Setting foot in the iconic Cliveden House is like stepping back in time. With beautiful tapestries, plush, dark furniture and a grand stone fireplace, history just seeps from every pore of this beautiful old country house.
We were invited to Cliveden on the Buckinghamshire/Berkshire border to experience its beauty and relax in its extensive grounds, and also to see why Meghan Markle chose to stay there the night before her wedding.
On a hot Sunday in spring we ventured down the spectacular driveway flanked with banks of grass and trees, with the very impressive, beautiful Fountain of Love marking the way to our destination. Cliveden has many sculptures and is famed for its impressive architecture, with examples dotted across the estate. The house itself is grand and imposing, built by the second Duke of Buckingham in 1666 for his mistress, who never actually lived there, and later on acquired by his cousin and then accommodating many other residents before being destroyed by fire in 1795, and again in 1849.
The Astors are the most famous residents, with Nancy Astor becoming the first female Member of Parliament in 1919. The estate welcomed many famous visitors as well, including President Roosevelt, Charlie Caplin and George-Bernard Shaw. It also played host to the biggest political scandal in British history, the Profumo affair.
But alongside its rich, decadent history comes its current luxury state. The French Dining Room was brought in its entirety over from Louis XV’s Chateau d’Asnieres near Paris. When the 18th century Rococo panels came up for sale, Lord Astor recognised that it would fit the dining room perfectly, and its gilding and turquoise panels are spectacular. Our suite, although not as decadent, was beautiful, with marble bathroom, Asprey products and pictures of people linked to Cliveden adorning the walls. We were captivated by the stories – the things that went on there…!
The Cliveden Spa
We went straight to the spa, which opened in 2017 and is a calming, relaxing escape, hidden behind high walls from the rest of the estate. The estate is owned by the National Trust, so although visitors can’t access the house, they enjoy exploring the vast and spacious grounds. But as the evening draws in, the visitors dissipate and the house guests are treated to a quiet view over the Parterre.
The spa is just gorgeous, perfect for hen retreats, minimoons and pamper weekends in the countryside. My facial was wonderful – 45 minutes of bliss on a heated waterbed left me feeling refreshes, relaxed and so peaceful.
Dining at Cliveden
An elderflower martini with 24 carat gold shavings was a pre-dinner treat, which we enjoyed on the terrace as the sun began to set. And then dinner was incredible. Duck, Dover sole, raspberry souffle; the food was divine, melt-in-the-mouth and all served by the brilliantly friendly Bianca and Andre. The meal ended with coffee and chocolates adorned with the Cliveden crest, like little edible pieces of art.
A wander round the grounds was a lovely post-dinner adventure before heading back to our suite. Turn down was just lovely, and the bed was one of the best I have ever slept in, comfortable and cosy it made for a wonderful night’s sleep.
Breakfast was served in the same room as dinner, overlooking the Parterre, with wonderful views snaking down to the river Thames. Avocado, toast and egg for me, and a full English for my husband before our tour of the house.
Weddings at Cliveden
Prestige and glamour are the themes of a Cliveden wedding! They can accommodate up to 60 guests in the largest room, the French Dining Room, with four smaller rooms accommodating up to 40 and the Spring Cottage hosting 16 for a ceremony.
Wedding breakfasts can be catered for 60 again in the French Dining Room, and 24 in smaller rooms, with up to 12 in the wonderful Cellar Dining Room, perfect for parties that lead well into the night. You can take Cliveden for exclusive use for groups of over 60, which would be such a wonderful celebration. The rooms have so much character, whether wood panelled, gilded or pretty in white. And then you’ve got the stunning grounds as a backdrop for your photographs. The River Thames is right there, and you’ve got formal gardens, informal gardens and secluded fountains and woodland, so there are so many beautiful options.
We didn’t want to leave, it was such a wonderful experience. The history, the stunning scenery, the amazing service and the house itself has so much character, it is simply the perfect retreat.