Bailiffs Court Hotel and Spa Review By Absolute
Timeless, enchanting and opulent, Bailiffscourt Hotel and Spa is both a rural and beachside escape that exudes excellence on every level. Set within 30 acres of private parkland and neighbouring the charms of Climping beach, this stunning and historic hotel features a medieval-style house, thatched houses and cottages, a 13th century chapel, a romantic inner rose-clad courtyard and an intriguing underground passageway. Surrounded by a picture book rose garden and boasting an exquisite spa with both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a croquet lawn and tennis courts, this is where guests can get away from it all, in their luxurious home from home.
From the moment you journey through the gates and up the impressive and welcoming drive towards the medieval main house, you can feel the history and stories of the past in the air. The whole team at Bailiffscourt take pride in being proud custodians of an estate that has welcomed visitors for decades before them, stewarding the building and upholding its ethos and traditions.
Staff are well versed in the history of their surroundings and are happy to lead guests through the fascinating accounts and features. With all the appearance of an ancient manor house, Bailiffscourt’s best-kept secret is that until 1927 it didn’t exist. It was designed for Lord Moyne, then Walter Guinness of the brewing family, by the antiquarian and architect, Amyas Phillips. His brief was to recreate a house in the medieval style, which was favoured by Lord Moyne’s wife Evelyn. Phillips searched the country for original stone, woodwork, doors, windows and fireplaces, bringing them all together at Climping to create the exquisite country house and park that we see today.
Throughout the 1930’s, Bailiffscourt played host to the high society of the day until the death of Lady Moyne in 1939, and in 1948 it became a privately owned hotel and in 1993 Historic Sussex Hotels bought and lovingly restored to be the Bailiffscourt guests see today.
I’ve heard for many years friends and family talk about Bailiffscourt with such high regard and awe, having visited for weddings, relaxing spa visits, and romantic special occasions. So you can imagine that when I was invited to bring my family for a weekend staycations, I felt a mixture of excitement, honour and later, panic. I’d only ever imagined going there on a romantic break and hadn’t considered a visit with two toddlers in tow! Calmed slightly by the fact we were going to experience the specifically designed Family Sussex Staycation package, I surprised my husband with the news and set about packing our overnight bags.
Starting from £355, the Sussex Staycation package invites families to discover all that West Sussex has to offer from cultural encounters to award-winning vineyards and return to Bailiffscourt for some calm, a quiet moment in the spa or roam free and explore the 30 acres of private parkland with a wander down to the beach. For the more energetic little visitors, there is plenty on offer from croquet to quoits and tennis to tumbletowers, before enjoying a delicious dinner from the 3 course ‘Climping Menu’ and settling in for a deeply luxurious night’s sleep.
As it turned out, Bailiffscourt is truly a family friendly hotel and as soon as we arrived, the team took every care to ensure out little ladies were as looked after as we were. Check in was friendly and efficient and we were delighted to discover we would be staying in one of the very finest rooms on the estate; Baylies. This is the ultimate room for a celebratory or romantic getaway and is now increasingly popular with families, like ourselves, looking to spend time together. Baylies is on the first floor of the Medieval House with dual-aspect views over the rose garden and across the grounds and simply has to be seen to be believed. With its vaulted ceiling, glowing wood-burning stove and a four-poster bed that takes pride of place in the centre of the room, this incredibly spacious signature room certainly has the wow factor and allows it’s guests to feel like royalty.
Our daughters immediately started toddling and crawling around the vast room, exploring every nook and cranny. A well-sized cot and child’s bed had been set up for them and they delighted in finding towels upon their beds, that had been crafted in elephant shapes and sat together with a welcome the signed from ‘Nellie’. Each of us had our very own fluffy dressing gown and as we wandered into the bathroom, we discovered a large walk-in shower and twin roll-top baths (which caused huge excitement at the girl’s bath time!)
It is the attention to detail and small but meaningful gestures that really sets Bailiffscourt apart from other hotels; every guest is presented with a beautiful map that details the estate grounds, babies have hooded baby towels provided, each room comes equipped with a list of DVDs which you can borrow from reception, the tea facilities are enhanced by the presence of a very healthy supply of probably the best shortbread I have ever tasted and the numerous lounges are equipped with board games galore, a library’s worth of storybooks and crayons and colouring-in.
Bailiffscourt has a total of 39 beautiful bedrooms within a series of charming houses and cottages set in private parkland. Guests can choose from medieval-style rooms, to a more modern affair with contemporary design. The Medieval House is connected to the Thatch House by an underground passageway. The Court and Coach Houses stand opposite the main entrance, while the Gate House and the newer rooms in the Moat House and The Oaks stand beside the old moat overlooking the fields beyond.
All rooms are individually decorated using beautiful fabrics and filled with antiques and art, whilst also offering the modern essentials such as satellite TV and complimentary WiFi. The unusual room names are taken from the fields surrounding the hotel dating back to 1610 and each room varies in size. For families, there are lots of options depending on the age of your children and the size of your family. You can either share – many of the rooms have sofa beds or ample space for extra beds, you can book an entire house or cottage or simply choose adjacent or interconnecting rooms. Upon booking, you will be asked how you will be most comfortable and a recommendation will be given as to the best fit for you and your family.
Before long, it was nap time for the girls and whilst ‘Papa’ read the paper by the roaring wood burning stove, it was time for me to go out of my comfort zone entirely and head over to the spa. I know that sounds a little crazy but I’m just not the pampering type. I’m a busy and probably rather highly strung working mummy that finds it very hard or indeed impossible to relax. My husband had encouraged me to take up the offer of a complimentary massage at the spa (my first ever) and so I agreed and pondered at what a challenge it would be for the masseuse to crack this stubborn ice queen. That said, if they were successful, it would certainly be a testament to their skill!
Highly regarded as one of the most beautiful spas in the south of England, the Spa takes its inspiration from nature, offering tranquility and indulgence. Built in the style of a Sussex barn with dramatic exposed timber frame, the spa has received prestigious design awards, artfully contrasting the textures of polished limestone and natural green oak. You cannot fail to be impressed as you enter through the glass doors, into the vast reception area. I’m not sure how it happened, but as soon as I arrived, it was like something said to my body ‘….and relax’. Was it the calming scent in the air, the soothing music or the sheer beauty of the venue? Perhaps it was the perfect blend of all those elements.
Despite arriving in what my husband had branded a “totally inappropriate outfit for a visit to a spa for a massage,” (it was just a long dress, boots and wintery tights which I didn’t have much choice about as this was news to me and like anyone staying overnight, I had limited resources to hand), the lady at the desk provided me with a locker key and I immediately felt at ease as I discovered a robe and flip flops waiting for me. I then had to fill in a form that, aside from the usual personal details, asked questions such as ‘how intense would you like your massage?’ and ‘would you like your masseuse to be conversational or quiet.’ I have to say I think that is a great idea as it avoids those potentially awkward conversations.
I am still in shock, but I have to admit that I absolutely loved the half an hour that followed. Bailiffscourt Spa have managed to create an environment that makes you feel comfortable, calm and totally carefree. The massage led me to drift away from the stresses and strains of the every day and for 30 minutes, I was just happily existing. Not planning my next work assignment, or the lunchboxes for the week ahead. Not awkwardly flinching (as I pessimistically predicted) as my shoulders and back were worked upon. Just totally and utterly relaxing.
It’s not surprising to learn that Bailiffscourt Spa has been awarded The Good Spa Guide’s 5 Bubble Rating. They have an impressive choice of treatments on offer designed to relax, de-stress, revitalise and restore. It is advertised that their highly skilled therapists ‘ensure total care of your body, mind and spirit’ and this once Doubting Thomas can certainly vouch for that .
Aside from treatments and therapies, the spa boasts a heated outdoor and indoor infinity swimming pool all surrounded by sun loungers with expansive windows bringing the outdoors into the beautiful indoor pool area. A gloriously bubbly hot tub also awaits, as well as the spa bath, steam room and sauna. Enhance your experience with a moment of calm in the specially designed relaxation rooms, while away the time in the Sandpiper Lounge (a light-filled space with a balcony overlooking the outdoor pool towards the sea) or get physical in the gym and fitness studio featuring state of the art equipment, personal trainers and a range of classes including yoga and Pilates.
During my lone visit to the spa, I learnt that there were specific family swimming times, from 10 till 11 am and 3:30 till 5 pm every day. Although slightly limiting, it is rather settling to know that all guests are aware that these are family swimming times, allowing you to feel comfortable and not disruptive when your children are splashing around! I returned the next morning with the whole family and, as well as being made to feel very welcome, my little fish enjoyed themselves immensely, aided by the excellent selection of floats and swimming aids made available for children.
The restaurant at Bailiffscourt has a wide spread reputation for being exceptional and so we all arrived to dinner dressed in our finest and with very high expectations. We had been assured that despite being a relatively formal setting, the restaurant was family friendly and we would all be very welcome to take dinner at 7pm. Children are welcomed in the restaurant, where you can dine comfortably as a family, or the other options would have been, for those that can’t last until dinner, to have snacks and light meals served in the lounge earlier, order room service or (on warmer days) have a picnic arranged by the team to take to the beach.
With its medieval architecture, mullioned windows and tapestry-hung walls the restaurant is a stunning setting and upon arriving, we were settled at a table that had a high chair all ready and waiting for us. The little ladies had half portions of the ‘Light menu’ and my husband and I were treated to the 3 course Climping Menu, which changes throughout the year and is a wonderful showcase on a plate, highlighting the exceptional talent of the Chefs.
Bailiffscourt use quality, locally sourced ingredients from Sussex throughout the menus and have great relationships with local suppliers, some of whom they have been working with for many years. The suppliers know exactly what want and they deliver excellent produce every time, ensuring that the high standards set are continuously delivered – it is a team effort, from field (or sea) to fork.
The Climping menu highlights the fine produce available throughout Sussex, creating a mouth-watering menu, mixing innovation and tradition, echoing the ethos of the hotel. Lured by the promise of Selsey lobster, we both opted for the Lobster Soup, accompanied by Aioli, gruyère cheese and croûtes. The soup was warming, indulgently rich, bursting with flavours of the sea and the accompaniments added vitality. For mains, I decided on the Grilled fillet of salmon with salsa verde, samphire, celeriac purée and lobster cream sauce and my husband chose the Roasted cornfed chicken supreme, creamed potato, morel mushroom cream sauce, spring greens and port jus. Every ingredient had noticeably been sourced and selected for its quality and vibrant flavour. The salmon melted in the mouth, the chicken was moist and succulent, the spring greens sung with freshness and both the creamed potato and celeriac purée were perfectly smooth, silky and now my ultimate goal when I make mash at home.
The waiting staff were courteous and incredibly patient and friendly towards our super young diners. Although rather well accustomed now to restaurant visits, all in the name of mummy’s work, they do like to keep the waiters on their toes with the ‘drop and retrieve the serviette game’ and their high expectations regarding speed of serving the dessert course. We now have a tactic of ordering their mains whilst we enjoy our starters, their desserts whilst we have mains and then ordering our desserts up to our room, to be enjoyed once the girls have settled in their beds. The waiting team happily obliged, entertained the girls and made us feel both relaxed and at ease.
It isn’t just the restaurant at Bailiffscourt that is set aside for feasting and indulging. The series of lounges around the inner courtyard are unique and endlessly appealing for a glass of wine, afternoon tea or simply to sit a while and read the papers. When the sun shines, be sure to take a moment to venture outside into the charming courtyard or rose garden. Afternoon Tea is served between 3.30pm and 5.30pm and from 4pm on a Sunday. I recommend booking in advance as it’s extremely popular!
Situated just 25 minutes drive from the charms of Chichester and just 10 minutes from picturesque Arundel, Bailiffscourt is a perfect marriage of relaxation and adventure, luxury and home comforts and history and innovation. Few hotels and restaurants are truly ‘family-friendly,’ but Bailiffscourt has created the perfect formula for ensuring every family member is catered for, recognising that if your children are happy and relaxed, then you, and even I am too.