Adrian Mourby

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The South Downs National Park is England's newest national park, and also its biggest. It was designated on 31 March 2010 and covers an area of 628 square miles, stretching from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east. It includes three counties, Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex, and is the only British national park that contains an entire national trail, the South Downs Way.

The park is not mountainous, rather it’s comprised of rolling green hills [downs]. It is hardly coastal either because the south of both Sussexes is heavily developed and so the park skirts the urban seaside. It does include Beachy Head and the range of white chalk cliffs known as the Seven Sisters, however. The park also contains a lot of castles begun by Norman overlords after the conquest, and attractive country houses, many of which have been turned into hotels. The vernacular style of architecture, especially towards the western side in Hampshire, is full of houses built in flint and brick. The main town (not even a city) is Midhurst, which is compact, half-timbered, and famous for its polo grounds.

In this lush English playground there are many historic gardens and National Trust properties to visit. There are also superb vineyards, producing some of the best English wine, and lovely hotels of which the following are just a few. Half of these hotels are in the park itself, and the others are places to stay if you’re coming from the north, east, south or west. There are so many unique properties in this part of England. Try them all if you can. 

If the South Downs National Park has a capital it is probably Midhurst, which sits in the middle of the park’s 628 square miles. One of the most prominent buildings in this market town is the Spread Eagle. This glorious, rambling yet stately hotel is believed to date to 1430 when it was first built as an inn above the River Rother. The Spread Eagle has always been part of the nearby Cowdray Estate, whose coat of arms includes an eagle with its wings spread, hence the name.

Cowdray Park – an imposing Tudor mansion nearby in the Rother Valley – burned down in 1793 but the estate still owns much property including this historic hotel, which has been leased out over the centuries to various landlords. One of the most celebrated was Mr Alfred Freemantle who, at the beginning of the twentieth century was determined to get King Edward VII to visit. Despite being told No a number of times, Freemantle persisted. When the monarch was due to visit a local sanatorium that bore his royal name, Freemantle tried again and got lucky. The king, his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught stopped by for lunch. Mr Freemantle immediately put up a sign claiming that this was ‘The Famous Spread Eagle, patronised by King Edward VII and the Duke and Duchess of Connaught’. That sign is now in the passageway between the hotel’s restaurant and its lounge bar, along with a lot of other quirky memorabilia.

Since 1957 The Spread Eagle has been leased to Historic Hotels who have three Sussex properties in their portfolio. Today the hotel has 39 bedrooms, around half of which are historic, dating from many periods in the hotel’s almost 600-year history. Historic Hotels have retained the King Edward Room, a beautiful first floor drawing room with its own fireplace intended for residents’ use. Not surprisingly, it was named by Mr Freemantle.

Other famous connections include Reichsmarshall Herman Goering, commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, and the German Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop, who dined at the Spread Eagle with four other officers after attending the races at Goodwood in July 1939. Their signatures are on a copy of the Register of Aliens mounted in the hotel. An altogether more welcome visitor was Prince Charles who in his younger days used to drink after polo matches in the Coal Hole, a cellar bar below reception. Today the cellars are hotel offices.

The hotel is full of period decoration: hunting horns, blunderbusses, prints of coaching scenes, an enormous cuckoo clock and a suit of armour. There are even three pairs of valuable Flemish stained-glass panels from the seventeenth century. No one knows how they ended up at the Spread Eagle as the rest of the series are in the V&A in London.

The dining room is the centre of the hotel and feels like its beating heart. Its crockery is produced by Pip Studios in Amsterdam, whose motto (on the base of each plate) is Happy Products for Happy People. That rather sums up the cheery atmosphere here. 

Located right in the middle of the South Downs National Park, The Spread Eagle really does feel like a headquarters for walkers. You can go anywhere in the park, north, south, east or west from here and Stockley Outdoor & Equestrian on North Street can supply all your walking and riding needs. 

This Italianate, neoclassical mansion with its cantilevered internal balcony is a jewel box of a country house.  It’s easy to see why Herman Goering wanted Leonardslee as his English country residence after winning the Battle of Britain. In July 1939 the fat Reichsmarshall was on a diplomatic visit to reassure Britain, disingenuously that Germany had no intention of invading anyone and during this time he went to tea with the then owner, Lady Loder. Goering was so impressed by what he saw of the estate that he had his appropriation of the house written into the details of Operation Overlord. Thank goodness the RAF had other ideas.

Leonardslee was originally built as St Leonard’s Lodge in 1801. In 1889 it was purchased by the Victorian plant collector Sir Edmund Loder. Loder cultivated extensive collections of rhododendrons and azaleas and many species of trees. He also introduced gazelle, beavers, kangaroos, wallabies and a very large emu to the estate.

As if to spite the fat Reichsmarschall the house remained in the Loder family until 2010 when the entire estate was sold to an ‘international businessman’ whose name was not divulged. The new owner closed the stunning gardens to the public and West Sussex lost a great attraction.  Fortunately in 2017 the house and grounds were bought by the South African entrepreneur, Penny Streeter who wanted it for her Benguela Hospitality Collection. Benguela is named after Benguela Cove near Cape Town and is also the brand name of the wines that the company produce. Benguela immediately reopened the park with its views of the South Downs and developed Restaurant Interlude, Leonardslee’s fine dining room. It serves what is probably the best tasting-menu in either Sussex, an extravaganza that has been known to run to 21 courses. Jean Delport, the mastermind behind Interlude was only the second South African executive chef to be awarded a Michelin star. He has adapted many of his native recipes to incorporate crops grown on the Leonardslee estate. He also creates a 16- 21 course menu for dinner guests from Thursday to Saturday nights, augmenting it with Benguela’s excellent South African wines. Each dish is quirkily displayed. A great deal of thought has gone into presentation, as well as taste.

Leonardslee’s Grade I listed gardens contain seven lakes hidden deep in a valley to the east of the main house. The valley itself is full of sculptures by the South African artist Anton Smit. His most arresting sculpture in resin is close to the main house. Faith depicts a huge naked figure praising the rising sun as it lifts over the eastern side of the park’s horizon.

Beyond the gigantic figure of Faith is the wallaby pen and the home of the estate’s peacock and peahen. Next to them are the estates long lines of Pinotage and Pinot vines, taking advantage of Sussex’s perfect climate for wine-making. The first Leonardslee vintages are expected to be released on to the market in 2023.

The interior of the house itself has probably never looked better. When Goering saw it in 1939 it was still full of Victorian clutter. During the Covid lockdowns Johnston Parke Interiors restored its decor to an exceptional level with the public rooms and 10 bedrooms recalling the delicate perfection of Wedgewood ceramics. There are also contemporary touches. The Interlude Bar has some punk portraits by Floris van Zyl [also South African] and the central hall has more figures by Anton Smit.

Best of all while staying at Leonardlee is to get up at day break have this remarkable park – dubbed the “Finest Woodland Gardens in England’’ – and have the grounds to yourself. Then at 9am comes breakfast which is just as rich as last night’s dinner. So prepare for many courses. Leonardslee intends to send you on your way well-fed.

Dean’s Place stands on the eastern edge of the village of Alfriston and at first glance it doesn’t look at all like a 35-room hotel, rather it resembles a quaint Sussex pub. The building you first see is probably seventeenth century. As a private residence it had many owners over the centuries, the last of which was Sir Herbert Alexander Lawrence (1861-1943) who was the son of a Viceroy of India. In 1892 Lawrence married Isabel, daughter of 1st Baron Hillingdon. The couple commissioned a famous historicist and architect, Walter Godfrey to conduct a lengthy restoration of their house, which was completed in 1923. The Lawrences lived intermittently at Dean's Place until 1935 when the house was sold and converted into a residential hotel.  

Over the last eighty years Dean’s Place has been extended in ways that probably would have shocked the purist Walter Godfrey but it retains the appearance of an old rectory – or pub - from the road.

These days this hotel/pub-with-rooms is run by Lucinda and James Dopson with their fifteen-year-old son, Sebastian who helps out with the breakfasts. Lucinda comes from a long line of hoteliers. For James this is his first experience running a hotel but he received a good training at Great Fosters near Heathrow before his wife’s family bought Dean’s Place in 2009.

As you enter the bar it becomes apparent that this is a much bigger place as public rooms extend backwards, and on and on towards the Cuckmere River until it takes on Tardis-like dimensions. At every twist and turn of its labyrinthine corridors the hotel continues to feel like a pub with just a few rooms above the bar, but they mount up. One member of staff told me it took her two months to work out where every bedroom lay. 

The bedrooms are painted in a favourite Farrow and Ball colour of Lucinda’s known as Railings. It’s a deep blue grey and works well with the William Morris wallpaper that is also omnipresent. The house fizz is Rathfinny, from a superb Sussex vineyard that lies just two miles away within the national park. As Lucinda puts it “The fame of the Rathfinny estate and the National Park status of the South Downs have been a huge boost for Alfriston and the local area."

This pub with rooms has a lot of parking [which is a significant plus in crowded counties like Sussex] and wide lawns for dining alfresco or even playing petanque. There is a swimming pool too. And a gazebo if you fancy an outdoor wedding. But best of all it has James and Lucinda, who really do get a kick out of delivering the best visitor experience for their guests and are continually improving the ancient rooms within.

So who was Dean and why was this his Place? Surprisingly, no one seems to know.

The South Downs National Park only briefly touches the coastline of the English Channel, at Beachy Head and the cliffs known as the Seven Sisters. And this is a pity because the South Downs themselves end at the sea. The problem is that almost all of the coastline from Eastbourne to Portsmouth has been built on, even overdeveloped, in the twentieth century. The one exception outside the National Park is the unblemished beach at Climping, and this is where Bailiffscourt sits. Bailiffscourt is only five miles south of where the national park ends, just to the south of Arundel Castle. It is a perfect seaside gateway into the South Downs National Park if you want to stay overnight on the coast.

Bailiffscourt is only there because of the vision and sheer bloody-mindedness of Walter Guinness, Lord Moyne, a member of the famous brewing family, and his wife Lady Evelyn Erskine. So much of the British landscape we admire today is, thankfully, the result of stubborn men and women who prized our countryside over making

During the 1920s the wealthy Guinness family enjoyed yachting, keeping a family home known as The Huts near the beach at Climping. To their horror they found out about plans to build on what they thought of as ‘their’ beach, so they bought the land, all 750 acres of it so that not only would their beach access be preserved forever, but no modern development would be visible from Climping. The purchase must have cost a fortune, but it worked. Even today if you stand on the pebbled beach south of Bailiffscourt you can see no buildings west and just one tower block erected recently in Littlehampton to the east.

Having bought an estate they never expected to own, the Guinnesses embarked on a most extraordinary project. Because Lady Moyne was fascinated with medievalism, they bought a number of ancient English houses, barns and gatehouses that were taken down and reconstructed on this estate that they quaintly named Bailiffscourt. Each building, and sometimes an amalgam of several, was put together by Amyas Philips, the son of the owner of a Hertfordshire antiques shop whom Walter Guinness met and liked. Philips, a self-taught architect, created for his patrons a faux medieval coastal village of buildings that look convincing individually, even if their orientation does not. Upon arriving at Bailiffscourt today it does feel that you are in an ancient Sussex village until you wonder, where is the church? Where is the village green? Why are all the buildings linked by roads on which you can drive cars rather than by paths?

It is a lovely fantasy, however, and inside these old buildings (to be honest, new buildings rebuilt with old stones, doorways, beams and floors) are many public rooms and bedrooms, most with working fireplaces. In the winter it is possible to sit in front of the medieval fireplace in your room throwing on as many logs as the room requires. This is the ultimate English getaway, not just from the stresses of contemporary life, but from life since the Renaissance kicked in. The food in the Tapestry Restaurant is excellent with such delights Sea Salt & Rosemary Focaccia, Chateubriand Steak and a Gin & Tonic Sorbet. Guests can also dine outside in the courtyard in good weather.

Today Bailiffscourt is more popular than ever. This is a destination hotel for many people. It is not unusual for guests to helicopter in for lunch [that happened last time I visited]. Tellingly, as soon as UK pandemic restrictions were first relaxed in 2020, a lady arrived by private helicopter to pick up the hotel’s scones and jam to take with her back to London. She’d missed them so much.

Yes, Baliffscourt is not quite in the South Downs National Park but it should be. And even if it isn’t, it’s just five miles south of it, so you can enjoy a walk on the beach in the afternoon and drink whisky in the evening in your warm mediaeval room and then the next day head inland to explore the national park.

Flowers feature a lot at South Lodge, former home of the Victorian botanist, Frederick DuCane Goodman.  The original lodge was probably part of the nearby Leonardslee estate but when Goodman bought it in 1882, he created a much bigger neo-Jacobean mansion. However, and this was a key to the man, Goodman was careful that the design of his new mansion fitted around a beautiful camelia that was already growing in the garden.

Frederick DuCane Goodman was a Victorian gentleman explorer and scientist whose speciality was the flora and fauna of South America. He was also a widower. In 1891 he and his new wife Alice began redesigning the 93 acres of grounds at South Lodge. Among their triumphs was – and still is - the largest rhododendron bush in the world. It’s 25 feet tall and much, much wider. Goodman also collected orchids. As a result the hotel’s latest extension, the Sussex Wing, has a whole floor of bedrooms named after different varieties of orchid. In each room you will find a vase on the window ledge and a framed note encouraging guests to pick flowers in the gardens and bring them back to decorate their room.

After Goodman’s death in 1919, South Lodge continued to be occupied by his wife Alice (who became the first commissioner of the Girl Guides). On her death in 1944 the house passed to the couples’ two daughters who took over as joint commissioners of the Girl Guides. When the last of the daughters died the lodge was purchased by the Pecorelli family in 1985 as part of their Exclusive Collection. A portrait of Giuseppe Pecorelli now hangs over the fireplace in reception.

As part of Exclusive, South Lodge has been greatly extended over the decades. A South Downs Suite was added in 2002 and a Sussex Wing in 2008 so that the hotel could host a meeting of the G10 economic forum in 2009. A massive, sinuous grass-roofed spa was built in 2019. Nowadays the hotel has 89 bedrooms, two restaurants - Camellia and Botanica [within the spa]- and two outdoor swimming pools, one a typical spa pool and the other a ‘natural pool’ with a gravel bottom and reeds growing in its shallows.

The food is uniformly excellent with the Camellia Restaurant offering local dishes like Sussex beef, South Downs venison,  pork, rabbit and sea bass. Botanica at the spa is open all day and offers a less carnivorous but equally rich and flavoursome menu. It also has gorgeous views of the South Downs over its terrace. The staff of the open kitchen say that they enjoy watching the sun rise as they prepare for breakfast every morning.

The hotel is also popular for its afternoon teas in the drawing room with its salvaged seventeenth century fireplace and for drinks in its Billiard Bar. Here a dramatic modern glass chandelier hangs from the Victorian roof lantern. 

There is a rumour that Winston Churchill used to stay at South Lodge in the years before World War II. There is no proof of this and it seems unlikely that Churchill would leave London to reside with a widow who was also commissioner of the Girl Guides. But the old bon viveur was a great one for finding the best places, once declaring “I am easily satisfied with the best” - so maybe he did!

Nigel and Robina, who have run Langrish House for many years refer to it as a ‘’pet-friendly luxury B&B’’. The couple have owned this 11-bedroom house in the centre of the national park since 1998 although the house has been owned by Nigel Talbot-Ponsonby’s family since 1842.

This grey stone mansion above the town of Petersfield looks solidly mid-Victorian, however a manor house has stood here since the Doomsday Book. The current structure was begun during the English Civil War when royalist prisoners were kept at Langrish after the Battle of Cheriton in 1644. The followers of the king were required to work on the new house that formed the basis of the current mini-mansion.

When Nigel, a London chartered surveyor, and Robina decided to open Langrish as a hotel in 1998, they thought they might employ someone to run the hotel for them.  Despite recruiting one of Sussex’s top chefs, the management side never worked out. So the couple decided to run the hotel themselves, a true baptism of fire for two people who had never been involved in the hospitality business before. Robina cheerfully admits that initially she imagined that running a hotel might take up two or three days a week. She never guessed it would take over her life.

In 2012 Nigel retired from working in London to spend more time at Langrish, which he clearly loves. Eventually he and Robina scaled back their operation to offer just bed and breakfast to up to 22 adults and a few children. The result has been very successful, with almost all bookings being made by word-of-mouth recommendation.

Staying at Langrish House is rather like staying with your kindly relatives. In fact it is exactly like staying with my English in-laws. The rows of wellington boots in the porch are not some designer’s rural flourish but are actually worn by the family – and by guests – when tramping round the grounds. That rocking horse in the hallway was used by the family. The family photos are genuine too, not bought as a job-lot at auction. The sign on the driveway asking you to Beware of Chickens is not twee. It’s there because Robina has a few free-range birds who provide eggs on a daily basis.

Bedrooms are decorated eclectically, again reminding me of rooms at my in-laws, with bits of valuable old furniture, a few genuinely ancient prints and some indifferent oil-paintings. Bathrooms are modern but there are no telephones in the room. If you need anything you go downstairs and talk to your host. Nigel is an affable patron. When he showed me round, he remarked that once Langrish House let its chef go and downsized to be a B&B, the guests have got much nicer because they recognise they are sharing this unique home with their hosts. The hotel is dog-friendly and Robina can’t see why it wouldn’t be [though they themselves are cat-owners]. There is a ‘dog table’ at breakfast for those who like to bring their pets with them to the first meal of the day. 

Langrish Hall receives a lot of German and Australian guests who seem to like the fact that it is a home not a hotel. Not surprisingly this superior B&B has become very popular for exclusive-use weddings. Robina reckons she has overseen 1,500 weddings in their 24 years at Langrish, though Nigel reckons it is nearer 2,000.     

Norton Park stands at the end of a long curving Hampshire driveway. The original house, known today as the ‘Manor House’, was the centre of a medieval farm owned by the Bishops of Winchester. After the suppression of the monasteries, it was then owned and sold on by various families. It can be assumed that at one point in the sixteenth century Norton Park was owned by a recusant Catholic family, probably the St Johns. Certainly, at this time a priest-hole was built in the morning room of the Manor House.

Priest holes were hiding places for Catholic priests who might be administering the sacrament when the house was raided. The irregular shape of the right-hand side of the fireplace in the morning room conceals a secret space accessed through an ‘invisible’ door in the hall panelling.

Over the years this house was modelled and remodelled, at one point adopting a Dutch brick gable and a Dutch-style porch, features that were fashionable in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There are also Delft tiles depicting tulips in the Manor House’s Board Room.

In the nineteenth century the house was enlarged with the addition of an elegant conservatory and orangery.  Brick stables were added nearby (their tiled floor is Grade I-listed) and a row of three very superior kennels were built too.

In the twentieth century a succession of gentleman enjoyed ownership of this country house, including a Mr Bond of the Basildon & Bond stationery company. In 1986 the house was sold to Nomura, Japan’s largest bank.  They demolished most of the farm buildings to create a conference centre but retained the Manor House and the vast thatched eighteenth-century barn (which has since been restored to become a superb, free-standing function room).

In 2006 the park was sold to the Q hotels group who extended it to over 150 rooms, rising in a series of interconnected blocks up the hill away from the lake. There are also 13 historic bedrooms in the Manor House. 

Main reception is currently in the glassy modern block, but there will soon be a reception desk in the entrance hall of the Manor House too for those who have opted to stay somewhere with more character. The modern rooms are spacious and ultra-convenient, well-suited for guests who have come to walk the South Downs Way (which starts in nearby Winchester and runs for 100 miles to Eastbourne).

The danger of staying in the Manor House itself is that you may not want to leave. With only 13 bedrooms, the manor is often let on an exclusive-use basis.  There’s no doubt you could have one hell of a party or small wedding reception there.

The choice for visitors is between the many, identical modern rooms, which are great if you intend to go exploring after breakfast, or the Manor House, which is superb if you just want a quiet weekend in the country.

Deep in the western quadrant of the South Downs National Park, stands Amberley Castle. It was built in the fourteenth century and served as a rural refuge for the bishops of nearby Chichester. In 1893 the castle was purchased by the 15th Duke of Norfolk, Henry Fitzalan-Howard, known as the ‘builder’ duke. Fitzalan-Howard lived here while restoring the family seat of Arundel Castle, so he had to make this old stone fort habitable too. Amberley seems an odd location for a castle as it is approached across flat land and with the shallowest of moats [since turned into a croquet lawn]. The open, flat space in front of the castle’s twin towers almost invites besiegers to assemble.

The castle has been fortunate to be turned into a hotel by Andrew and Christina Brownsword who did such wonderful work at Bath Priory, Buckland Abbey, and Sydney House, Chelsea. It is approached by a very long, straight drive that the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret journeyed along to visit in 1945 while it was still in private hands.

Beyond the towers of its recently restored portcullis gate (doubling as an elaborate dovecote) lies a delightfully green lawn that might belong to an Oxbridge college, but which was originally a place where troops might be rallied to repel those besiegers.

To the right of the portcullis there stands a restored house, courtesy of the Duke of Norfolk, containing several hotel bedrooms. There are also various cottages within the inner compound that double as bedrooms. The house has two dining rooms, on two levels and everywhere there are suits of armour and lot of halberds, portraits of Stuart monarchs, and of a few royal mistresses too.

In the grounds there is a tennis court and an eighteen-hole putting green, as well as rare white peacocks.

Buxted Park is a hotel and very popular wedding venue to the north of the South Downs National Park. The main mansion is a Grade II listed building. It was built in 1725 but was later extended by the 3rd Earl of Liverpool (1784 – 1851) who not only lived here but moved the entire village of Buxted one mile away so it didn’t spoil his view. The one village building Lord Liverpool allowed to remain was the Church of St Margaret the Queen, which was fortunate as these days as it helps sell the hotel and its park as a wedding venue.

Following a fire in 1940 the house was remodelled by its then owner, the celebrated Art Deco architect, Basil Ionides. Many original eighteenth-century features rescued from other properties were incorporated, including salvage from West Harling Hall in Norfolk which had been demolished in 1932 and from Chesterfield House in Curzon Street, London which had been razed in 1937 to make way for an office block.

A garden wing and swimming pool were added during the 1960s by Kenneth Shipman, co-owner of Twickenham Film Studios in the days when they were producing British classics such as Alfie and The Italian Job. Amongst Shipman’s celebrity 1960s guests at Buxted Park were Gregory Peck, Marlon Brando, and Dudley Moore.

Subsequent owners included Sheik Ziad Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the Electrical, Electronics, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union. Today it is owned and operated by Hand Picked Hotels who have retained the small cinema that Shipman built for himself and his guests.

There are 44 bedrooms and suites, some with huge sofas and most with great views of the park. The best of these is the Queen Mary Suite, which is named after George V's wife, Mary of Teck who once stayed at Buxted Park. The Queen was dreaded by her hosts for taking a liking to ornaments and pieces of furniture and expecting to be presented with them on departure.

Standing just to the north of the South Downs National Park, Buxted makes for a good base for day trips.

If you’re approaching the South Downs National Park from the east, then the Grand Hotel at Eastbourne is an ideal place to stay before beginning your exploration. This palatial, white-stuccoed hotel opened in 1875 and still looks regal. The architect was William Earp, who was working with a hefty £50,000 budget from the Duke of Devonshire. This new English resort was being developed on Devonshire land. These days many hotels were once homes of aristocrats, but The Grand is unique in being a purpose-hotel by an aristocrat. This massive building’s dimensions and lofty public spaces spoke of Britain's imperial aspirations when it opened. The dukes themselves always stayed at the hotel when in Eastbourne and entertained the royal family here too, so it had to impress.

In May 1901 Edward VII, who had only been king four months, came to Eastbourne for a royal house party at the Devonshire's home in nearby Compton Place. By this time the ambitious 7th Duke of Devonshire was busy turning his Compton estate into a golf course, so the king was brought to The Grand Hotel to inspect and approve.

To this day the incumbent Duke of Devonshire always has a suite reserved for his use in the hotel's eastern extension. The Grand still impresses, particularly in its public spaces. The huge dining room looks as if King Edward might wander through at any moment in search of somebody’s wife. Entering today you might wonder if the Grand could ever manage to fill each table to capacity, but when the hotel is full at weekends it even uses the Concourse – a long sun lounge running parallel to the dining room- as its overspill area.

The beach at Eastbourne retains its brightly painted bathing huts and has an old Martello Tower designed to repel Napoleon (had he ever invaded). To the east of the hotel, it also has a traditional pier and a bandstand where evening concerts are still given. This is very much a traditional English seaside hotel in a traditional seaside resort - and the South Downs National Park begins only a mile away to the west.

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