"It was a magical home in which to be brought up in for the first quarter
of my life. It was the house that was special. Cliveden has always had
a happy atmosphere. It welcomed you as it welcomes you today. It is a house in
which to entertain and be entertained."
So wrote William 4th Viscount Astor of his early home, the grandest of all of England's great country houses, where three generations of his family lived and which had also been the residence of three dukes, an earl and the Prince of Wales.
"The magic was of exploring the gardens and roaming the woods on our ponies," Astor added.
|The Great Hall, Cliveden, outside London
Located a little more than half an hour outside London, those woods, now belonging to the National Trust, number 376 acres of lovingly tended gardens and parkland set high on the steep chalk cliffs above the Thames River. The property contains topiary, statuary, a formal parterre, an octagon-shaped temple, a clocktower, endless varieties of flowers, water gardens, miles of paths and a 172-step yew wood staircase leading to the water.
The mansion, described by prior residents as a "bijou of taste" and "a house of extraordinary expense," is now let as a hotel and a private club whose membership is limited to 300. It was built where the view down the Thames is the most striking.
Cliveden, numbering among the world's top caravansaries, and certainly the best in Britain, has a staff of 150 to attend to paying guests who fill 38 rooms and suites named for illustrious visitors. Guests, who began to occupy the palatial chambers in 1986, stay in museum-like surroundings amid matchless furnishings and architecture. The halls, with Orkney tapestries, marble busts, historic portraits and suits of armor, double as galleries. The Cliveden Collection consists of over 400 pieces; a Joshua Reynolds painting hangs in the Terrace Dining Room.
Comfort is not sacrificed to stateliness, and every room is as cheery and comfortable as Lady Astor, a former mistress of the estate, would have liked it to be.
When you overnight at Cliveden, it's easy to pretend you are visiting royalty.
Cliveden, Taplow, Berkshire SL6 OJF, England. Tel. 800-747-6917. Rates begin
at about $465. www.clivedenhouse.co.uk
Odd as it may seem, Cliveden was merely a weekend retreat built as an aristocratic escape from the city townhouse. Therefore, in keeping with tradition, Cliveden Ltd. purchased a string of three old homes, formerly a hotel. It was renamed The Cliveden Town House, and refurbished to be as wonderfully opulent as its sister property.
Located in quiet Cadogan Gardens near Knightsbridge and Chelsea, it has 35 suites and rooms, all named after people in the arts. The drawing room overlooks private gardens and the elegant accommodations are in keeping with the large, graceful proportions of the Edwardian period.
A stay at The Cliveden Town House is like a stay in the London of your fantasies.
The Cliveden Town House, 26 Cadogan Gardens, London SW3 2RP, England. Tel. 800-747-4942. Rates begin at approximately $200.
To reach London, fly Virgin Atlantic Airways. Upper Class has many complimentary
extras not found on other airlines. There is no charge for any of the special
services available in the lounge at Heathrow or onboard. For example, an in-flight
beauty therapist offers massages and manicures. Those who want to sleep while
airborne are given a snooze suit and seated in a special section. Depending
on distance, you may also be transported without charge by limousine from your
home or hotel to the airport. Virgin Atlantic Airways Upper Class lounge at
Heathrow should be a model for all others. A full-service beauty salon dispenses
haircuts, facials, massages, aromatherapy and manicures. The restaurant offers
a tasty choice of menu items and the bar stocks a full selection of drinks.
If you would like to freshen up when you arrive, just use the shower and hand
your shoes to the shoeshine man. You can also enjoy the conservatory, golf
driving range, observation deck and music room. But if your schedule is tight
and work beckons, there is a business room, too. Virgin Atlantic Airways
Ltd., 800-862-8621. www.virgin-atlantic.com