Sussex fizzes in a bubbling hot tub in the woods. Steam rising from the heated outdoor infinity pool. The dog walks on the beach before a dinner of local and seasonal dishes.
These are just some of the heavenly scenes you can expect from a stay at Bailiffscourt, a charming cluster of medieval mansions set in 30 acres of private parkland near Climping beach in West Sussex.
The award-winning spa hotel has 39 bedrooms and the atmosphere is relaxed yet regal: think tennis and teas in the expansive grounds, sinking into sofas by a crackling fireplace and tiptoeing over the autumn leaves in slippers from the spa.
From dinner in the ancient banquet hall to the on-site helipad, here’s what awaits you.
Just 10 minutes’ drive from the historic town of Arundel, famous for its castle and antique shops, and right on a windswept stretch of the West Sussex coast. Climping Beach is just a two-minute walk from the hotel grounds (just follow the hotel’s charming little signs directing guests ‘to the sea’).
Sister hotels Ockenden Manor and The Spread Eagle – all part of the Historic Sussex Hotels group – are both less than 30 minutes’ drive away, with unique access to various beautiful corners of the South Downs National Park.
Big red upholstery. Charming four poster beds. Roaring fireplaces and giant wooden doors so old you’ll feel like you’re in a Jane Austen film.
Bailiffscourt has a regal, medieval feel, with steep stone staircases and working fireplaces in the rooms. You’ll feel like you’re staying in a castle or a grand manor house, but it’s actually newer than it looks.
The place was originally built in the 1920s, as a home for the Guinness family, but antiquarian architect Amyas Phillips has been careful to recover materials from ancient buildings, with interiors that honor that era: charming oak paneling, vaulted ceilings , latticed windows, framed tapestries, and giant four-poster beds. He thinks of The Pig, but with a medieval twist.
Like The Pig, it’s all spread out over a series of buildings, from the main nine-bedroom manor house to smaller thatched cottages and barns, some of which are connected by underground passageways. Inside the manor house, you’ll find several charming lounge areas, as well as a banquet-worthy main dining room.
Look out for the peacock-themed décor throughout – a nod to Archie, Bailiffscourt’s resident peacock, who is particularly friendly to guests and spends his days roaming the hotel grounds.
Each of the Bailiffscourt’s 39 bedrooms is individually decorated with unique antiques, fabrics and art, with names (xxx, etc.) taken from the surrounding fields, which date back to 1610.
Choose from more medieval-style rooms at The Medieval House, Thatch House, The Court and Coachhouses, and more contemporary rooms at Moat House and The Oaks. There’s everything from three- to five-bedroom cottages to cozy double rooms, depending on group size (The Oaks and Moat house contain two bedrooms each and are side-by-side for groups of eight). Cots and extra beds are available upon request.
Expect high ceilings, charming furnishings, and surprisingly light and spacious bathrooms with freestanding soaking tubs. For extra romance, choose a room with a double bathtub—it’s not one, but two freestanding bathtubs next to each other.
Beetroot marinated salmon steak with beetroot pearls. Scotch egg with Cumberland sausage. Sliced roast lamb rump with crispy breaded braised shoulder bonbons and glazed kidney.
Many of the ingredients on Bailiffscourt’s menu are local and there’s a traditional feel, from the cream of langoustine soup starters to the Eton Mess for dessert. Dinner is served in the hotel’s elegant Tapestry Restaurant and is a grand and relatively formal affair, with tapestry-covered walls and candlelit tables draped in white tablecloths – or you can opt for a more intimate dinner (or lunch or tea afternoon) in one of the lounges.
Start with a glass of Sussex Ridgeview, a local sparkling wine, and choose grilled sea trout with pickled fennel as your main course. A triumph. Warm strawberry soufflé and Valrhona dark chocolate tart are among the guests’ favorite desserts.
Breakfast is included with every stay and is buffet style, with all the usual pastry options, cereal, yogurt, toast, and fruit. You can order hot breakfasts on top, from the aptly named Full Bailiffs to a vegetarian version, or other favorites like smoked salmon, avocado and a poached egg on toast.
Afternoon tea, starting at £35 per person, is a popular option with day and night time visitors too. Upgrade to the £50 Celebration version to include a glass of Sussex bubbly.
Bailiffscourt’s extensive grounds are dotted with driveways, flower beds and old wooden rocking chairs, and are home to a chapel, rose garden and two hard outdoor tennis courts, so you can easily spend a weekend without leaving the perimeter, especially a once you’ve settled in for some rough walks along the beach. Dogs are, thankfully, not only welcome, but encouraged (it was recently awarded ‘best hotel for dogs’ just this month). Oh, and there’s a helipad for guests looking to fly in style.
But the highlight of a stay at the Bailiffscourt is, of course, the hotel’s award-winning spa, set in a Sussex-style exposed timber barn, widely recognized as one of the finest spas in southern England.
Inside, there are six treatment rooms with heated waterbeds and Temple Spa products, a state-of-the-art gym, fitness room, sauna and steam room, though the centerpiece – or pieces – are its two magnificent infinity pools: one indoor, one outdoor; both lined with sun loungers; and both are certainly roomy enough to dive a number of lengths without being on top of other guests.
The hardest choice you’ll have to make is which one to go for (of course I mean: you have to try both). The outdoor pool is beautifully heated, even in the winter, and is somehow even more inviting on a cold winter day when the steam romantically rises from the water and squirrels frolic on the leaves around the edge. The best part? You’re in a prime position to spring into the outdoor hot tub, when the previous tenants finish their glasses of bubbly and retire indoors.
If you’d rather be comfortable, the indoor pool is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows so you’ll still get natural light, whether you’re stretching your legs in the pool or soaking in the hot tub.
Fluffy bathrobes and flip flops are available in the rooms and reception and there’s complimentary tea and coffee if you feel like relaxing and making a day or half a day.
What on Instagram
Steam rising from the pool at dusk, preferably from the hot tub with a glass of Sussex bubbly.
Spa seekers and dog owners. Couples make up the majority of guests, but families are welcome, and I took my mom for a spa day and she’s already looking forward to returning with half of her friends. The hotel is also popular with day guests, who come for afternoon tea and a stroll or a day at the spa. Half day packages start at £119.
How to get there
It’s only 90 minutes by train from Victoria to Barnham, then 10 minutes by taxi. You can get there from London in under an hour.
When do I have to go?
Anytime you can get a room, but the beach location obviously stands out in the warmer months.
Then again, humid winter days are the perfect time to use the light-filled pool — and it would be a waste not to use those fireplaces.
Rooms from £325, Climping St, Atherington, Littlehampton BN17 5RW, hshotels.co.uk