Glass spends the weekend at Cliveden House

THE obvious way to start a review of Cliveden House would be to say that wandering through its halls is like emerging from a time machine to a different era, in a different England – I wouldn’t be the first or the last. But having spent the weekend there myself, that adage feels inaccurate.

Cliveden_ExteriorThe Cliveden House exterior at dusk

Not because the main façade is scattered with supercars that belong in the future, or because the outdoor pool glows at night in a manner far exceeding the possibilities of candlesticks and gas lamps. Rather, because there’s too much history at Cliveden to render it a visit to a singular past. It’s too rich – the accumulation of too many pasts, periods, and tenants, from its 17th-century origins to the 20th-century infamy of the Profumo Affair.

Cliveden_SpaCliveden’s spa and eye-catching water tower

Built by the Duke of Buckingham in 1666 to house his favourite mistress, Cliveden’s reception features, alongside a portrait of said mistress, an imported French marble fireplace built in 1507, a collection of armour, tapestries, and more maroon velvet than I’ve ever seen. On the front lawn is a 100ft water tower with a solid gold clock face. I wonder where he kept his wife.

33_Great_HallThe Great Hall at Cliveden House

When a place is as storied as Cliveden and wears it’s past(s) so prominently, there’s always a risk that it’ll feel like a live-in museum, and nobody wants that. Museums are cold and shiny, and touch is prohibited. There’s no comfort in museums, and Cliveden, in this latest incarnation, is a hotel and comfort is paramount.

Which brings me to what I enjoyed most about Cliveden: that it feels distinctly lived in. You sink into the sofas the way you should after centuries of sits, and furnishings feel ‘of the era’, rather than ‘created with the era in mind’.

27_Afternoon_TeaAfternoon tea at Cliveden House, overlooking the rear lawn

The dining room is just the right amount of Victorian kitsch, tapping into what I can only describe as a Cinderella aesthetic – I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised to hear that a 2015 remake was indeed filmed at Cliveden.

Nor was I shocked when the same waitress told me Cliveden’s bar, with its dimly lit nooks, brooding views of the misty grounds, and rows of books that are likely to double as hidden levers, featured in a recent Sherlock Holmes adaptation. It’s an undeniably evocative place.

19_Jan_LVMH_Veuve_Cliquot_Iconic-28The Veuve Clicquot bar at Cliveden House

We sat for cocktails, then dinner, ordering the winter black truffle risotto (a rich, warming treat), the duck confit (at once fresh and smoky) and the longhorn fillet of beef Wellington for two – a mammoth effort but impossible to walk away from.

34_Thames_BoatBoating on the Thames a short walk from the main building

Instead, save the walking for the morning, and wake early enough to take advantage of some of the stunning nature routes before check out. Venture down beyond the southern lawn until you reach a stretch of the Thames, where you can spend the afternoon boating – motorboats, pedalos, and rowboats are available for rental and will take you upstream within view of Cliveden’s hidden gem: Queen Victoria’s Spring Cottage.

50_Spring_CottageQueen Victoria’s Spring Cottage at Cliveden House

A warm oil massage awaits at the Cliveden Spa – site of the Profumo affair – for those who have exerted themselves sufficiently.

Sutherland SuiteThe Sutherland Suite, our home for the duration of our stay

All in all, Cliveden House is brilliant fun. While I’m no Anglophile, I found this theme park of Great British excess utterly irresistible. It’s hard to impress the urgency of a visit, as, when somewhere feels as if it’s been here forever, you assume it will continue to be here forevermore. In 2020, the future of anything feels ambiguous.

But a night in one of the building’s palatial suites – each named after a historic guest – is a thrill that defies the laws of time entirely.

by Charlie Navin-Holder