Weekend Guests of the Astors
As surprisingly comfortable as it is overwhelmingly grand, this National Trust property is England’s most majestic country-house hotel.
Even adjectives like “spectacular” and “magnificent” seem inadequate amid the aristocratic proportions of the Italianate villa, much of whose present-day character reflects three generations of Astors (preceded by one Prince of Wales, among others), who lived here until 1966. (In the 1960s Cliveden was also the setting of the infamous Profumo scandal that led to the collapse of the Conservative government in 1964.)
A dinner in the excellent restaurant Waldo’s is reason enough to drive from London, though as an overnight guest you’ll have the luxury of working it off on the hotel’s 376 acres of riding paths or jogging trails.
Overlooking the River Thames, 15-foot-high windows afford views of the hotel’s antique boats, including Nancy Astor’s silent electric canoe. Piloted by uniformed boatmen, these are available for predinner Champagne cruises or picnics with large hampers of food furnished by the hotel.
Take pleasure in the formal gardens, drawing room fires, tailcoated footmen, chandeliered dining rooms, and palpable air of exclusivity, but what you may enjoy most is the royal treatment extended even to titleless guests.
Cliveden was built in 1666 by the Second Duke of Buckingham.
What: hotel, restaurant.
Where: 10 miles/ 16 km northwest of Windsor.
Tel: 4411628-668-561, fax 44/1628-661-837 ; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.clivedenhouse.co.uk
Cost: doubles from $320. Prix fixe dinner at Waldo’s $75.
When: dinner only daily.