Bailiffscourt Hotel at Climping in West Sussex is definitely one of my top dream destinations in Sussex. It’s luxurious, enigmatic, and as they themselves describe, a place of many contradictions.
Setting the scene
You arrive at Bailiffscourt down a single-track lane, leaving the hustle and bustle of Sussex life behind you, and it instantly feels special. There is an assortment of Medieval looking, thatched outbuildings, a 13th-century chapel, and an impressive main house.
Bailiffiscourt is just a very short walk from the sea and that gives this spot a wonderfully romantic and remote vibe. It’s quiet here, with fresh sea air and the smaller trees have that coastal bend from fighting with nature.
The main hotel is warm and welcoming with a Medieval charm … or is it? The truth is that the tiny 13th century chapel is the only original building and was built by the Abbey of Seez (Normandy, France). At the time, a bailiff’s court (a place where the bailiff lived) was built around it but the house as it stands today was actually built in the 1920s and 1930s, using reclaimed materials. And the story behind it is a romantic if slightly sad one.
At the beginning of the last century, Lord and Lady Moyne (part of the Guinness dynasty) kept a holiday home at Climping. They were part of the “movers and shakers” set of the 1920s. But when plans were announced to develop the surrounding Climping area, they bought 750 acres and decided to create a grand house in Medieval style using materials from other old homes. That means that some of the doorways and window arches are actually from the 12th and 13th century whilst one of the doors is 15th century. The gatehouse in the grounds is also a 15th century structure moved from Loxwood in West Sussex and it’s next to a half-timbered 17th century house from Hampshire.
Despite this, there’s a real sense of authenticity about Bailiffscourt, in part due to the sumptuous interior décor and in part due to the architectural design. There are underground corridors linking buildings, cosy snugs, uneven floors and thick stone walls. Sadly, whilst the house was finished in 1935, Lady Moyne died in 1939, and Lord Moyne was assassinated in 1944. Bailiffscourt became a hotel in 1947.
Let me show you to your room
There are 39 bedrooms at Bailiffscourt spread across the main building and various cottages. Whilst I can’t speak for them all, my room was superb. I crossed the courtyard at the end of the day under a starry night uninterrupted by light pollution. But by the time I was ready for sleep, a wind whistled up from the beach and gentle rain tapped at the windows whilst I snuggled down in a large four-poster bed with a real log fire burning in the hearth. It felt like I’d slipped into an episode of Poldark and that felt good.
A fine dining experience
The main dining room has mullioned windows and rich tapestries with a Medieval castle feel. There’s also a sunny central courtyard where you can eat and numerous little lounges if you don’t want to be in the main room. I know from Bailiffscourt’s sister hotels that the chefs here attach a great deal of importance to local ingredients and they have a map on their website showing where their ingredients come from. This extends to their wine list which includes a number of Sussex wines (including still and sparkling).
Their menu hits all the right notes when it comes to a fine dining experience. Tease your taste buds with the likes of cream of langoustine soup, truffle cream and fresh chives or local Southdowns venison loin Wellington with a herb pancake, mushroom duxelles, parsnip purée, parsnip crisp and port jus.
Then why not relax into a hot blackberry soufflé and apple sorbet or a honey creme brulée with ginger biscuits and fig. Each dish is subtle, delicate, and sophisticated, and everything you want when you’re staying in such sublime surroundings.
Explore or unwind
In the grounds of the hotel, there’s a rather beautiful spa designed as a striking old Sussex barn. Mine was a flying visit so I didn’t have time to spend there, but as I hurried back from the beach just after sunrise, the pull of the steam coming off the heated infinity pool was strong! I took a quick look at their menu of treatments “inspired by the landscapes, lifestyle and culture of the Mediterranean” and realised a return trip is needed!
I’m pretty familiar with the Sussex coast but the stretch of shoreline that backs onto the hotel is very special, no more so when you watch the sunrise over the water. Climping Gap, as this area is known, is now the biggest section of undeveloped coast between Bognor Regis and Brighton and the beach is listed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. I’m not surprised, it’s beautiful with dunes, sand flats and no one much about.
I know that I’m prone to falling in love too easily and I fell hard for Bailiffscourt. It feels, and is, unique as a Sussex destination, and now all I have to do is come up with a good reason to return.
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