In and around the UK there are some truly unique and luxurious boutique style hotels, all making vast claims as to why they are different from other hotels – but I think we have managed to find a truly unique venue, that really has thought outside the box, somewhere steeped in history, that offers luxury accommodation, peace and tranquility, and amazing views – A Fort!
Don’t panic we’ve not gone mad, The Fort we are talking about is not any old Fort it is Spitbank Fort – built in 1870 as a defense against Napoleon III, Spitbank sits in the middle of the Solent in the English Channel and offers you so much luxury you’ll feel like Royalty. Nestled between its two sister forts ‘No Man’s Land’ and ‘Horse Sand” this is the perfect place to escape to, a unique retreat away from everyday life, where history meets luxury.
You can only reach the fort via a private boat that picks you up from Gunwharf Quay, in Portsmouth Harbour – It’s simple – check in at the Solents Office, (a two minute walk from your pick up point), drop your bags off and let your adventure begin. After a short ten-minute boat ride you arrive. It’s then time to carefully navigate the metal steps that take you onto the fort, (I was glad it was a calm day) a cool glass of champagne awaits and then it’s into the Victory Bar, where we take in the amazing surroundings, and explore a little before being given an official tour.
Spitbank has been lovingly restored to preserve its character and history; there is a story everywhere you turn. From the dark and mysterious wine cave to the metal tracks on the floor used to guide the wheels of the canons in days gone by – every nook and cranny brings you something new to discover, including the fort’s very own resident ghost!
Artifacts are everywhere and nowhere is out of bounds, the fort literally is yours for 24 hours along with 8 other couples (that’s if all the rooms are taken).
We were well and truly spoilt with the Admiral Nelson Suite, chic and stylish offering space in abundance, exposed brickwork and arched ceilings where the large metal hooks that used to hold the hammocks of soldiers still hanging from the rafters – (if the large, comfy bed with its crisp linen sheets is not to your liking, then the hammock is always an option!) Then there’s the awe-inspiring sea views that add to the nautical ambience, especially when accompanied with another glass of champagne. A bottle of ‘Spit’ water (the water is from Spitbank’s own artesian well, bottled on site no less, hence the name ‘Spit’ water), along with tea and coffee making facilities, makes you not want to leave your room – but that’s not possible when there’s still so much to see and do.
Lunch is served on the top deck of the fort in the Crow’s Nest bar, where you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the Solent across to the Isle of Wight. After lunch it’s time for a dip in the roof top hot tub, with of course another glass of fizz, (staff here are attentive, always on hand to get you whatever you want, nothing is ever too much trouble).
A rabbit warren of rooms lies beneath the bedroom floor, including the old cook house, and television and games room. Then there’s the courtyard with its Victorian ironwork, red bricks and arch doors all a charming reminder of the skill of those who crated Spitbank over 150 years ago.
At 4.30pm it’s time to head back to the Victory Bar where fresh cakes, tea and coffee are served. A few games of trying to hook the string on a hook on the wall are enjoyed (a game that the soldiers used to play for hours on end to while away the time) if you can do it in 3 you win a glass of champagne, did I do it in 3? – Well hubby did it in one, so it was only right he shared his bubbles!
Having been featured on Michel Roux Jr’s Hidden Restaurants on Channel 4, the food was clearly something we were looking forward to, and it certainly didn’t disappoint, impeccably presented and tasting divine. We dined in The Officers Mess on home cured duck pastrami, oriental seafood; Himalayan salt aged lamb and a dessert plate to share. Dinner finished, it was time to head back into the Victory Bar where cheese and biscuits, tea and coffee were served.
The night is young, you can stay in the bar, explore some more (if you’re feeling brave you can take a stroll around the inner walls (torch needed) which is where the ghost of Sergeant Henry Jones is said to walk), huddle around the open air firepit and roast marshmallows, even take another dip in the hot tub, the choice is yours.
At night the views from the top of the fort are just as breathtaking as in the day with the lights of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight glittering in the distance.
Retiring for the night, you are lulled to sleep by the lapping of the waves softly against the side of the fort.
Next morning breakfast is taken in the Officers Mess, before you have to embark and leave this magical place – your own sanctuary in the middle of the sea.
Overnight stays at Spitbank Fort include dinner, a full Fort breakfast as well as boat transfer to and from the private island. Prices start from £799 per night (excluding activities).