A Glorious Getaway to The Bell, Ticehurst
Sometimes I just want to get away from it all and visit a place that makes me feel a million miles from home, but the thought of airports, queues, passport control and lost luggage don’t sound like music to my holiday-desiring ears. A staycation might appeal to some, but for me, when I take a break, I want to make sure I’m actually ‘breaking’ from the norm; so I paid a visit to The Bell Inn, Ticehurst in East Sussex for a dream-like escape from reality.
by Donna Martin
I’ve only heard spectacular things about The Bell – especially the quirky touches – like tenor horns used for the urinals in the men’s toilet. Yes, really. Horns. I saw them with my own eyes. This is just one of the hundreds of fantastic, eccentric and frankly fabulous gems hidden throughout the pub and rooms.
On a cold but sunny weekend this winter, I was able to experience the glory that is the The Bell, including the icing on the cake: my night in The Love Nest.
Ticehurst is a place after my own heart – a quintessential English village with family-owned shops speckled along the high street, friendly residents full of smiles and of course, a great local pub. But this pub isn’t your everyday, regular village pub. This is a pub with pizzazz, with that je ne sais quoi. Imagine your local pub being a scrambled egg. The Bell is a passion fruit banana soufflé.
After a £2.8m refurbishment completed in 2011, The Bell has a charming new personality, transformed from its previous life as a coaching inn into a creative paradise. There’s a Banksy in the hall, Vivienne Westwood wallpaper adorns the walls and a giant tree trunk winds up the stairwell two storeys high.
I knew I was staying in The Love Nest prior to my arrival, but having never been to The Bell, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ll tell you what I did expect was to be shown to my ‘normal’ inn room – a nice room mind you – but I definitely didn’t expect what I was about to see.
The Bell’s manager asked to take my bags, and led me outside to the newly constructed lodges. Each unique in its own way, the lodges look impressive enough from the outside, but it’s what’s inside that matters. But, let’s not get sidetracked. Let’s fast-forward past the lodges and turn the corner, to where I laid eyes on my accommodation for the night: The Love Nest.
When I heard the name ‘The Love Nest’, I was thinking a romantic room for couples, maybe with a super-king bed or a bath for two. Possibly a bottle of bubbly on arrival. I didn’t think it would be an actual nest. I mean, would you?
But a nest it was – a giant, luxurious nest, made just for two. The design of the lodge is ingenious, from the exterior Hobbit-like entrance to the interior wood-burning stove, gorgeous copper bath and weird and wonderful décor. This room wasn’t built just for looks either – it went way beyond first impressions with its high-tech gadgetry (remote controlled skylight, surround-sound speaker system and curved TV) to the complimentary local scones and jam, vintage phone and private rooftop patio.
After ooh-ing and ahh-ing a little too much, and sending a few too many photos to everyone in my contact list, boasting about my abode for the evening, I kicked off my shoes, turned off my phone, poured myself a glass of wine and relaxed until dinner. Now this, was a getaway.
The food at The Bell is just as impressive as the accommodation. As they say themselves, “We blend three ingredients – people, produce and place – and make them sing and shine.” My meal – starting with Sussex smoked rarebit with a poached egg, watercress and horseradish; followed by confit pork belly with mustard mash, sprouting broccoli and cider gravy; finished perfectly with blood orange posset – was, well, there just isn’t an adjective in the English language to describe it, but flawless comes close.
After a cheeky Irish coffee to finish off my meal, I sashayed back to my room to bask in the whimsical wonderland of The Love Nest. After all, I couldn’t possibly be late for my rendezvous with the copper bath.
A bubble bath, late-night TV and a solid eight-hour sleep on a Somnus handmade mattress makes me hungry (of course), so the thought of a home-cooked breakfast in the morning lured me back to The Bell’s restaurant. For me, an egg is usually an egg, but at The Bell, it’s an expertly cooked, fresh and local free-range hen’s egg, resting atop a crispy, buttery slice of toasted farmhouse bread, finished with a sprinkling of course sea salt and cracked black pepper. This is what The Bell is all about; an egg is not just an egg, a room is not just a room, and a pub is not just a pub.
East Sussex may not have been on your list of top getaway destinations, but now that you know about The Bell in Ticehurst, it should be. Whether or not a giant bird’s nest tickles your fancy, when there’s a getaway this good, this close to home, don’t let it pass you by.
The Bell Inn