Cliveden, Taplow, Berkshire
It has burnt down twice, been home to three dukes, an earl and a Prince of Wales, and has played host to virtually every British monarch since George I. It was where the world’s rich and powerful came to stay and party. And it was the setting for one of the biggest scandals to rock British politics.
As the home of American Socialite Nancy Astor it was a social hub, entertaining guests including Charlie Chaplin, President Roosevelt and George Bernard Shaw. Winston Churchill learnt to punt on the Thames, which flows past the extensive grounds, while staying there.
But today, anyone can stay at the grand Italianate mansion, as Cliveden is one of the jewels of the von Essen Hotels collection.
Actually hotel is the wrong way to describe it.When you reach the side gate – the main gate is used by National Trust visitors, as the house and grounds are owned by the National Trust with the house leased to von Essen – a small notice next to the automatic gate welcoming “house guests” is the only sign that you have arrived at the right entrance.
And what an arrival! The gravel drive sweeps you past the lavishly carved Fountain of Love and on up the grand avenue towards the 1851-built, Grade I house, where your bags are promptly whisked away by footmen (note, not bellboys). Again, inside just a small plaque discreetly welcomes house guests.
The interior is yet more ornate. You are led through the sumptuous Great Hall, complete with dark oak panelling, rich tapestries and its richly-decorative 16th century stone chimneypiece, up oak-panelled stairs with newel posts topped by carved figures.
A terrace looks out over the parterre (formal garden) and down to the Thames below, as well as the beautiful Berkshire countryside beyond. This stretch of the river, between Windsor and Henley, is said to be the prettiest. In weather warmer than during my stay, you can cruise from the mock-Tudor boathouse on Cliveden’s fleet of vintage launches for a riverside picnic. Close by is the Tudor-esque Spring Cottage, which you can rent complete with personal butler. Showgirl Christine Keeler was staying here in 1961 when she met married Cabinet minister John Profumo and they began a sexual relationship.
Dining is an epicurean experience. I ate in the Terrace Dining Room, resembling a great library with chandeliers. There is also the flagship restaurant,Waldo’s, or the less formal Club Room.
Outside, Cliveden’s walled garden and heated outdoor pool, adjacent to the chiming clock tower, also featured heavily in the Profumo scandal. A Pavilion Spa has since been added, with an indoor pool, hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms and whirlpool spas. There are also indoor and outdoor tennis courts, and a gym. Or you can simply work off your meal with a stroll around the glorious grounds, while red-tailed kites hover in the wind above trees swathed in mistletoe.
Taplow, Berkshire SL6 0JF Tel: 01628 668561
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- Romantic escapes
- Pure indulgence
- Feeling like royalty
- Fine dining
Could do better
- Fix those clanking pipes
All prices and details were correct when published, please check before you visit.