Blue Door Barns

East Sussex, South East England, United Kingdom Book from

An enchanted barns-and-breakfast bolthole, tucked between lovely Lewes and the South Downs, with 4 boutique rooms for 2-4
It's easy to see why Emma and Bryony abandoned glittering London careers in TV and talent management to set up this magical microcosm of flint-and-brick barns, fairy-lit courtyards and vintage-chic interiors. The setting is a best-of-British showreel. At the foot of the rolling green South Downs, you've the handsome market town of Lewes and glamorous Glyndebourne, bustling Brighton on your doorstep, and the chalky sea cliffs of the Seven Sisters beyond.

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, whips up the most delicious breakfasts - think poached eggs on avocado toast or homemade cranberry compote on yoghurt and granola - while advising 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 2 smaller rooms are on the cosy side - but fine for a couple on a weekend escape
  • There's no communal sitting room (yet), though one is in the pipeline - and the 2 larger barns have indoor sitting areas
  • Being near the A26, you can hear the faint noise of passing cars when sitting outside
  • Be aware that you're in the outhouses, not the main building (which is where Emma and Bryony live)

Best time to go

Blue Door Barns lends itself to a summer stay, with its funky courtyard / outdoor dining room, and its proximity to the Downs and beaches. It's also Glyndebourne season (May to August). But winter works too: fairy lights and candles galore festoon the barns, and there's good shopping and sightseeing in Lewes and Brighton (not to mention massages and health retreats) for the dark afternoons.

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

If you plan to cook, bring staples (oil, spices etc) as our kitchen didn't have any - or take advantage of their pre-arrival shopping service. 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.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Barns
  • 4 barns for 2-4
  • Breakfast (+ dinner by arrangement); 2 rooms have kitchens
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
Room: The Lodge


Emma has done a great job mixing flea-market finds with Gallic chic. Expect exposed floorboards with cowskin rugs, chandeliers hanging from white painted eaves, pale pastel shades (including Farrow & Ball Charleston, aptly enough), postwar posters rehoused in chunky silvered frames, 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.

Of the 4 mini-barns, The Lodge (for 2-4) is the newest and largest: double height, with an open-plan bedroom-kitchen-living 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.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


Although 2 rooms have kitchens, this is very much a B&B. Bryony whips up a wonderful range of spoiling 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.

But if you prefer to do it your way, guests in the Lodge or Little Lodge can opt for a yummy, largely organic hamper delivered to the door. We tried it on our second morning, and found Lavazza coffee, Teapig teas, Rude Health granola, pork sausages from Firle, eggs from Middle Farm, cherry tomatoes and bumper mushrooms, Innocent OJ and more. There's no doubting the thought, and the generosity, that they put into it - as into everything.

These 2 rooms have small but well-equipped kitchens - electric hob and oven, essential pots and pans, ceramic butcher's sink, retro kettle and toaster, fridge - where you can rustle up a simple lunch or dinner. They each have compact dining areas, or in good weather you can 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.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Room service
  • Shopping service
  • Welcome hamper
  • Kitchens in 2 rooms
Eating: Little Lodge


  • 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:

  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Opera
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Yoga


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.

Best for:

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 (not for 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 equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chairs

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

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.

Kid Friendly: The Lodge

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