Yet we got a bit lost around Arundel after admiring the splendid castle, having ‘done’ the Roman ruins and peeped into Petworth en-route. Enough culture for one day, we headed for the beach any old way, and driving down a small country lane, we stumbled across the Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa sign. Not a fetching name, you may well say! And the village, Climping, also doesn’t exactly look exciting. But on closer inspection we were much rewarded. If you have only a little time to get out of dusty London for a couple of days, that place may well do the job of making you feel so good in your skin, you’ll think you had a real holiday.
This is exactly what the people who created this little oasis had in mind. In the 1920s Lord Moyne, the Walter Guinness of the Brewing Family, decided to reinvent 'the huts', some small old houses he had used for trips to Goodwood, as a 'medieval' grand house. Lady Moyne loved anything of that period, and their trusted antiquary, Amyas Phillips, set about finding splendid medieval things all over Britain, reassembling them in a new building of tranquil, timeless quality. They succeeded wonderfully. The moment you enter Bailiffscourt you take a deep breath in and totally relax.
Nowadays, there is of course also a Spa with treatments so well executed by friendly girls that you don’t want to leave that either. They have two pools, one outside beside the lawns, that invite a little sporting activity, but just a little, nothing too strenuous. But I think lazing around on the lawn or sipping a smoothie on the wooden deck sounds much more like it, doesn’t it. The year-round indoor pool has family swim times, so be warned.
You can choose to have a modern room in one of the annex buildings, or sleep in splendour in one of the old ones that look as if a medieval Queen had just left: heavy oak furniture and four posters beds. All rooms have super modern showers and great roll top baths fit for a present day Royal. And a real wood fireplace, nicely set up, with a basket stacked with spare logs, was the most wonderful thing.
The crowning glory though, is the whole building itself. Designed as a private 'folly', several buildings, all small in scale, follow each other around to form a cluster, with lots of small nooks and crannies everywhere, in which to have tea, sip a cocktail and just relax.
The main restaurant is exactly the right size to be comfortable: very smart drapery, funky porcelain which somehow matches the silver ornaments, and lots of delightful fresh flowers everywhere. So the whole feels like a very nice domestic dining room rather than a snobby restaurant. The staff do their best to keep it that way, always helpful, but never intrusive. Chris, as the long-standing General Manager, rules this ship with a gentle, steady hand, so all are relaxed and happy to make you happy.
Tucking into a seafood radiolo that couldn’t have been tastier, then a superb lamb dish paired with a glass of excellent Australian Sauvignon, Heaven really wasn’t far away! They do set menus, so small appetites are catered for as well as gargantuan. There is also a cute little restaurant in the open air within the courtyard, which felt like sitting in an Italian square in miniature, warm and sunny on the first day.
The next morning, woken by the resident peacock crying out pleadingly for Mrs Peacock, we ambled along the seaside. Sadly the sun had hidden again, but a brisk walk in the sea air is even more of a treat when it’s on your doorstep. Just a walk through the meadow and you’re there! We were surprised to find that the sea has chomped off most of the fortification wall; the environment agency seems to have forgotten Clymping: maybe they can’t decide if it’s spelled with an 'i' or a 'y' either. A real loss this, as one could walk on the path so easily before. Maybe Chris will sort this out, too!
As sunbathing was off the agenda, we decided to look at another much praised foodie place nearby, The East Beach Café. Lunch times is busy there, the place was jiving. They are exceptionally nice to Mummies and Babies, so there were a lot of them. (But the acoustics are not really meant for that, I’d say.)
However, the food and menu looked promising; the fried squid was in a tempura light batter and the spicy sauce was totally delicious. The crab tagliatelle was a bit too sticky and not really al dente, ditto the fishcake on wilted spinach; all a bit overcooked. The locals are not keen at all on this modern place; it is tagged here as a 'Londoner’s' place. But The Lobster Pot, a café that we were hotly recommended in nearby Felpham was a bit too caf-like for us, though the seating space outside when summer comes would be very pleasant, I’m sure. I suppose we are Londoners, after all.
Certainly there are many places in Sussex that will make your weekend most enjoyable; villages like Fittelworth or Chiddingfield definitely need further exploring. Petworth is worth a return, too. Or indeed the Glorious Goodwood the Lord Moyne so enjoyed! Just make sure you stumble upon Bailiffscourt.