The Gallivant in Rye is a gorgeous hipstery haven. Beach, fine dining and a massage hut...? Hell yeah!
You’ll find The Gallivant, a little slice of coastal cool, just outside Rye, directly opposite the gorgeous golden sands of Camber Beach. This beach-front motel has a California feel about it – seriously laid-back luxury. You are right on the road (it’s not called a converted motel for nothing) but it’s the closest you can get to the beach. If you live in west Kent, Rye is probably one of your nearest sea-side destinations – around 50 mins drive from the Tunbridge Wells area or 30 mins or less if you’re more towards Tenterden. From London it’s a 90-minute high-speed train journey into Rye.
There’s more than a touch of the Hamptons beach-home about this place, think Shaker-style greys and creams and sheep-skin rugs and crisp white sheets. Outside your room there’s a shingle and grassy communal garden area, a ‘Beach Hut’ for beauty and massage treatments and excellent award-winning restaurant. There’s loads of retro touches dotted about – like the rotary dial phone (ah, nostalgia) in the bedrooms and wooden boardgames for the dining room. Everything is about deliberately understated quality – making it a hipstery haven for those in the know.
There’s 20 rooms of various sizes, including 4 luxury rooms. The Garden Room, has doors that open out onto a quiet leafy patch and a small private seating area and a rolltop bath behind a sliding screen. All the bathrooms are good quality (so important) with Bramley toileteries and beach bags. Mr Muddy Kent and I booked this last minute and the only availability was in a smaller room, but it suited us fine for our one-night stay (see below) with access to a little private deck for drinkies and the shared garden beyond.
The restaurant is a destination in its own right. The food was top notch and, even more pleasingly, almost all the kitchen ingredients are sourced within 10 miles of the hotel, which is pretty impressive. We chose to sit outside because, hell, we’re British and it’s summer for like, 6 weeks, right? There’s outdoor heaters and blankets provided for when the evening cools off.
Napkin tucked in? You’ll need it to catch the drool. For starters I had Chilled Celery, Cucumber and Lettuce soup, followed by Dungeness Catch of the Day, which was Sea trout, while Mr Muddy K had the Potted South Coast Crab followed by the Romney Salt Marsh Lamb, which he raved about being as tender as they come. For pudding the Buttermilk panna cotta with local strawberries was also diviiiine.
Afternoon tea and breakfast are included in the price of your stay. And both were also a culinary success. After a glass too many (Chapel Down’s Sparkling English Rosé since you asked) the night before I woke up feeling, err, a little jaded. Breakfast was suitably reviving. There’s a choice of everything from home-made granola, pasteries and yoghurts to a full cooked breakfast (it’s a no-brainer, right?).
Under-12s can dine in the restaurant between 6pm and 6.30pm. The hotel doesn’t market itself towards families and children as such, being a more relaxed, adult escape. Personally, although kids are welcome, unless you’re visiting for a wedding I’d try and use this as a bolt hole for you and your other half (yeah, leave those mudlets at home, you deserve it.) To be honest you’d be better off taking the dog – this place has won awards for being seriously canine friendly and Camber Sands is doggy heaven. You are welcome to bring one well-behaved dog and in your room you’ll be given a dog rug, toy and water bowl (as well as endless free dog biscuits!)
OUT & ABOUT
Rye itself is only five minutes’ drive away and with its selection of antique shops, interior stores bursting with scandi-cool and resturants you’d be mad not to visit. Wander up and down the cute narrow lanes. If you’re looking for somewhere to eat in Rye itself then there’s The George (make sure you visit the cool interiors store they also own, The Shop Next Door). Or another food option is The Globe Inn Marsh of which I’ve heard great things.
Every time I visit Rye I discover something different – this time it has to be the new and wonderfully quirky Ethel Loves Me, on East Street, where you’ll find an ever changing sea of interior treasures – original pieces, limited editions and collectables as well as work from local artists and craftspeople.
The Gallivant is popular for weddings – there was one taking place on the day of our departure. They pay attention to details (we went for Mr Muddy’s birthday and there was a couple of complimentary drinks and a note thoughtfully left in the room). There’s lots of little touches – wellies and flipflops can be borrowed; a luxury hamper can be made up for you on request to take to the dunes… But the best added extra by a sea-side mile is easily The Beach Hut for all your massage and beauty needs in the gardens of the hotel. It’s a seriously cute little relaxation room which is a really welcome extra touch for when you’re having a weekend away (we don’t get them too often, so a little bit of pampering goes a long way). Again, sourcing locally, they use a brilliant new organic brand called Wideye which is produced right here in Rye. Aimee, the therapist, was brilliant – I had half an hour of killer-firm back massage (at my request) and walked away inches taller! She also gamely took on my tootsies for a looooong overdue pedicure.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Couples escaping for the weekend, dog-lovers, weddings… This is a sophisticated sea-side escape that is refreshingly relaxed and unstuffy. The best thing about this place is that, if you live in Kent (or London even) it’s so easy to get to. Meaning that if you’re lucky enough to be on a kid-free weekend you can max out on the time spent enjoying yourself, rather than wasting hours travelling.
Not for: Anyone who likes more formal or traditional high-end accommodation. This is very much a modern, low-key luxe escape (no period features here). Anyone who wants a totally rural setting, you are right by the road, remember.
The damage: With loads of packages on offer that include rooms, dinner and spa treatments you’ll struggle to find all this for a better price. For exmaple the Spa Escape offer, which includes one night stay, two thirty minute treatments (of your choice) in The Beach Hut, tea and homemade cake (from the kitchen at 4pm) and a three course a la carte dinner for two. And a healthy breakfast from our breakfast table in the morning (cooked breakfast is extra) – all from £240 for 2 people. Seriously good value, eh?