Like so many British properties, Cliveden House is steeped in history. It originally was owned by the Duke of Buckingham, then bought by the wealthy Astor family. The charm of this old-world country house is immense, and the grounds and architecture are quite stunning.
Families who are Downton Abbey fans will fall in love with Cliveden House for its Downton-esque grandeur. What makes it really special, though, is the warm and friendly staff, allowing guests to relax and genuinely experience this bygone era.
The 376-acre Berkshire estate is a 20-minute drive from Heathrow Airport, making it the perfect springboard to begin a UK holiday. Head straight here to recover from jet lag for a few days. When you’re refreshed, rejuvenated and ready for city action, you can take an easy 40-minute train into London’s Paddington Station.
All 38 rooms and suites are uniquely decorated and named after the illustrious figures who have been part of the manor’s checkered history — guests are treated to a glimpse of what it must have been like to be a guest of Lord Astor. Each room is filled with antiques and period pieces combined with modern comforts, including heated bathroom floors and tablets loaded with information about the hotel and the surrounding area.
The hotel’s 15 spacious suites are well suited for families. We stayed in the Mountbatten Suite, named after British statesman Lord Mountbatten. The suite included a picture of him and a description of his role in Cliveden’s history. At night we pondered: If only these walls could talk!
Extra beds can be added to many of the double rooms. There’s also Spring Cottage, a freestanding summerhouse by the River Thames that sleeps up to six guests. For the ultimate Downton Abbey experience, guests can request their own “Carson” (butler) to cater to their every whim.
Michelin-starred chef Andre Garrett oversees the fine-dining restaurant that carries his name. The gorgeous dining room overlooks the spectacular formal gardens. Our meal was sublime, from the attentive but not intrusive service to the extremely helpful sommelier to the great kids’ menu. The restaurant is best suited for older children; for younger ones, have the concierge arrange babysitting. André Garrett serves a wonderful breakfast buffet as well.
The more casual Club Room restaurant is located in the old stables and has a nice outdoor eating area. The kids enjoyed playing with the House cat while we waited for our food. For a treat, splurge on a Cliveden picnic to enjoy on the grounds — the food is fabulous.
A game of croquet on the beautiful grounds is a must! Families looking for more of a workout will enjoy the indoor and outdoor tennis and squash courts. Racquets and balls are provided, and a tennis coach can be arranged for a fee. Afternoon tea at Cliveden House is another quintessential English experience (book well in advance, especially for weekends).
The Pavilion Spa, with beautiful indoor and outdoor pools, is located inside the Walled Garden, made famous by its association with the 1960s Profumo affair, a British political scandal. Guests can enjoy drinks and food poolside.
One of the most amazing things to do is simply to explore the grounds and gardens of the Cliveden National Trust. There are exceptional walks, many stroller-friendly, through the gardens. The kids’ favorite? A maze made of 1,000 yews.
Cliveden House has a boathouse on the Thames with two lovingly restored vintage boats, the Suzy Ann and the Belmont. The sunset cruise on the Suzy Ann was a highlight of our stay, with champagne for Mom and Dad and sparkling juice for the kids.
Excursions in the local area abound. Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world and also the official residence of Her Majesty The Queen. Only a 20-minute drive from Cliveden, it’s a must-see for those who have never been (order tickets online to avoid the queue). Legoland theme park is great for children ages 2 to 12 and is also a short drive from Cliveden. Horseback riding and golf are nearby as well.
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Editor’s Note: Sandy received a media rate at Cliveden House in order to review the property for Ciao Bambino. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Sandy Pappas except where noted.
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