Belle Tout Lighthouse B&B Review
A stay in the Beach Hut room
My first trip to the beautiful Belle Tout Lighthouse on Beachy Head, was admittedly somewhat of a culture shock, in a good way. My partner and I had no idea what to expect and were a little worried about being 'in the middle of nowhere'. Coming from a large town and everything is a 10 minute walk away, being twenty-something and taking all of this for granted we worried what we were going to do (at this point it should be noted that Eastbourne is merely a 12 minute drive away but we were slightly concerned nonetheless).
It was at this point when it struck me that we were not on a city break and had we wanted to go to all the same busy pubs and bars we have at home... we should perhaps stay there? We very soon realised that the point is, there is nothing there. Nothing except a completely unique boutique hotel that is absolutely bursting with history and the views, my God, the views. Situated on the cliff top, Belle Tout offers generous views of the South Downs, the coast and of course, the current lighthouse in operation. I found Belle Tout on the recommendation of a friend and after a look online; I opted for the Beach Hut room. Being one of the upper floor rooms, it is not as large as the downstairs rooms but being in a converted Lighthouse, none are greatly capacious and to expect otherwise would be foolish.
Easily guided by a sat-nav, we made our way through the increasingly tiny villages south of the A27 with great excitement building as we turned past Birling Gap and on to Beachy Head road. Approaching from the West as the road winds round, the lighthouse just appears from the top of the hill, with the wind stricken, bare trees in view to one side and sheep in the field the other, the road doubles round to the newly built entrance road (the other disused as it was starting to fall into the sea). Upon our arrival we were welcomed with a warm greeting by the manager, Ian who helped us in with our bags and showed us to our room. The room was immaculate; incredibly clean and tidy with the furnishings well looked after. Tea and coffee was plentiful and there were a variety of extra pillows, blankets and all items that could be required to make a most comfortable stay. We unpacked our belongings and took some time to unwind from the journey by watching 'The Story of Belle Tout' that was pre-loaded in the DVD player.
Whilst giving us a brief tour of the building, Ian had invited us to the lounge room for a complimentary drink with the other guests. Being such a small hotel, it was a nice opportunity to speak with the people you will undoubtedly bump into at breakfast the next morning as well as a great opportunity to make the most of Ian's unparalleled local knowledge and share ideas for activities and places to visit. We were recommended The Tiger Inn in neighbouring East Dean and the number of a local taxi company that offer a set rate for Belle Tout guests travelling between the hotel and the local villages. The Tiger Inn, set just off the idyllic village green offered a warm, welcome with a fine range of local ales and some hearty, traditional pub food. The inn itself has a fine balance of regulars and family groups but set so close to so many well-liked trails and routes also enjoys a great share of popularity amongst walkers.
Over our stay we spent some time walking ourselves, if you bear East towards Eastbourne, the sheer inclines of the cliff edge will give an interesting but distorted feel to the length of your walk. After what felt like an age walking, we were quite dismayed to look back and see the lighthouse beaming back at us in such clarity - not exactly the speck in the distance that we were expecting. At this point I also learnt that I am terrified of looking over the edge, not so much the looking but the idea of somehow stumbling or tripping. This was resolved by lying down to get a good look at the rocks below - not cool. Heading West towards Birling Gap felt a much flatter and more satisfying journey; the erosion and houses cordoned off, lost to the sea are incredible to see - especially what was once clearly somebodies garden wall tail off into nowhere, lost to the sea.
The next day, after another wonderfully comfortable night's sleep, we headed up the stairs for breakfast. This was a particularly pleasant experience with tables positioned to give the most wonderful panoramic views and fresh, locally sourced ingredients that were cooked to perfection by the manager, Ian. Following this, we headed up towards the lantern room with a tea and an iPod for some time to relax and take in one last 360° view of our beautiful surroundings before heading home.
Belle Tout was built in 1832 and
stood guarding coastline for 70 years until it was decommissioned in 1902. It
has seen life not only as a lighthouse but also as a teashop and a family home.
It was nearly destroyed in World War Two, it has been owned by the BBC and even
been moved back from the cliff edge in its entirety with thanks to some truly
impressive engineering. Not only is it an extremely unique, immaculate and
wonderful boutique hotel, with extremely high standards. It is a greatly
important mark on the local landscape, full of history, dedication and magical
Review by Tom
Photography by Rob Wassell