the year. Interestingly, even in contemporary times, Cliveden House is not impervious to overtures of the rich, the famous, and the royal; Meghan Markle stayed here on the night before her wedding! That somehow adds to the glamorous mystique of this place, doesn’t it?
Moving beyond its alluring past, the Cliveden House is every bit as exciting in the present as well. As we drove past the Cliveden landscape to reach the main building, I was awestruck by the expanse of real estate it encompasses. The gardens span a whopping 365 acres, while the manor is a large Italianate structure with 47 rooms, including 15 suites. The grounds overlook the majestic Thames, and in their entirety, make a glorious picture of well-maintained splendour. We were staying at the Mountbatten Suite which is a Junior Suite; it was previously a game room which has been converted into lodging now. If you haven’t guessed yet, all the rooms at Cliveden are named after a figure from its past, which makes a living in them, a definitive handshake with history.
But for all its archaic bindings, as a living space, Cliveden House offers you all comfort and luxury imaginable. Our suite was massive and beautifully furnished. The heavy curtains, silken drapes, cushioned sofas, and antique-wood furniture create a sense of cosy decadence that is truly special. I was quite taken in by the ornate wallpaper and artwork that added depth to the rooms. The management has retained some period features such as original fireplaces which is another lovely touch. The bathroom was suitably lush as well, with marble floor, roomy construction, and a fancy, monsoon shower. A special mention for the comfortable and massive bed and bedding which renders good sleep a natural outcome. Ohh! How I would love to sleep on that bed again!
After checking in and revelling in the magnificence of our room, we decided to enjoy evening drinks in the lounge and tried the Signature Cliveden66 cocktail which honouring the royal tradition and has 24k gold filings in it.
The dinner date was at at the André Garrett Restaurant which promised fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere. Our first sampling was of the house cocktail with champagne & 24-carat gold leaf shavings; quite a start, don’t you think? We moved onto the main course and ordered one portion of semolina and parsley gnocchi, and of Grilled Anjou pigeon. Both preparations were delicious, flavoursome, and light – exactly what I look for in an enjoyable dining experience. We shared our dessert, which tasted as good as it looked, and soon retreated to our room for a good night’s sleep. While we went in for the fine dining option, you also have the option of eating at the more casual Astor Grill and also have the option for a private dining experience, in case you wish to host a private party.
While some of our best moments at Cliveden House were spent enjoying the room or the food, we also spared time to indulge in some relaxing spa treatments. The spa has been reopened with new upgrades and is fabulous. It boasts of seven treatment rooms that wall an indoor pool for lazy swims. The spa area has another outdoor pool, a state-of-the-art Technogym, a fitness studio, and a tennis centre including one indoor and two outdoor tennis courts. There’s a Spa Kitchen that offers healthy wares, like juices and teas. As far as the spa treatment experience goes, it was supremely relaxing. We booked ourselves for body massage and body wrap treatment and emerged quite refreshed after the sessions. I was very impressed with the quality products used for the treatments. In fact, they have launched a new range of spa products, with the names inspired by two remarkable ladies from Cliveden’s history – Anna Maria and Nancy Astor. I preferred products from the Nancy range more so because of the fragrance preference and would love to use them in my routine.
Though I was occupied with exploring the grounds and enjoying our room during most of our stay, there are other entertainment options as well. You can always take a trip by the river and use the flotilla of Cliveden boats to explore the waters. Also, if you do not want to stay-in at Cliveden House, you can always go in for National-Trust Property tour – it is sure to be quite an enriching experience. In fact, my conclusion is that anyone visiting Cliveden House, no matter how briefly, is likely to fall in love with it on account of its checkered past and overwhelming grandeur.
I’m glad I was able to enjoy a wonderful stay at Cliveden House. I hope to revisit it soon and make new, lovely memories.