As the light fades and the sky turns a deep dark blue, the Christmas trees and fairy lights look particularly inviting as you arrive at The Spread Eagle. This stunning medieval coaching inn in Midhurst, West Sussex in the south of England is part of the Historic Sussex Hotels collection – three independently owned, unique, luxury hotels.
In the restaurant, where we tuck into an indulgent afternoon tea, flames flicker in the fireplace above which a row of Christmas puddings hangs down from the ceiling, a tradition that dates back over one hundred years. Every Christmas Eve, each guest at the hotel receives a Christmas Pudding made to a secret recipe. They can take the pudding home with them or hang it in the restaurant to eat it when they return the following Christmas.
Stir-up Sunday at The Spread Eagle
The last Saturday before advent is traditionally known as Stir-up Sunday when families throughout England come together to each take their turn to make a wish while stirring the Christmas pudding.
Earlier that day, we had joined Group Executive Chef, Martin Hadden, for a workshop making Christmas puddings and learning about their origins. You can read all about it on my blog,TravelWithKat.com, where I have shared the Christmas pudding recipe. Sadly, not the secret one but an extremely good one nevertheless. Two workshops are held every year on Stir-up Sunday at The Spread Eagle. The first is followed by a roast dinner, while the second, the one we joined, is followed by a decadent afternoon tea. Everything was superb, but a special mention goes to the chocolate cake, which was outrageously, dangerously delicious!
Dinner at The Spread Eagle
We were booked in for dinner and an overnight stay, but I couldn’t imagine doing the food justice after such an afternoon feast. However, I did my best and thoroughly enjoyed the grilled breast of South Downs pheasant with parsnips, quince, roast shallots and hazelnuts. The food was excellent and the service friendly, if a little slow. Mind you, the restaurant is such an inviting setting that it is a place you wish to linger in and good food deserves to be savoured not rushed.
After dinner, we headed to the bar for a gin and tonic nightcap. Comfy leather sofas and chairs, subdued lighting, dark woods, warm tones, and a twinkling Christmas tree, not to mention a fabulous selection of gins, all contributed to the cosy and inviting atmosphere. Former patrons include Guy Fawkes who is said to have met his fellow Gunpowder Plot conspirators here and sat in the very corner we were now relaxing in. Did the first thought of blowing up parliament take form here?
Christmas and New Year’s Eve Breaks at The Spread Eagle
Our twin room was small but comfortable, attractively furnished without being too fussy, in a classic, timeless style. What stood out most though were the beds which are among the comfiest I’ve ever slept in. Each room here is unique, and some are furnished with beautiful four-poster beds, enhancing the romantic atmosphere even further. The Spread Eagle in Midhurst is a fabulous choice for a festive Christmas or New Year’s Eve break.
The Spa at The Spread Eagle
While I didn’t get the chance to try any treatments, I did have time for a swim and to check out the spa facilities. It was a very relaxing way to spend a few hours and swim off a few calories from all that decadent eating. If the quality of treatments at the Spread Eagle’s sister hotel, Bailiffscourt, are anything to go by (and I’m sure they are) they are bound to be excellent.
Dogs welcome at The Spread Eagle
Dog owners will be pleased to know that well-behaved dogs are welcome at The Spread Eagle although they are not allowed in the restaurant. Breakfast is served in the pub, a very cosy setting, while lunch and dinner are served in the conservatory, a particularly lovely spot to relax in. Check out their Muddy Paws Package which includes their Welcome Kit including a cosy dog bed, food and water bowls and tasty meals and a ‘Ruff and Tumble’ drying coat to take home. Dog-friendly Christmas and New Year’s packages are also available.
Out and about in West Sussex
The Spread Eagle is a fabulous place to stay any time of year, but it is even more magical at Christmas. It is well situated for exploring the Sussex countryside. The National Trust owned, Petworth House, a 17th-century mansion set in superb grounds laid out by Capability Brown is just 15 minutes away while the stunning privately-owned Parham House is around a half-hour drive. The pretty seaside village of Bosham and the historic towns of Chichester and Arundel are also nearby. And, of course, you have the South Downs National Park, an excellent place for walkers and nature lovers, right on your doorstep.
The hotel itself is in the historic market town of Midhurst built by the River Rother. The oldest part of the town is home to many historic buildings, including the 16th century Market Hall, a timber-framed building now home to the Midhurst Grammar School. While nearby Cowdray House, a magnificent Tudor manor set in parkland famous for its annual polo matches, is older still dating to around 1300. Author HG Wells spent much of his life in Midhurst and set a number of his works here including, The Invisible Man.
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Travel Blogger ‘Travel With Kat’ and Co-founder of Sussex Bloggers