Why stay at an identikit chain hotel when you can explore country manors, mansions and royal homes right here on your doorstep? If it’s an historic des res you’re after, here at Title Sussex we can definitely recommend a few…
Amberley Castle, Amberley, West Sussex
There aren’t many hotels that can boast a portcullis that is lowered every night to keep you safe within its 60ft high walls. But at Amberley Castle, known locally as the ‘Pearl of Sussex’, a stay in this 900-year-old castle is fit for a king and queen. That’s no surprise given that no less than at least four British monarchs have stayed here. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the castle has four-poster beds, suits of armour, throne-like chairs and coats of arms seemingly everywhere you look. Dinner is eaten in The Queen’s Room, where a three-course lunch followed by a history tour is fascinating, and the land the castle stands on was given to Bishop Wilfred by Caedwalla, King of Wessex, in 683AD. In 1643 Oliver Cromwell sent a general to attack it, and along with a chunk of the curtain walls, he destroyed the Great Hall. A brick and timber manor house was later built out of the ruins within the castle walls. The Queen even stayed here in 1945!
A deluxe double, excluding breakfast, starts at £477 per night
Hummingbird House, Lewes
Over the border in East Sussex there’s a house with a musical history that hits all the right notes for the most stylish staycation. Hummingbird House near Lewes was the home of Edwardian musical hall star Lily Elsie. She lived in the Grade-II listed manor house after soaring to fame first as a child star. She became friends with Noel Coward and was so beautiful and said to be so charming on stage, she became one of the most photographed women of her time. Now the house she enjoyed in the 1950s – named after the character she played in See See – is available as a luxurious self-catering des res. Highlights include the 17th century carved wooden porch, wooden beams in the rooms, roll top bath, hot tub and attic room. Our top tip day out: explore the Twittens in Lewes, with its quaint stores and tea rooms, then relax at Hummingbird House, which is well worth an encore.
A four night stay at the house, self-catering for up to seven people is £1,350 www.hummingbirdhouse.uniquehomestays.com
Alexander House Hotel, East Grinstead
With a past stretching back to Roman times, when a road was built here, this is an historical house packed with mod-cons, including the glorious Utopia Spa. A stone dating back to 1608 was found in the boundary wall, but the sophisticated house, which was a favourite of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, is one of the most luxurious outside of the capital, with five stars and a coveted AA award. Gilt wood Louis chairs are a-plenty, and the food is delicious British cuisine using local ingredients with tasting menus including smoked eel, foie gras with rhubarb, and pigeon with wild garlic. There are L’Occitane products – we love! – in the bedrooms, some of which have roll top baths for two, and Egyptian cotton sheets. The spa, with its indoor pool and outdoor Zen garden, has 25 treatment rooms, so there’s no excuse not to relax. Surrounded by glorious gardens and the verdant Sussex countryside, this is the ultimate hotel to de-stress and be pampered.
A room, including breakfast, starts from £199 during summer.
South Lodge, Horsham
Set among 93 acres of park and woodland, South Lodge dates back to one of the most important times in British as well as Sussex history – 1066. It became crown property until Charles II gave it away in 1680. Trees were felled here to build ships for the navy during the Napoleonic wars and then an aristocrat, Charles George Beauclerk, built the 89-bedroom house. Most recently it was owned by the Godman family – notably Frederic du Cane Godman, who inherited an ample fortune thanks to his father’s partnership in the brewing company, Whitbread & Co. The hotel boasts the original embossed wallpapers, giant fireplaces and bronze pillars. The ceilings are decorated with fleur-del-lis, and Tudor rose moulds, and there are 18th century oil portraits on the walls. If you want to play lord and lady of the manor there’s croquet, tennis, a bar and two restaurants; The Camellia, which serves British dining, and the Michelin-starred The Pass with its Great British menu. The bedrooms have four poster beds, hot tubs in the bathrooms, and oversized showers – altogether the ultimate in countrified luxury.
Prices start at £175.50 per night.
The Grand Brighton
If it’s a stylish staycation by the sea with history by the bucket (and spade) load, hotels don’t come much grander than this Victorian hotel on Brighton’s sea front. Built in 1864 by architect John Whichcord Jr to be the most luxurious city for visiting gentry, with a distinct Italian influence in the design, The Grand still promises la dolce vita for its discerning guests. Famous guests include President Kennedy, the Duke of Windsor, Ronald Reagan, and Napoleon III, and the hotel sadly hit the headlines in 1984 when it was bombed by the IRA during the Conservative Party Conference in a bid to assassinate then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She survived, and the hotel re-opened two years later. It has since had another multi-million-pound refurbishment. The Art-Deco inspired rooms have a subtle seaside theme – think cream and blue with silver starfish lamps – there’s also some lip-smackingly good food. Their 2AA Rosette fish restaurant GB1 is a feast for the senses while the Victoria Terrace boasts a new brunch; including a full English, chorizo hash, and raw juices for the healthy or signature cocktails for the more daring. If relaxing is the order of the day, try one of the best spas outside London. The Grand Brighton spa has eight treatment rooms and offers facials and treatments by royal favourite British brand, Heaven Skincare. Created by celebrity facialist Deborah Mitchell, you can opt for an anti-aging bee sting facial or a heavenly Angel face lift, with use of all the facilities, including a steam room, sauna and relaxation room.
There’s currently an amazing promotion on – scaffold rooms from £110, including breakfast!