If you are a fan of Downton Abbey and fancy yourself as a (self-catering) Lord or Lady for a holiday weekend, Haremere Hall in Sussex and its 150 acres of parkland ought to appeal. A majestic country manor built in 1616, Haremere Hall is impressively grand on the outside. Despite the interior showing signs of tiredness and harder times in places, it is still beautiful and crammed full of antiques, 17th century wood panelling, Tudor rose ceilings and four poster beds whilst remaining remarkably cosy and family friendly. This is pretty special self-catering accommodation and most definitely worth the sacrifice of a hotel’s on-hand catering.
Unless you are really going crazy then Haremere Hall is for group holidays and is ideal for large family celebrations or reunions or perhaps a much needed get away with friends. Prices start from around just under £2000 for a week via English Country Cottages but can be closer to £3000 in peak season. I would also recommend taking up the owners on their offer of £20 premium for insurance – we were sceptical before we went but were very glad of it when we were there given that this Grade I listed building is packed with antiques and even the walls are heritage items and insurance gives peace of mind.
Don’t let this put you off coming with children though – this is no museum but rather a comfortable residence where the stately interior is designed to be used and enjoyed. Despite out initial concerns we did not need to spend the whole time running after our toddler in terror of her breaking something! In fact, the house comes with a proper cot and mattress and two high chairs and children are very much welcome judging by the large number of families with glowing reviews in the guest book.
Haremere has extensive grounds to explore, with farm animals aplenty as well as its own formal garden with perfect lawns within view of the house for little ones to teeter about on or for a quick game of boules as a break from sipping your Pimms on the sun-drenched terrace! Haremere Hall also has a tennis court and even a swimming pool, although the pool is unheated and uncovered making it a chilly prospect even in the height of summer. Parents of little ones will be relieved to know that the pool is quite a distance from the main house and in a separate area of the garden, although it does not have a fence around it.
We headed to Haremere Hall on the late May Bank Holiday for a friend’s milestone birthday celebrations. Despite six couples and three children taking up temporary residence with others dropping in over the four days, Haremere Hall did not feel cramped or over-crowded on the accommodation front. There are four double ensuite bedrooms, two twin ensuites, and a further twin and single room, all located on the first floor up a suitably grand wooden staircase and all offering lovely views across the estate. Despite some elements of the house being a little worn looking, the things that matter i.e. bedsheets and towels, were all very good quality and looked fairly new. Two of the rooms are particularly noteworthy – the Prince Regent’s room and Lady Leititia’s room both have four-poster beds and floor space large enough that most would consider it a living room not a bedroom! They also have their own chairs and table for you to enjoy the tea your maid (ahem husband) brings you and sweeping views across the grounds from their many windows. The bathrooms vary from being super-opulent although again, a little tired, to being fairly compact but all are functional and the water pressure and heating is surprisingly good given the age and size of the house.
All the rooms feature period furniture, paintings and antiques adding to feeling of having stepped back in time. If you are a particularly large party there is also the option upon request to hire an extra wing of the house with a further two bedrooms but as the wing is normally for private residence, we would probably prefer not to do so on another occasion – theses additional rooms are fine but their usual occupant’s clothing is in the wardrobe and other personal possessions in evidence which makes it feel a little like staying with a relative!
Downstairs is equally grand. Our first impressions did not disappoint – there is a large entrance hall complete with a beautiful grandfather clock (yes, it does chime every hour, day and night…). We made good use of the dining room with its large table and seating for ten. There is also an additional table for 4-6 people in the window -ideal for a children’s table!
The kitchen is well equipped and has the all-important dishwasher which was invaluable for clearing up after meals with our large party. There are also two fridges, a microwave and filter coffee machine but cupboard space is a little limited. storage. We found the several different types of dinner service available a little bamboozling and the pieces that looked like they should be ‘best’ sadly had seen better days. With another set or few to choose from though, it didn’t matter.
Evenings we enjoyed the sunshine on the terrace and a bbq or two before retreating indoors and lounging on sofas in front of a huge roaring fire in the drawing room (sitting room just doesn’t quite do it justice). The room is fully wood panelled and again full of portraits, historical artefacts and more recent photos which allude to the glamorous lifestyle of the late Lord Killearn and his wife.
Next to the drawing room is a small library which as well as some very old looking books also features an old-fashioned but functioning television and french windows which open out onto the terrace. It made a good playroom for the babies during out stay.
Haremere Hall is well located in the green and historic county of Sussex. With a direct railway connection to London from Etchingham village just a few minutes drive away it is easily accessible from the capital. Haremere is also perfectly placed for interesting days out and if you are National Trust members you will be seriously busy! Some of our party managed to clock up three National Trust visits in two days! We visited beautiful Sissinghurst Castle and its famous gardens as well as enjoying lazy wandering at picture perfect Scotney Castle.
If you can drag yourself and the kids away from the gorgeous estate at Haremere there are plenty of outdoor walks and visits to be made too which will keep all the family entertained. Budding historians will enjoy investigating the site of the 1066 Battle of Hastings and evidence in the surrounding area of the Norman invasion whilst keen walkers can head for the South Downs. For families with outdoor fun in mind, Bewl Water is just a short drive to the north and offers everything from biking, riding, and boat rides to adventure play and seasonal events within its 13 mile perimeter. These are just a small selection of what is on offer in the immediate area – far more than can be squeezed into a weekend as we discovered, especially when you can so easily enjoy a day relaxing in the beautiful grounds of your self-catering accommodation and exploring Haremere Hall’s rich and fascinating history.
To book a stay at Haremere Hall or find out more, please visit their holiday accommodation website.