Cliveden House, arguably one of the most iconic stately home hotels in the world, is celebrated as much for its beauty as its notoriety. Built by the Duke of Wellington as a gift to his mistress, the house epitomises grandeur, elegance and intrigue.
Set in 376 acres of National Trust woodlands and formal gardens, including 1000 yew trees, a water garden, a rose garden, the 'Long' Italianate garden and a peripatetic maze, Clivden also commands a 6-acre Parterre sweeping down to the river Thames where you can sit on the South Terrace enjoying a glass of bubbles and a quite spectacular vista.
Personally, I find the history of Cliveden as enchanting as its beauty. Taken over by the Astor family at the turn of the Twentieth century, Nancy Astor was the first female politician elected to parliament, but it was the Profumo scandal of the sixties - played out within the majestic walls, and, notably, the ornate swimming pool, which really ignited public intrigue. My imagination always runs to the high jinx and decadence this stately house has witnessed over the epochs; it's something of a rarity that reality can be more enthralling than fiction.
I'd been to Cliveden before for lunch, and, being only an hour's drive from London it's the perfect mini-escape from the City, so I was looking forward to spending the day at the spa and the pool. On arrival, we were welcomed by Michael, the spa manager and shown around. The ambience is a real melange of old world charm and modern luxury with an impressive indoor swimming pool, wellness and spa lounge, restaurant, and of course, the infamous outside pool, which I was informed is the oldest of any stately home in Britain. The outdoor pool is heated to 28 degrees and comprises a generous lounging area, jacuzzi and exquisite stone sculptures - it really does feel like a different epoch and is the perfect antidote frenetic city life. Closing my eyes, I imagined the hedonism of by-gone times played out in this beautiful walled oasis.
After a lovely vegan lunch, which was creatively presented, I was shown to my treatment room where I enjoyed a full body massage with warm aromatherapy oils, made even more enjoyable by the glorious water bed, before a 'Go & Glow' facial using Oskia skincare which is both vegan and cruelty-free. My skin felt recharged, and my mind soothed by the use of the holistic oils. The spa also uses Sarah Chapman, which is a fantastic British skincare line loved by celebrities.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the pool gardens with a glass of champagne until the sun went down, re-imaging the hedonism of the old halcyon days.
Cliveden House is dog-friendly, another excellent feature, and I shall be returning very soon.