‘This can’t be right’, I thought to myself as the sat-nav wound itself up in knots trying to find Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa in the winding side streets of the Medieval village of Midhurst, West Sussex … I have seen the pictures of this place, and the driveway has far too much vegetation to be so close to everything else! But then there it is, appearing out of nowhere, shrubbery and all …
An old coaching inn that has been added to and adapted to form the hotel and spa that it is today, the building is enchanting. Inside it is all original wooden features, antiques, and fabrics embroidered with Tudor roses and historic leitmotifs, not to mention the slightly uneven floorboards dating back to its 15th Century origins. Rooms are individually
decorated (floral wallpapers, dense fabrics), and being such an old building, all have their own character, but the jewel in the crown has to be the Queen’s Suite where Elizabeth I stayed in 1591 – complete with a dark wood four-poster bed, tapestry fabrics, and a little cupboard formerly known as a wig closet which still houses the wig stands in pride of place on a desk!
The spa is in an adjoining, purpose-built area focusing on the pool area which is housed in a glass and wood barn-style room – light, welcoming and relaxed. It is a small spa, and facilities include a swimming pool, sauna, steam room and three treatment rooms using organic UK brand Temple Spa’s products. The relaxation area is limited to a space by the pool, but everything is done beautifully and it is an extremely pleasant place to spend time. Mindful of catering to all their customers there are children’s hours in the pool in the morning and afternoon, and classes that all guests are welcome to attend. There is also a function room that doubles up as the location for exercise classes, yoga and Pilates, which is very much in the style of a Medieval great hall. Like everything else here, it is proof that the best things come in small packages.
The restaurant really has the atmosphere of a dining room, with an enormous ornamental fireplace that was presumably once an oven, and a locally sourced menu of British classics. When guests come to use the spa this is where they will be dining. However, if you are looking for something a little lighter, and would rather stay in your dressing gown – lighter options are available in the conservatory. There is also a lounge bar, which on a particularly cold and rainy afternoon in April was the most welcoming sight imaginable with its open fire and deep armchairs. It is here that you get a real sense of the venue’s roots as a hunting lodge – it’s cosy, and like everywhere else, littered with artefacts and antiques.
From the road, the hotel almost has the look of an old pub – and you would never guess that somewhere with such ample parking and pretty garden space could exist in the middle of a small village! But this of course is an extremely beneficial element to the venue if you are staying overnight – there are lots of little shops to explore, and if you are here for a wedding, the church is just over the road, but you are still within five minutes of more rurally based activities should you fancy a walk in the countryside, a trip to the polo, Goodwood races, or the ruins of Cowdray Castle.
Spread Eagle is an extremely romantic venue – it is unpretentious, and for anyone who enjoys a sense of history, this is the place to go, with Elizabeth I, Admiral Nelson, and Guy Fawkes featuring amongst their notable guests.
– Take some time to have a cup of tea (and a very large cookie) in the lounge by the fire if the weather is less than perfect … it’s the perfect spot to curl up with a book.
– If you are here for a couple of days, visit the Upperton Vineyards that supply the hotel’s wine, for a tour.
– The Olympic Torch is passing through Midhurst on 16th July if you are looking for a good view!
– Take a little time to read the hotel’s history book (available at reception) – the history of this place is integral to the experience, and while it is palpable, knowing a little more will make your day all the more special.
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