Cliveden House has a cheeky past. While London was burning in 1666, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham was building a country estate for his mistress, which went on to become a symbol of intrigue, glamour and vigour throughout the elite of the country. Times moved on, but the house found itself back in the spotlight in 1961 at the centre of the Profumo affair – a political scandal with a saucy secret.
Throughout its history however the estate has become immortalised as one of the finest country houses in the world through countless letters, books, poetry, art, film and even the odd episode of Antiques Roadshow.
Cliveden sits proudly on the banks of the River Thames, surrounded by ancient woodland, up-river from the hurly burly of London, just shy of the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Now, in our experience, if you want to really let rip with a motor, this is the kind of place you need.
An AONB is defined as an area of countryside which has been designated for conversation due to its significant landscape value – and the Chilterns is a vast 324 square miles of just that. It’s also worth noting that this is probably one of the most accessible areas of beautiful countryside, too – you can even get the tube there!
Our trip to Cliveden didn’t require the use of an Oyster card however. In an exclusive collaboration between Land Rover and House of Coco, we have been tasked with exploring some of the country’s most impressive locations in one of the country’s most impressive vehicles. The new Range Rover Evoque is a compelling successor to the car that captured hearts all over the world – including ours. After all, not all travel is on trains and planes.
The façade of Cliveden makes a statement, and the only way to answer is by making one back. It’s one of those places that is so beautifully striking that even rolling down the driveway makes you feel like you’ve made it.
There’s no doubt that this has become one of England’s grandest hotels. What surprises is the lack of pretence. Service is seamlessly efficient without being uncomfortable. Staff revel in tales of the houses’ past – the ones that didn’t make it to the front of the Daily Mail, that is… But if you’re half as naughty as some of the past owners of this house, you might want to be careful what scandalous shenanigans you get up to during your stay, as tradition goes that each guest has their name written on a small card on the door.
There are 38 rooms spanning several categories, from club and classic rooms, to entire cottages and suites. The hotel is a plethora of four poster beds, private fireplaces, roll top baths, balconies, hot tubs… Everyone know we work hard and play harder, but even these beds had us waking up feeling as jolly as Julie Andrews frolicking over a hill.
Nothing succeeds like excess… and nothing exceeds like the dining options at Cliveden. Once the home of some of the most exclusive balls and dinners in the whole world – they’ve not done much to tone it down.
The main event is the Cliveden Dining Room – a room so grand you expect it may hit an iceberg at any moment. Expect dishes like tartare of beef fillet with Barkham Blue and pickled quail egg – or whipped blue cheese with gingerbread. We read every single dish on every single menu, and all of them sound as good as that, so we’ll stop right there.
The beds and the food aren’t all that’s grand here. The estate actually now belongs to the National Trust so the grounds are exquisite, without a doubt – and it’s a real testament to how fancy the house is when they charge you a tenner to have a walk around the garden.
In a way we can really resonate with this place. Strong, full of character, luxurious yet never pretentious – and with a naughty secret hidden around every corner…
Visit www.clivedenhouse.co.uk to find out more.