Travel review: A special time at a special place in West Sussex
Ruth Brindle enjoys a luxury seaside hideaway with an interesting past
The word ‘unspoilt’ is often overused in travel but a very special area of West Sussex along the coast between Bognor Regis and Brighton can truly claim to be exactly that.
The village of Climping and the Climping Gap was preserved when Walter Guinness, the 1st Baron Moyne a member of the brewing dynasty found out that a housing estate was proposed next to his beloved Sussex seaside hideaway.
He decided there was only one thing to do – buy the 700 acres of land himself. This he did in the 1920s and now all guests at his former holiday home in the village, the utterly charming and luxurious Bailiffscourt Hotel and Spa, can enjoy the fruits of his efforts.
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The beach and its sand dunes, a short walk from the hotel, are listed as an SSSI (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) while in the nearby West Beach Local Nature Reserve walkers enjoy discovering the unique ecosystem.
The village itself is thought to have been settled in by the Romans and then in 1080, the Normans built the church and its windmill, now a private home, dates from the 1700s.
Bailiffscourt itself is styled as a group of buildings that looks like a small village of ancient homes.
It was, however, built in the 20th century in medieval style loved by Lady Moyne as an ideal place for lavish weekend parties for the glitterati of the day.
The beams, flagstone floors and stone mullion windows make it hard to believe this was not built in the 13th Century. This is because much of the building material was, unusually and cleverly for the day, reclaimed from structures of the appropriate period.
My signature room, Baylies, was truly magnificent. The four poster bed sits under a dark-beamed vaulted ceiling. Comfy sofas lure you to sit in front of the stone fireplace and there were logs ready to light in the hearth. The vast bathroom, with twin roll-top baths is jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Today Bailiffscourt is still something of a favourite with the rich and famous, many spending time there from the world of entertainment. While I stayed for a weekend away one guest arrived by helicopter.
While the house guests of the 1920s could enjoy parties, a game of tennis, croquet or strolls around the 30 acres of grounds – as visitors can today – one huge bonus for us is the hotel spa with treatment rooms with its indoor and outdoor pools.
Dining at the hotel is a particular delight with the imaginative use of the best quality and freshest local produce, an important policy of this and the other two exclusive hotels in the Historic Sussex Hotels’ group.
And there’s a rich source of food and drink to choose from in the area. Sussex sparkling wine is particularly highly thought and vineyards such as Ridgeview are nearby.
When I was at Bailiffscourt I was keen to sample the local seafood, crab and lobster from Selsey was a highlight. Fish and shellfish is also sourced from nearby Brighton, Newhaven and Littlehampton.
But when you are able to tear yourself away from this idyll there are many places to visit. We chose a few hours at Petworth House & Park is 30 minutes away on our way home north.
This late 17th century house houses the National Trust’s finest and most important art collection. It’s 700 acre deer park is also a popular destination –www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth-house-and-park
There is also:
Arundel Castle, just a 15-minute drive away – https://arundelcastle.org
Amberley Working Museum, a 36-acre open air museum highlighting the industrial heritage of the South East is 25 minutes away – www.amberleymuseum.co.uk
Meanwhile the towns of Littlehampton and Bognor Regis are just five and 10-minute drives away.
Stays at Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa are from £249 per night, based on two sharing a Classic Double Room, mid-week, on a B&B basis. Stays in the Baylies Suite are from £555 on a B&B basis, and £615 with dinner included. www.hshotels.co.uk; 01903 723511
Family Rooms from £285.