Hotel Review: South Lodge Hotel & Spa, Lower Beeding in West Sussex
Nestled in the West Sussex countryside just a few miles south of Horsham, South Lodge Hotel & Spa sits on the doorstep of the South Downs National Park. The stunning 89-bedroom hotel is the quintessential countryside weekend retreat for the rich and famous – and those seeking a little luxury treat.
South Lodge – an Exclusive hotel and spa – started life as a family home, built in the late 19th century by Frederick Du Cane Godman. Now the indulgent hotel is home to stunning suites, beautiful facilities for weddings, two high-end restaurants and, new this year, a 44,000sqft spa.
The sweeping rhododendron-lined drive leads to the hotel’s grand entrance where friendly staff greeted us and showed us to our room. Check-in was swift and hassle-free, while the smartly dressed staff were helpful and polite.
We were staying in the hotel’s new wing – built around a decade ago to provide more accommodation for guests – in the Nymans suite. The beautiful lavender and sage suite is vast, with a huge bathroom. Patio doors open out onto a quaint terrace with sun loungers (unfortunately covered in bird poo!) and a table and chairs with views across the 92 acres of grounds.
While only a small number of the rooms offer their guests garden terraces, others have stunning balconies with views across the parkland and two exclusive suites even have their own private hot tubs. The spacious garden terrace suites are dog friendly so are the perfect home away from home for guests who want to explore the beautiful surrounding Sussex countryside by foot.
While we left our dog Sammy at home, our neighbours brought their beautiful collie along for a holiday and were thrilled with how four-legged friends are catered to at the hotel. There are lovely walks nearby and canine visitors receive a special dog pack before arriving for their stay.
The grand suites are beautifully designed and furnished with all the mod cons (coffee machine, Sky television and even a TV in the bathroom!) A modern take on the guest directory replaces the outdated folder with an easy-to-use, slick Sony tablet where you can order room service, book activities or learn more about the hotel’s facilities.
We sat out in the evening sunshine swiping through the tablet checking out all of the hotel’s offerings and sampling our delicious gifts of homemade chocolate truffles and Ridgeview sparkling wine from nearby Ditchling.
Dinner is served at the award-winning, intimate restaurant The Pass – headed up by Tom Kemble. But we headed to The Camellia, based in the hotel’s palatial dining hall with plush wood paneling, grand fireplace and rich colours. The room is dimly lit with a warm, pink hue. It was busy in the restaurant with a comforting atmosphere and buzzing background noise of chatter and enjoyment.
We started our meal with a tomato and peach gazpacho amuse bouche with warm sour dough bread and soft, spreadable butter. The tiny dish was packed full of flavour and beautifully complimented our starters of mackerel and octopus with chorizo. For the main event I opted for the garlic gnocchi with crushed peas and asparagus while my husband chose the fillet of beef. The gnocchi was deliciously seasoned and the flavours were well-balanced, while the beef melted in the mouth with a rich sauce to compliment the taste.
The service was well-paced with punctual delivery of dishes from smiling waiting staff without feeling rushed. We washed our dishes down with a good bottle of the house red, a Malbec, which came up from the cold cellar.
To finish, we selected the citrus pavlova with passion fruit sorbet and jam sponge pudding. The pavlova was refreshing, light and sweet, while the pudding was warm and rich. Dishes are pricey but the food is beautifully presented and deliciously balanced, made only with the best ingredients – many locally sourced or grown in the hotel’s kitchen garden.
Guests who aren’t ready to turn in can visit the Victorian Cellar for wine tasting or head to The Billiard Bar and Terrace for a classic cocktail or to sample one of its many specialist whiskies. But they say eating makes you tired so we were ready to retire and slept soundly in our large Super King-size bed.
Waking to another sunny, warm day it was time for breakfast. Traditional ‘hotel’ breakfast is served in The Camellia or, for something a little different, brunch is available at Botanica, the new spa’s main eatery. The trendy restaurant is vast with minimal, industrial touches and chic décor. Huge bifold doors open out onto a terrace with uninterrupted views of the outdoor pools and the lake beyond.
Botanica’s modern menu is a far cry from the traditional cuisine offered in the hotel, with lots of healthy, vegetarian and vegan options as well as the ‘wasted’ burger; a dish made entirely from leftover ingredients from the kitchen. I opted for the beautifully presented and colourful Botanica sundae – made up of berry compote, Skyr, granola and fresh fruit – and freshly-baked croissant while my husband chose a good old-fashioned bacon butty served on sour dough bread.
There’s so much to do at South Lodge without even stepping outside of the hotel’s grounds. You can call down to reception to borrow bikes to explore the local area, arrange a game of croquet on the lawn or request a map of the trail walks through the grounds. Guest are invited to pick flowers while they roam the parkland and each room provides a vase so you can keep your picks to brighten up your suite.
We grabbed a map and went to explore the grounds; the crooked rockery with whimsical waterfall, the winding woodland paths and pretty lake, the beautiful walled kitchen garden, the rolling hills of overgrown meadows. The birds tweeted and chirped and the smell of ferns and flowers filled the air.
There’s a pretty picture around every turn as rainbow-coloured flowers bloom in the hedgerows, fountains splash in the waterways and a swing hanging from the branches of a huge oak tree blows in the wind. It’s easy to see why the hotel is such a popular venue for glamorous weddings and hosts exclusive events such as open-air movie nights.
For winter days, guests can visit the library to borrow books or peruse the selection of board games and sports sets in the Great Hall’s Trunk. For kids, guest services can arrange a Playstation or Wii for the room.
But the main attraction – and reason for our visit – is the new, extravagant state-of-the-art spa, which opened in March; a £14m architectural masterpiece that boasts three pools, 14 treatment rooms, a fitness centre, beauty salon, male grooming bar and two eateries.
The spa is truly a building of architectural and design excellence. The spa itself is opulent and ostentatious, while still oozing relaxation and sophistication. The restaurant is contemporary and cool with an ease of quality; while outside the building blends seamlessly into the landscape, the grass living roof sloping to mirror the hills on the horizon.
After a difficult two weeks for my husband and I, a trip to the spa is exactly what the doctor ordered and I kicked off my afternoon of relaxation with a 60-minute full body massage in one of the serene treatment rooms. My massage therapist was a lovely, tiny lady with soft hands – and the strength of an ox!
She managed to knead and carefully, but confidently, work out all of the tough, twisted knots in my back. She rhythmically massaged my spine and shoulders soothing me into a light snooze. After escorting me to the relaxation lounge and fetching me some cool water to sip and a plate of fresh fruit, my therapist – also a yoga instructor – gave me some useful tips to help improve my back. As I took my place in the green, glowing seat of the space-age 4 Senses Lounger the seat warmed, vibrated and shifed in colour with zen-like music awakening the senses.
The spa’s thermal retreat houses a beautiful sauna with a wooden, wave ceiling and glass window out onto the terrace, aromatic steam room, salt steam room and bucket shower. The plush changing rooms are more like a gentleman’s lounge, with leather sofas and flat-screen TV, while the smart beauty benches boast hair dryers, straighteners and products for guests to help themselves to.
Everything is finished to an extremely high standard from the luxurious loungers to the soft, fluffy towels and robes, to the top-of-the-range Dyson hairdryers. Every detail has been carefully considered and finely tuned from the fragrant fig and vanilla toiletries to the high-tech lockers.
The 25m indoor infinity pool is calm and still, while outside the hot vitality pool bubbles with air jets and massage seats to ease aching muscles. Pool bar The Watershed offers healthy wraps, salads, drinks, shakes and alcoholic drinks for al fresco dining and drinking in the summer.
I opted for a delicious, mouth-watering panzanella salad with gooey mozzarella, tomatoes, cucumber and balsamic dressing while my husband had a freshly-made lemon chicken and salad wrap. But the highlight of the spa for me is the stunning natural pond pool – an idyllic place to swim surrounded by reeds and flowers, looking out onto the lake beyond.
With its own helipad on the front lawn and everything an A-list celebrity could need for a weekend getaway, South Lodge is truly the place to be seen this summer. But even if you don’t have a six-figure salary, South Lodge will give you the celebrity treatment and make you feel like a million dollars! And with overnight stays starting from just £265 a night and spa days from £175, it’s accessible for anybody looking for a little indulgence. Go on, treat yourself – you won’t regret it!
Amy was hosted by South Lodge, a member of the Pride of Britain Hotels collection (never more than 50 hotels, to guarantee quality and exclusivity).
Set on a 93-acre estate in the heart of the Sussex Downs, the 89-bedroom hotel has recently opened an impressive 44,000sq ft spa. Stay overnight from £265 per room (two sharing) including breakfast. Contact Pride of Britain Hotels at prideofbritainhotels.com
Address: South Lodge Hotel & Spa, Long Hill, Lower Beeding RH13 6PS
Telephone: 01403 891711