Exploring Historic Sussex – England’s fine dining wine county

Want to explore England’s wine county capital? Then the best way to do it is by this fantastic triumvirate of Historic Sussex Hotels.

The Spread Eagle

This characterful hotel is one of the oldest coaching inns in the country, with certain parts of it dating back to the 15th century. The Queen’s Suite (the room in which I stayed) is the oldest part of the building , dating back to 1430. Named supposedly after Queen Elizabeth I who stayed there, it features an original wig closet – believed to be the last of its kind still in existence. Indeed The Spread Eagle has quite an impressive guest list throughout its 600 year history: Kind Edward VII, HG Wells and Guy Fawkes have also stayed here! In fact, directly outside the Queen’s Suite is a lounge area named after King Edward VII, which is said to be haunted by a coachman! Not what you want to hear when you’re in checking in…

The Spread Eagle team have done a magnificent job in retaining the building’s original features, with fresh artifacts continually being unearthed; just a few months ago an ancient copy of the Sussex Daily News paper was found under the floorboards of the King’s lounge, which are now proudly on display.

It’s wonky in parts, which makes the place even more fascinating and endearing. Have a drink in the oak panelled sitting rooms, cosy up by the open fires in winter, enjoy a memorable meal by candlelight with locally sourced ingredients forming a very English menu (crab and lobster from Selsey, game from local estates including Cowdray, West Dean and Petworth and delicious lamb from the Goodwood Estate) and enjoy a wonderful night’s sleep in an ornate four-poster bed. Before you leave, you must visit The Spread Eagle Spa, particularly ‘The Nest’ for a moment of zen, and explore the market town of Midhurst. E.V Lucas in 1910 wrote: “…no other spot has so much to offer: a quaint county town gabled and vulnerable, un-modernised and un-ambitious, with a river, a Tudor ruin, a park of deer, heather commons, immense woods and the Down only 3 miles distant. Sussex has no more contented town”.

For more information visit www.hshotels.co.uk/spread-eagle

Ockenden Manor

Located in Cuckfield, West Sussex, this is one of England’s most idyllic Tudor villages. Just an hour’s drive from London, this Elizabethan manor house mirrors contemporary design with an original 19th century walled garden. There are 28 individually styled bedrooms, each of which has been named after a member of one of the two families that’s owned the building since 1520. And if your room happens to be one of the six very spacious rooftop spa suites overlooking uninterrupted views of the South Down countryside and the hotel’s neighbours – a herd of Sussex cows – you’ll wish you booked a longer stay.

The spa here is outstanding. The large swimming pool is half indoors, half outdoors, and guests can swim between the two. The water in the pool is supplied by the hotel’s very own underground spring, as is the water in the hot tubs, the spa bath and the walk-through rain shower. There are workout classes you can sign up to daily, while spa treatments and products they use are based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine Five Element Theory, which is the belief that everything in life needs to work in harmony in order to achieve perfect equilibrium. You’ll feel you’ve achieved just that during your time here.

The restaurant, which is on the other side of the car park from the more contemporary spa building, is based in the former Elizabethan manor house. Enjoy a glass of Ridgeview’s award-winning sparkling wine while enjoying sweeping views of the garden pre-meal. The Ridgeview Wine Estate is just a 15-minute drive away from Ockenden Manor and I would highly recommend a visit. They’re the first English wine to win at the International Wine Awards and they’re making enormous strides in the industry to really plant English wine on the global map. There is another award-winner on the restaurant’s hands in chef Stephen Crane. Offering arguably the best, locally-sourced fine dining in the county, it truly is the best way to taste the flavours of Sussex.

Another vineyard very much worth visiting (less than an hour’s drive) is the Rathfinny Wine Estate. This enormous 600 acre vineyard uses state-of-the-art technology to make some of the country’s finest sparkling wine. Rathfinny was selected as ‘Sparkling wine of the month’ by The Ritz recently – the first time an English wine has achieved this! A must visit and a must taste to boot!

For more information visit www.hshotels.co.uk/ockenden-manor


If you’re seeking a luxury coastal retreat then the breathtaking Bailiffscourt is the place to go in Sussex. Situated right on the coast, with nothing but the sound of the waves breaking on the pebbled beach at Climping, this is a beautiful hideaway within 30 acres of private parkland.

It was originally built as the home for the Guinness family in the 1920s by Lord Moyne, using medieval timber and stone collected from derelict 13th century buildings nearby. To this day it remains family owned and gives a welcoming, homely feel. The staff are welcoming, the guests are all smiling and even the peacocks that live on site are very friendly with Kevin the peacock even having a reputation for sitting on people’s laps!

The grounds are also home to a 12th century chapel that was given to the Abbey of Seez in Normandy after the Norman Conquest. The Abbess sent a monk to act as bailiff and watch over its interest, hence the name of the hotel. Just five minutes walk away is Climping Beach, which is great for a nice long walk pre or post meal. Speaking of which, the Tapestry Restaurant is a real gem. On display is medieval architecture, mullioned windows and tapestry-hung walls with an old-fashioned yet charming menu with options including lamb wellington (delicious). All food is locally-sourced and produced by nearby farms in the surrounding area.

The large award-winning spa, one of the most luxurious in the south of England, offers Temple Spa treatments, retreats and a Californian style hot tub. All built in the style of a Sussex barn with exposed timber frames and dramatic glass doors, you’ll feel in a tranquil state of mind from the minute you enter.

It’s warm and cosy, peaceful and dog-friendly – a setting perfect for any couple or family getaway.

For more information visit www.hshotels.co.uk/bailiffscourt