Is this the most elegant B&B in Sussex?
A top notch dinner and a secluded pool are among surprises at this antique-filled hideaway
…we think it could well be.
If you get excited if you’ve been left biscuits by your kettle in a B&B then prepare to be really dazzled by Old Whyly at East Hoathly near Glyndebourne and Lewes.
The elegant manor house is the home of Sarah Burgoyne. Thanks in part to her experience working in art galleries and auction houses (including Sotheby’s) you’ll find a rather lovely collection of antiques around the place.
Her passion for cooking meanwhile (including French training) means you don’t just get a great hot breakfast in the morning but can opt, as we did, for a restaurant-quality evening meal besides.
Old Whyly is a Grade II listed Georgian Manor house. The name comes from an ancient word for a clearing used for worship and refers to the first settlement of the land on which it now sits.
There are four guest bedrooms – one double and three more that can be made up as doubles or twins. Two have en-suites, the others have private bathrooms a few steps away.
Our room (the largest) was warmly lit with various lamps. It was furnished with antiques (plenty of wardrobe hanging space) and even a vintage dressing table set.
The bed was huge and, in keeping with the look, made up the old fashioned way with Irish linen and blankets. Due to the age of the house the floor dipped in places (even before we’d had some wine). The curtains were duvet-thick and blocked out the light so well that we overslept next morning.
The en suite bathroom, was considerably more up-to-date and toiletries and a robe were provided. Oh and there was a TV in the bedroom but so as not to spoil the look it was tucked away (a note on the dressing table told us where to find it!)
Oh and, yes, there were homemade biscuits.
Downstairs we had pre-dinner drinks and nibbles in the drawing room beside a real fire.
Sarah has always had a passion for food (she was even interviewed a while back by Waitrose magazine) and tends to favour classical French cuisine, so as a guest you’re in for a treat. The three-course dinner is optional (£40 extra) but I certainly recommend booking. The magic happens in her spacious kitchen, part of which dates back to the 12th century (you’ll be green with envy if she lets you have a peek!)
We started with some homemade cheese puffs and wine by the fire then moved into the dining room.
First up was a beetroot and cream cheese starter which caused some merriment as my husband had tried, rather less successfully, to make something similar just a couple of days before.
The main was an excellent sea bass in beurre blanc sauce – “nobody bothers to make a French sauce these days… but I do,” said Sarah.
Even the potatoes were notable, so it was no surprise to learn her son is an expert in the trade. We finished off with a light gooseberry mousse atop a homemade elderflower jelly.
All this was eaten by candlelight before a golden pineapple centrepiece. We were the only guests there on the night but for a full house the table can be extended.
It’s certainly a romantic sort of place, great for impressing your partner – and yes, there are still rooms left for Valentine’s Day. Just bear in that mealtimes are sociably communal, so if you’re wanting to hold hands across the table you’d best take your lovey-dovey selves elsewhere.
In the morning a freshly squeezed orange juice and fruit salad greeted us alongside yoghurt and cereals and we were given the option of a full English with bacon and sausages. We went meat-free and plumped for Sarah’s fantastic peppery scrambled eggs – which once won an Evening Standard award!
The garden is gorgeous. Even on a winter day it was lovely to take a stroll and see the small lake. Hundreds of tulips and daffodils will be out for spring time, then, soon after, the pergolas are covered in wisteria. You can take tea on the terrace in warmer months.
The best surprise was tucked behind a garden wall – a heated outdoor swimming pool that’s available to guests in the summer months with plenty of lounging room alongside and a pool house covered in wisteria. Not many B&Bs give you that! There’s also a tennis court in the orchard.
Children aged five upwards can be accommodated and guests can even book them an early dinner in the kitchen. Old Whyly is also dog friendly and you’ll get to meet Sarah’s own loveable spaniel Puzzle.
If you’re headed to Glyndebourne, Sarah can create a wonderful picnic for you. She’ll prepare the likes of asparagus and chicken salads, pissaladiere (a pizza-like tart from Nice) and chocolate or polenta cake, or perhaps hazelnut meringue and store them in tiffin boxes inside a pink hamper. You’ll need to plan well ahead though – Old Whyly is already fully booked over the 2020 Glyndebourne season.
You can take a walk through the adjoining estate, through the woods, or to glimpse horses on the neighbouring stud farm. Nearby, make a circuit of the famous Arlington Bluebell Walk in April and early May. You can also take one of Muddy’s favourite South Downs walks at Firle Beacon.
The opera at Glyndebourne is a 10-minute taxi ride away.
Lewes is within seven miles with various pubs and shops and the stylish Depot cinema. Brighton and Eastbourne (16 miles away in opposite directions) are easy day trips. The pretty village of Alfriston, with Rathfinny vineyard on its doorstep, suit a closer excursion.
Various National Trust properties including Sheffield Park, Nymans, Batemans and Bodiam are within reach, as are the Bluebell Railway and Wakehurst Place.
For a special occasion book an Airborne balloon flight.
There is not a wide choice of decent restaurants close to Old Whyly, which makes the option of an evening meal here all the more welcome.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Foodies. An indulgent weekend or longer away, especially with the pool to relax around in the warmer months. Culture vultures keen to visit Glyndebourne (booked well ahead) or Charleston Farmhouse. Hiring out as a group for exclusive use for a special occasion.
Not so good for: Shrinking violets who don’t fancy sharing a meal table. Those with mobility issues as bedrooms are upstairs and some surfaces uneven. If you’re set on having a duvet you’ll need to bring your own. There is no decent mobile reception.
££ Bed & Breakfast Jan to 31 March is £99 per room Monday – Thursday, £130 weekends. April – Sept it’s £150; Sept to Christmas £130; Christmas and New Year £150. Dinner is £40 per person extra, a hamper is an additional £42 per person.
Old Whyly, East Hoathly, East Sussex BN8 6EL, 01825 840 216, oldwhyly.co.uk
Words: Debbie Ward