The Majestic Trees of Cliveden Woods in Taplow, Buckinghamshire make up the lion’s share of the grounds that belong to Cliveden House (made famous by the Profumo affair back in the 60’s) and roughly 300 of the 375 acres of grounds are open to dogs. Cliveden House is a 350 year old Grade 1 listed stately home that is now rather swanky hotel, which I can highly recommend for lunch or afternoon tea if you are celebrating a special occasion or if you just fancy treating yourself. The building and the grounds are beautiful. The hotel does accept doggy guests, and whilst dogs are not permitted to walk in the formal gardens there is a footpath for you to use to take your dog through to the woodland for a good run. The hotel will even provide you with a map to show where your pooch can and can’t go.
If you are just heading to Cliveden for a dog walk rather than visiting the hotel the easiest place to park is in the Cliveden Woodlands Car Park (map), which is located on Cliveden Road. If you are approaching from the A4 you will reach the entrance to this car park before you reach the main entrance to the hotel. (streetview) The woodlands are a National Trust site so if you are not a member you will have to pay the lady in the kiosk for parking. I think it was around £8.00 so it’s worth going for a decent walk, but there is plenty to see: The woodland is peppered with majestic trees, peaceful glades and far-reaching views. As well as this there are some unusual features such as a flint grotto and a section of giant sequoia trees.
When we visit we tend to follow the path to the viewpoint so we can take in the panoramic views across the Berkshire countryside. These are pretty impressive as the woodlands sit high up above the River Thames. From here on we tend to follow our noses and see where our mood, or the scent of squirrels takes us. You can follow paths right down to the banks of the Thames where you will catch a glimpse of the house, but you should remember that once you are down there, you’ve got to get back up to the car park again. It’ll put some colour in your cheeks for sure! As you would expect from the National Trust, there are a handful of trails that you can follow from the woodland car park, which suit different abilities. These have way markers to guide you along and a leaflet showing the routes is usually available at the car park.
The Blue Walking Trail is an easy, 1.5 mile, family-friendly trail, that has plenty of opportunities for children to let their imaginations run wild and discover what the woods have to offer.
The Green Walking Trail is a gentle route of 2.3 miles of woodland paths with plenty of views.
The Red Walking Trail is a moderate woodland walk includes some steep inclines, riverside moments and fabulous views over 3.1 miles.
The Cliveden Views Walking Trail is a moderate trail that takes you to the top views spread over 2 miles of mixed terrain across the Cliveden estate. This walk begins at the Information Centre, not the woodland car park.
For those fitness fiends out there Cliveden Woodland has a Fitness Trail, which has ten pieces of equipment aimed at improving agility, strength and stamina. These include parallel bars, vault, chin ups, and ladder walk. (I keep well away from these!!!)
If you’re taking the kiddies with you then you can choose to follow the Play Trail, designed with children aged 6+ in mind. There are log stepping stones, balancing beams, rope swings and more. Located in the heart of the woodland, just beyond the main entry kiosk, off Green Drive, the play trail is a great way to wear your small people out. Next to the play trail you will find Clive’s Den: a natural den for make-believe of all kinds. Clive’s Den is big enough for the whole family hide in plus there’s wooden musical chimes to play and it’s a great secluded spot to catch your breath at the tree trunk picnic tables. Just beyond the woodland car park you can find elephant, bear and tiger wood carvings as well as the famous Cliveden snails ornately crafted by local woodcarver Nick Garnett. These wooden snails, carved using a chainsaw, represent the tiny snails that were ‘imported’ from Rome in 1896 in the Borghese Balustrade.