Why Bailiffscourt is perfect for a romantic or Valentine's break
PUBLISHED: 14:28 31 January 2019
Bailiffscourt is an eccentric but beautiful hotel on a quiet stretch of the West Sussex coast - perfect for a Valentine's break
The UK has long been a nation of eccentrics – from those maintaining obsessive passions to the moneyed classes who thought nothing of creating something crazy for their own amusement.
Walter Guinness, first Baron of Moyne, and his wife Lady Evelyn, surely fell into this latter camp – and Bailiffscourt is the happy result of this desire to really push the boat out. Starting out as the location of their holiday home The Huts, by Climping’s beautiful rural beach, the pair fended off an attempt to build a housing estate on neighbouring land by buying the site themselves – all 750 acres of what is now known as the Climping Gap.
Built in the 1930s, the 39-room hotel complex resembles a medieval estate, following Lady Moyne’s fascination with the period. The large manor house, known as the Medieval House, is bedecked with doors, furniture and window frames spirited away from medieval cathedrals, abbeys and priories in a way which could not be possible today. And in the grounds, alongside a 13th century chapel – which was deconsecrated after being moved slightly to one side – there are timber-framed buildings dropped into the grounds, such as the Gatehouse which originally came from Loxwood and 17th century half-timbered house from Old Basing in Hampshire.
For our overnight stay we stayed in Maunsbroke, one of the nine rooms in the Medieval House which also houses Bailiffscourt’s reception, conference room and large restaurant. Despite being right in the centre of the hotel’s activity, the atmosphere was still calm and quiet. The thick walls were warm to the touch making the carefully built open fire in the room unnecessary despite the November chill. A faded tapestry on the wall, four-poster bed, vaulted ceiling and arched wooden doors added to the medieval feel of the space, albeit augmented with modern touches – such as reading spotlights in the bed frame. Through its heavy wooden door the bathroom was stunning – boasting a large modern tub big enough for two, a double sink and shower. There were also plenty of extra touches showing how carefully the house thought about its residents – from a selection of fruit drinks from Arlington-based Folkington’s to delicious home-baked biscuits to accompany the room’s tea and coffee selection.
That careful thought spread through to the offerings in the restaurant. There is a choice of three menus – a simple three-course dinner which can be bought as part of a room package, an a la carte Climping menu for £53.50 and a slightly more expensive Sussex menu at £68 offering seafood and meat sourced around the county. Those who follow the simple three-course menu will not be fobbed off with inferior fare. The fois gras starter melted in the mouth, the partridge main course was perfectly augmented by a green peppercorn and herb risotto and an unforgettable walnut and blue cheese beignet. The closing chocolate tart was rich and delicious. There is an extensive wine list too – offering a range by the glass and carefully selected bottles at prices going up to £450.
After a peaceful night’s sleep I took the opportunity to explore the grounds in the early dawn light. The secluded stony beach is less than ten minutes’ walk away – offering a beautiful view across the bay to Littlehampton. There are plenty of walking and running trails around the 30-acre complex, with a map available from reception. On the other side of Climping Street is a network of byways and footpaths into the countryside, and the dunes of Littlehampton’s much-loved rural West Beach are within walking distance. Bailiffscourt is both family and dog-friendly – offering croquet, quoits, board games, football nets and tennis courts within its open spaces which are perfect for burning off excess energy.
After a large breakfast – offering everything from cereal and croissants to cooked classics – it was time to try the spa. Located just across from the main house, it has an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, gym and fitness suite, lounge and a series of treatment rooms offering everything from massage to facials and pedicures. I opted for a half-hour Work It Out back, neck and shoulder massage from the men’s grooming menu at £59. It incorporated aromatherapy, body brushing and a deep-tissue massage which I was still feeling three days later. Spa day packages are available from £87 – with relaxation rooms to hang out in after each treatment.
Just being in the atmosphere of Bailiffscourt was a therapy in itself. With no traffic noise, beautiful – albeit anachronistic – surroundings, flawless service and the calming seashore on the doorstep it felt like a true break from the rat race – and a perfect spot for a romantic weekend away.
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