Tilton House review
Yoga, wellbeing & creative retreats in Sussex
The Quick Read: Tilton House is a large and lovely white-painted Georgian house set at the foot of the South Downs National Park. It offers a range of yoga and creative breaks on the weekends, and relaxing B&B and self catering during the week. It’s the former home of economist John Maynard Keynes and his Russian ballerina wife, Lydia Lopokova, who apparently liked to dance on its lawns by moonlight, and remains a discreet and carefree place to stay thanks to the super hosts, film-makers Polly and Shaun. The house makes a relaxing midweek base for a shopping trip too, as it’s just 10 minutes from Lewes, 20 minutes from Brighton and 1.5 hours from London.
How was it for us: This is a real find, a gorgeous picturesque house run brilliantly by two genuine people full of integrity. I have stayed with Polly and Shaun a number of times as a B&B and self-catering guest, and always found the house and their manner to be calm, nourishing and relaxing. Their weekend retreats are always interesting and well thought out, and if you’re looking to book treatments, I’d thoroughly recommend a Thai massage with local Victoria Auton. I like the top main bedroom best, which has lots of space, plush red curtains and views of the garden.
Yoga and wellbeing breaks: Visiting teachers run yoga weekends throughout the year and. Tilton House occasionally offer their own retreat – the Detox Fox. Whether you’re on a weekend retreat or staying as a B&B or self-catering guest, you can pre book a range of holistic treatments with carefully-sourced local therapists, including ayurveda, aromatherapy, hot stone massage, Thai massage and myofascial release, a highly effective form of soft tissue therapy. There’s a yurt to hang out in during the summer months, too.
Other activities: Go for gorgeous, head-clearing circular walks from the house along the flint paths and grassy tracks of the South Downs Way, or arrange for a guided walking meditation over the Downs with Louise Gorst (solesandsouls.co.uk). Keynes was a key figure in the Bohemian Bloomsbury group, and Vanessa Bell’s inspirational, hand-decorated country retreat, Charleston Farmhouse, is a 10 minute walk – take a tour around the house or attend one of the literary events held throughout the year.
The outside: In the grounds you’ll find a kitchen garden with raised beds growing veggies, a hippy chic 30-foot woodland yurt with wood-burning stove for yoga, meditation or simply hanging out in, a fire pit, hammocks strung up on mature trees and a tennis court. There is enough space to lose yourself, and little creative touches to lift the heart, such as reclaimed writing tables graced with little pots of flowers and set in private nooks.
The inside: It’s rather like a friend’s weekend country house here, where the soundtrack is birdsong, there’s a wooden-floored library full of books and vintage binoculars in the (Farrow & Ball) sitting room. There’s a large kitchen with flag-stoned floors (help yourself to Pukka teas), a cosy wooden-floored library with an open fire built by Keynes, and a lovely light-filled ante-room reached across a pretty courtyard.
The bedrooms: The eight individually-decorated bedrooms use the local landscape as inspiration, so expect muted sage greens, greys and sea-blues, reclaimed furniture, seagrass rugs and painted wooden floors. Bed linen is by The White Company, bathrooms are modern and there are always fresh flowers from the garden on display. A well-equipped, stylish self-catering annexe which sleeps up to six is available for rent all year round.
Food & Drink: Chef John Bayley uses seasonal produce grown from the kitchen gardens to create meals that are both healthy and tasty. He occasionally runs cookery courses here, and many guests return to learn a healthier way of creating interesting food. There’s no restaurant, just various lovely places to eat. There’s a small wine list on offer for B&B guests too.
What’s queenly: Having a treatment in front of a roaring log fire in the wooden-floored library. The genuine peace & quiet, & the nearness to the Downs. Inspiring programme of events all year round. Polly’s great at making interesting things to look at and finding gorgeous furniture.
What’s lowly: It can get chilly doing yoga here – bring layers. There’s no dedicated yoga space with straight walls – though the yurt and wooden-floored rooms they do use are perfectly fine. The showers aren’t power showers – though they do this deliberately to preserve water.
Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones
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Nurturing yoga holidays in the UK, France & India