I’m not going to lie, I was nervous.
As we approached Bailiffscourt – a sumptuous, luxurious hotel with a history dating back to 1610 (and a helipad)- I quizzed myself as to why I’d thought it a good idea to make this a family affair.
It was too late to do anything of course; because in the back of the car was my 3 year old who was excited that we were going to stay ‘in a castle’ and my 2 year old who was excited to go swimming (in the award winning spa).
Fast forward half an hour however, and my nerves had vanished. As soon as we entered the Reception, we were welcomed with smiles and the friendliest of staff – who not only complimented the children on their matching trunkis, but also gave them maps of the buildings and told them about an underground tunnel, and Archie the roaming resident peacock. It seemed that amidst the immaculate lounges and the manicured grounds, we truly were incredibly welcome here.
Our room, Baylies, was laughably wonderful and fabulously indulgent. The children whooped with delight at the vast four poster bed (complete with travel cots at the foot of it), and bath time was endless fun with two roll top bath tubs side by side. We had a real fire place set up and ready for us, sofas to lounge on and read bedtime stories, fresh shortbread biscuits baked by the kitchen and stunning views out to the gardens and the crashing waves beyond.
Initially I felt as though summer would be the best time to visit with children – the gardens are vast, there are football goals set up, you can walk to Climping Beach via a little signposted path. Yet we were there on one of January’s bleakest days and actually it was pretty damn great.
We timed our visit to incorporate a swim with the children in the hotel’s indoor pool (the outdoor one is exceptionally tranquil and is open all year round if you want something soul nourishing). If you’re with the family, aim for family swim times (one session each morning and afternoon). If you’re not with children, I’d avoid these times for fear of being splashed by a diving youngster.
With the children exhausted, we headed into one of the Lounges for Kid’s Tea. The food offering was exceptional. Both my husband and I agreed that we’d have happily eaten the delicious Fish Nuggets, or the utterly moreish Halloumi Goujons ourselves. Again, the staff were endlessly patient and engaging – even as I winced at their beautiful cushions and sofas getting squashed by my kids pretending to be dinosaurs. I decided to deal with the situation by ordering a Gin and Tonic – again, excellent.
Once the children were asleep, we got the ultimate treat in the form of dinner at the Tapestry Restaurant which I’ve since recommended to tonnes of friends who live nearby. Despite the medieval architecture and mullioned windows, it’s utterly understated -whilst delivering the most delicious food and wine, much of which is sourced nearby.
Priced at £59 for 3 courses, dinner isn’t wildly expensive – yet it’s very very good. Highlights for us included the amazing range of Sussex wines, the langoustine soup (complete with truffle cream), the tenderstem broccoli with roasted hazelnuts, and the hot coffee and walnut souffle.
Amazingly for a family of four with two small children, we all got some sleep. Even if we were the first ones down to breakfast at 7.30am. Taking full advantage of our early start, we decided to squeeze in a walk down to the beach before we said goodbye. The waves were wild and wintery and the kids ran about like maniacs.
Checking out, it felt like we’d been at Bailiffscourt far longer than just overnight. The team waved us off like old friends, even handing the children pictures of peacocks to colour in on the journey. Travelling with children isn’t easy, and staying in luxury hotels can be intimidating and nerve wracking – yet pick the right place (aka book a room at Bailiffscourt asap) and you might just be surprised.