Gravetye Manor, Sussex
Jessica Baldwin visits Gravetye Manor, Sussex ; ‘a destination in itself’
As a child I fell in love with flowers. Fifteen years on and much has changed, yet the second I am in the countryside it all comes flooding back to me; towering fox gloves, tangled sweet peas, unruly bindweed and rich magenta blooms. Much to my boyfriend’s dismay every garden turns in to a botanical museum and I am the guide. With this in mind he must have been a little apprehensive about our impending trip to Gravetye Manor.
Once owned by William Robinson, one of the greatest gardeners of all time and ‘father of the English flower garden’, the Pride of Britain Hotels property is a Mecca for the green-fingered. Located within 1,000 acres of gardens, lakes and woodland the 16th century Elizabethan manor’s cosy wood panelling and roaring log fires make the hotel just as luring in winter as its bountiful gardens prove to be in summer. Today, the hotel boasts 17 individually designed bedrooms and a fantastic restaurant, all with commanding views of the local Sussex countryside.
Attention Michelin! Deep within Gravetye’s grounds hides a remarkable, star-worthy restaurant. Under the helm of talented chef, Rupert Gleadow, the kitchen uses the finest local produce and home-grown ingredients to create modern British dishes which drive home the wholesome and familiar flavours in a new and exciting way. On our first evening we couldn’t help but indulge in the seven course tasting menu (well, it would’ve been rude not to).
The new season potato mousse won us over from the first mouthful, the tender pancetta-wrapped quail exuded a delicious smokiness and the crispy Gressingham duck and figs oozed a satisfying sweetness. It was refreshing to see the chef and sommelier working in perfect harmony, revising the pairing wines on a daily basis and ensuring that each glass set the stage for the food to shine. We were impressed to be able to choose from almost 20 wines offered by the glass, including a lively local bubbly from the nearby Bluebell Vineyard Estates.
The hotel offers a range of bedrooms and suites, all named after the resident trees. We were staying in ‘Walnut’; a light and airy exclusive deluxe room, in the more modern end of the hotel. With a separate entrance lobby and a generous lounge area the decadent room felt more like a suite.
The elaborately carved four poster bed was one of the comfiest beds I have stayed in for a long time and the rainforest shower, heated bathroom floor and huge bath were the perfect welcome home after our windswept walks. Floral touches throughout the property unite the grand manor with its glorious surrounds, from the botanical illustrations that adorn the wall to the freshly picked flowers that await every guest.
Who goes there?
Just 20 minutes from Gatwick, this rural retreat attracts well-heeled holiday-makers and local gentry seeking out a quintessentially English experience, from afternoon teas to relaxed lunches in the cosy lounge or strolls around the elaborate grounds.
Out & About:
For those that simply want to unwind, Gravetye is a destination in itself, with miles of walking paths, bridleways and gardens to discover – they even offer organised deer stalking and fly-fishing on the three acre lake. Keen hikers will appreciate the selection of walks available from reception – ranging from 30 minutes to four hours they take in a range of local delights, from pubs and priest houses to botanical gardens and even the local steam railway.
If nearby Ashdown Forest looks familiar you may recognise it from the days of Winnie the Pooh – children will love playing in the woods and visiting the iconic Pooh Bridge. Polo, golf and horse riding are also just a short drive away and the buzzy seaside town of Brighton can be reached in around 45 minutes.
The Worst Thing:
With so much scenery to discover, the torrential rain on our visit put a bit of a dampener on us running riot in the woods. Looks like we will have to visit again it summer…
The Best Thing:
From the moment you step from the door, Gravetye feels like home. Despite its grand facade, the friendly staff ensure an unpretentious and welcoming atmosphere where guests are free to roam at their leisure. I loved the thoughtful little touches; from the help yourself wellington boot lobby and personalised welcome card to the hot water bottle which is collected and filled up on request.
Jess Baldwin was hosted by Gravetye Manor, a member of Pride of Britain Hotels – a consortium of 48 privately-owned independent British hotels. The Grade I-listed Elizabethan stone mansion has 17 bedrooms and is set in beautiful gardens in the Sussex countryside. A one-night stay in a classic standard room costs from £120pp (based on two sharing) including full English breakfast. Contact Pride of Britain Hotels (0800 089 3929, www.prideofbritainhotels.com).