Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa is one of the most charming hotels on the south coast of England. Composed of seven medieval-style buildings with 39 rooms (an underground tunnel connects the two largest), the hotel is set in 30 acres of parkland tucked away on one side of the tiny village of Climping, West Sussex.
The hotel was completed as a medieval folly by Lord Moyne (originally Walter Guinness of the brewing family) and his wife Evelyn in the 1930s, using sandstone from a crumbling farmhouse and a 15th century vast oak door from South Warnborough Chapel. Moyne bought the land after falling for the pebbly coastline and hearing that the council planned a housing estate on the site.
The result is a series of buildings featuring courtyards, mullioned windows, heavy wood doors, the occasional creaking floorboard, strange tunnels to thatched cottages, and lots of nooks and crannies. It has been a hotel since 1948, and its name comes from the bailiff who once oversaw the chapel.
One of the unique features of the property is that it is dog friendly, without caveats. So often hotels allow pets, but make it pretty unappealing to bring them by tacking on extra costs, including pet restrictions or offering limited room options. Here, however, we took our Pomeranian pup and he was as thrilled as we were at the prospect of a night in a gigantic four-poster bed. Our gorgeous suite was decorated in a medieval style, with tapestries, a wood burning stove, leaded windows and vaulted ceiling. The room has a modern, comfortable feel to it and also includes a large bathroom with a separate bathtub and a walk-in shower.
Outdoors, the setting is incredibly peaceful. Sitting in the herb garden, sipping tea after a stroll along the quiet beach and a chilly dip in the channel, all my husband and I could hear was a birdsong and the occasional cry of a resident peacock. After tea, we visited the spa, which is a destination in itself. The lobby area is spacious and relaxing with glass walls that look out to two pools and the garden beyond. The indoor pool has a large Jacuzzi at its far end with sauna and steam rooms to one side. Gentle grassy banks shelter the outdoor pool, hot tub and a garden sports bluebells, daffodils and rabbits. There is also a small, but perfectly-formed, gym. The spa offers six treatment rooms, and all therapies follow a Mediterranean theme with the use of natural Temple Spa aromatherapy oil products.
When it comes to food, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant serves English cuisine with a French twist. There is a strong commitment to using quality, locally-sourced ingredients from Sussex, and the hotel fosters strong ties with local producers. Try the salmon starter (smoked and cured on site) and a delicious rack of lamb from nearby Goodwood, with glazed baby turnips, leeks and Chantenay carrots for your main course. The breakfast offerings are bountiful as well and includes items such as eggs, bacon, porridge, fresh juices, fruit, yogurt and coffee.
Bailiffscourt is probably the most relaxing, comfortable, well-run place that I’ve visited this year. To say I’m hesitant to even mention its existence (for fear of it getting overcrowded), is an understatement. But, this secret is just too good not to share.