A lavish historic country house in Berkshire
Cliveden House has been delighting visitors for more than 300 years, first as home to English nobility, then as a hub for the fantastically glittery parties in 20th-century Astor era. These days it is known as one of the most lavish and comfortable country house hotels in all of England. Just down the road from Windsor Castle, the house has hosted almost every British monarch since George I.
Twice destroyed by fire, Cliveden as it is today was built by acclaimed 19th-century architect Charles Barry, who also designed the Houses of Parliament in London. Set within 376 acres of elaborately landscaped formal gardens and wild woodland in the Berkshire countryside, Barry’s three-story Italianate structure is imposing from the outside, but remarkably comfortable within. Plush sofas, warm wooden panelling and rich drapes abound in both the public areas and in Cliveden’s 38 rooms and suites, each of which is named after a prominent guest from the house’s past.
Every room is different, from the Chaplin, with its stunning circular sunken bath, to the Gladstone, whose private terrace overlooks the Walled Garden. Traditional rooms feature antique furniture and original art works — John Singer Sargent’s original portrait of Nancy Astor hangs in the Lady Astor Suite. Looking out over the six-acre Parterre, the highlight of Cliveden’s gardens, it’s quite easy to lose yourself in the history of the grand property. (Even the planting is in the same style as when the lawn and beds were first laid out in 1855.)
It’s the grounds and gardens that are the stars at Cliveden. Go boating on the Thames in a beautiful vintage launch (book a champagne evening tour to really do it in style), discover architectural marvels such as the amphitheater where “Rule Britannia” was first sung in 1740, or find your way through the 19th-century maze. Inside the Walled Garden is The Pavilion Spa, where facilities include indoor and outdoor pools, separate men’s and women’s steam rooms and saunas, and a fully equipped modern gym. Anne Semonin and Carita facials, Jessica hand and foot treatments, and an entire menu of men’s treatments are also available. Competitive types will love the tennis and squash courts, snooker (billiards) room and croquet lawn.
Acclaimed chef André Garrett helms the kitchen that offers three-course, a la carte and eight-course tasting menus in the luxury hotel’s high-ceiled dining room. Seasonal British cooking is his specialty, so look for dishes like saddle of West Country venison with quince and red cabbage, hand-cured sea trout salad, and poached Cotswold rhubarb with oat granola. Informal dining takes place in the Club Room, the house’s former stables. Both the all-day and supper menus have a typical British gastro-pub vibe, with sandwiches, salads and nibbles throughout the afternoon giving way to steak and fish and chips in the evening.