Basil’s Review & Critique

Basil’s Brush With ...

Cliveden House was built in 1666 by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham – especially created for the purpose of entertaining his mistress and friends. Since this time, Cliveden has stayed true to form and has entertained an eclectic mix of royalty and nobility along with presidents, writers, actors, parliamentarians, pop stars, and, now, three hundred and fifty one years later… a certain pooch named Basil!

We set off on our journey to the historic county of Berkshire.  Driving through the unassuming gateway of our destination, Mum pawsed (sorry couldn’t help that one pun) to take in the grandiose ‘Fountain of Love’ before continuing on our journey up the Grand Avenue, the tree-lined driveway leading to the imposing house of Cliveden.


Drawing up outside, from my privileged vantage point, I could see Mum checking herself – perhaps considering the many important arrivals that had graced the venue with their presence in bygone times. ‘Right,’ she called out to me, ‘here we go Basil.  Remember, mind your Ps & Qs!’

Sporting a new collar, especially for the occasion, Mum flicked the switch and the boot doors swung wide open. I stretched and popped my head out into the sunshine – yep, definitely time for the sunnies – and before I could say ‘Ps & Qs minded’, a very friendly man in a smart, relaxed, uniform held open my door and warmly declared, ‘Hello, you must be Basil?’  Without further ado, helping me out of the car, with a hop, skip and a jump – pawsing (oops, there I go again) briefly for a photo opportunity – he jogged me through the hotel entrance.

Mum followed closely behind, busily explaining that we only had two cases with us – somewhat over-egging the justification of the number of bags she had packed if you ask me – but fair go, as you may recall, Mum and I don’t travel light so sporting just TWO cases can only be classed as a miracle in itself and very much a blessing for my Dad.

George, the Front of House Manager, gave us both a hearty welcome and after checking in, learning that I could go everywhere apart from the fine dining restaurant, spa and formal gardens, Mum happily promised to abide by the hotel’s doggy policy.

Our room wasn’t quite ready so, fancying a coffee, Mum spotted a window seat in the Library Bar just off the Great Hall.  There, I adopted my usual pozzy on the stately carpet whereas Mum sunk herself into a comfortable armchair.  Taking in the views, across the terrace and beyond, I climbed up onto her lap.

Momentarily breaking her idle train of thought, a smiley lady appeared with a coffee for Mum and a bowl of water for me, served, no less, from a silver tray!  Mum laughed and gave me a squeeze, ‘Ah, they seem to genuinely like dogs!  Now, we can truly relax!’ Well, I had relaxed from the moment I arrived actually but dinky-di.

It wasn’t long before an American guest came over to say hello.  He explained to my Mum that he was missing his dog so much and was eager to share how refreshing he thought that it was to be able to bring dogs to places like (gesticulating with his hands outstretched, spinning slowly round on the spot, taking in the magnificence of the environment and the imposing pictures hanging on the walls) … this!  Mum nodded in agreement.  I didn’t mind giving him a cuddle actually, he was a nice man and well, I hope that made him feel a little less home- sick.

Whilst receiving a cuddle from a stranger, I spotted out of the corner of my eye, a familiar figure.  I was stoked to see my Dad, strolling into the Library – sporting a smile on his face.  I reckon he was cracking such a broad beam as he was free from the usual encumbrance of carrying our copious amount of luggage.  Well, I was cock-a-hoop! ‘Wow!’ My Dad said, as he looked out over the gardens before getting down on his knees and scrubbing my head.  I guess we were all rather cock-a-hoop.

Shortly after Dad’s arrival, our room was ready.  Passing by impressive paintings of previous custodians of the house en route, we arrived at our room: ‘Munnings’

Apparently, named after the equestrian artist who was a frequent visitor to Cliveden.

Dad had noted that both of our cars had been parked conveniently outside the junior suite.  We could gain entry to our accommodation via its own front door – handy for any late night wees (plus, hidden discreetly behind the pillar, Dad had spotted an unassuming ‘poo bin’.  That’s a tick off Dad’s ‘must have’ list.)

Mum liked the look of the room very much.  I went in first through the entrance lobby and after investigating further, I found a large cloakroom – our two cases and more could easily fit in there – perhaps there was no need to travel light after all!

Through into the lounge, I spied a doggy bed, towel, bowls and feeding mat whereas Mum had I-spied the bottle of bubbly and fruit bowl sitting on the old (Mum told me that she thought that it wasn’t ‘old’ it was an ‘antique’) table which was next to a delightful old (antique) writing desk.


I spotted a plush chair and comfortable sofa positioned in front of the fireplace. Mum gave me ‘the look’ as if to say, ‘Don’t even think about it!’


Dad bypassed the lounge and I-spied the luxurious bed, which was set above the lounge level and adjoined the lavish marble bathroom. ‘Comfy robes and Asprey toiletries’ Dad called out to Mum who seemed to be very happy with this news.  I followed him in and checked it out.

I was able to peer out of one of the large windows and was taken aback by a tall, shiney building that I now know to be the famous Clock Tower – ‘Stone the crows, its face is covered in gold!’ I had to get a closer look at that!  As a family, we sat together on the stairs leading up to the bedroom – looking around us we all agreed, ‘Yep, this will do nicely!’

‘Time for a spot of light lunch?’  I approved, wholeheartedly.  So up I jumped and off we ventured to the doggy friendly Astor Grill, passing by the Clock Tower as we went.


Having read on the tablet room directory, Mum explained that The Grill used to house Lord Astor’s most prized fillies.  So, not only was our room dedicated to someone who painted fillies, we were eating in a place that used to house them.  That’s rather spooky.

There we sat cosily within one of the booths…

Mum tucked into a Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich in a brioche bun with avocado and pickles and Dad opted for the Dish of the Day… Venison Sausages and creamy mash.  I munched on my food interspersed by visits from fellow house-mates and their little ankle-biters who wanted a cuddle.  I obliged of course as perhaps they were home-sick as well?

Welcomed by some more smiley staff, Andre, the Assistant Astor Grill Manager, introduced himself. Apparently he was known as ‘Andre the 3rd’ as there was also Andre the Executive Chef and Andre the Deputy General Manager.  Not only were there previous guests of nobility, it would seem that the present day staff are as well!

After a leisurely lunch, Mum decided to grab her cozzie and check out the newly refurbished Spa whilst I was hoping for some Dad time – he didn’t disappoint.

Concierge offered a Dog walking map (which we accepted) along with some Hunter Wellies (which we declined) as we came well prepared – we may have had just two suitcases unloaded but packed into the car remained a veritable feast of outdoor gear – boots, jackets, scarves, brollies.  Mum, forever the girl-scout, will always ‘be prepared’!

Meeting back in our room a couple of hours later, I heard my Human Parents (HPs for short) swap stories.

Mum shared how lovely she thought the newly refurbished Spa was.  ‘There was a robe, towels, slippers, flip-flops and rose petals waiting in the locker.  It also had a raw bar, indoor pool, steam, sauna and Jacuzzi whilst I could see from where I was lounging in the relaxation area, the outdoor pool and hot tubs.’

‘Apparently,’ Mum whispered in a voice of intrigue, ‘the outdoor swimming pool was where John Profumo and Christine Keeler met for the first time.’  Now, I have no idea who these people were but it seems, back in the day, they created a right old hoo-ha!

Dad shared with Mum, in not such hushed tones, that on our walk we had come across Spring Cottage.

Having read the history, he relayed that ‘the cottage was built in 1857 and was frequented by Queen Victoria no less, along with, many years later, the young lady in question, Ms Keeler.  She stayed with a Captain Ivanov who was an assistant Soviet Naval Attaché and – Dad paused for maximum effect –  a SPY!’ Apparently, this was the biggest scandal in British political history.  My Dad sniggered that ‘Queen Victoria would not have been amused!’

Mum was, in her words, ‘very chilled’ after having had a fabulous Swedish massage by a lady named Steff.  She commented about the massage table that was actually like a water bed – sounds like a good future crib option for me, considering I’m quarter Spanish Water Dog!  Dad and I were pooped after our long walk so after indulging in the scandal bequeathed to Cliveden, it was time to indulge in something else… a kip!  A while later, we all woke to find ourselves feeling rather peckish.

Time to dress for dinner. Apparently, I could eat with my HPs where we had lunch or the hotel could arrange for a dog sitter so Mum and Dad could go to the fine dining restaurant of Andre Garrett.  Although I know that Mum loves dining in such luxury, (especially a 3 AA rosette award winning restaurant) my puppy dog eyes must have done the trick as they chose to dine once again in the Astor Grill where I could accompany them.  Yes, get in, every time! I wore yet another new collar and my HPs decided to plump for ‘smart casual’ (whatever this means).


Sat within the Grill there were many families – all busily chatting.  ‘G’day, who’s that?’  I had eye-spied a young apricot coloured and exceptionally pretty cockapoo.  We delicately greeted each other and then jumped up on our respective human parent’s laps – it would seem that we were both rather shy but she definitely made eyes at me during the evening.  I must have a way with the ‘fillies’ and I’m not talking about the horsey kind!’


(Admiring from afar the little ‘filly’ in the background)

Looking at the list of options, which was overseen by Andre the 1st, my Dad commented that it was a fine ‘stable’ menu.  Mum raised her eyes to the ceiling in resignation, explaining to me that Dad was playing with words… none the wiser, I simply sat like a good boy and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.  Mum selected the Grilled Cornish Brill with almond, caper, lemon and parsley whilst Dad (and I) plumped for the Rib-eye Steak.  Well, ‘when in a grill’. A leisurely hour or so later, my HPs were choosing their dessert. Classic English Trifle with white port jelly for Mum whilst Dad chose Marinated & Grilled Pineapple with lime crème fraiche..  Scrummy tucker! Dad liked the Astor Grill.  He proclaimed, ‘You can smell the history rather than the horses.’  Funny man, my Dad!

Time for a nightcap before retiring… We crossed the courtyard into the Great Hall which, I thought, looked even more splendid at night-time.  The suits of armour didn’t scare me (too much)…. Mum commented upon the ‘opulent décor and fantastical setting’ and, ‘How you could only but imagine the endless house-parties that took place within these four walls for the likes of Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, King George and the Beatles.’  Hmmm, ‘and now us,’ I thought!

Beddy-bye’s beckoned so Dad grabbed the torch supplied by the hotel and took me  to a pooch welcoming area for my evening constitutionals, which was just a short stroll through the arch to the woods, whereas Mum made house ready for our return.
***

After a good night’s sleep, the next morning before exploring the house and the grounds further, it was time for brekkie but first, time to pack!

My HPs wanted to eat in the restaurant this time and so Alex, the Head Receptionist and self-professed ‘mad dog lady’ offered to look after me, inviting me to join her behind reception.  Mum and Dad explained to me that it was the first time that they had ever felt comfortable leaving me with someone so I thought ‘no worries.’ I vaguely recall them disappearing out of sight but I was preoccupied with all the attention I was receiving at the time.

Some half an hour or so later – time passes quickly when you are enjoying yourself – my HPs returned.  They had a smile on their faces having enjoyed ‘the best home-made granola’ that Mum had ever tasted along with a Lord Astor and Lady Astor breakfast.  Apparently, that was a full English for Dad and the, little more lady like, poached eggs with avocado for Mum!

I had definitely been mindful to mind my Ps and Qs (although I had no idea what they were but I minded them regardless) and so Alex asked me to promise to make sure I come and see her again before I go.  We were only going for a walk so I assumed that this wouldn’t be too difficult.  She is, indeed, a bit of a mad dog lady but I loved her for it!

So, map of the grounds – check.  Wellies – check.  Waterproof jackets – check.  Lead on – check.  One more cuddle for Alex – check.  Off we set.

Although I had to stay clear of the formal gardens there were plenty of areas that I could run around within the 300 acres of National Trust woodlands.

Following the welcoming and reassuring path signs of ‘We love dogs… walk this way’, we ran though the trees and had a gander of the views and soaked up the countryside smells. We met lots of families out and about – I was ‘Game as Ned Kelly’ and introduced myself to many pooches along the way although I only had eyes for my ball (and, of course, for the filly cockapoo that I met briefly last night).

Eventually, we returned from our exploration, stripped off our outdoor clothing – although I didn’t need to use the hose provided, I had a quick rub down and we were fit to once again enter the house.

After a quick cuddle with Alex, we made our way into the Library Bar again where I adopted my pozzy curled up on the carpet and promptly fell asleep, momentarily woken up by a very polite little girl who clearly also felt rather home-sick.


Mum and Dad settled into their comfy chairs, occasionally lifting their heads from their papers to look out over the magnificent ‘Parterre’ lawns.  As the chime of the glittering Clock Tower struck 14.15, Afternoon Tea was ordered.

Snoozing had resumed only to be woken up to the sounds of  ‘oohing and aahing’ as the Afternoon Tea was placed on the table before them.

The sangers (oops, sorry Mum, I meant the ‘sandwiches’) looked very tasty and the waiter explained that there was a selection of York ham, Coronation Chicken, Roast Beef, Egg Mayonnaise and Smoked Salmon and Cucumber along with a Smoked Salmon Scone. Yum.  If that wasn’t enough, the next layer on the tray had freshly baked Raisin and Plain Scones with, as the man explained, ‘Devonshire Clotted Cream and Strawberry Preserve.’  Last, but not least… Cakes! Dad read from the menu that they were ‘Raspberry and Jasmine Delice, Dark Chocolate Popcorn Cake, Pistachio Eclaire, Apricot and Dulche Tart and finally, a Passion fruit Dome.’ (I, too, managed to sneak a cheeky nibble of Mum’s beef sandwich.  Life at that moment, was simply bonzer.)

After their third cuppa, looking at his watch, Dad gently tapped Mum’s knee and remarked that he thought that it was time we considered moving.

After peeling ourselves away from the comfort of the Library, we said our goodbyes to the hotel team – having saved one final cuddle for my friend, Alex –  my new collars, two suitcases and I were once again safely packed into the car.

Gazing out of the window, looking back towards the house as we set off down the Grand Avenue, I thought, ‘Yep, I liked this place, heaps!’ As Queen Victoria once said, ‘I will return.’  Hooroo for now.

A Word from Mum:

Our stay at Cliveden was short but very sweet.

Cliveden’s history is, indeed, ‘drenched in glamour, intrigue and drama’… ‘spectacular as it is distinguished’.  If you are a discerning traveller wishing to embrace an opportunity to submerge yourself in an opulent, traditional venue, utterly steeped in history with your four legged friend at your side, a warm welcome awaits.  And, in our opinion, Cliveden lives up to its promise to provide ‘a place to relax and enjoy’.

Our overarching memory will be of inclusiveness and relaxation, affording all the creature comforts one might expect from a present day luxury hotel within the wonders of a National Trust estate.

Indeed, although we appreciate a sense of ‘what and who have gone before’, we would like to feel that we have somehow contributed towards a new page of Cliveden’s history chapter as it continues to make its mark as a multi million pound refurbished award winning hotel and, a dog ‘welcoming’ property to boot… in particular, a heartily approved Travel With Basil dog ‘welcoming’ hotel.

As George Bernard Shaw cited; ‘Cliveden is like no other country house on earth… you meet everybody worth meeting, rich or poor, and of every point of view.’    Basil and I couldn’t have put it better ourselves!

Basil and his Human Parents were guests of Cliveden House & Spa

‘A House is not a Home without a Dog!’ – Anonymous

Disclaimer

Basil’s review is posted ‘in his opinion’. Although he has been entirely honest about his experience, as ‘toast’, ‘tea’ and ‘sticks’ are high on his ‘happiness’ agenda, please feel free to undertake your own research too – after all he is just a dog, albeit a rather discerning one! - Karen, Basil's Mum

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Creature Comfort Critique

As friends of non-pooch owners, we do appreciate that not everyone wishes to share their social space with our four legged friends. (Hard to believe, we know, however, each to their own).

We appreciate, therefore, that hotels, B&Bs and pubs/restaurants with rooms must have a tricky time striving to create the perfect environment for everyone.

Based upon those venues that we feel, as a family, have struck a perfect balance, the experience has been critiqued from a highly-attached pet owner’s perspective (also a seasoned venue find agent), rating the comfort, convenience and inclusivity that we experienced when travelling with Basil.

It’s a bit of fun, based on our own opinions but, hopefully, will be a useful insight to fellow discerning travellers.

Ample car parking
Staff greeting
Location of bedroom
Accommodation grounds fit for pooch
Bits and bobs helpful for caring for pooch
Bedroom comfort
Inclusivity (to eat and drink together)
Comfort of dining area
Surrounding area suitable for pooches
Pooch information (ie walks) available
Overall pooch welcoming
Toasted to perfection
A lovely cup of tea
Accessibility to sticks
  1. Positive attitude and friendliness of staff
  2. Relaxed atmosphere
  3. Exceptional grounds and dog friendly woodland

If travelling with your Pooch on business…

Cliveden has eight versatile meeting spaces that can be set up for boardroom, U shape or theatre style along with reception and private dining opportunities.

Comfortably accommodating a minimum of 6 guests up to a maximum of 60 guests.

Cliveden House
Cliveden House
Cliveden House

My visit to Cliveden House

The closest town to Cliveden is Taplow whilst Maidenhead, Henley and Windsor are between 15-30 minutes travel time away.

However, as the hotel is set within 300 acres of National Trust Woodland, we chose to explore the great outdoors on this occasion.

All you need to know about :

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cliveden/features/dog-walking-at-cliveden

Month visited:  October 2017

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Reservations

'If you'd like to make contact and stay at the venue with your pooch, my Mum has gathered together some details for you.

Upon booking, would you mind mentioning that you read the venue's review on the Travel With Basil site?

I’d be like a dog with two tails if you did!'



Cliveden House
Taplow, Berkshire, SL6 0JF.
Tel:  01628 607 107
E:   reservations@clivedenhouse.co.uk
W:  www.clivedenhouse.co.uk

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‘I love, love, love this website.’

Kos – London

‘Loved Basil’s blog… hooroo’

Jamesina – Dorchester

‘Can’t wait to find places that get the importance of families, kids and dogs, being able to share quality time together.’

Anna – Wimborne

‘We love spending our weekends with our puppy and love this website… ’

Steve – London

‘As a family of dog lovers, we have historically had to trawl through many many sites to find what often turns out to be anything but a dog “friendly” hotel! We can’t wait to have a dedicated website to proven dog friendly hotels. What a wonderful idea!’

Sarah – Bristol

‘Can’t wait to follow the gorgeous Basil on his travels.’

Grahame – Bristol

‘We’re looking forward to cuddling up with our puppy when at home, we want to do the same when we stay at a hotel.’

Sophie – London

‘Good luck with the website, can’t wait to see where Basil goes next!’

Phil – Cirencester

‘For my dog to relax, he needs to feel welcome… and so do I!’

Penny – Downton

‘I’m really looking forward to being able to have a review and reference site so I can travel with confidence with my two dogs safe in the knowledge that other dog owners have been happy there.’

Angie – Eccleshall