When you imagine a sprawling countryside hotel steeped in splendour and history, with high beamed rooms and four-poster beds – the epitome of luxury – there isn’t a point where you also envisage the pitter patter of tiny feet and yells from excited children. Fine dining and top-notch spa facilities don’t mix with kids, do they?
Well, that’s not necessarily the case – not as far as Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa in West Sussex is concerned.
Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa
Set in 30 acres of stunning parkland, you can’t help but be impressed by the grounds as you make your way up the sweeping drive to the main house past the tennis courts, stream and moat house.
Originally owned by Lord and Lady Moyne, who brought the house and the chapel in 1927 – the hotel was named when the chapel was demolished in the 12th Century and rebuilt in the 13th Century, after it had been given to the Abbey of Seez in Normandy after the Norman Conquest, and the Abbess sent over a monk to act as a bailiff to watch over its interests.
A leisurely stroll around the hotel takes you right back in time. Not only can you marvel at the original buildings, so full of character including the Dovecote, Gate House and Granary, but the stunning woodland and its wildlife. We spotted the resident peacock as well as a variety of bird life.
Once we had settled into our room after a warm welcome at reception, we couldn’t wait to explore. The main house is full of hidden nooks and crannies – plenty of comfy sofas and lounges to recline in, with stone staircases and secret tunnels, all leading through to a pretty courtyard – the perfect area to scoff a light lunch or afternoon tea.
Our favourite go-to was the large back garden where you get the most wonderful views of the surrounding countryside, as well as a quaint rose garden by the Thatched House. It was a tranquil spot to enjoy the last of the evening sun and to drink a bottle of delicious Sussex Tinwood sparkling wine.
Climping is a small village set in between its rowdier neighbours Littlehampton and Bognor Regis. It’s a tiny hamlet which boasts a few pubs, a farm shop, and best of all… Climping beach – which has wooden groynes and pebbles at high tide. But at low tide, a huge expanse of dark, fine, hard-packed sand is exposed, making it an ideal spot for families and shallow swimming. It’s also popular with kitesurfers and windsurfers. We walked to the beach in five minutes and barely saw a soul. Had it not been for the high winds, we’d have happily spent longer digging the pebbles with the hotel’s bucket and spades – free for all young guests to use.
The Rooms at Bailiffscourt Hotel
There are 39 bedrooms and suites at Bailiffscourt, located in a series of buildings including the Medieval House, The Court and Coach Houses – with their newer rooms at the Moat House and The Oaks, beside the old moat and overlooking the fields. Each room has an en-suite bathroom, hospitality tray, satellite TV, direct-dial phone and hairdryer. For anything else, the hotel is only too happy to help.
We were lucky enough to be staying in the hotel’s signature room, Baylies. It truly was special. Not only was the vaulted ceiling and high beams a sight to behold, but the four-poster bed was huge, the walk-in-wardrobe looked spartan with our meagre belongings; and the two roll-top baths in the bathroom as well as the his-and-her sinks, and walk-in rain shower, felt extravagant. While we went straight towards the Nespresso machine and homemade biscuits, Monkey gravitated towards the board games and the tiny remote that controlled the ‘magic’ TV that rose from the wooden chest at the end of the bed.
Alongside the other flatscreen TV, woodburning stove, classic furnishings and views into the gardens, as well as the soft fluffy towels and robes, and spa quality toiletries, Baylies really was a room we would have happily holed up in on a wet, rainy day. Luckily for us, it happened to be the hottest weekend of the year – and we didn’t get the opportunity to use the DVD player to watch a movie, or order in the 24-hour room service. We all slept magnificently, though.
Amenities at Bailiffscourt Hotel
Don’t let the timeless elegance and old-fashioned facade fool you. As you would expect from a luxury hotel, there is wi-fi throughout the rooms and public areas, and room service. Meanwhile, there are several lounges throughout the hotel to relax in, a fully stocked bar and bar menu, as well as The Tapestry, Bailiffscourt’s fine dining restaurant.
Meanwhile, meetings, private dining and special events such as weddings can be held at the property, where 100 guests can be accommodated.
Bailiffscourt’s spa is the one area which I believe gives the hotel its special edge. With an indoor pool and an outdoor infinity pool, both with jacuzzis, a steam room, sauna and gym, plus several treatment rooms and a relaxation section, the family spent several hours here.
After being taken to the treatment suites and settling myself on the water-bed table (a first for me!), I went for a 50 minute ‘In Good Spirits’ massage, which was just heavenly. A firm, energising massage, it was so relaxing, I actually woke myself up snoring. Embarrassing, I know, but therapist Angela assured me this happens all the time! After feeling totally de-stressed, I then slipped into the outdoor jacuzzi while watching Monkey play in the pool.
We had such glorious sunshine that we were able to order drinks and stay poolside on the sun loungers. It really felt like we were on holiday. The only downside being, because the spa is open to guests and members, there are specifically designated family times, which meant we had to reluctantly leave. But completely understandable.
Bailiffscourt Restaurant and Food
People from all over, not just the hotel guests, come to sample the cuisine at Bailiffscourt’s Tapestry restaurant. Head chef Russell Williams sources local, seasonal ingredients from Sussex which is a great philosophy to adopt – helping local businesses and farms can only be a good thing, while getting to taste the best Britain has to offer.
We’d booked dinner later in the evening, and were asked if we could wait in the lounge with a pre-dinner drink. The maitre d explained the restaurant was extremely busy, but we didn’t mind – we were fine sipping on gin and tonics, and eating home-made hummus.
We were given the menus to choose our meals at this point – and were both overwhelmed with choice. There was a Dinner Menu, Climping Menu, Sussex Menu and Tasting Menu all with several dishes on offer, at different price points. We had to call on the services of the maitre d to help us decide!
Once seated, we realised just how busy service was. We noticed a few disgruntled diners complaining about their meals but this didn’t ruin our enjoyment of our three courses. Hubby’s curried scallops were particularly delicious, whilst my sea bream was fresh, subtle and light.
However, the dining room was stifling hot – I could only imagine how the staff and chefs were coping with the heat – and the service from the waiting staff was a little slow – small details like having to ask for more bread, different faces coming to the table at each juncture and no one pouring our wine or water.
Breakfast the next morning consisted of a plentiful buffet of fruit, pastries, cereals, continental meats and cheeses alongside fresh fruit juices. There is also the option to order a cooked breakfast, too. So while Monkey tucked into boiled egg and soldiers, we went for the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. We were definitely set up for the day…
The food overall was of a reasonable standard and we had a pleasant dining experience. Having eaten the week previous in a three Michelin starred restaurant for my birthday, it was difficult not to make comparisons. I think if the menus were pared down and there was less choice, perhaps reasonable dishes would be elevated to exceptional dishes, as the kitchen wouldn’t be so overworked. Just a thought… but there was no denying the quality ingredients, which were fresh and tasty.
Bailiffscourt is all about peace and relaxation. But it’s also about ‘Buckets of Fun’ – a brilliant way for families and their children to not only enjoy the extensive grounds and properties but to dabble in fun activities at the same time.
As soon as we were greeted by staff, Monkey was pleased to receive a tennis ball and a special ‘bucket list’ which had to be completed in order to receive a signed certificate. We did all manner of things including playing a game of croquet, swinging on a woodland rope, doing handstands on the helipad and seeking out a special underground servant’s tunnel. If, however, you were to ask him what his favourite part of our stay was, he’d categorically tell you it was the several hours we spent splashing around in Bailiffscourt’s two exceptional swimming pools.
He also loved the surprise waiting in our room – a bowl of sweets and popcorn. While we got the fizz, Monkey indulged in confectionery. Win-win all around!
The hotel is very accommodating towards children. There are high chairs, baby cots and babysitting services available, while staff are happy to engage. I was surprised when Monkey was referred to by name when I hadn’t actually mentioned it to anyone.
We were also able to feed him his meal at an earlier time – he had his pick from a wide selection of choices from the children’s menu and happily sat colouring in while waiting for his dinner of sausages and chips to arrive.
I met several guests who are repeat visitors – which by its own admission suggests that Bailiffscourt is doing something right. The grounds and gardens are stunning – while the spa and its swimming facilities are superb. The hotel really is a breathtaking property which transports you away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Coupled with the glorious weather, it was the perfect setting to relax, unwind and enjoy some family time together.
We certainly did have ‘buckets of fun’ – the activities the hotel concocted, and the close proximity of Climping Beach meant that Monkey was never bored. From the moment we arrived, watching several helicopters taking off from the helipad to hunting down the seaside snakes and ladders, as well as enjoying a pampering session and the wine and fine dining, there was certainly something for each and every one of us.
Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa certainly proves that you can combine luxury accommodation with children. It was tinged with sadness when we had to pack up the car and leave. In fact, my husband was bereft. He’s now stated that we have to return – and soon. Well, there won’t be any complaints from me or Monkey, that’s for sure…
* We were guests of Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa on their Buckets of Fun Family Package, which included Dinner, Bed and Breakfast, use of the spa facilities and a bottle of fizz. From £358 for a family of four. As always my opinions are my own.