I once shook Justin Trudeau’s hand. It was awesome. Aside from this, moments of ‘feeling cool’ are very few and far between for me. Mainly because I am implausibly clumsy and spend my life channeling Hugh Grant and his hangdog stuttering in nearly every social situation. And yes, I have said “oopsy daisy” far too many times. So, whilst an invitation to Cliveden Spa, located just outside the Buckinghamshire village of Taplow, was most welcome I did methodically mull over how many times I’d trip over carpet edges, spill my supergreen smoothie down my white spa robe or snore during the massage.
I was pleasantly surprised, however, when none of the latter came into play and, in fact, my eyes remained peeled during the entirety of my dribble-inducing OSKIA massage. Here’s what happened when I attended the royal stomping ground that is Cliveden…
Before Meghan Markle married Harry she stayed at Cliveden House Hotel. I simply can’t imagine why, what with its 376 acres of sprawling country side, on which cockily sits the 350-year-old Grade I-listed manor, steeped in history. When a driveway is longer than a few Ford Escort’s and an Audi A1 you know you’re onto something fancy. Cliveden’s driveway could probably house several double decker buses and the entirety of Meghan Markle’s wedding dress train, and procession, and still have expertly raked gravel left over. Driving up it was magnificent. I felt like a princess, despite being in the back of a Toyota Prius.
The building is simply jaw dropping. It lies in the hands of the Livingstone brothers, who also own the 5-star Chewton Glen in Hampshire, and showcases all the pomp and circumstance one can expect from such a ravishing property. Inside, apart from Champagne flutes and coats of arms, you’ll find 47 rooms; the Cliveden Dining Room serving up à la carte and a tasting menu; the Astor Grill, a more informal restaurant located in a converted stables; and the Great Hall which serves up afternoon tea, with a side of raised little finger. The most dazzling part however, is attributed to the rolling greenery, punctuated by flora, fauna and topiary at the back of the house which, quite frankly, made me devoid of breath for a few seconds!
Despite the house eliciting vibes of Mr Darcy running, breathless and sweating towards a distressed Elizabeth Bennet, there is in fact quite a multifaceted and peculiar history sown to the house. The grand hotel was the former home of several Dukes, a Prince of Wales and Nancy Astor and is now owned by the National Trust, allowing the curious amongst us (me) to visit its plush expanses. However, behind the golden chandeliers and folded napkins is a place peppered with scandal; Cliveden hit the headlines in 1963 when it became known that John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, had met call girl – Christine Keeler – by the swimming pool. What followed was the end of Profumo’s career which nearly brought down the government. Great Gatsby eat your heart out…
The spa opened in 2017, and was constructed around an already existing swimming pool, (you know, that pool which brought down the government in 1961). It’s a haven of lavender, hot, bubbling jacuzzis and all the right kind of magazines. Perhaps one of my favourite intricacies is the spa’s unique fragrance, Nancy (named after Nancy Astor) is made with notes of fruit blossom, jasmine wild mint and lily and floods the senses upon visiting.
The recently re-opened spa champions relaxation and wellbeing. Waiting staff are humorous and on hand at all times to grace you with your next peanut power smoothie or glass of prosecco. Here, you’ll find a gym, an indoor heated pool, infrared sauna, aromatherapy steam room, indoor Jacuzzi, outdoor hot tubs, seven treatment rooms, a manicure, pedicure and hair dressing studio. I’d recommend all. However, it’s probably best to get your perm post-pool, as opposed to before…
The unparalleled luxury continues to the spa restaurant that offers al-fresco dining which we totally took advantage of. Downside? A hell of a lot of wasps, but that’s a compliment to the deletable dishes I’m sure. Before the spa day commenced, I nearly fell asleep in my robe, green smoothie in hand, but was swiftly awoken by the prospect of a dip in the outdoor jacuzzi.
A bubbly submerge later and lunch saw us consuming light, refreshing dishes that went hand-in-hand with a day at the spa. Super salad bowls dominate the menu, as do power potatoes. And, not one to suffer FOMO, I opted for both and fully enjoyed every bite.
The spa is unbelievably relaxing. You feel so far removed from London’s cacophony and we even switched our phones off for the entirety. Yes, I had a few mild panics during the course of the day, but I stayed true to being incommunicado and only snatched a quick bikini selfie towards the end, in the kitted-out changing rooms.
The latter part of the day was spent doing very spa-like things. Cliveden spa triumphs quintessential Britishness in so many ways. Meghan Markle’s face is splattered across various supplements throughout the spa, and the treatments and products on offer follow suit… with the quintessential Britishness, that is. The spa has recently announced an exclusive partnership with global beauty influencer Sarah Chapman, which combine powerful signature ‘gymnastics’ for the face. Whilst I’m not really sure what this means, I do know that the OSKIA facial I received was pretty life-changing. My face felt softer than a marshmallow, which was odd but advantageous. I even bought the rose water, used during the facial, because, well, wow!
If it were socially acceptable, I’d have chained myself to a spa bed and spent my days in lavender-smelling luxury. However, duty called and it was back in the cab to London and its inbox overloads. Cliveden House, you were an absolute showstopper.
Cliveden Spa can be found in Taplow, Berkshire, SL6 0JF. It depends entirely on your London location, but I found the best route was a tube to Paddington followed by the overground to Slough (super quick) and a taxi ride (approx 20 mins), www.clivedenhouse.co.uk