You Can Ring My Bell | The Bell “Apparently”*, High Street, Ticehurst, Wadhurst, East Sussex, TN5 7AS


A proper bar in a proper pub. Photograph: The Bell

Every time we mentioned that we were planning on staying at The Bell in Ticehurst on Christmas day, we were amazed by the response. ‘I took my boyfriend there, you will love it!’ was one comment. ‘I got married at The Bell, it’s so romantic‘, was another. I even received a Facebook message from a burly rugby-playing friend stating: ‘Mate, you’ll love it there, it’s so much fun’. So if we weren’t already excited about Christmas dinner (without the preparation, cooking and washing up) and some much needed ‘us time’ in one of the newly built lodges, these comments raised our excitement to a state of delirium.

After opening our gifts on Christmas morning we jumped in our little car for the 50 minute drive to East Sussex for our main present to each other – a five-course dinner and an overnight stay in The Love Nest – one of the four newly opened lodges at The Bell. The village of Ticehurst is on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells and is fairly unremarkable – there’s a little bakery, a Londis and a few independent shops. But what IS truly remarkable, is the sense of wonder you feel when you get inside the pub.

You’re welcomed by a roaring open fire and relaxed laughter from around the bar, decor can only be described as quirky, a real Alice in Wonderland vibe. The furniture is all mix and match, there’s a Banksy on the wall (apparently), a pillar made from a spiral of stacked books, a squirrel in a rocking chair, tables with uneven length legs that are levelled off with yet more books. Inspiring quotes are scrawled over the walls, the list of oddities goes on and on, even the gents toilets have unusual urinals – ever peed into a brass instrument? I thought not.

Check-in was swift and efficient and a good job too, it gave us precious extra time in our cosy lodge. The main building is an old coaching inn and is home to seven bedrooms, all with their own individual and eccentric touches.  All The Bell’s rooms feature beds with handmade Somnus mattresses, Freeview TV, retro rotary dial telephones, spa-like and aptly named ‘Love and More’ toiletries, a choice of pillows, WiFi and a silver birch – yes there is an actual tree in each room.


The view from the top of the Love Nest


Isn’t it cute!

The rooms in the main building are great, but if you get the chance, the Love Nest or one of the four cedar-clad lodges are more than worth paying that little extra for. These four new structures encircle a huge cosy looking fire pit giving the whole scene very fairytale-esque feel blended with a little Shire from the Hobbit. Whatever its appearance, it was magical. As soon as we stepped through the door we knew that one night wasn’t going to be enough.

Our circular room had wooden floors scattered with sheepskin rugs, dark stained wooden walls painted with clouds and adorned with numerous cuckoo clocks, there’s even a splash of taxidermy with some little chicks in birdhouses. Saff loved the huge roll-top copper bath (although it kept emptying itself), whereas I couldn’t get enough of the wood burner – I knew there was an inner caveman in me somewhere. From the outside it actually looks like a nest and best of all, you can climb some stairs that take you onto the roof to look at the stars (and perhaps in the summer, catch some rays).

Saff isn’t a big fan of festive food, she finds it all a tad boring, but what the Bell served was far from dull – it was a clever menu packed with flavour, plus we ate almost under the neon and rather randomly, next to Art Attack and No.73‘s Neil Buchanan. I won’t go into too much detail about the food as you’ll have to wait nearly a year to try it, but I strongly recommend that you book now for Christmas 2015.

The starter of Scottish Salmon three ways was inventive and the smoked salmon fillet was incredible. The Roast Biddenden turkey was moist and tender served with a delicious rich and robust gravy plus all the trimmings. The cheese course involved the award-winning rich, soft and creamy Burwash Rose cheese served with chutney and grapes, it tasted so much better than it smelt.

For dessert we chose lemon posset served with shortbread and topped with a sharp curd sprinkled with popping candy. Last up, coffee or tea and cute little mince pies finished off the meal perfectly. We steered clear of wine and stuck to the local ales, Saff ordered an ‘Old Man’ and I worked my way through a couple of ‘Tall Blondes’ (apt names eh?)


Relight my fire!

After that belly busting meal it was back to our room to gaze at the stars through the skylight above our bed and listen to the wood burner crackling away as we drifted off to sleep. After watching the obligatory dreary EastEnders Christmas special, of course.


The plate was fully loaded… There wasn’t mushroom for anything else (boom boom)

Morning came far too quickly, partly as the oh-so-comfy bed put us into a coma like sleep but mostly because we had to leave – but not before breakfast (included in the price). If breakfast is an indication of what the regular menu is like, then we wish we’d stayed for lunch too. There was a buffet style spread of pastries, cereal, bread (for toasting), fruit and yogurt plus a cooked breakfast that’s ordered from your table. We both ordered the Full English – proper dense meaty sausages and thick cut bacon complete with all the usual extras (although they had run out of black pudding).

Before we checked out we just had to say one last goodbye to our home for 24 hours. It was just so much more than just a room for the night. As silly as this may sound, we’d become a little attached to it. If a visitor to Britain had to stay anywhere for the night for a real taste of England, they really should come here, for it is bursting with eccentric touches and instantly makes you feel welcome. We are already thinking about a return visit it the summer, one of the lodges is two-storeys so sleeps four – ideal for families. Plus we’ve since discovered they do in-room spa treatments.

We packed our bags into our little car and after a last look over our shoulder at The Bell, we decided to take a little detour and head home via the lovely village of Rye. Another great thing about this place is its proximity to the coast – Camber and Hastings are all a thirty-minute or so drive away. It’s not often that we’re blown away by somewhere we stay, but The Bell impressed us in a big way, so thoughtfully done and so unique, we will remember it for a very long time indeed.
The Bell Inn, High Street,
Ticehurst, East Sussex, TN5 7AS 

Telephone: +44(0)1580 200 234
Reservations: +44(0)1580 202 300

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Nearest stations: Stonegate Railway Station 2.65 miles
Etchingham Railway Station 2.95 miles
Robertsbridge Railway Station 5.06 miles

A stay in the Love Nest costs £245 per night, including breakfast.

We ate as guests of The Bell and received a discount on our room. This does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.

★HOT DEAL ALERT! The Bell has some great deals in January, February and March, Sunday to Thursday nights (excluding 14th February and subject to availability).
 A room in the 16th century coaching inn – £75 per night per room for two including breakfast.
One of the new individually designed lodges – £99 per night per lodge for two including breakfast.
The Love Nest lodge – £125 per night for two including breakfast.
Call 01580 200234 to make a reservation.

*So why is it called The Bell “apparently”? Well, apparently, locals used to gather at the bar for a good gossip. You can just imagine the scene… ‘Old Mrs Johnson was having a little trouble with a blockage in her back passage! “Apparently” her husband couldn’t fix it so she had to get young Jack Hammer, the odd job man, round to sort it out’. Well something along these lines anyway.