CLIVEDEN ESTATE IS ARGUABLY THE FINEST OF LUXURY HOTELS NEAR LONDON AND HEATHROW AIRPORT. THE GRAND STATELY HOME IS SET IN THE HEART OF THE BERKSHIRE COUNTRYSIDE, SURROUNDED BY 376 ACRES OF MAGNIFICENT FORMAL GARDENS AND PARKLAND. WITH A COLOURFUL HISTORY AND JAW-DROPPING EXTRAVAGANCE, CLIVEDEN IS AN EXPERIENCE WELL WORTH INDULGING.
WORDS BY SAMANTHA SARGENT, BE NATURALLYOU
Don’t you just love those “period movies” featuring Keira Knightly! The grand stately manor homes, beautiful women dressed in corsets and billowy dresses, filling their days mindlessly ambling through expansive gardens of green reciting poetry, whilst evenings are celebrated with elaborate soirees sipping champagne under chandelier filled ballrooms dancing the night away to live orchestras. If you’re anything like me and are swept up by the romantic notion of it all, then you’ll absolutely love the extraordinary extravagance of Cliveden Estate.
Driving towards the main house is one of those ‘take your breath away’ moments. I can’t help but feel like I’ve stepped back in time and instantly my thoughts drift to the early 1900s when Cliveden was the hub of a hectic social whirl in Lady Astor’s day, where guests included everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Winston Churchil, and President Roosevelt to George Bernard Shaw. The house has also played host to virtually every British Monarch since George I and has been home to three Dukes, an Earl and Frederick Prince of Wales. Cliveden was originally a hunting lodge, built in 1666 by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, to entertain his friends and mistress. What more to say … the colourful history, scandals and extravagant parties ensure a visit to Cliveden will overflow your mind with intrigue and fascination.
As our car pulls up at the entrance we are warmly welcomed in true English style with a wave from a lovely looking gentleman complete with top hat and tails. I simply love it when a theme is carried right through to every little detail! From the moment we’re ushered in to the beautiful Great Hall with its grand fireplace, oak paneling and priceless artworks, we feel like treasured personal guests. The ‘we’ is my boyfriend and I. Who better to share this experience with than my lover!
As it’s nearing 3pm and having skipped lunch, the suggestion of traditional “afternoon tea” is too good to refuse. Scones and jam, cucumber sandwiches, and strawberry tarts, how does it get any better than this! As I sink in to the lounge and admire the enormous tapestries on the wall, I can’t help but wonder who in their right mind would choose to stay in the character-less hotels at the airport, when Cliveden is only a quick and easy 20 minute drive from Heathrow. It is without a doubt the perfect option if you have a stopover in London. It is also one of those places where you have to experience at least once in your lifetime. If I were a Brit I’d be putting this hotel on the top of my must-do list, whether it be a romantic weekend away with a loved one or a girls’ weekend to indulge in spa treatments and lazing in the sunshine. The high standard of quality, excellence in every detail and remarkable refinement is balanced with a sense of laid-back ease.
Not wanting to miss the sunset we venture outside for an afternoon walk exploring a tiny fraction of the 376 acres of magnificent formal gardens and parkland before finding a quiet and secluded spot to gaze out over the panoramic views of beautiful Berkshire countryside and the River Thames. What a lovely spot for a moment of meditation surrounded by the sights and sounds of mother nature. Birds chirping. Branches swaying. Leaves rustling. Sun setting. Gold, orange and coral filling the night skies.
Whilst it was a sunny and warm autumn’s day, the night air is chilly, so we run across the perfectly manicured lawns back to the main house for a quick spruce before dinner.
The rooms are divine. Oh, and might I add, bigger than my entire apartment. It’s no wonder that an invitation from Lady Astor was rarely refused and very much coveted. Everything about the Cliveden screams of decadence. I can only imagine what it must have been like “back in the day”. If only these walls could talk. What scandalous stories they would tell. Each room is named after a prominent guest or figure from Cliveden’s past, and furnished accordingly. From the comfy four-poster bed, to the walk in wardrobe, to the oh so lovely antiques that fill the room, to the bathroom with the deepest bath I think I’ve ever swum in, all promise indulgent relaxation.
It is near impossible to single out a “favourite bit” about Cliveden Estate, but if I really really had to, it would be the privacy and boutique nature of the hotel. With only 37 rooms, and the immense size and numerous areas to have a drink or dine or simply chill out to read a book, I truly feel like a guest at someone’s grand home, and not a hint of the usual hotel idiosyncracies. Cliveden is, at heart, a charming country house where you can come away to escape, relax and be indulged at every opportunity.
The restaurant, as you can imagine is stunning. The food fabulous. And there’s even a separate vegetarian menu, which is the icing on the cake for me. Most impressive is the impeccable service with the waiter picking up on every little hint of our requests.
After a heavenly deep sleep and a hearty breakfast we decide to jump back in the car and head to Richmond Park. It is, after all, only a short 15-minute drive away, and I have always wanted to see the deer roaming around in the park. And WOW! what a fabulous way to spend the morning – picking up a couple of bicycles to rent, cycling round the park with the sunshine on our backs, surrounded by beautiful green parklands and wild deer EVERYWHERE. I am instantly feeling a little more love for the powers that be in England for making this possible. To say I am an animal lover is an understatement. So, to be able to share a moment in time frolicking around parklands with hundreds of beautiful creatures to admire with no cages, gates or chains between us is a gift and now cherished memory.
After a lay on the grass amidst our four legged friends, we have a mini freak out as time has escaped us, and we are due back at Cliveden for a pampering session at The Pavilion Spa. After all that walking, cycling and more walking, our treatments are much needed. I’m booked in for an hour of exfoliation followed by a delicious body mask containing essential oils to aid lymphatic drainage to cleanse and detoxify the system. The spa environment is calming to all my senses and the therapist gentle and soothing. My body certainly feels soft and smooth after the treatment, and my mind is blissed out.
Seeing as we have an afternoon with zero commitments, and the sky filled with a beautiful hue of blue, what better place to extend our spa experience lazing on the deck chairs surrounding the outdoor pool and Canadian hot tubs. If only I’d remembered my swimmers! Feeling relaxed and recharged our weekend escape is coming to an end. I wonder how many excuses my lover and I can find to whisk each other away to Cliveden Estate again?
Note: Knowing how difficult it can be to leave your beloved four-legged friends at home, Cliveden welcomes dogs with open arms. There are over 250 acres of National Trust woodland paths for dogs to explore. Love it!