News & Reviews Europe England Review: Cliveden House, Cliveden

Cliveden House

Cliveden House, Cliveden
Room type:
Maison House Deluxe Room
23rd > 25th July, 2017
Booked with:
 A thoroughly pleasant chap

Losing my last trace of self-respect, I managed to blackmail my girlfriend into blackmailing an ex-work colleague into getting us a friends-and-family rate at Cliveden House.  It has been on my list for a long time, but upon the spa closing for a refurbishment last year it got further and further delayed.  Receiving this at substantial discount would, of course, reduce my normal levels of complaint down to a mere whisper in the wind.

Getting there

You take a train to Slough.  Yeah, that Slough.  I needn’t say anymore.  But I will.  Imagine, if you will, a war torn Baghdad, liberated from the the clutches of evil.  To celebrate, a football match is held to boost the morale of the locals, but unfortunately a mix-up takes place and the invites are sent out to all the worlds elite hooligans instead.  The aftermath of this is akin to Slough.  Luckily technology has caught up with the times and you can call an Uber and find yourself no longer in Slough, but about 20 minutes away in Cliveden House.

When we arrived, we were warmly greeted by the invisible doorman, who I imagined gave us some kind words of encouragements whilst we took our own luggage into the hotel.  I was whisked away by the large rush of nobody bolting towards us.

The invisible man’s mood was reflected by the weather.


For clarity, it is near Slough.  Luckily, once again, it realises the error of its ways and manages to avoid looking anything like it.  Set on National Trust grounds that would not look out of place in a Tim Burton fairytale; one where all the common folk descend upon the beautiful grounds at the end to celebrate the demise of somebody, most likely a woman, as all good fairytales do.   Cliveden House is the kinda place where once upon a time, a rich, giant, dickhead lived, and now plebs like me get the joy to visit.  And I’m not alone in visiting, as it being owned by The National Trust means you will find yourself frolicking around the grounds which everyone brings their aunty to for an afternoon stroll.  And I mean everyone.

The decor of the main reception area did not seem to fit in with the exteriors of the hotel.  It had the feel of a medieval castle.  It started giving me flashbacks to Ashford Castle, even down to the statutes in armour; the style of the rooms, and the huge amounts of tourists just wondering around the grounds. At Ashford I saw the bus aptly named “tourist bus” turn up, whereas Cliveden had the elegant stag/hen do bus with flashing lights appear late at night.  Stay classy, Slough.

The grounds back in a time before people roamed the earth.

Stay List

There wasn’t one.  They put as much effort in as a Brexit negotiator puts thought into their actions.  It took me back to the dark, dreary days pre-stay lists when arriving at a hotel was met by the wonder of what the room looked like.  Now I don’t care what it looks like.  I just want to analysis what they managed to screw up and write about it.  Yet how can I do that, when they didn’t even try?  I’m trying harder now to write about their lack of effort.


There are no room numbers here, only room names, named after either someone from the past or some furnishing style.  Our first attempt at a room was one called Chinese.  Even on a cheap stay I wasn’t having it and the only resemblance to China that I could tell was that I too had no desire to be there, so we asked what else they had available and they had one in the Maison House called Barry.  Not a name I associate with luxury and instead a waste of space comes to mind, but it was far more spacious and they agreed to up sell it to us for a nominal fee.  The major benefit of being in the Mansion House is that you get access to their honesty bar, which contains soft drinks and wine.  I made sure to take full advantage to counter the up sell fee.  What little honour I had left was drunk away in an Alain Millat late night binge.

As for the room itself, it was all the standard things I would expect: 4 walls and a ceiling.  I will not comment on the style of it, as it neither offends me or delights me, and should not be something that decides whether you wish to go or not, but any bathroom where the toilet sits in the middle of the room is going to struggle to get my seal of approval.  As is the use of Asprey.  It was a sign of things to come when it came to their use of products in the spa.  Where they do a good job is with the wardrobe space, high ceilings, double vanities and, with it being the same owner as Chewton Glen, the same in room iPads for ordering room service.

If you are lost, you can easily find your room as every room has your name put outside of it.  I cannot see any good reason for this, other than for your stalkers to find you easier.  I don’t believe we should discriminate, so if stalkers are their target audience, good for them I say.

Barry’s bedroom

Model not included, nor is she named Barry.

Dressing area


View from room


If you find yourself unable to navigate their website, then you are likely deemed to be sane.  To save you the bother, here is actually all you need to know that they offer:

  • 2 restaurants; Andre Garret restaurant and Astor Grill
  • Afternoon tea in either the bar or the main reception area
  • Bar
  • Spa

You’re welcome.


As if often the case, this is what took me away from my humble abode for the weekend.  After much fanfare, celebrations and most likely a good old fashioned English piss-up, the spa reopened after a long refurbishment project in July.  Instead of smashing a bottle of champagne against the building, they seemed to have decided to spray infinite amounts of chlorine everywhere instead.  So much that my partners jewellery changed colour after being in their not-quite-heated indoor jacuzzi for just a few minutes (I bought that jewellery, and I can assure you , my love, that it is 100% genuine – the nice man in the trench coat who sold it to me promised).  It seemed the issue was not only restricted to us, as the next day they shut down the indoor and outdoor jacuzzi as the PH was too high.  It’s an English thing to talk about a world where health & safety has gone mad, but apparently down near Slough they didn’t receive the memo and felt only after metals change colour on impact with your water that they should make a tweak or two.

I am not bothered by the requirement of chemical free spa products like others can be, yet even I could appreciate the awful smell and large quantities of chlorine used in the spa. Even after 2 showers the smell lingered on.

Danger, danger! High Voltage!

The facilities certainly look beautiful, even if there were parts they were still finishing off during our stay, including the hallway that excreted paint fumes, but some of the decision making processes don’t add up.  There is no waiting area for treatments, only a cold hallway; the indoor jacuzzi is cold; there is no poolside service (although there is a spa cafe for drinks/food); the indoor pool only has 8 loungers, yet they have an outdoor pool with an apparent never-ending supply of seating.  May I remind them this is England?  If we receive more than 20 days a year of sun, we are morally obliged to write letters to the Queen complaining about it.  Rain and misery, that’s what we’re after, thank you very much.  And that’s what I received: July and 14C.

Outdoor pool

My partner decided to treat herself to a treatment, but the only person who received any pleasure was me, when I got to hear how they screwed it up (sorry, my love, I will buy you some new jewellery, I promise.  It will even be real this time).  A facial was booked, only for the therapist to start doing a massage, meaning she would never have even glanced at the treatment form prior to starting.  There were then loud noises in the hallway, no explanation of the treatment, no consultation and the music needed to be stopped and restarted on 3 occasions.  There was no luxury involved.

Outdoor pool

Indoor pool




If you can find a few hours of the year where the weather is acceptable, you may consider going through their stunning grounds.


Cliveden House once boasted of having the worlds most expensive sandwich.  And it seems they’re still proud of that to this day, as they continue to charge similar prices.  However, back in those days, I can only imagine the food was readily available and contained portion sizes worthy of being called food. In our 2 day stay, they have ran out of: oysters, carrots, lamb, breadsticks and even bread.  The final turd in the coffin was when they ran out of yoghurts.  The prices are identical to Mayfair, yet somehow the portions are even smaller, if they even can get you a portion in the first place.

Consider that we are in the countryside, and then consider how they can possibly charge these prices.  £24 for a chicken with 1 tomato that you could eat in 5 bites; £26 for a milkshake and coffee; £8 for tomato soup that I’m convinced was Heinz.  It is the perfect place for a diet.  Our 3 course dinner with no alcohol in Andre Garret came to £210 and the largest part of the meal was the price.  Credit where it’s due, it was a good meal, but you could find much better in even London for a lot less.

Portion sizes of food shown to real dimensions.


My phone frequently said “no service” – it must be psychic.  The service was way too inconsistent, with giggling teenagers apparently in charge during lunch times whom learnt the art of decorum from watching Big Brother. Or they learnt it from the guests during the large double decker party bus that descended upon the hotel for some stag/hen do.

I do not have anything positive to say.  I really wish I did.  I’ve gone through my notes repeatedly to find it, but there is nothing but mistakes, the most annoying of which is the never-ending queueing at reception if you want anything. It reminded me far too much of my recent Amanzoe experience, in that no matter what you asked for, you would not actually get it and would await to see what would go wrong in the process of it.

Cliveden House water fountains


Chewton Glen gave us water and cookies; Cliveden House gave us the bill.

Worth Knowing

The hotel is not far from Heathrow, so you can enjoy your peaceful walk through the grounds whilst listening to the song of birds, bees and Boeing 777s overhead.

The Good

  • What food they had was excellent, albeit small

The Bad

  • Lack of luxury feel anywhere but the setting
  • I do not want to cause a public outcry, but the chlorine levels in the pool are so high that they must have been experimenting with other dimensions and released an unspeakable evil into this world that can only be killed by chlorine.  I’m on your side, guys!  Kill it!  Kill it dead!

The Luxurious

  • The gardens, grandness and history of the property


Poor service, large crowds of people, a disappointing spa and a stag do in a pear tree.  Not quite what I was expecting.  Yes, it sure is busy during the day, but who can blame people for that?  I would go regularly as well if I lived nearby, but how can you have luxury when it’s an attraction?   Outside guests must leave after 5pm from the grounds, but 9-5 is not a famous song for no reason, it is the majority of the day.

Even on a cheap stay I would not return, for the simple reason that Coworth Park is better in every area, excluding food and the grounds. It’s not awful, it’s just what I now consider to be average. I came, I saw, I leave knowing it’s not for me. Give me Chewton Glen (same owners) or Coworth Park any day.  Or just do yourself a favour and go to Switzerland instead.

Time to leave.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 25th Aug '17

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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