Weekend Break At Cliveden House

Weekend Break At Cliveden House

I recently spent a cosy, autumnal weekend with my husband and our two year old son at Cliveden House, the historical 5 star hotel in the Berkshire countryside, less than an hour's drive from London.

England does grand country house hotels so well, but we've barely scratched the surface - before starting a family, we wanted to explore as much of Europe as possible, so have only stayed at a handful of luxury hotels here in the UK - and Cliveden has been top of my list for a while.

Emma Louise Layla at Cliveden House - luxury UK weekend break

Dating back to 1666, Cliveden House is known for its old-fashioned English opulence and illustrious past as a playground for the elite.  Originally built for the Duke of Buckingham for his mistress, it has since hosted a roster of notable guests, including royalty, political figures, the literati and celebrities.

The Astors, the wealthy American family, bought the property in 1893 and held lavish parties, hosting some of the most prominent names of the time, making Cliveden the glittering epicentre of British society.

Famous swimming pool at Cliveden House, winter weekend break - luxury UK travel

Generations of the royal family stayed here, as did Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw, Gandhi and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and this is where British politician John Profumo first laid eyes on Christine Keeler in the famous swimming pool, leading to the Profumo affair in the 1960s.  

From lavish soirées to scandalous affairs, Cliveden House exudes grandeur of a bygone era from centuries of decadence, drama and intrigue.  If walls could talk...

Grand window at Cliveden House - luxury UK travel

Sat above the river Thames and surrounded by 376 acres of National Trust grounds, you approach the 17th century estate up a long gravel drive, past a marble fountain and the famous clock tower, surrounded by meticulously manicured gardens and wild woodlands.

As you step inside the neoclassical manor, you enter a sumptuous, wood-panelled great hall with cosy sofas around a roaring fire.  We checked in and made our way through the hallways where old portraits, books, handwoven tapestries and suits of armour line the walls, and found our room.

Bedroom at Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire - luxury UK 5 star hotel

Blending classical heritage with contemporary luxury, the stately home has 47 bedrooms, including 15 suites, each individually styled and named after illustrious guests - plus the freestanding Spring Cottage by the river that sleeps up to six.

We stayed in Grenfell, a classic room on the first floor of the main house overlooking the outdoor pool, with period features and antique furniture.

Sunny winter walk at Cliveden House gardens, Berkshire - luxury UK travel

We took leisurely strolls through the expansive National Trust gardens, dotted with Lord Astor’s sculpture collection.  There's plenty to explore - you'll also find a maze, chapel, geometric parterre, rose garden, Asian-inspired water garden, majestic old trees, tranquil glades, a flint grotto plus row boats for hire.

We headed to the Pavilion Spa to use the swimming pool at a family-friendly time (children are welcome between 9.15-10.45am and 4-5.30pm), and I nipped out to the walled garden to brave the outdoor pool - the last remaining listed outdoor pool in England - for a quick dip.  Both pools are heated, but it was November and the sun was setting, so a refreshing few minutes was enough!

Cliveden House outdoor swimming pool at dusk, winter weekend break - luxury UK travel

Back in our room, I had an indulgent - and very rare - soak in the big bathtub, used the Noble Isle toiletries, donned a fluffy bathrobe, and got ready for dinner.  We ate in both restaurants: the casual Astor Grill, serving classic gastropub-style dishes in Lord Astor's former stable block, and a fancier affair in the hotel's fine dining restaurant, where executive head chef Chris Hannon serves up modern British dishes using seasonal, local ingredients.

We skipped post-dinner drinks served in the library bar, where guests were chatting in hushed tones, curled up on sofas with cocktails and leather-bound books - next time we'll organise one of the hotel's babysitters and get involved.

The Library Bar at Cliveden House, Berkshire - luxury UK weekend break

Breakfast is served overlooking the terrace and gardens, with views of the rolling countryside beyond.  Whilst sipping pots of loose leaf tea and coffee, we ordered à la carte dishes - a delicious eggs benedict for me, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon for him - and helped ourselves to pastries and fruit afterwards from the extravagant breakfast buffet in the rococo French Dining Room next door.

Breakfast at Cliveden House - five star hotel near London, luxury UK travel

I used the gym whilst my husband took Raphael out for a drizzly walk to explore more of the gardens and burn off some of that unfaltering toddler energy.  We warmed up with showers and got ready for lunch in the elegant Cliveden Dining Room.

There's a refined yet relaxed atmosphere, with couples and families celebrating special occasions, raising toasts and chinking glasses under the grand room's sparkling chandeliers.

Garden views from lunch at the Cliveden House restaurant, luxury UK travel

Sunday lunch was excellent.  From the set menu, I chose the chicken and the egg as a starter: sweetcorn, confit chicken leg with pickled onion, followed by the roast sirloin of beef as a main, served with all the traditional trimmings: crispy roast potatoes, crunchy roast vegetables and a Yorkshire pudding.

For desserts, we shared the milk chocolate with caramel and hazelnuts, and the dark chocolate ganache with pistachios.  All dishes were great - I hope to go back one day soon for the tasting menu or a special afternoon tea.

Sunny dahlias at sunset at Cliveden House, Berkshire - National Trust gardens

Before we knew it, it was time to head home as the sun set on a wonderful weekend.  Combining opulent architecture, exquisite decor, glorious gardens, a luxurious spa and great restaurants in a striking Italianate mansion steeped in over 350 years of rich history, Cliveden is a real treat.  We hope to be back soon!

Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire, SL6 0JF

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