On a day to day basis, we’ll admit that we don’t have much in common with royalty. But one privilege we can now say we’ve shared is a stay at Cliveden House, frequented by everyone from Queen Victoria in the 19th century to Meghan Markle the night before her wedding in 2018, and we feel all the more regal for it.
Cliveden House is a National Trust property, the grounds of which you can visit all year round for £16 (or for free, if you’re a member). With 376 acres to explore, 100 of which are laid out in immaculately manicured lawns with topiary and floral displays galore, there’s plenty to keep you busy. But if budget stretches to a stay in the manor, this is where the property really shines.
Forget the sleek Scandi influences Instagram seems to favour: the main building is maximalism at its most mesmerising, with engraved furnishings, blooming upholstery, elaborate chandeliers, and even the odd suit of armour.
Our suite was more subdued, decked out in more breathable pastels with a sprawling marble bathroom and the biggest and most comfortable beds we’ve laid our heads on in quite some time, but still – characterful period pieces win the day.
This is likely of little surprise – after all, tradition is part of the fun of frequenting a house that dates back to the 1600s, and has had kings and queens past and present come to stay. However, Cliveden does have a few contemporary tricks up its sleeve too, and they bring its old-fashioned charm bang up to date.
First, we need to talk about the food. The Astor Grill – named as a nod to the Astor family, who owned the house in the 1900s – is the more relaxed of the two dining areas, and set in converted old stables kitted out with blue leather booths and quirky equestrian accents.
It was here that we noticed that Cliveden is both very child and dog-friendly – we sat amongst several large family groups of all ages, many dining with pups in tow.
There’s plenty unpretentious British and American fare on offer – think burgers, steaks, fresh salads and fish and chips – and service is friendly and welcoming without being too stuffy. We ordered soup, followed by platefuls of wild mushroom gnocchi and seasonal greens, and could quite happily have added to that list if we weren’t saving space for the chocolate hazelnut croissant bread and butter pudding.
For a seriously special occasion, however, it has to be the opulent Cliveden Dining Room. Portions are generous, and vegetarians are just as well catered for as meat eaters.
Order the tasting menu and your plates are rounded off with coffee and a visit from the bonbon trolley, where you can curate your own line-up of old-fashioned sweets like jellies, honeycomb, marshmallow and fudge. It’s as nostalgia-inducingly brilliant as it sounds.
After all that eating, a little rest and relaxation in the spa is in order. Everything is shiny and new, as it’s the last piece in the puzzle of a four-year no-expense-spared refurbishment of the 350-year-old property.
Treatment rooms are well-sized – intimate, without feeling cramped, and therapists use products from big names like Oskia and Sarah Chapman (Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow’s go-to facialist, FYI).
There are also bespoke Cliveden-themed options to try, like manicures in the house’s signature colours; you can even try (and buy) bespoke fragrances inspired by two of Cliveden’s most famous ladies, Nancy Astor and Anna Maria.
The indoor pool, jacuzzi and relaxation area are more than enough to enjoy post facial or massage, but if the weather allows, you can also take a dip in the first and only listed pool in the country, nestled in the walled garden (and crucially, heated to a bearable temperature all year round).
As you swim a leisurely length (or indeed, take a stroll anywhere around the plot of the picturesque site), it’s hard to believe you’re a mere half-hour train ride from London.
But that’s the beauty of Cliveden House – it’s a world away from anywhere else you’re likely to visit, in the best possible way. No wonder it’s long been the royal’s favourite secret escape.