Tag Archives: country house hotels

My stay at Cliveden, a hotel fit for a Princess-to-be (and why I hope Meghan gets to return)

I really hope that Meghan Markle gets another chance to spend the night at Cliveden, the historic country house hotel where she is spending the night before her wedding. While the luxury five-star Berkshire hotel with its 376 acres of stunning  countryside will be a great haven of calm for her before the madness of the big day itself, as a nervous bride-to-be I’m not sure how much she’ll be able to take in of the hotel itself: its sumptuous rooms, its luxury spa, its fine-dining restaurant and most of all, the atmosphere of history and celebrity which is soaked into the very walls.

Throughout my own stay at the rather fabulous Cliveden House Hotel, there was one question which I found almost impossible to answer. Would Cliveden still be as fabulous if it wasn’t, well, Cliveden? Would it seem as special if it were just a very nice 17th century country house in which Winston Churchill and Noel Coward hadn’t stayed, for example? Would its gardens still be as pretty if you weren’t thinking that Lady Astor had strolled these very grounds with George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin?

And would the beautiful outdoor swimming pool in the walled garden still be quite as marvellous to swim in if – well, you get the idea.

Cliveden Meghan Markle Royal Wedding
This is the first sight of Cliveden and its bell tower as you come up the lengthy driveway

The thing about Cliveden is that it is almost impossible to judge it on its own merits by separating it from its quite incredible past. The Great Hall with its portraits and grand fireplace is stunning, but it feels even more so because you know that some of the most accomplished people in recent history have discussed art and politics over cocktails exactly where you are sitting.

Cliveden House Megan Markle Royal Wedding
Cliveden is set in 376 acres of countryside, including some impressive ornate gardens

The swimming pool would be a talking point in its own right, but it is particularly amazing to swim in because you know it is where John Profumo met Christine Keeler and precipitated a whole chain of events which scandalised the nation and eventually led to the fall of the Government.

Cliveden House Meghan Markle Royal Wedding
Yes, it’s THAT swimming pool…

The gardens and the drive leading up to the house are spectacular enough anyway without the backdrop of history to set them off, but there is a thrill which sparkles through the very air at Cliveden which makes a visit there seem far more than just a night away in just any old stately home. Continue reading My stay at Cliveden, a hotel fit for a Princess-to-be (and why I hope Meghan gets to return)

It’s Oscar time – but who is going to triumph in my very own ALadyofLeisure.com awards?

Last year was a hectic one for ALadyofLeisure.com with 50 fabulous places reviewed, and with so many to choose from, it’s hard to pick out the best. However some were so memorable that I wanted to single them out for special praise – and hopefully encourage many of you to discover them for yourselves. Do let me know what you think of my choices – and what you think I should be reviewing in 2016.

Most memorable meal

Winner – Judgement of Paris tasting menu at The Vineyard, Newbury

The eight-course menu made for a stand-out evening of its own, but hotelier Peter Michael’s idea was to replicate the infamous wine-tasting in Paris in 1976 when for the first time, Californian wines beat French wines in a blind-tasting. Each course comes with two wines for you to taste – so if the course calls for a sauvignon blanc, you’ll get one French and one Californian, and you just have to decide which is which. Fiendishly, some wines are served in black wine glasses so you have to guess the colour too – far more difficult than it might sound! The whole evening was a delight for the senses and a must-do for wine-lovers everywhere.

The Judgement of Paris at the Vineyard, Newbury, is a truly memorable evening
The Judgement of Paris at the Vineyard, Newbury, is a truly memorable evening

Runner-up – Dinner at Gravetye Manor, Sussex

From the canapes to the amuse-bouche watercress soup, hand-dived Orkney scallops with miso glaze, to the Cornish turbot with black rice and girolle mushrooms and herb-crusted saddle of lamb with roasted garlic and haggis and onto a wonderful cheese trolley, the food at Gravetye Manor is a foodie’s delight. Lunch in the garden and breakfast the following day were also first-class – small wonder that shortly after my visit, the Sussex hotel was awarded a prestigious Michelin star. Continue reading It’s Oscar time – but who is going to triumph in my very own ALadyofLeisure.com awards?