There's a new hotel making waves on Camber Sands and it's just the tonic for a restful weekend, says Hetty Lintell.
The point of a quick get-away or mini-break is to discover some respite from the tedium or hectic-ness of everyday life — but more often than not the journey to get to your utopia takes too long, or one night away from home just isn’t enough, and before you know it you’re back to the daily grind feeling no better than before.
That is until now now.
Enter The Gallivant. A delightful hideaway on Camber Sands, just east of Rye and surely one of the most glorious stretches of beach in Sussex, that feels like a sweet spoonful of British holidaying history. I dropped in on a blustery weekend in March.
Most importantly, The Gallivant is dog heaven — I spotted every breed of hound, tongues lolling as they raced in ecstatic style, up and down the dunes. Four of the hotel’s bedrooms — the Luxury Garden Rooms (above) — are dog-friendly. The jar of dog treats on the reception desk looked so good that more than once I had to stop myself from reaching in for one.
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Staff are relaxed and jolly, and they treat everyone as old pals (and perhaps some of them are, returning year-after-year). At dinner, they showed me and my oldest school friend to a lovely corner table where we nattered away as tasty good came and went (robust sardines to start, and sourdough ice cream for pudding). In fact we were so engrossed in it all that our table neighbours — The Queen and Carson (also known Imelda Staunton (The Crown) and Jim Carson (Downton Abbey)) — went completely undetected.
The turndown service was a delight — hot water bottles peeking out from beneath the sheets, a thermos of boiling water for our nighttime cups of tea and homemade madeleines, devoured over much more nattering.
Wellness is a new focus for The Gallivant and we both enjoyed a divine hour of private yoga (there are morning group classes as well). To celebrate, the hotel have teamed up with Bamford, a favourite spa brand of mine for their top-quality therapist training, and unique, client-tailored treatments. Some reflexology left me headache-free and energised for the first time that day — powerful stuff.
A potter around Rye is a must, of course, and there are plenty of antique shops, galleries and things to see to help you while away an afternoon or two. The hotel offers guided beach walks, English wine tasting sessions and a cocktails in the dunes service (and sometimes yoga in the dunes). But really, waking to the sound of seagull chatter and waves breaking nearby, followed by a delicious breakfast of homemade baked beans and poached eggs on toast, was enough to calm me down after the busy bustle of London life.
The Gallivant’s proud slogan is ‘Happiness Is A Place’, and I felt nothing but happiness my whole stay. However, I’d be tempted to add that happiness is very often about the people too.
While you’re there
- Pop into McCully & Crane — a gallery in Rye chock full of bold oil paintings, stylish sculptures, objèt and furniture, curated with an expert eye
- If you fancy eating out, try the imaginative brunch at The Fig or a relaxed dinner at The Union
- Ring ahead to arrange a grand tour of Alex MacArthur’s astonishing 14th century former monastery. It’s now his showroom, housing a superb collection of antiques, and available for private hire. It would be a knock-out setting for both weddings and parties (www.alexmacarthur.co.uk)
- Take a trip to Tillingham, the vineyard with rooms, for an excellent lunch and a stroll between the vines. All of the produce is farmed and sourced from their doorstep (nutty pink fir potatoes and succulent lamb) and paired with their own wines — the rosé was very slippery indeed
Best time to go
In early or late summer, avoiding the summer holidays. Even in the rain it is a special place to spend a weekend.