Neoclassical mansion Cliveden House, once notorious for its celeb parties, is now a luxurious hotel. The beautifully refurbished spa is set in a walled garden brimming with roses and lavender. Treatments are performed on waterbeds using Oskia and Cliveden products. Book private yoga, Thai Chi or tennis sessions, or drape decadently around the hot tubs, pools, sauna and steam room. The heated outdoor pool, where Minister John Profumo first glimpsed actress Christine Keeler in 1961, is now listed – you can bathe in its infamy, however virtuous you may have been in the spa.
- Family swim times
- 17.9 metre heated outdoor pool
- Outdoor hot tub
- Indoor swimming pool
- Infra red sauna
- Steam room
- The Spa Kitchen
- Tennis courts
- Sarah Chapman
- Cliveden Body Products
Our Spa Spy review
Cliveden is the very grandest of country houses. Lived in by dukes, earls, viscounts and even a prince, but made famous by The Astor family whose house parties were renowned for their guest list of politicians and glitterati. Scandal struck in the early 1960s with the Profumo Affair. The Astor family handed the house over to the National Trust. The estate is now open to the public and the house is a luxurious hotel, with a newly revamped spa.
If you're visiting the spa for the day, you can park outside the hotel. Drive past the ornate fountains and head straight for the huge main Cliveden House. The spa is on the right of the house.
What's on offer?
The spa has been built into the old stable block, with a courtyard created by the brick walls of the garden. You enter through the huge wooden gate, rather like entering a secret garden, then into the first of two reception areas. Staff greeted us at the first reception, then took us via a glass-sided cloister to the main spa reception area and conservatory. The changing rooms are long and narrow, with some private cubicles at one end, and a vanity area at the other. They have all you need in the way of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, body lotion, spinner for your swimsuit, hairdryers...
The 20-metre indoor pool has a Jacuzzi at one end. The nicely hot Jacuzzi is fitted into an alcove which reduces the sound of the bubbles in the main pool area, and makes the Jacuzzi feel quite private.
The infrared sauna is large enough for about ten people. The infrared heat warms the muscles up very effectively without overheating the rest of the body. There is also a large tiled aromatherapy steam room, a well equipped gym, a manicure room and a large spa lounge and café.
The outdoor pool is the centrepiece of the courtyard. It is sheltered by the brick walls that surround it and there is plenty of outdoor seating as well. Two large Canadian hot tubs provide a warm spot to sit in the water and enjoy the view.
Cliveden is a spa where you feel steeped in history. The outdoor pool is "that" swimming pool where call girl Christine Keeler first met John Profumo and started a scandal that almost brought down a government. For those too young to remember, he was Secretary of State for War and his affair with Ms Keeler overlapped with her affair with a Russian Naval Attaché. It gave a whole new meaning to the expression "pillow talk"!
Its more sedate historical connection is that the pool is the only Grade 1 listed outdoor swimming pool in the country. To the left is a lovely tower with a spiral stone staircase and golden clock face (now often called the Cinderella tower as it was used in the latest film version of the Cinderella story).
Tell us about the treatments
We tried the Sarah Chapman Skinesis® facial (90 minutes; £145)
Treatments at the Spa at Cliveden take place on a water mattress. Although it feels a little odd at first, as the water moves under you, it soon settles down. The warm water allows your body to rest in a position that protects the lower back, which is useful for long treatments .
The Sarah Chapman products are designed to increase skin health and encourage new skin cells to form. As we age, the rate at which we form new skin cells slows down. By using products and treatments which are thought to speed up cell turnover, skin can look brighter and fresher. The other important element of this treatment is the massage. An understanding of the muscle structure is vital as the massage gives an effective workout for the key muscles which underpin the skin. Gymnastics for the face!
My therapist, Becky, used some of the lovely creamy products to cleanse and prepare my face, then focused on the massage. She made a series of tiny, pinching, lifting, massage movements along the lines of my facial muscles. It was all very fast and very specific. In places, it was quite painful, especially across my cheek bones. When Becky began work on them for the second time, I wanted to mutter "Not there..." but held my tongue, and counted the seconds until she moved on.
The end result was well worth it. My face shape had changed. I no longer had "chipmunk" cheeks and my jawline was tightened. This facial really does have an effect similar to a face lift. The manual lifting technique drains excess fluid and lifts the cheeks which in turn pulls up the rest of the face. My skin was brighter and plumped up, too. I am not sure I would ever be brave enough to try a face lift, but maybe I don't need to. I will just have to book in here more often instead!
The Cliveden Spa offer a range of body treatments from the Cliveden Body Collection, facials by Sarah Chapman and Oskia, alongside manicures and pedicures and blow dries. There are also bespoke spa days and specialist lifestyle and fitness sessions.
The spa café has comfortable chairs and small tables. It serves lovely fruity smoothies, salads and hot drinks. You can sit and enjoy your lunch in your robe looking out over the pool. Our salad bowl was crisp and light but had a lovely rich lemon dressing.
The highlight of eating at Cliveden must be dinner in the Andre Garrett restaurant. It's wonderfully grand. Huge windows frame the view over the parterre gardens. Huge chandeliers illuminate the room. It's worth dressing up for, but staff are welcoming and friendly. They use locally sourced seasonal products. My spa partner's turbot with pea puree was fresh and perfectly cooked. My indulgent beef fillet was tender and full of flavour.
We loved / we didn't love
The wonderfully restful atmosphere in the spa with its gentle buttermilk colour scheme. The courtyard with the outdoor pool is sheltered and is a suntrap on warm days. The conservatory catches the sun and lets in plenty of natural light.
The Sarah Chapman facial and its extraordinary results.
The infrared sauna which warms the muscles much more effectively than a traditional sauna, without drying the throat.
The sheer grandeur of the house from the suit of armour in the lounge, to the four-poster bed in our bedroom.
We didn't love
The manicure room is very simple with just chairs and a couple of tables.
There is no quiet or private area for post-treatment relaxation. The spa conservatory is lovely, but quite bright and social.
Who do you think would like it?
Ladies (and gentlemen) of a certain age who want treatments with real visible results.
Anyone celebrating a very special birthday or anniversary: A day in the spa followed by dinner would make an unforgettable present.
Workaholics who need somewhere to completely unwind. The peace of the spa catches up with you and you relax almost without realising it!
History buffs will love experiencing the history of the house at first hand.