Stay the night: Belle Tout Lighthouse, Beachy Head, East Sussex
This former lighthouse, with its £1.4m overhaul, left Fiona Sturges feeling on top of the world
Sunday 04 July 2010
On a clear day, the Belle Tout Lighthouse on Beachy Head, one of the most distinctive if not exactly beautiful buildings on the Sussex coastline, can offer a view that you won't find anywhere else – a glorious 360-degree panorama of the English channel, the eastern stretch of the South Downs and the white Seven Sisters cliffs.
On a cloudy day, however, as I can attest, it's much like sitting in a snowdrift, admittedly a warm one with soft leather seating, an endless supply of wine and the faint tinkle of Schubert in the background.
Happily, the new owners of Belle Tout have worked hard to ensure that your experience of their newly-opened B&B doesn't depend entirely on the weather. A little sunshine can, of course, go a long way, but so can a £1.4m overhaul.
The spectacular restoration of this once-imperilled cylinder of limestone and concrete (the lighthouse was raised on to runners 10 years ago and moved 50ft inland to prevent it from falling into the sea) has resulted not only in a proud local landmark but a luxurious space for guests to unwind without squandering the features that make it so unique. Thus there's the newly upholstered lamp room, lit blue at night and with a telescope through which you can spy on passing ships, and the cluster of windows in the second-floor living area that neatly frame small sections of the landscape like postcards pinned to a wall.
There's also the tiny keeper's room, now used for spa treatments, which retains the circular ceiling funnels through which the lighthouse keeper once checked that the lamps were still lit without rising from his bed.
Don't expect to be able to swing a cat in them – this is a lighthouse after all. But the combination of white walls, carefully selected furniture and small, stone-clad shower-rooms (only one of the rooms has a bath) ensures that all are bright and airy and never feel cramped. Each room has a theme: the Shiraz room has rich red furnishings; the Beach Hut comes with grey-blue hues; while Old England is decorated with warm woods, fringed lamps and a cast-iron bedstead.
All rooms come with a television, tea- and coffee-making facilities, and Damana toiletries in the bathrooms.
The food and drink
This being a B&B, dinner is not available, though there's no shortage of local restaurants a short drive or taxi ride away, including The Tiger Inn (beachyhead.org.uk/the_tiger_inn _info.html) in East Dean, the upmarket Moonrakers (moonrakers.co.uk) in Alfriston, and The Hungry Monk (hungrymonk.co.uk) in Jevington, where I enjoyed an excellent three-course dinner.
Breakfast at Belle Tout is in the dining room, offering yet more spectacular views of land and the sea, and includes a choice of cereals, bread and croissants or a full-blown fry-up.
The manager, Paul, has 10 years' experience in holistic therapies, and offers treatments in reflexology, holistic massage and reiki healing. Prices start at £20 per treatment.
Its steep stairwells means Belle Tout is not suitable for those with disabilities and, due to the nearby cliff edge, it does not accept children under 15.
Rooms start at £155 mid-week and £170 at weekends, though prices rise to £180 mid-week and £190 at weekends in peak season. Minimum stay two nights, though one-night stays may be available at short notice.
Belle Tout Lighthouse, Beachy Head, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN20 OAE (01323 423185; belletoute.co.uk).
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