For a moment you might wonder if you had taken a detour into Chaucer’s England, setting eyes on a medieval manor surrounded by a clutch of thatched cottages. But no Canterbury pilgrim ever spent the night.
The entire estate, apart from a Norman chapel, is an artful reconstruction, a homage to heritage that was built in the 1930s by the Guinness magnate, Lord Moyne (assassinated by the Stern Gang in 1944). Reclaimed wood and stone from centuries past have been used in some of the buildings and everywhere the design and décor reinforce the illusion of history. Behind heavy oak doors, narrow passages lit with iron candelabras lead to snug, little lounges with tapestried walls and blazing fires.
Its three red stars signal that this is one of the country’s top hotels in the category, although three stars belie the quality of the the 39 bedrooms. They range from four-poster suites with a log fire to the more contemporary furnishings of the Oaks and Moat House.
The spa, opened nine years ago, is a modern attraction, housed in a barn-like building, with a pleasing view across the woodlands from the indoor pool. My wife Karen got off to a good start with a Mediterranean sea massage over hot water pads.
After a few lengths, you can retire to a newspaper and herbal tea in the upstairs lounge. Or, passing the heated outdoor pool, take a short walk through the woods to a wild stretch of pebbly beach and the sea. The twin-rosette Tapestry Restaurant was the intimate setting for a good dinner – truffle and cep mushroom risotto, coffee soufflé and petit fours consisting of mini-tarts and beignet.
At breakfast, freshly baked croissants were brought round in a basket. When we ordered a late lunch from the snack menu at 4pm, our hunger was quickly assuaged by its prompt delivery. On warmer days, you can dine out in the courtyard. Peacefully secluded, Bailiffscourt lies on the doorstep of Arundel and is handy for Chichester, too, where the Festival Theatre is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
RATES: £210 to £530 (including midweek dinner)