Travel review: Family time and luxury combine at Bailiffscourt Hotel


bailiffscourt - Credit: Archant

Bridget Galton and family found a bucket of fun at a luxury seaside hotel with a laid back charm and quirky aristocratic history

Lofting our colourful kites into the sea breeze on a sunny spring evening, I wasn’t sure the day could get much better.

But then an ice bucket holding a bottle of finest Sussex fizz – made just up the road – appeared at my elbow, and miraculously it did.

As I sipped my wine and watched the four year old on a rope swing while the older ones tried keepy uppy with tennis balls, I reflected how rarely we manage family time with the children properly romping while we enjoy a little luxury.

We’d arrived at Bailiffscourt in time for one of two sessions when children are allowed into the hotel’s lovely spa.

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As spa-goers padded around in towelling-robes, we bypassed the indoor pool with its high beams and floor to ceiling windows and headed outside.

Beautifully set in a glade, and heated to a toasty degree the outdoor pool is a sylvan spot where you can do laps or sit in the hot tub contemplating trees and sky.

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The afternoon was just warm enough to read a book on one of the loungers but we had a ‘bucket list’ of fun activities to get through.

On each of the children’s beds we’d found a pocket kite, colouring pens and tennis ball alongside a list of activities to tick off.

Hence the kite flying, keepy uppy, rope swinging and running up the steps to nowhere – just six to go.

It’s a great way of encouraging young guests to explore the 30 acre grounds of a hotel, which looks as though it’s been there since the Doomsday book, but is in fact the creation of a wealthy Guinness heir and an Earl’s daughter with a passion for medieval architecture.

In the early 30s, Lord and Lady Morne’s designer Amyas Phillips assembled a rural idyll, transporting thatched barns, a pigeon loft, panelled rooms and stone lintels from derelict old buildings.

There on a spot on the south coast where the Moynes liked to holiday came church doors and archways, a 15th century gatehouse and 17th century half timbered house arranged around an existing Norman chapel that was once overseen by a monk acting as a bailiff for the Abbey of Seez in Normandy. Hence the name.

Lady Moyne furnished it with antiques and tapestries and entertained dukes, and writers serving them on pewter plates with two pronged medieval forks.

Sadly she died in 1939 and the place became a hotel shortly after Lord Moyne’s assassination in 1944.

Our room, was typical of its quirky charm, with heavy four poster, tapestries, mullioned windows and beams. The bathroom with twin tubs was spacious and super modern though.

Built around a central courtyard, it doesn’t take long to explore Bailiffscourt’s cosy rooms, we followed narrow stone flagged passages to find a hidden tunnel between the main and guest house, and a pool table. (another tick)

There are buckets and spades and traditional games to grab and take outside, and friendly staff who seem to genuinely like helping children.

A path cut through long grass leads through woodland to another rope swing.

You can stop for a knockabout on the tennis court or cross the main drive past streams where you can spot crested newts and ducks.

Coming full circle there’s a wooden sign pointing tantalisingly To The Sea – a short walk down a track to a pebbly beach where the eight-year-old promptly got soaked while still fully clothed. (not on the list)

We made it back in time for supper on the rose-fringed outdoor terrace where between courses of pasta, chicken and ice cream the children played traditional games of swingball, quoits and croquet.

Afterwards we installed them upstairs with a DVD borrowed from reception and enjoyed a peaceful dinner in the inevitably medieval Tapestry dining room - thankfully using three pronged forks.

Showcaseing the best of seasonal British fare, we dined on honey roasted quail with waldorf salad, cod brandade with quail eggs and parma ham, and a lovely herb crusted saddle of lamb with aubergine caviar.

Fascinating Arundel with its cstle is just a few miles away and worth a stop off, or Petworth House with it’s Capability Brown designed park is great for a picnic.

We explored the Victorian kitchens and enjoyed dressing up, before wandering around the main rooms hung with among the best art collection in the National Trust’s care including works by Bosch, Titian and Turner.

They’re handy stops to and from but while you’re at Bailiffscourt you won’t want to be anywhere else.

A Bucket of Fun at Bailiffscourt is from £358 based on two adults and two children sharing an overnight stay Sunday-Thursday. Four bedroom cottages available from £1,432 per night, sleeping 8.

Price includes dinner and breakfast, a bucket of fun and a bottle of Tinwood Sparkling Wine.

Families will be awarded a Bailiffscourt Bucket List Certificate on completion of 10 tasks.

Weekend stays from £478 per night. Subject to availability from 1 April – 31 October 2016

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