South Lodge, West Sussex: A sustainable staycation, where guilt-free travel meets ultimate luxury

Alexandra Fraser found a way to combine luxurious relaxation with complete sustainability – at a hotel where the emphasis is on celebrating and protecting its surrounding natural beauties.

Being an eco warrior can be a tiring occupation which forces one to cut back on all of life’s little luxuries to protect the planet.

This is, of course, absolutely necessary and we should all aim to follow suit, but the awful truth is that style wins out over sustainability more often than not.

In times like this, when travelling abroad is, at minimum, unadvisable, cutting your carbon footprint is thankfully fairly inevitable and staycations are on the rise. However, there are always more sustainable choices to make, and choosing a destination with an emphasis on protecting the environment is definitely the way to go.

South Lodge Billiard Bar (2)

The South Lodge Billiard Bar

For this, there is no place I can recommend higher than South Lodge, a member of the Exclusive Hotel Collection near Horsham. Less than a two-hour drive from London, it’s an oasis in the countryside, celebrating its beautiful environs while doing its utmost to protect them from harm.

I judged it to be the perfect girly getaway for my eco-conscious mother and, tootling back up the M3 in her electric car on a sunny Sunday afternoon (South Lodge has charging points, but we completed the journey without needing them), I was pleased to have been proved right.

South Lodge kitchen garden

The South Lodge kitchen garden.

South Lodge was originally built in the late 19th century as a home. Even then, it was built with an eye on nature, protecting the  magnificent camellia which still thrives between the dining room windows. It hasn’t lost an inch of charm since then, but it gained a few more square inches in the form of sympathetic extensions on both sides in the early 20th century, making the Lodge a commanding, expansive building which dominates its privileged position.

South Lodge Hotel - Bedroom

The rooms at South Lodge are as comfortable as can be, decorated in calming colours and named after elements of the Sussex countryside – butterflies and nearby gardens. Thanks to South Lodge’s location, they all benefit from spellbinding views of the surrounding countryside.

Another, more recent addition The Spa at South Lodge. With its sustainable roof and natural swimming pool, it’s an absolute haven for those who want to relax in the knowledge that they’re not contributing to the climate crisis. The addition of its no-waste restaurant, Botanica, only enhances this feeling of serene luxury.

Open for brunch, lunch, dinner and everything in-between, Botanica is as serious as you can get on zero waste. The breakfast menu for hotel guests is unlimited, but they do remind you to be mindful in your ordering and eat everything on your plate. One fruit or egg dish plus one pastry will do for most – and you can always order more if you’re a little peckish afterwards.

The Eggs Royale with Sussex smoked salmon is delightful, as is their spice poached pear granola. Everything which can be sourced locally is, with Jonathan Spiers’ excellent menu drawing inspiration and produce from the South Downs.

Their vegan ‘Wasted’ burger is completely zero waste, made from the pulp of the breakfast juices and spare greenery from the spare garnishes of other dishes (not leftovers from old plates, of course!)

A simple steak, packed with flavours and served with a delicious salad.

A simple steak, packed with flavours and served with a delicious salad. Cooked by Jonathan Spiers, the hands-on head chef at Botanica.

For dinner, you really can’t go wrong. We tried the delicious bavette steak and the South coast cod – both beautifully presented and absolutely succulent. Their orange cheesecake is the perfect end to a meal – refreshing, with tangy raspberry sorbet.

Small plates at Botanica start from £4 with mains from £13 and desserts from £8. Click here to book a table. 

The spa is worth a trip on its own, with state of the art facilities, including two pools, a vitality hot tub and a wonderful sauna and steam room. No single-use plastic in sight.

Truthfully, I only jumped into the natural swimming pool so as not to be outdone by my mother, but it was the cold winter water that had me instantly swimming for the steps, not the greenery. Built into the ground, it’s an entire ecosystem of self-cleaning plants and it’s truly beautiful – had it been summer, the only thing which would’ve kept me out is the Watershed ice cream snack bar that opens on the deck in the summer months.

South Lodge gardens

South Lodge is now my go-to break to the countryside. If you want to make a weekend of it, add a visit to the nearby Knepp to see how they’ve rewilded their land.

It can be hard to balance the need to have a little bit of luxury with a desire to protect the planet. Hard, but not impossible.

Rooms at South Lodge start from £285 for a Cosy Room, including full access to the spa and breakfast or brunch. Visit www.exclusive.co.uk/south-lodge to book. Spa breaks at The Spa at South Lodge start from £519pp and include an overnight stay, a £42 food and drink credit at the Botanica or Camellia restuarant, full spa access with one treatment and brunch at Botanica.