Tillingham

nr Rye, Sussex, United Kingdom Book from Book from £160 per night

Organic wine estate in the rolling hills of East Sussex, with 11 restored barn rooms, 2 bell tents and a stellar restaurant.
Tucked among the rolling hills of East Sussex, Tillingham is a unique combination of winery, restaurant, working farm – and, now, boutique hotel. And on every count it's pretty special. The organic, low intervention winery uses an ancient Georgian technique, in which wines are buried for 7 months in huge clay urns or qvevri, to yield an award-winning amber tipple laden with "nectarines and marmalade". The restaurant offers super-seasonal, zero-waste menus, using beef, lamb and vegetables from their own biodynamic farm, plus a wood-fired pizza oven for unfussy al fresco feasts in an open-sided Dutch barn. Lest this all sounds too virtuous, there's also a breezy bar with bottle shop, big windows and a lively buzz. The farm itself – comprising cattle, chickens, fruit trees, walled gardens and 70 acres of woodland – is a heart-warming lesson in sustainability and soil regeneration, and a rare opportunity to connect with ancient countryside just 2 hours' drive from London.

As for the 11 rooms, which are housed in a traditional hop barn, they're peaceful, minimalist and very natural – in keeping with the ethos of the farm. Think retro designer furnishings, sheepskin rugs (which you can take home from the on-site shop), pressed wildflowers and views of rolling vineyards. Or get even closer to nature in a bell tent. The whole estate was restored by eco-minded winemaker Ben Walgate, who started out stomping the grapes with his own feet, and has still not installed a phone line or WiFi (yet). Good for him. The Tillingham experience is not about luxury (although it's very comfortable): it's about a complete change of scenery and pace, and a reconnection not only with the earth, but also with your soul, your taste buds, and the lucky friend you bring.
Covid-19 update: some services and facilities may be changed as a result of Coronavirus measures.

Highs

  • The setting is truly magical: sweeping views, ancient woodlands and a glimpse of sea between the rows of vines
  • The bang-on-trend, seasonal, farm-to-table restaurant received rave reviews from us, do book in advance as it's understandably popular
  • We loved the sun decked terraces and alfresco summer seating
  • It's just 2 hours from London by road; or even less by train (1 hour to Rye, then a 10-minute taxi)
  • Stay an extra day or two to visit the historic town of Rye, its fishing harbour and the beach of Camber Sands

Lows

  • It's closed every Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday
  • No kids under 10 (except for day visits)
  • There's no WiFi on the estate (but there is good mobile coverage)
  • If bringing a dog, book early (there's only 1 pet-friendly room) and be aware that they must be kept on a lead inside the estate
  • Aside from the restaurant and bar, there isn't any other communal indoor space for guests to relax in

Best time to go

Tillingham is open all year (except for Christmas - New Year), and each season has its draws. Spring and summer are best for flowers, wildlife and walking, while autumn brings woodland colours and of course the wine harvest. June/July sees the impressive 4-day Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival, while Rye has its own jazz, blues and arts festivals in summer and autumn. A winter stay at Tillingham would be truly cosy and secluded, with the beaches and towns of Rye and Winchelsea almost to yourselves.

Our top tips

Do book a vineyard tour well in advance (2-3 are arranged every day in summer, less in winter). Even for non-wine buffs, it's a fascinating insight into Tillingham's ancient wine-making techniques – and completely unpretentious (no tasting sheets or note taking!). It includes 5 wine tastings, ranging from their signature Qvevris to classic pinots or rosés. We found it to be a fundamental part of staying here and really opens you up to the ethos and story behind this place. Best of all – especially for those who have come by car – you can stock up at the bottle shop, with no mark-up.

Great for...

Eco
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique winery
  • 11 rooms
  • Restaurant (open Wed-Sun only)
  • Over 10s only
  • Closed: Every Sun night, Mon & Tue
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Available for exclusive use
  • Function facilities
Room:

Rooms

11 bedrooms are housed in the former hop barn, overlooking the original Victorian farmstead, with views of vineyards and rolling hills. Inside, Ben and his designer team have kept it simple but classy: retro furnishings (perhaps an Art Deco dresser or red leather Wassily chair), colourful kilims on grey-tiled floors, down duvets on kingsize (or bigger) beds, and a smattering of carefully chosen modern art. There's a nod to farm life too, in the mini milking stools, sheepskin rugs, framed wildflowers and the small decanter of wine or sherry. Bathrooms come with eco-friendly Haeckels handwash, shower gel, moisturiser and shampoo.

Large rooms have space for an extra bed (note, only children aged 10+ are accepted), while Feature rooms also come with either a sumptuous egg-shaped tub (in the case of #11) or a private terrace by the vines (#4) – worth splashing out on in summer. We'd recommend these if you're staying for a couple of nights or more as the Standard rooms are compact. One Standard room (#2) is dog friendly, while another (#1) is accessible, with a lift to the restaurant. Do note that there are no TVs or WiFi in any bedrooms: the ambiance here is one of selective simplicity.

The two bell tents are a short stroll from the main buildings, in a separate field behind a hedge so it does feel more private; both tents have a huge amount of grass out front with rows of vines in the short distance. There are toilets onsite for each tent, but the shower block is in the main hotel barn, a 30 second walk away.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Hairdryer
  • Radio

Eating

Drawing on produce from the farm and walled kitchen garden, the superb restaurant adopts a daily changing fixed dinner menu; hitting the sweet spot between big city style and farm character. We came in May and headed seamlessly from a wine tasting tour into the evening set menu. We started with devilled crab followed by lamb rump from Morebread Farm next door served with wild garlic and mint, rounding off with almond cake and rhubarb. In autumn, the menu could feature chicory, aubergine & sunflower seed salad, roast Angus beef rib with cabbage, capers and parsley, and pear & yoghurt cake. There might be fish from the day's catch at Rye and there's always a veggie menu. Weekends offer a la carte choices – anything from mushrooms on toast to a braised lamb shoulder for two. It's all overseen by ex-Moro chef Tom Ryalls, who gets a huge thumbs up from critics and diners alike for the uncomplicated deliciousness of it all.

Dinners are served upstairs under a vaulted metal roof with a neon-lit ‘Canteen’ sign hanging above the open kitchen; candlelight keeps things atmospheric and cosy. In summer, you can eat outside in the converted, open-sided Dutch barn – now an outdoor kitchen serving wood fired pizzas and snacks. Small plates are also served in the wine bar throughout the day. As for breakfast, it's filled with delightfully nostalgic homemade goodies, be it sourdough with plum jam or boiled eggs with soldiers, as well as granola, yoghurt, local cheese and a yummy charcuterie board.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the 70 acres of ancient woodland on the estate, along with farmyard animals (everybody loves the piggies in particular!), walled gardens and vineyards (don't forget to book a tour)
  • Tillingham offers occasional foraging, craft, bread-making and yoga classes (the yoga room doubles as a tasting room at times); ask when booking
  • Build an appetite for dinner with a bracing walk over the hill to Winchelsea and its long shingle beach
  • The lovely town of Rye (10 mins' drive) is a medieval maze of cobbled streets, hidden galleries and antiques shops; climb up Ypres Tower, or visit Lamb House where Henry James spent his last years
  • Continue to Rye Harbour with its working fishing harbour and bird-rich nature reserve; just beyond is Camber Sands, the largest dune system on the Sussex coast
  • We had a sunny afternoon in Dungeness (30 mins away), exploring its shingle beach, looking for birds and enjoying some sea shack fish finger sandwiches
  • Other attractions include Great Dixter House and Gardens (15 mins), Bodiam Castle (20 mins), Battle Abbey (25 mins) and Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens (30 mins)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

Tillingham accepts children over 10 in the hotel and restaurant (younger children are welcome for outdoor dining and day visits only). If coming with one older child, book a Large or Feature room (both can take an extra bed); if coming with two, ask about neighbouring or connecting rooms. But in truth, we think it's more of a grown-up gastro escape.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Location

Tillingham Estate is hidden among the hills of Sussex, 5 miles from Rye and the coast, and about 60 miles / 100km from London.

By Car:
This is probably the easiest option, especially if you plan to stock up on wines during your visit.

By Train:
Otherwise, trains from London St. Pancras go via Ashford International to Rye in just over 1 hour; then taxi to Tillingham (10 mins).

By Air
If coming from further afield, Gatwick is the nearest London airport (1 hour 15 mins); Heathrow is also an option (1 hour 45 mins).

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • London Gatwick 95.0 km LGW
  • London Heathrow 130.0 km LHR

Other:

  • Beach 13.0 km
  • Shops 3.0 km
  • Restaurant 7.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

Tillingham made me feel discombobulated. In a good way. You arrive driving through an ancient medieval forest and then turn down a long lane to be thrown into a vineyard setting which is more like New Zealand. You feel you have been transported somewhere. We were greeted by a glass of their fizz and then taken to our room. The room is comfortable, although the pillows are not. The setting is stunning and we arrived on a beautiful day and wandered around the vineyard to the viewing platform and our shoulders started to drop. The staff are young, chatty and warm. Like all the best people acknowledge from London 2020 but the main event is the food. Wow. Dinner is a set menu and every mouthful is delicious. The chef understands product and flavour and the meal leaves you on a foodie high. You wake feeling that you have had a special night but then breakfast arrives and that is also of the same standard. Incredible. Service is excellent. Special shout out to Paul who eases you into a new day, already looking forward to dinner. Overall, what a find! Might bring my own pillow next time but absolutely excellent. Can't wait to return.

10/10,

{{ review.rating }}/10, {{ review.firstName }}Anonymous{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},

Rates for Tillingham

Arriving on: