An enchanted bolthole, tucked between lovely Lewes and the South Downs, with 4 boutique rooms for 2-4”
The buildings have history too: as home to Quentin (son of Vanessa) Bell, they were a regular haunt of the Bloomsbury Set; one of the guest rooms was his studio. Emma has decked them out with Farrow & Ball colours, playful chandeliers, vintage posters, and wonderful furniture salvaged from Parisian marchés aux puces. Bryony, meanwhile, can advise you on local hikes, traffic-free cycle routes, cosy pub lunches, even horse-riding tours and sailing excursions on her brother's yacht. Enchanting.
- A great couples' hideaway, with fresh flowers and candles galore, plus massages in "The Snug"
- Also suitable for families: the largest barn sleeps 4, another is perfect for 3, both of these have kitchens, and there's tons to do locally
- Best of all would be to get 6-10 friends together and take all 4 barns for a summer party: the shared courtyard, with its outdoor fire and pergola'd table, makes a great focal point
- Emma and Bryony are consummate hosts: welcoming, fun-loving and generous to a fault, they offered without a second thought to pick us up after our walk, while our son was always welcome in their kiddies' play garden
- They're very flexible about minimum stays, arrival times etc
- The The Nook and The Sailor's House are on the cosy side - but fine for a couple's weekend
- The Lodge has a twin mezzanine room which is only accessible via steep stairs - this makes it unsuitable for toddlers and can be tricky when carrying babies up and down
- There's no communal sitting room, though the lodges have indoor sitting areas
- You can hear the faint noise of passing cars on the A26 when sitting outside
- The guest suites are in the outhouses, not the main building (which is where Emma and Bryony live)
Best time to go
Lewes also hosts one of the liveliest Bonfire Nights in Britain, if not Europe, with 6 'societies' staging separate parades and firework displays on November 5th, watched by 3,000 participants and up to 80,000 visitors (book early).”
Our top tips
Keen walkers and cyclists should take their own maps, and if you want board games or books, bring them too. Other than that, we found the barns had everything we could wish for.”
- Boutique Barns
- 4 barns for 2-4
- Breakfast or self-catering
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Daily Maid Service
- Towels & Bedlinen
- Bicycles Available
- Laundry Service
Emma has done a great job mixing flea-market finds with Gallic chic in the the four mini-barns. Expect exposed floorboards with cowskin rugs, pale pastel Farrow & Ball shades, postwar posters, wooden Pepsi crates repurposed into bedside tables, and gold antlers gazing benignly down. It all speaks of great love and a sense of fun - and if the vintage alarm clock is stuck at ten to eight, then (as my wife pointedly observed) at least it is right twice a day.
The Lodge (for 2-4) is the newest and largest: double height, with an open-plan kitchen-living-bedroom space downstairs, a compact bathroom with a tub and rainshower alongside, and steep steps up to a cosy mezzanine twin intended for older kids (but not for toddlers, the elderly or the light-sensitive, as it is only partly screened from the main room). Our son slept in obligingly late, while we sprawled on the kingsize bed beneath Sunday papers and down duvets.
Little Lodge (also for 2-4) is the next largest. Its glassed-in living room-cum-kitchen has high eaves, grey striped blinds for privacy, and a daybed which pulls out to a double. There's a cosy double bedroom and a compact bathroom which comes with a rolltop tub and the word WASH spelled out in giant gold letters, in case the Ren toiletries and steaming hot water make you forget what you came for. We think it's perfect for a couple with (or without) a child, who want self-catering facilities and a bit more space.
Of the 2 smaller rooms, The Nook is Emma's favourite - an exquisite couple's hideaway with a kingsize bed and black-slated shower - while The Sailor's House, a brick outhouse which was formerly Bell's studio, is now a compact double room with a narrow shower room behind sliding doors. The 2 lack kitchens, but come with coffee- and tea-making facilities and mini-fridges, as well as flatscreen TV-DVDs, fluffy towels and WiFi.
- Central heating
- DVD player
- Extra beds
- Family friendly
Guests staying in The Sailor's House or The Nook are served breakfast daily; The Lodge and the Little Lodge have kitchens for self-catering, with the option of a breakfast hamper.
The Sailor's House or The Nook: Bryony whips up a wonderful range of spoiling cooked breakfast dishes, including the 'Why Miss Jones' (an eye-opening avocado-poached egg-chorizo combo), or Mexican huevos rancheros, or a healthy spread of granola, yoghurt and fruit topped with tangy cranberry compote made that morning. It's served on vintage crockery in their funky living room, with flickering candles, a salvaged rocking horse and Sinatra crooning on the iPod. Whatever the day and purpose of your visit, there's a sense of Sunday morning indulgence.
The Lodge or Little Lodge: these 2 rooms have small but well-equipped kitchens where you can rustle up a simple lunch or dinner. Expect an electric hob and oven, pots and pans, ceramic butcher's sink, retro kettle and toaster, fridge. They each have compact dining areas; in good weather, eat outside at the pergola-shaded courtyard table.
There's no shortage of good eateries nearby, including Bill's in Lewes for fresh seasonal café food, and The Ram in the time-stood-still hamlet of Firle - where we enjoyed juicy burgers and homemade soup, before walking home via Beddingham Hill. Just ask Emma and Bryony for their latest recommendations; or they can prepare a bespoke feast for you by prior arrangement.
- Children's meals
- Coffee / tea making
- Dinner by arrangement
- Family friendly
- Lunch by arrangement
- Room service
- Shopping service
- Welcome hamper
- Kitchens in 2 rooms
- You're on the South Downs Way, so grab your boots (or mountain bikes) and head up to Firle Beacon for lofty views over the glinting Channel; or follow the trail west to Brighton
- Drop down to Charleston Farmhouse, another Bloomsbury hangout (once Vanessa Bell's home), now an art gallery-cum-historic house and gardens, which hosts regular literary festivals
- Don't miss Lewes, one of the loveliest towns in southern England, with its uncommercialised High Street (secondhand bookshops, independent chocolatiers, vintage clothing), its hilltop Norman castle over the Ouse Valley, and its 16th-century timber-framed Anne of Cleves House
- If you haven't walked the Seven Sisters, now is the time: a spectacular rollercoaster of chalk cliffs dropping sheer to the sea. At Beachy Head you pass the Belle Tout lighthouse which, remarkably, was moved 20m inland by hydraulic jacks to avoid erosion. Take your National Trust cards if you want to park at Birling Gap, and stop for tea in pretty Alfriston on the way home
- If you're into horse-riding or sailing, ask Bryony about the trips which she arranges with local stables and yachts
- Glyndebourne Opera House is just 5 minutes' drive away, and if you want to do it in style, ask Bryony for her bespoke picnic service (delivered and set up - complete with table - by 2 valiant porters)
- Other highlights include the beautifully landscaped Sheffield Park & Gardens (National Trust, 20 minutes away); the rare steam trains of the Bluebell Railway (near Uckfield); and of course bustling Brighton, with its famous Pavilion and pier. For more family-friendly activities, see our Kids page
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Horse riding
- Mountain biking
- Museums / galleries
- Plantlife / flora
- Shopping / markets
Children of all ages are welcome, and there's lots to do locally including beaches, family-friendly farms, traffic-free cycle routes, and a castle and freshwater pool in nearby Lewes. The owners' 2 young children are often around, and our son loved playing on their tree-ship in the garden. Two barns can sleep up to 4.
Children (4-12 years)
Family friendly accommodation:
The Lodge is best for a family of 4, with a downstairs double bed in the main room, and a mezzanine twin bedroom reached via steep stairs (note we do not recommend this for those travelling with toddlers). The Little Lodge is great for a couple with one child, having a double bedroom and a sofabed in the sitting room, which can be pulled out into a double bed if necessary
Babysitters are available
- Baby cots
- High chairs
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Kids' menus are available
Kids Activities nearby:
- Chalk beaches beneath the Seven Sisters, great for beachcombing
- Norman castle in Lewes, with historical finds, mini-cinema and dressing-up clothes
- Pells outdoor swimming pool in Lewes (open May-Sept): 46m long, with a shady lawn, café and Pilates for parents
- Soft play, climbing wall and indoor pool at Wave Leisure Centre in Lewes
- Family-friendly animals at Middle Farm (A27), including llamas, goats, rabbits and rare-breed chickens
- Petting farm, indoor slides and pig races at Spring Barn Farm
- Bluebell steam railway (seasonal), 25km away near Uckfield
- Drusillas Park and Zoo - with a fab adventure playground and a Thomas the Tank Engine train
- Brighton (7 miles / 10km) has a Peter Pan playground, adventure golf, bowling centre and of course its famous pier
Families Should Know:
The stairs in the Lodge are very steep and not suitable for small children
- Airport: 45 minutes (Gatwick)
- Shops: 5-10 minutes (Lewes)
For more family-friendly places, see our Kids Collection
Blue Door Barns are in East Sussex, 3 miles / 5km south of Lewes, near the junction of the A26 and A27.
Gatwick Airport is 45 minutes away by car; Heathrow is 80-90 minutes away. If you want to hire a car, see our car rental recommendations. For a list of airlines serving these airports, click on the links at the bottom of the page.
Lewes has good train connections to London (about 1 hour) and Gatwick airport (about half an hour). From the station, it’s a 5-10 minute taxi ride.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to the UK and getting around
- London Gatwick 50.0 km LGW
- London Heathrow 120.0 km LHR
- Beach 10.0 km
- Shops 5.0 km
- Restaurant 5.0 km