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Explore the South Downs from this country retreat

12:00 01 November 2015

South Lodge Hotel is a 45 minute drive from the South Downs National Park

South Lodge Hotel is a 45 minute drive from the South Downs National Park

(C)2007 {Christian Trampenau}, all rights reserved

Waking up to a panoramic view over the lawns in South Lodge Hotel is an experience to savour. A night or two in this tranquil countryside estate will wash the chaos of London out of your hair.

The Devil's Dyke suite. Each bedroom in the hotel is named after a nearby attractionThe Devil's Dyke suite. Each bedroom in the hotel is named after a nearby attraction

My partner and I stay in the Beachy Head suite which boasts floor-length windows and a balcony. I start to wish every morning could begin like this, with a coffee on the veranda as the dew evaporates on the grass.

I’d be surprised to hear of anyone not getting a good night’s sleep in this peaceful room. Then again, maybe my coma-like slumber is down to my choice of pillow which I’m able to hand-pick off a pillow menu. No you didn’t misread that.

I opt for the “relaxation pillow” which promises to relieve stress and increase positivity. I awaken feeling positive and stress-free – whether this is the pillow’s doing is another question.

The hotel is set amongst acres of woodland and parkland and is only four miles from the National Trust’s Nymans gardens.

A day out here to explore the wilderness and the romantic 19th century house is an absolute must. The house is steeped in history and interesting tales: it was partially destroyed by a fire in 1947, leaving behind ruins of a fairy-tale Gothic mansion.

A trip to the South Downs is also easily doable in a day from the hotel, as the edge of the national park is less than 45 minutes drive away.

Whether it’s the countryside’s rich tapestry of flora and fauna or bustling market towns you’re after, you’re bound to find it nuzzled somewhere in the park’s 1,600km2 of rolling English hills.

The best bit about a hotel like South Lodge is returning from a day’s hiking to one of the cosy living rooms, where a fire awaits.

And dinner in the Camellia restaurant turns a fun weekend break into a special occasion. Dark wood panelled walls and thickly-framed paintings give the room an elegant country house charm.

I start with the most tender lamb dish I think I’ve ever tried. It is a pressed shoulder with aubergine, spring onion, caper and anchovy dressing. The small square of meat falls away on my fork.

This is followed by a succulent but rather small cod dish. My partner thoroughly enjoys his pork belly. And a bottle of pinot noir, recommended by our wine connoisseur of a waiter, complements the dishes perfectly.

Although the food is of impeccable quality, it’s fair to say it lacks quantity. If it wasn’t for bread served with a delicious pumpkin soup amuse-bouche, we imagine we might go to bed hungry.

A full-English and a generous buffet at breakfast more than makes up for it.

In the evening we eat from the market menu, which is reasonably priced at £24.50 for three courses, but A La Carte is also available. The hotel’s other restaurant, Matt Gillan at The Pass, is for diners wanting to get a closer sample set in an open-plan kitchen setting.

Morning sunshine streaming through the huge windows in the Camellia restaurant sets the scene for an exciting adventure ahead.

This is the place to visit for a weekend of trekking in the South Downs with a luxurious touch, or for simply kicking back in a country retreat.

South Lodge Hotel, Brighton Road, Lower Beeding, Horsham RH13 6PS. 01403 891711

Southern Rail runs a regular service between London Victoria and Horsham, with a monthly return starting at £31.70.

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