There’s probably no other hotel spa with quite such a notorious pool. Yes, other ‘waters’ have seen outlandish parties, and scandalous goings-on, but nowhere quite like Cliveden’s little oasis. This one-of-a-kind outdoor, heated pool is the only ‘listed’ pool in the UK, but, more famously, it is also the setting where John Profumo first laid eyes on Christine Keeler in the 1960s – a meeting which eventually led to the collapse of Conservative Party government at the time.
These days, it’s a tranquil little spot, found in the stately home’s fragrant walled gardens, and makes for the beating heart of Cliveden’s newly revamped spa. The opening of The Cliveden Spa marks the end point of a multi-million-pound restoration of Cliveden House in Berkshire, and it’s a stunner.
Of course, being protected, not much has been done to the pool itself, but rather a raft of enhancements has happened around it. A new state-of-the-art building gives a contemporary feel, and links the house to the spa. There’s a modern new Spa Kitchen – a light drenched restaurant, painted in muted Farrow & Ball colours, offering a range of light and healthy dishes and a Technogym-equipped fitness room with enough kit to train an Olympic team.
While the revamp of the house has been all about honouring the illustrious 350-year history of the property, the spa is all about modern luxury – so guests can expect white on white décor, a delicious indoor pool that seems to have been fashioned on a Roman-style bath, plus an infrared sauna, aromatherapy steam room, beauty studios and seven treatment rooms.
In the latter, a host of treatments, focusing on quintessential Britishness as a theme, can be sampled. There are ‘Skinesis’ facials by cult facialist Sarah Chapman – which combine her signature ‘gymnastics’ for the face and lifting massage (Cliveden is the only spa to offer her treatments) – as well as specially created Oskia treatments, renowned for its holistic, nutritional, anti-ageing approach.
Treatment rooms are wonderfully cocooning, with a moody ambiance and relaxing scents filling the air (the spa actually has its own bespoke fragrance inspired by two of Cliveden’s most famous ladies: the first, ‘Nancy Astor’, and the second, ‘Anna Maria’, lover of the second Duke of Buckingham, who built Cliveden).
After a foot-bathing ritual and consultation (so each therapy can be tweaked according to your needs), you sink into the most relaxing bed ever (made squidgy and soft due to its heated water mattress). The Oskia Glow Facial is one of the signature treatments and the closest thing to a face-lift you’ll get from a non-surgical, natural treatment. For 75-minutes your face is massaged, plumped, teased and caressed – its utterly hypnotising. While it feels totally pampering, there is a science behind the ethos. Lymph drainage and acupressure are both used to lift, relax & contour the face. There are fragrant aromatic compresses to gently open blocked pores and a special AHA mask to reveal radiant skin, as well as a warm rose oil to hydrate and smooth. Ravishing.
This is also an apt word to describe the rest of the property. It’s one of the grandest of our country house mansions, exuding glamour and heritage through every one of its creaking floorboards and wallpapered walls. Make sure you arrive early enough to explore the grounds – which are a delight. With 376 acres of Grade I listed formal gardens and ancient woodlands to roam around, you’ll need a bit of time. There’s the celebrated Parterre (created in 1855) and a maze to get lost in, giant games, an amphitheatre and even a temple where you can find a quiet moment or two.
Dinner is a must in the gourmet André Garrett Restaurant (the Astor Grill, found in the former stables, is more relaxed, but both are overseen by head chef Andre Garrett). Found in the exquisite former dining room of the house – complete with twinkling chandeliers and velvet upholstery, it feels as if you have arrived at a private party hosted by the Astors (the former owners of Cliveden). Dress up to fit in.
The eight-course Tasting Menu showcases the chef’s love of seasonal, English ingredients. Among the starters, there’s ‘Girolle Cream’ and “Portland Crab’, and then you’ll move onto ‘Cornish Turbot’ and ‘Fallow Deer’ in the line-up of ‘mains’. Of course, these simplistic descriptions belie the intricacy behind each dish – all of which are punctuated by amuse-bouche or pre-desserts and little fancies, with each being elaborately dressed and layered with complex taste sensations.
When it’s time to retire, you’ll find your room beautifully dressed. Huge, four-poster, drape-enthroned beds are just the thing to dive into, while vintage-style lamps will be dimmed, and the heavy drapes drawn. If you want a nightcap, just visit the Butler’s Pantry – where you can stock up on drinks and nibbles as and when you wish.
All of the 34 bedrooms and nine suites have been revitalised in keeping with the rich history of the house, but with modern must-haves like flat-screen TVs and underfloor heating. Each room is named after a prominent guest or figure from Cliveden’s past and furnished accordingly… from Churchill to Chaplin, Astor to the Prince of Wales, and each giving a unique experience. The Lady Astor Suite is the finest, not least because of its breath-taking views over the gardens and surrounding Berkshire countryside. The room also has a huge marble bathroom with stand-alone tub, antiques galore and an impressive bed complete with red-velvet headboard. It’s just the place to lie back and think of England.
Overnight rates at Cliveden start from £445, clivedenhouse.co.uk
This article is also published on The Arbuturian