The Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa and Blackdown Distillery have collaborated to take you on a historic Gin Journey, nestled in the heart of West Sussex
What do Guy Fawkes, Queen Elizabeth I, H. G. Wells – and now me – have in common? We have all spent time at the Spread Eagle in West Sussex, a historic hotel and spa that dates back to 1430.
Tucked away in the idyllic market town of Midhurst, it is one of the oldest Coaching Inns still in existence in the UK; a charming country retreat swathed in wisteria, characterised by oak beams, decorative leaded light windows, wingback chairs and curious artefacts.
The atmospheric hotel features 39 rooms, each one unique in décor and layout, ranging from dinky doubles to the majestic Queen’s Suite (named after Elizabeth I). I was lucky enough to stay in said suite, featuring a princess-worthy four poster bed, a roll top bath and even a 15th century wig closet (sans wigs).
Traditional features are complemented by modern touches including Wi-Fi, a widescreen television and coffee machine; the perfect coupling of old and new.
Old vs. new is a reoccurring theme throughout the Spread Eagle, which also features a state-of-the-art spa, with a grand pool and gym. A conservatory has been built at the front of the building, which is a serene suntrap on a bright day.
Less than an hour from London, the Spread Eagle Hotel & Spa is the perfect getaway for exhausted urbanites looking for a reprieve from the city.
This summer, the Spread Eagle has partnered with the nearby Blackdown Distillery on a Gin Journey, raising a glass to the historic juniper berry-based spirit, famously beloved by Noël Coward, Scott Fitzgerald and Humphrey Bogart to name a few.
Nestled amid the trees, the distillery sits at the foot of Blackdown Hill in the leafy South Downs National Park. It is revered for its unique, handcrafted spirits – Sussex Dry Gin, Silver Birch Vodka and Silver Birch Vermouth, concocted in large, copper cauldrons and hand-labelled on site.
Both a day out and an education, the distillery is a tucked-away treasure, run by charismatic husband and wife duo Sarah and Nathan Thompson, the latter of whom makes a mean gin-based risotto.
During the tour, guests can also learn perhaps one of life’s most valuable lessons – how to make the perfect G&T (hint – don’t scrimp on tonic). After all, it was Winston Churchill who once declared, “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”
On your return, hunker down in the hotel’s cosy back bar and put the world to rights over gin house cocktails, shaken with one of 60 different gins available on site.
Ensure you are up in time for breakfast; a magnificent bounty of homemade Bircher Muesli, creamy cheese and home-smoked salmon, alongside plenty cooked options. Breakfast is served in the dining room, flanked by an inglenook fireplace crowned by copper hanging pots. I can only imagine how utterly enchanting it must feel in winter.
Whether looking to rest or revel, this is an ideal weekend getaway for couples, large groups and – dare I say it – hen parties.
A visit to the Spread Eagle is akin to stepping back in time; a slice of English history, wrapped up tapestry cushions, inkwell pots and ye olde signs.
I left West Sussex dreaming of royal banquets and roll-top baths; of Elizabeth I deliberating in her wig room; highwaymen on horseback and Guy Fawkes in his Tudor hat. Oh – and those aforementioned gin cocktails of course.