There can’t be many hotels that can claim to have hosted Elizabeth I, Admiral Nelson and Colonel von Ribbentrop. But dating back to the 1430s, the Spread Eagle hotel in Midhurst in the heart of the Sussex South Downs, both can and does.
The hotel is one of England’s oldest coaching inns, and setting foot inside is like stepping back in time. There is history everywhere you look, from the Tudor fire-places and exposed oak beams, to an original suit of armour, and a 15th century wig powder room, which the friendly receptionist told me was the only one left in the UK.
There are antique and vintage furnishings throughout the building, which add to the period feel. More recent historical artefacts include a framed page from the hotel’s guest book, dated July 1939, signed by von Ribbentrop, and a copy of the Coronation Proclamation for the short-lived reign of Edward VIII.
My husband and I stayed in the Queen’s Suite, so called because Elizabeth I is said to have slept there. I hope she was as wowed as we were. Complimentary champagne was waiting in the adjoining siting room, and the four poster bed was both enormous and blissfully comfortable.
The room also provided us with relaxing armchairs, antique table and chairs, an espresso coffee machine, free WiFi and a walk in wardrobe.
The en-suite bathroom, with its roll top bath, powerful shower and luxurious Temple Spa bath products, plus an exposed oak beams, was the perfect blend of old and new — like much of the hotel.
I spent part of the afternoon sitting beside a roaring fire in the hotel bar, reading a book. Nothing particularly unusual about that, apart from the fact that William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Hilaire Belloc are all said to have visited the Spread Eagle, so if you’re going to read anywhere, this seems the perfect place.
Later we enjoyed a delicious meal in the hotel restaurant where the friendly waiter provided wonderful service.
The hotel also has a bright conservatory connecting the original coaching house to a distinctly more modern spa, with sauna, steam room and a small gym under its Scandinavian-style wooden vaulted ceiling.
The indoor pool is tiled with a deep blue mosaic, decorated with an eagle motif, and there are also six treatment rooms, three newly added last summer along with a new signature treatment.
The well named South Downs Soother is 90 minutes of pure, indulgent relaxation. Beginning with a cup of White Apricot tea, the treatment included a foot bath, a full body scrub, a mud and seaweed body wrap, followed by a soothing Temple Spa anti-aging mask, and a relaxing shoulder massage.
After the treatment, I rested some more in ‘The Nest’, the spa’s relaxation room, with a glass of English sparkling wine and lavender scented eye mask.
I can honestly say that I have never felt more relaxed in my entire life. The word my husband used was serene. What more could you ask for?