Cliveden House Hotel
Berkshire SL6 0JF
Tel: 44 1628 668561
Tel: 44 1628 607107 (Reservations)
Karenable rating: 🍾🍾🍾🍾🍾+
The recent Royal wedding reminded me about a very special place in SSO’s and my heart: Cliveden. It was my first ‘home’ in England for the first couple of months I was there, I swam in their outdoor pool year-round and made visiting a key part of my daily routine for the better part of a decade. We celebrated many special family events there and it was the venue of many Supercar ‘picnics’.
The 1st time I visited Cliveden was on a cold but sunny December day shortly after the turn of the century. Cold and sunny is a delightful but rare combination in the UK. The relocation agent picked me up from my office and drove me through the countryside then up a long drive, around a spectucular fountain, along a walled garden with what appeared to have steam rising from behind the walls and finally parked in front of this imposing Italianate mansion. We had arrived at Cliveden House. We walked over to the door to the walled garden. Upon opening, the most glorious sight was to behold! An outdoor heated pool (80 degrees) with 2 hot tubs (104 degrees)! Inside there was another heated pool and various spa rooms.
We then walked up to the main house which was decked out for Christmas. The fire was roaring in the massive fireplace, a 30-foot Christmas tree elegantly decorated was standing directly in front of the entrance, a quartet was playing live Christmas music and the champagne was flowing for the lunch guests. I could live here.
The Club Room is in a separate building and back then it was reserved for Cliveden Club Members only (it is now open to all house guests). It was the old stables of Cliveden and they maintained the original character of the room. I met the Club Manager, learned of the Club benefits, and immediately signed the paperwork and reserved a room for a two month stay for when I returned to the UK in the New Year. Upon return I stayed in the Lady Astor Suite initially for a few nights. This has to be the largest hotel suite I have inhabited. In fact, I think it was bigger than my first house not even counting the outdoor terrace overlooking the incredibly manicured Parterre and long drive down to the Italian fountain. I felt like Royalty.
Until we moved from the UK, I swam every morning in Cliveden’s outdoor pool, followed with a sauna. It’s a sensational way to start the day. Post my swim, regardless of the weather it was roof down on my Jaguar XKR with my hair blowing dry in the wind. Unless the storm had a name, my roof was down. In the winter months, heated seats on, fur hair band and shawl and good to go. Despite a wonderful granite pool in our backyard here in the US, I still miss Cliveden and the ‘morning crew’ of a few regular members who we were very fond of, and to this day SSO and I remain in contact and visit when across the pond.
SSO organized various ‘supercar picnics’ at Cliveden, where everyone would line up their cars along the main drive and set up their picnics along the grass beside. Picnics are a quintessential part of English culture. To clarify, an English Picnic requires Champagne, anything else, at least among our friends, appears to be optional. These events started around 10:30 and ended sometime mid-afternoon. The first year, 2009, that SSO organized the event we had 30 Ferraris in attendance. The Events became popular over the years with the numbers growing each year. By the last event in 2014, it had grown to the point where we had to limit the number of Ferraris, McLarens, Lamborghinis, and other rare exotica to 170 as that was all that would fit on Cliveden’s drive. That is just the cars and their occupants. As Cliveden is a National Trust Property, there were always hundreds of people who would show up just to admiring the cars. As word spread, there seemed to be a lot more Dads and their sons joining just to see the show. It is not that often you have 170 supercars in one place and over the years we had everything from Ferrari F50’s, F40’s, 288 GTO’s, Enzo’s 275’s, 250’s, 330’s, 365’s, etc…. plus McLarens, Paganis, Lamborghinis, Koenigseggs, Jaguar XJ220s, & a pair of XJR-15 just to mention a few. As members of the Cliveden Club, we were able to access the roof-top of the House which provide a great vantage point for a few spectacular pictures.
I would be remiss not to give you the inside view of some of the rooms beyond the Lady Astor Suite. Over the years, we had the opportunity to stay in nearly every one of the Cliveden rooms. The most spectacular is the Spring Cottage. This is where Michael Jackson hid out for several months after his trial in California and it also has been the venue for multiple secret negotiation sessions. Rumor has it that Henry Kissinger has used it often for meetings. It is an adorable cottage directly on the River Thames. Multiple bedrooms, full kitchen (not sure why as the staff deliver you all the food and drinks you could ever dream of wanting), dining room, huge living room with a fireplace, a terrace and even its own dock. We had a birthday party there complete with a bouncy castle for the kids. All of the rooms in the Main House are different. The Lord Astor Suite is on par with the Lady Astor Suite but mahogany walled and well, rather masculine as you would expect. The Chinois Room are as expected, is all done in Chinois upholstery and furniture. Even the so-called Club Rooms, were elegant albeit on the smaller side; but many still have a terrace and overlook the outdoor pool.
Cliveden was also the venue for many special family events. The French Dining Room is a spectacular setting for private dinners. It was literally disassembled from a Chateau in France and reassembled at Cliveden. We had many celebrations there we will never forget: Graduation Dinners for the boys, Birthday Celebrations, and family gatherings the week of Christmas. The main dining room is also special. It is large but still intimate and has recently undergone very tasteful renovations. Waldo’s, an exquisite quaint dining room in the basement had a Michelin Star! It is a shame it is no longer in operation as their death by chocolate dessert was worth every single calorie and more. There is also the Cellar Room in the basement, which was the original wine cellar for the house. It is now outfitted with a table that seats 12 and can also be reserved for private dinners. Just outside are the old servant’s bells that connect to each of the 30+ rooms. It’s a nice touch that reminds you that this once was a privte residence.
Beside the main dining room and off of the main lounge is the Library with a wood burning fireplace that adds to its ambiance. I used to have my morning coffee there with fresh, homemade biscuits (cookies for you Americans) after my swim. The Library had all the local newspapers, magazines and a fine selection of books. There were tables by the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Parterre creating a beautiful place to start or end your day. There were a few other smaller “hidden” rooms that few people know about where you can steal away for a private conversation or intimate gathering.
We also had a few more traditional picnics by the River Thames on a few lazy Sunday afternoons. Knowing the grounds, we would drive down to Cliveden’s River Cottage, park the car and walk along the Thames to find a quite area, throw down the blanket and set-up for the afternoon. Our picnic basket became more elaborate over the years, wine and champagne glasses with ‘holders that spiked into the ground’; wine bags that kept the bubble chilled for several hours, full collection of plates, bowls, & cutlery. A wonderful way to spend a Sunday summer afternoon
Cliveden will always hold a special place in our hearts. We will definitely be back!
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