A stately home for stately hounds
Relishing the thought of escaping the city for the weekend, we took the short drive from central London to our destination du jour, Cliveden House. No sooner were we off the motorway, than we found ourselves turning on to the iconic driveway, the majestic, Cliveden House straight ahead of us. As we slowly made our way down the drive – keen to savour the moment – Rigby was standing to attention, giving his best impression of a regal hound who has suddenly found his homeland.
Met at the door by the friendly doorman, our bags were whisked away while we were ushered through the towering doors into the decadent lounge ahead. While Rigby greeted the other hounds, already ensconced in the sumptuous surrounds, we took in the stunning dark panelling, deep crimsons and spectacular flower arrangements in the atmospheric hall.
With the hotel receptionist keen to meet the furry one, much fuss ensued as Rigby wagged his hello’s. Chomping at the bit to explore more of the magnificent surrounds, we were all keen to see our slumber spot. We were led through the towering, elegant hallways, history and heritage oozing out of every corner, chimney and crest until we arrived at The Blakeney Suite, our name in place on the door. Feeling more than welcome, no sooner was the door ajar than Rigby was shooting through, keen to find out what delights lay ahead. With a super comfy cushion bed, bowls, and we anticipated a much-needed towel, Rigby was firmly in residence!
We meanwhile were entranced by the view before us. On the second floor, our south facing suite looked directly out over the formal gardens below, the view stretching beyond the hilltop upon which Cliveden is routed, across the valley to the neighbouring towns beyond. This really was somewhere to sit and stare! Dragging ourselves away from the vista, we took in our creamy surrounds, accented by pink and red velvet fabrics giving a nod to the suite’s namesake, Sir Percy Blakeney, the Scarlet Pimpernel in the novels by Baroness Orczy. A door was then opened to reveal our huge marble lined bathroom completed with deep fill, roll-top bath facing the stunning view beyond – we had we decided found our spot – this is exactly where we would later be found!
With the kindly receptionist having taken her leave, we sniffed out the complimentary pantry. Having taken our pick from the tempting treats on offer, drinks in hand, we headed back to enjoy our refreshments in our stunning suite.
Soon informed by Rigby that outside really was too good to miss, we donned our Dubarry’s, wriggled the wriggly Rigby into his coat and we were off. Striding out the main doors, the tree-lined avenue ahead, it was impossible not to smile. As Rigby led the way down the grassy banks towards the forest ahead, we had the feeling that this was exactly what life should be like!
Rigby was keen to explore every tree and blade of grass as we strolled along the banks surrounding the house, it regularly peeping out in the background to tempt us back. Then we were on to the forest paths, where the grand sweeping alleys between the trees were being explored by many a human and hound, making the most of the National Trust grounds. After a couple of hours of exploring, with feet and paws aching, we headed back to the warm embrace of Cliveden House, where the helpful doorman found us a much-needed towel and water to wash away Rigby’s forest escapades.
With Rigby (and husband!) snoozing happily in our suite, I took the opportunity to explore the recently renovated spa. Winding my way around the Italianate golden clock tower, with a nod to Piazza San Marco, I found the enticing enclave. With outdoor and indoor pools and hot tubs, surrounded by luxurious loungers, the Italian vibe was in full force. In the serene surrounds, my tired limbs soon recovered in the heat rooms unit l reluctantly dragged myself away to return to the boys, still it would seem slumbering deeply, oblivious to my jaunt!
After an aperitif for all and invigorating showers all round, we headed to the dog-friendly Astor Grill for dinner. Tucked away in the old stable block, where once a time a fine collection of horses we’re sure were in residence, we were welcomed in.
With blue leather banquettes lining the former horse stalls and equine touches throughout, this cosy dining spot was a delight to partake of. Rigby soon spotted our stall, his water bowl already awaiting his arrival and he quickly settled in, with more than enough room to spread his paws. Now first thing first, to peruse the doggy menu – pan friend chicken or fillet steak sir…? With Rigby’s meal ordered we moved on to reading our menu. A modern British and European bistro menu, there was plenty to tempt but post our walk, comfort food was calling.
From the prawn cocktail and orecchiette starters to our mains of the Astor Burger, served with raclette, and rumpcap steak with chimichurri our cravings were more than satisfied and barely a peep was heard from the furry one who for once, took his time enjoying his food (served to his temperature request), and finished with a plate of biscuits – doggy bliss!
Having prised ourselves away and out into the night air, we took a stroll, fresh enough to blow the cobwebs away before retiring to our room, to relax in front of our fire.
After a sound nights sleep for all, in we have to say one of the comfiest beds we have tried of late, and with Rigby not having moved a paw from his cushiony spot, we took a stroll in the bright morning, before returning Rigby to continue his slumber as we headed down to breakfast.
Served in the elegant main dining room, with its soaring windows overlooking the gardens and decadent decor, with long flowing fabrics and velvet chairs, it was a first-class way to start the day. Still a little full from the night before, we both took our pick from the continental buffet, overflowing with fruits, pastries, ham and cheese. The coffee gradually awakening us, little conversation was had as we once again sat entranced by the view ahead.
Returning to Rigby, I couldn’t resist any longer, the bath with the view had to be tried. So while Rigby and my partner picked up the paper and sat in one of our plethora of chairs, facing the awe-inspiring view ahead, I soaked and contemplated – captivated by thoughts of what life must have been like for those who once called this majestic house home.
Now our only problem was to prise Rigby (and us!) away from what he had very much decided should be his new abode, even making a plea to be the hotel dog, on leaving taking up residence behind reception. Perhaps just one more walk through the woodlands before we depart…
Wonderfully welcoming to human and hound, Cliveden is a very special dog-friendly destination. With its stunning grounds, extensive dog-friendly facilities, luxurious surrounds and affable staff, this is a trip that you will remember.