Walk Distance: 6km
Walk Duration: 2 hours (including plenty of exploring and view-admiring time!)
OS Map: OS Explorer 172 Chiltern Hills East
(the walk maps provided by the National Trust at Cliveden are equally helpful).
Suitable for: babies in backpacks; older children, (in theory you could take an all-terrain buggy on the route but there are some steep stretches and a lot of steps on the descent to the river, so not advisable. If you have a buggy, try one of the other routes recommended by the National Trust at Cliveden.
Walk features: Historic Cliveden House & formal gardens, riverside walking by the Thames, woodland, trim trail (exercise equipment), cafe, playground, baby changing and toilet facilties, picnic tables.
The Cliveden Estate Walk is a lovely rambling 6km trail through these famous woodlands and gardens. This walk combines some of the best elements of riverside and woodland wandering of the three National Trust recommended trails and can be started from either Cliveden House or from the Woodland Car Park (open all year-round). It is the perfect route for a tranquil afternoon stroll and can be combined with a visit to the house and gardens. You can read all about the attractions and facilities at Cliveden here. You will need to be a National Trust Member or to buy a ticket to access this walk – please read the post on Cliveden or visit the National Trust Website for full details on prices.
Due to the steep descent and ascent to and from the river, the downhill part of which involves a long series of wide steps, it is probably best to pop babies in a backpack for this walk rather than attempt it with a pushchair. The paths are fine for young walkers but they may find the whole distance tiring – I’d recommend part of the route or one of the National Trust’s recommended routes for families. We have tried this walk out in winter after prolonged wet and the paths although a little bit muddy in places by the river were still walkable (unlike much of the rest of the countryside at this time). Wellies are recommended for wet winter walking.
The walk starts from Cliveden House (for those starting from Woodlands Car Park, click here for directions, returning to the beginning of these directions to complete the loop). To reach the house from the car-park, walk back to the car-park entrance from the main drive and cross over the road. You can take either route to reach the house but I recommend going left to the house and river, taking you through a secluded bit of woodland and picnic area. Emerging from the wood, turn left and walk along the drive to Cliveden House and the start of the Cliveden Estate Walk.
Turn right, passing the main entrance to Cliveden House Hotel on your left, following signs for the Secret Garden. Walk to the right, taking the path to your right into the Secret Garden and keep left on the track through the woodland, enjoying the views that open up before you as you emerge onto the high bank beyond.
Turn left, keeping on the high path with the views across the open countryside on the west of the Thames away to your right. This is a particularly pretty stretch in the springtime when the banks are bursting with snowdrops.
Pass through the gate and onto the beginnings of the lawns and formal garden in front of Cliveden House. There is a small viewpoint on the right-hand side here. You now have two options – you can walk through the gate ahead leading downhill to the riverside on wide steps (the only option for those determined to do this route with a pushchair) through an avenue in the woodland or you can explore the lawns and views back onto Cliveden House a little more.
For those wanting a bit more of a view of the house, instead of going downhill continue to your left, skirting the edge of the lawns on the right-hand side and following signs to Tortoise Fountain. Before turning downhill to Turtle Fountain itself, you may wish to continue walking down to the far end of the lawn from where you will get a good central view back to Cliveden House. After this, return to the gate leading onto the steps down to the Tortoise Fountain. This is a fabulous place to enjoy the views across the river to the countryside beyond. Once you’ve drunk your fill of the views, go through the small gap to the left of the ballustrade and follow the track beyond. Take the first path to your right, following an earthen path that turns back to the right. This joins the main wide stepped path down to the river below described in the paragraph above. Turn left and down the steps to the riverside.
Emerge from the woods onto the side of the Thames and the peaceful lawns spilling down to the water edge. Turn left and continue along the track, passing behind the building to your right. The path takes you along the riverside and past Spring Cottage. Originally built as a summerhouse and tea room for the Countess of Orkney in 1813, Spring Cottage was later extended into this idyllic cottage – although attracted infamy with the revelations of the Profumo scandal as it was here Christine Keeler was staying when she met John Profumo at Cliveden.
Amble along the riverside, remembering to look back upriver to the right at each opening as the views back onto Cliveden House perched loftily on the banks above improve the further you go. Look out for the sign for the woodland car-park on your left hand side. Take this path turning left back on yourself and sharply uphill. Upon meeting another path, turn sharp right and continue uphill.
As the path levels out you will find a signpost to the car park on your left. If you want to cut the walk a bit short, take this. Otherwise continue straight on to the viewpoint from which you can enjoy views across to Maidenhead -suddenly a lot closer than you expect! With your back to the views and river, follow the wooden snail sculptures along the track ahead.
Go through the gate into the Woodland Car Park. Walk a short way through the car park to your left and then leave it via the path on the left-hand side. You will pass paddocks on the left-hand side (look out for horses!) before passing through a small gate and onto Green Drive.
This is a lovely section of the walk with sedate, shady walking through the magnificent avenue of trees of Green Drive. Pass the opening into a circular grassy garden on your left-hand side, leaving Green Drive and taking the track to your left shortly after. Leave this path (and its tantalising suggestions of more riverside views) and follow the sign to the ‘Trim Trail’ on your right-hand side. The path now weaves through the woodland, passing all manner of exciting (and scary) looking equipment that the active teenagers and adults amongst you will enjoy challenging themselves on!
At the far end of the Trim Trail, join the main path that leads downhill to the right back towards Cliveden House. There are more lovely views of the house emerging from the woodland above you here. Join the lane at the bottom of the hill, turning right along it for a short stretch before leaving it via a gate on your left hand side. Follow the footpath downhill and then steeply back up again, emerging at the edge of the formal gardens on the side of Cliveden House. Here you can turn to your left and walk along the front terrace of the house overlooking the impressive Parterre before following the building around to the right-hand side and emerging at the start of the walk.
For those returning to the Woodlands Car Park, please return to the beginning of this walk description for the return leg of your walk.
Map of Route:
Cliveden is located just north of the village of Taplow, in Buckinghamshire. It is also easily accessible from Marlow, High Wycombe and Beaconsfield or indeed anywhere along this stretch of the M40 as it is only 5 miles to both Junction 2 & 3 of the motorway. There are stations in several nearby locations, including Taplow and Burnham (both on mainline to London). However the road to Cliveden is very fast from these stations with no footpaths for much of the way, so it is better to bring a bike and cycle or hop in a taxi for the last bit.
View Cliveden in a larger map
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