As a land-locked Midlander, I often crave the seaside. And for some reason, we always tend to head south or west. As a kid, seaside involved good old Weston-super-Mare or slightly further afield to Wales or Devon and later in life, Mr M and I developed a passion for Cornwall.
But recently we’ve been trying to explore more of the UK and managed to take in Norfolk, Sussex and Dorset last year, among plenty of others. This year, we decided to try Kent and took ourselves for a few days break by the sea. We’d been invited to stay at the Bay Tree Hotel in Broadstairs so after a night in the camper up the road in Whitstable (more on that in another post) we arrived ready to sink into a real bed and enjoy a bit of hotel pampering.
This place is ALL about the location. The view of the hotel itself is pretty lovely, but it’s the view the other way – right out to sea and all the way to Belgium on a good day – that is its big selling point. Up on the cliff, it joins plenty of other impressive buildings but it’s quite clear a bit of love and attention has gone into the Bay Tree. It’s not long finished an extensive renovation by owners Alistair Dixon and Robert Stone, who bought it in April 2015 but have now put their own stamp on it.
There are ten rooms, all named after trees in honour of the mahoosive bay tree that’s out the back of the hotel and is thought to be the oldest and biggest in Kent. This is a place with character. From the greeting by Ben, Alistair and Robert’s Bedlington Terrier, who is definitely the boss of the joint, to the unique collection of 130 pieces of artwork from the Harry Potter films that are dotted around the place.
The library, which doubles up as reception and a rather welcoming bar, is by far my favourite room, complete with its stunning fireplace. Having said that, the lounge is pretty darn great with resplendent views out to sea. Everything is the product of Alistair and Robert’s dreams combined with the work of interior designer Suzy Nina.
A full tour of the hotel shows it’s not just the communal areas that have been given some TLC. Each room has its own look, with thought given to maximising the views where possible, even if it’s just creating a partial sea view so you get a glimpse of the big blue. There’s no identikit uniformity here, they’re all individually styled, with their own colours schemes, feel and vibe.
Since we had Brandy in tow, we sacrificed a sea view to be in the dog-friendly room on the ground floor. As dog-friendly rooms go, this is exactly what you need. Doors from the room straight outside for late-night wees and plenty of space for all her paraphernalia. The decor is simple but sleek yet homely at the same time. This room also doubles up as the accessible room with a full-on wetroom that has everything you’d need if you had accessibility issues without looking like a hospital bathroom – something it occurred to me must be quite refreshing for people who I bet are often a bit of an afterthought.
The room was well equipped with everything you’d expect, from flat-screen TV to tea and coffee-making facilities and even the Bay Tree’s own branded toiletries. I’d have liked a robe, but I think perhaps I’m a tad spoilt…. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker.
After getting settled and taking Brandy and Ben (yes, he’s available if you fancy borrowing him for a stroll along the beach), we mooched the ten minutes or so into Broadstairs to check out the town. There are beaches galore here and it really does feel like the quintessential English seaside. A pavilion on the beach to enjoy fish and chips, quirky shops and tiny little streets that reminded me somewhat of Rye.
The one downside seemed a slight dearth of dog-friendly places to get something to eat, but we managed in the end, though this wasn’t the most dog-friendly town I’ve ever been to. Perhaps I missed something?
I’m happy to say, the Bay Tree really is dog-friendly in what I see as the true sense of the description, and Brandy was allowed to sit in the lounge enjoying the views with the rest of us, as well as coming into the bar for a drink. The one place they’re not allowed is the dining room, which is entirely understandable, and it was easy enough to leave her in the room while we ate.
Our stay was all about relaxing. Mr M slept for a few hours while I took over the lounge as my own private office, tapping away while enjoying the view. We enjoyed a pre-dinner walk along the beach which is conveniently across the road and the perfect place to tire out a playful pooch and soak up the views. Apparently you can walk all the way to Ramsgate or Margate from Broadstairs, but we chose instead to enjoy strolling the length of the beach, savouring the calm as the sun set.
It’s testament to the involvement of Alistair and Robert that some of the guests we met at the Bay Tree return on a wonderfully frequent basis. In the evening the lounge and library were nothing like some stuffy hotel bars you get, where everyone feels a bit too awkward to stay too long, instead feeling very much like a private home where you were a guest of the owners.
We wiled away the hours enjoying the comfy chairs in the library and trying some of the range of local gins on offer, hearing all about Alistair and Robert’s escape from city life in pursuit of their dream. The hotel serves dinner and Alistair and Robert have big plans for the restaurant. They’ll admit it’s a work in progress, but their dream is to make it a destination restaurant, focusing on seasonal, local produce – not just a place for guests to enjoy breakfast. It’s certainly a great location for a restaurant, and I look forward to returning in warmer weather to enjoy sitting outside on their terrace overlooking the sea while I eat lunch and sip some bubbles.
After a comfy night’s sleep and a morning stroll along the beach – not just a godsend with a well-rested dog to deal with, but a real treat if your usual morning walks rarely feature the sound and sight of the sea – it was time for breakfast. The usual choice of help-yourself cereals, fresh fruit, toast etc, with the option to order cooked breakfasts.
I think the Bay Tree is the first place I’ve been asked how I want my scrambled eggs – light and fluffy or soft and creamy – and as soon as it happened it occurred to me that it’s crazy that other places don’t ask. I’m sure the pros would say there’s only one way to serve scrambled eggs and that’s soft and creamy, but that’s my own personal preference but I’m aware not everyone is comfortable with that. Needless to say, I thought it was a nice touch.
When it comes to English seaside breaks, this certainly ticked all the boxes. Beach walks, comfy beds, traditional town and a quirky hotel brimming with character. It’s clear to all that Alistair and Robert have poured a whole lot of love into the Bay Tree and it’s far more than a business to them – it’s a dream.
If you want a place that’s all about anonymity – in its own character and somewhere where you remain just another guest who come and goes without a hi or bye – then this probably isn’t a place for you. But if you’re happy to embrace the unique style and touch, getting to know your hosts and fellow guests and revelling in the quirkiness of a place that is more personal than most hotels, then you’ll love the Bay Tree. And all that aside, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better spot to stare at the sea.
We were invited for a complimentary stay at the Bay Tree Hotel. We paid for our drinks/food etc. I wasn’t asked to write a positive review.