When life in the Capital – the crowds, the smog, the exorbitant price tags – becomes a little overwhelming a bit of sea air and the feel of sand between your toes can do the world of good. Camber Sands, one of England’s vastest beaches, is less than a two hour journey from London and is the perfect place to press pause on a hectic lifestyle and soak up the soul-soothing goodness offered by Coastal Living. More people then ever are experiencing stress, anxiety and interupted-sleep and whilst a trip to the beach may not be a ‘cure‘, for many of us, forty-eight hours of good food, fresh air, open space and a restful nights sleep that isn’t interrupted by the sound of sirens or the train rumbling past is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Perhaps one of the best things about Camber is there isn’t much to ‘do’ at all. The village itself is in desperate need of some TLC and as a result the main attraction is the glorious beach, which stretches for seven miles around the Rye Bay. Largely unspoilt, you’re guaranteed to find some solitude surrounded by sand and sea as far as the eye reaches. The iconic sand dunes – which are a favourite amongst film crews for capturing ‘desert shots’ – offer miles of soft ridges to clamber over; running down the steeper dunes with your arms in the air and the wind in your face is an absolute must, guaranteed to release your inner child and make you feel freer than you probably have for a long time. The beach is largely sand based, though the smattering of shingles does make for some excellent shell and pebble hunting!
The local harbour town of Rye is three miles away (and only an hour and a quarter’s train ride from St. Pancras) and offers the kind of charm that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Once surrounded by the sea, this fortified hilltop town played an important part in the defence of the south coast; the 14th-century Ypres Tower still stands proudly, now displaying local history as the Rye Castle Museum. These days, the river no longer harbours warships and is instead home to the local fisherman fleet. According to our taxi driver, the best fish and chips in the area can be found at Marino’s Fish Bar, so head there for that all important English seaside staple!
In the centre of the town, cobbled lanes like the highly renowned Mermaid Street are lined with medieval half-timbered houses and there are nooks and crannies a plenty within ancient architecture and hidden passages, once the haunt of smugglers and highway men. St. Mary’s Church is open to the public and for a small fee (which helps to support the parish) you can climb the tower for the best view across the terracotta roofs and Romney Marsh. It’s easy to see why writers Henry James and EF Benson and artist J M W Turner made their homes in and took inspiration from the area; even Johnny Depp has been spotted meandering down the winding cobbles.
If you’re looking for somewhere to sip on a big glass of something chilled and relish that holiday mood then pop into the bar at The George. The decor is beautiful and their gin selection is impressive; my favourite combination is Bathtub Gin with Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade.
Nestled in Camber just behind the sand dunes lies a total gem. The Gallivant – ‘a restaurant with rooms’ – is modelled on a Californian coastal motel and offers a truly beautiful place to stay, to eat and to luxuriate away from day to day life.
It features a large white washed terrace for outdoor dining on those sunny days and the indoor restaurant is Scandi inspired and oh-so-chic. Oliver Joyce’s kitchen operates a ’10 Mile Menu’ policy whereby all produce is sought within such a radius of the Gallivant; a rolled map on your table pin points the exact location, farmers and producers of the fresh and sustainable ingredients. On the menu you’ll find simple and yet creative flavour combinations; the 28 Day Aged Sussex Red Rib Eye with chestnut mushroom duxelle and hand–cut rosemary chips is a real stand out. The Gallivant serves three meals a day, with an excellent value Monday Night Supper Club too; perfect if you’re just arriving and ready to toast your week by the sea. Chairs are lavishly strewn with faux furs and the decor is such that you hope to stay and while away hours on end nestled in a cosy corner, simply soaking up the ambience. The menu is proportionately priced to the quality and locality of the produce and admirably The Gallivant prides itself on paying its staff so fairly that guests are not expected to tip. They are not about hitting you with the hidden ‘extras’ but about providing a transparent and thus all the more relaxing experience.
The Beach Hut, a quaint little garden spa room clad with clean white tiles, sleek marble and fairy lights, offers guests or locals the chance to indulge in some much deserved pampering. Just a thirty minute back, neck and shoulder massage was enough to melt my stresses and strains and whisk me away into dreamland; I’m something of a massage addict and as such am not the easiest of critics to please but the combination of soulful ambience, quality oils and expert touch really did do the trick. The Gallivant uses ethical, English WiDEYE products during their treatments of which there are ample to choose from; the Full Japanese Bamboo Massage, Foot Rescue Pedicure and Skin Fuel Facial sound particularly tantalising. The Beach Hut is a true oasis in which to recharge and restore oneself.
A peak around the guest rooms revealed a stunning marble bathroom suite and a blanket laden window seat that I just wanted to curl up with a good book and a glass of red in. Each room encompasses Hypnos mattresses and plump duck and goose down bedding and if you’re looking for the ultimate coastal retreat then the Luxury Garden room is the way to go; a super-king size bed, free-standing roll top tub, monsoon shower, a bar, a Nespresso coffee machine and large French doors leading to a semi-private garden deck are just some of the features you can expect to enjoy.
THE WEST HOUSE
A half hours drive from Camber in neighbouring Kent, The West House offers Michelin starred fine dining for prices that Londoner’s can only dream of. A small, family run restaurant in a 16th century cottage complete with beams, a large inglenook fire place and strewn with tea lights; it’s more than worth the journey. Ingredients are seasonal and locally sourced and Graham Garrett’s menu is creative without being pretentious. Opt for the tasting menu to experience the true essence and depth of flavour that his cooking offers; the Taco of duck liver parfait, braised duck, onion marmalade and cured fois gras is an unexpected stand out whilst the slow cooked ‘Pig’ collar simply melts in the mouth.
There’s something about the freedom and tranquility offered by the coast that allows one to truly unwind. Whether you do everything, or you simply do nothing at all, there is beauty and simplicity in being surrounded by such fresh, vastness. Smell-induced memories are not just the talk of poets and lyricists but a genuine scientific fact; our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion. Smell sensations are relayed to the cortex, where ‘cognitive’ recognition occurs, only after the deepest parts of our brains have been stimulated. Thus, by the time we correctly name a particular scent as, for example, ‘seaweed’, the scent has already activated the limbic system, triggering more deep–seated emotional responses.
As such, the way to bring the essence of the coast into your own home is to fill it with scents. Yankee Candle’s new Coastal Living collection allows you to do just that; bringing Sea Air into your kitchen, Driftwood into your bathroom and making your bedroom remind you of a Garden By The Sea. An organic, oceanic experience, even in the depths of the city can be yours as you snuggle down to read a book or cook supper with the heady, salty sweet scent of Coastal Living transporting your mind back to your coastal retreat.
Sponsored by Yankee Candle Europe. All words and imagery copyright Beth Sandland.