Well, if it’s good enough for Meghan Markle to stay here the night before her wedding, then it’s good enough for me! This review of Cliveden will be regularly updated because I come here all the time! It’s also a great place to visit at any time of year because it changes so much. Whilst the address shows as Maidenhead, Berkshire it’s only a few minutes drive from Beconsfield in Buckinghamshire.
The Astor family once owned Cliveden and their connection with the “Profumo affair“** is mentioned quite a lot, it did after-all bring down a government. Now that the Netflix mini-series has been released I’m guessing there’s going to be a renewed interest in the story! They also now make more of the fact that Nancy Astor was the first female MP to take her seat in parliament. Until recently they didn’t really talk about it.
The Review of Cliveden House and Gardens
I love love love Cliveden. It’s one of my favourite NT properties and I go here all the time. Whilst there’s nothing to do indoors there is plenty to do outdoors. This is because the house is now an exclusive hotel. They do tours on certain days but they’re quite limited and not child friendly.) I’ve recommended Cliveden to multiple people and no-one has ever disagreed.
Cliveden is based on a huge site and there are multiple distinct areas; the water gardens, playground area, various formal gardens, a maze, the parterre, riverside walks and the woodland areas. I’ll do mini reviews of each of the different sections at Cliveden.
The Gas Yard
Before you come to the visitor centre there is the gas yard. As well as the toilets it’s worth having a look around the yard because there is a little forge at the back. This has been left as it was when it was last in use and is a fascinating insight into the work done on-site.
The water gardens and Story Book Play area
The water gardens are where most people tend to spend a lot of their time. In addition to the maze (more difficult that you would think) the central feature is the pond itself. You can cross to the island to have a look around the Pagoda. This is accessed via stepping stones without barriers. Smaller children need to be accompanied and you’d need to carry a pushchair across or leave it at the lakeside. It’s not wheelchair accessible. There are dozens of very curious and very big Koi Carp in the pond. We love feeding them bird seed and they go crazy for it! There are also various ducks and a resident Heron. There are lots of open spaces within the water gardens, paths kids have made through the hedges and ample picnic benches.
The water gardens lead to the children’s play area. This is a real highlight of Cliveden, I’d happily give it a 5/5 review on its own. They have story book theme play equipment including a tree house play frame, Rabbit’s house from Winnie the Pooh, Captain Hook statue, Tigger see saw etc. This is quite a self contained area and, despite the fact it can get very busy at times, everywhere is highly visible so you can keep an eye on everyone. Age-wise, I’d say this is probably max 10 years, mainly because of the theme of the equipment.
Just outside of the play area there are a lot of large picnic benches (including some with disabled access), toilets, additional play areas and the Doll’s house cafe. This is seasonal and sells limited snacks and beverages. It’s worth mentioning that during the winter these tables can get a bit slimy so it’s probably best to not plan to use them.
The Parterre is a large open space with low hedges around the flowerbeds which make it perfect for various games. It’s simply stunning and has impressive views across the River Thames. You’re quite near Heathrow so there are lots of low-flying aircraft. Because it is so open plan you can set-up camp and let the kids run around as much as they like without having to worry. The only downside, this area is quite a long way from the car park (20/25 mins stroll) and the shortest route involves a number of steps. There is flat access but this takes longer. It is also a fair way from the nearest toilets so it’s best to make everyone go before you head down to the garden.
One thing it is worth mentioning is that the baby change by the orangery is TINY. There’s space for you and the changer but that’s it really, you cannot get a pushchair in there and I had to let the bigger kids wait outside.
The Estate, Rose and Long gardens
Within the wider estate there are various sculptures and secret houses for the kids to explore. This is quite often where the trails take place (additional charges usually apply). They have some awesome climbing trees dotted around and open spaces for the kids to run around in. The trees are easy to climb, even for the very smallest explorers. The formal gardens are beautiful and middle child in particular likes the Baboon statues. Both areas have lots of benches dotted around. There are so many different pathways within the woodland areas it’s worth picking up a map before you explore.
They are currently renovating the generator house and there is a little platform they have built near the orangery to keep up to date with the work. There’s an interactive feature that is coin operated but it wasn’t working when we were there so I don’t know what it does. I’ll update this review of Cliveden as work progresses.
If you want to go down to the river there are a LOT of steps. 172 to be precise. I’ve taken a pushchair down them (God knows why!) and back up again. It nearly finished me off, and it is possible, but I wouldn’t recommend it, with a pushchair at least. Honestly, why did I do that??? Once you get to the bottom you can walk along the riverbank but actually you’re probably better off just staying in the main gardens.
The woodland at Cliveden is accessed either from the woodland car park or by walking down past the ticket hut. There’s a play trail in here (which we didn’t manage to find), a fitness trail (which we did), some stunning viewpoints, a flint house and much more. It’s downhill from the house and there is a path that ends up taking you onto the access road in order to get back to the house and gardens. We were here for several hours and only just started to explore it (partially because the kids were being incredibly slow). There are toilets in the woodland cafe area.
The woodland area at Cliveden is much quieter than the rest of the estate and it’s very different from the gardens. It’s really nice to have a completely different experience at a place we already knew so well. We’ll be back and I’ll finally find that play trail!!
Overall Cliveden is pushchair friendly with lots of paths. They do tend to be quite stoney so I imagine it’s less wheelchair friendly. There is a buggy (Clive) that can take you down to the house. At the visitor’s centre you can hire off-road pushchairs for free.
Free for NT Members (£41 family ticket for non-members). Click here to find out more about membership**
Parking / How to get here
Address – Cliveden Road, Taplow, Maidenhead, SL1 8N
Parking – Ample and free with entry. The first car park is almost always full within about 30 mins of opening but there is an overflow car park. This is about a 5 minute walk from the water gardens. It does have a couple of benches if you want to eat before you go in. When it’s extremely busy there is an over-overflow car park near the entrance. This is basically just a field and is quite a long walk from anywhere within the property, up a slope.
Near the visitor centre, near the play area and near the Orangerie cafe. All have disabled toilets and baby change (sometimes separate, sometimes in the same toilet). The baby change by the orangerie is tiny though. You cannot get in there with a puschair, let alone any other kids.
There are several places you can get food. Some of these are seasonal. I often eat here and the kids boxes are reasonably priced. In the orangery they have good facilities for heating baby food. The scones are good!! Picnics are welcome and there are loads of really good spots.
Our Review of Cliveden
Did I mention that I love this place?? When I set up this website Cliveden was one of the first places I did a review for because I always recommend it to people. The fact that we’ve been visiting for so many years and STILL haven’t been everywhere just tells you how big it is.
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch email@example.com or get in touch via Facebook