Bailiffscourt Hotel and Spa, West Sussex
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What is Chrissy’s Collection?With her lengthy travel background, Chrissy has years of experience assessing accommodation with quality and customer satisfaction firmly in mind. She was also a hands-on Director of an upmarket Kensington apartment-hotel for five years
As our own Silver Travel Advisor we are delighted that Chrissy brings her experience and eye for stylish detail when she reviews Boutique and Country house hotels. Chrissy’s Collection are her personal recommendations of hotels with something extra that makes them stand out from the rest: discreet and exceptional levels of personal service; stylish, contemporary and comfortable interiors where relaxation is key; smaller, quirky or character properties; luxury hotels with super spa facilities, exquisite dining or amazing locations. In short, very special places.
After a month of denial, fasting and general abstinence what was needed was a very special treat. And Bailiffscourt in Climping, West Sussex, ticked all the boxes.
I’m a huge fan of the South Downs and Sussex countryside, but not so fond of the urban ribbon development that covers much of the south coast. Having read the blurb for the hotel and checked out the map I was curious to see if this medieval hotel, surrounded by fields and next to the sea, could offer the tranquility and relaxation it’s website promised.
Driving through the grounds, passed various medieval buildings and peacocks strutting their stuff outside the main building, was like stepping back in time. Thatched roofs, mullioned windows and everything you would expect from such an historic building. So imagine my surprise when I learnt, with the exception of a small original 13th century chapel, Bailiffscourt was only built in the 1930s. Designed by Lord and Lady Moyne, with the help of their architect, they created a totally authentic medieval rural idyll next to the sea. Aristocratic eccentricity at its best!
The main house was modelled on plans of other medieval buildings where the main rooms lead from one to another without corridors. Consequently there are four small and cosy lounges, each with its own fireplace. The mullioned windows, ancient oak doors and other architectural salvage came from far and wide to ensure authenticity. As you would expect, stone flag floors and low ceilings are complimented with large tapestries, woven carpets and an eclectic mix of antique and updated dark oak furniture which, together with the soft furnishings and lighting, make for a comfortable and relaxing ambience.
The dining room with its vaulted ceiling, mullioned windows, large tapestries, pewter and silver ware is very atmospheric and a perfect setting for the excellent food and service. You can choose from the set daily Chef’s dinner menu, a la carte or, for a supplement, really push the boat and stomach out for the five course Chef’s tasting menu. We opted for a la carte: seared scallops with Romanesque cauliflower, Jerusalem artichoke soup and artichoke crisps; grilled fillet of stonebass on a bed of puy lentils, roasted garlic, olives and celeriac; followed by a to-die-for dessert of caramelized pistachio crème brulee with chocolate mousse. He declined pudding (I’m never going to hear the last of it). All washed down with a stunning bottle of Chilean Gurtzweiner from the hotel’s extensive wine list.
After an invigorating walk the next day along a windswept West Wittering Beach, a National Trust estate that I highly recommend, we tried to find somewhere nice for a spot of late lunch. However, choice was limited in January so we decided to head back to the hotel where we fancied curling up in front of a roaring log fire in one of the cosy lounges. However, the plan rather back-fired as the tables in all four lounge areas were reserved for guests who had booked Afternoon Tea.
As I eyed some guests tucking into their three-tiered cake-stand of delicate sandwiches, selection of cakes and scones, and heard the appreciative murmurs of gastronomic heaven, I knew in that moment I was going to seriously break my January dietary resolve. Purely in the interest of research, you understand, I ordered Afternoon Tea for me and a meat platter with salad leaves for him - well he does need to lose a bit more than me. So, in the comfort of our lovely suite, looking through the mullioned windows towards the sea, with the howling wind and rain outside, we felt very cosy and content. And, trust me, the Afternoon Tea was the icing on the cake!
Following our late indulgent lunch we couldn’t do justice to another slap-up dinner in the restaurant, so opted to have a light snack and a couple of excellent Sussex beers in front of the fire in one of the lounges. Perfect.
For January the hotel was surprisingly busy, but I was able to view a selection of rooms in the main house, as well as the more contemporary rooms in the newer buildings, between guest changeovers. Without exception all of them were spacious, the suites particularly so. The Baylies suite, complete with its own wood-burning stove, super-king four poster bed and twin roll-top bath tubs in the bathroom was very impressive. Our suite, Sowthewoode, had its own seating and dining area, a four-poster bed and one of the best views in the hotel.
You always know when you stay in a well-run hotel. From the manager, Chris, down to Michael, the young lad who greeted us on arrival and carried our bags, everyone was attentive, friendly and genuinely interested in you as a guest. They made you feel welcome and at home.
Another unusual thing about Bailiffscourt: for a small charge they allow guests to bring their dogs to stay. There are even ‘special treat’ doggie packages and water bowls outside the entrance door. All of which adds to the relaxed style and ambience of this country retreat next-to-the-sea. The pebble beach, a few minutes walk from the hotel, is undeveloped and great for a bracing blast of sea air.
Sympathetic to the ‘medieval’ buildings, the oak-framed spa is newly built and a few steps away from the main hotel. With an indoor and outdoor (heated) pool, steam room, sauna and a small gym facility, there are also six treatment rooms. For better weather there are two outdoor tennis courts and bicycles for guests’ use. We had pre-booked spa treatments: a massage for him and a luxurious tailor-made facial for me. Booked for 10am on our last morning, especially planned so we could leave the hotel feeling well and truly pampered – and we did.
If you are looking to break a diet or need any excuse to get away for some seriously good food, relaxation and genuine service with a smile take a look at Bailiffscourt. You will be glad you did.
Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa
Climping, West Sussex, England
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