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Hotel Highlights

  • Idyllic Sussex countryside
  • Cosy interiors: log fires, squashy sofas, a wood-beamed bar
  • Great budget option – rooms from £70, with breakfast included
  • Idyllic West Sussex countryside


Tales of ghosts and drinking pigs surround the Royal Oak hotel, but the gastropub’s crackling fires, cosy cottages, chalkboard menus and scenic setting are what we're writing home about.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking The Royal Oak with us:

A bottle of house wine


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The Royal Oak hotel – West Sussex – United Kingdom

Need To Know


Six in the main hotel, plus two cottages.


11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.


Double rooms from $200.24 (£121), excluding tax at 20 per cent.

More details

Rates include breakfast (full English and seasonal specialities).


There’s a stash of board games for wet afternoons.

At the hotel

A stash of DVDs and CDs. In rooms: flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, iPod dock, Roberts radio, minibar, free WiFi and bottled water, and Temple Spa bath products.

Our favourite rooms

Flint Cottage is a little love nest. Its sitting area has a mock wood-burning stove (it’s electric really), a plump sofa, a TV and an iPod dock; the bedroom comes with picturesque views of the rolling hills and fields. Families should opt for one of the two-bedroom cottages, equipped with a kitchen, living room, dining room and extra-big bathroom.

Packing tips

Don’t lug Wellingtons with you – the hotel has a supply for guests to borrow. Bring binoculars and a compass for rambles, and extra DVDs to supplement the Royal Oak’s selection.


Minimum two-night stay at weekends.


Little Smiths are welcome but they must be supervised and on their best behaviour. Cots are £15; extra beds are £30 a night. Babysitting with a local nanny can be arranged for £10 an hour.

Food & Drink

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The Royal Oak hotel – West Sussex – United Kingdom

Hotel Restaurant

The Royal Oak’s culinary offerings sparkle with plenty more sophistication than your average pub fare: seasonal dishes include scallops with pork belly and sage, seafood risotto with hand-caught Selsey crab, and tarte tatin with elderflower sorbet. Even the breads are memorable (try the tomato-flavoured number). In keeping with the rest of the inn, the dining area is warm and snug, with a wood-burning fireplace to one side of the bar.

Hotel Bar

As you’d expect from an inn, drinking is taken seriously. The bar stays true to the hotel’s pub roots: low ceiling with wooden beams, brown leather chairs, wine bottles doubling up as decorations, flagstone floor and exposed flint walls.

Last orders

Breakfast is served between 7.30am and 9.30am; lunch is noon until 3.30pm; dinner is dished up between 6pm and 11.30pm.

Room service

A selection of freshly made snacks is available when the restaurant is closed. Rooms are stocked with wines.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Barbour, khaki, cashmere and pearls (but not at the same time).

Top table

Sit in one of the sink-into leather seats in the corner, by the fire. There are tables outside for sun-blessed days.

Local Guide

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The Royal Oak hotel – West Sussex – United Kingdom
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

Goodwood ( estate in the Sussex downs boasts a beautiful historic house and one of the country’s most impressive private art galleries. Various sporting events are held in the extensive grounds, including motor racing, horseracing and golf. It also hosts the annual Festival of Speed, Goodwood Revival and Vintage at Goodwood. Visit West Dean House (+44 (0)1243 811301; for its gorgeous gardens and sculptures, or go for a blustery coastal walk at West Wittering, a 20-minute drive away ( Sporty types will love Cowdray Park ( for its golf and polo clubs; there’s also the ruined Tudor mansion of Cowdray to admire. Chichester’s picturesque market boasts Roman remains, a Gothic cathedral (get here for evensong, to hear the choristers’ mellifluous melodies) and chichi boutiques. See a play at the Chichester Festival Theatre (, which sparkles from a recent refurbishment (the hotel has a pre-theatre menu). Uppark House ( is a beautiful National Trust property, 20 minutes from East Lavant by car. The house burned to the ground in 1989 but was meticulously renovated; its views of the Downs and the south coast are stunning.

Local restaurants

There are two Smith-approved favourites to choose from nearby. The Crab & Lobster (+44 (0)1845 577286) on Dishforth Road is another restaurant with rooms. Like the Royal Oak, its menu celebrates local ingredients, including Selsey crab and sardines plucked from the south coast. Amberley Castle (+44 (0)1798 831992) near Arundel serves tender venison, succulent seafood and magical desserts: strawberry soup in a crisp cage with mint sherbet, banoffee pie with chestnut, toffee shards, salt caramel and banana sorbet, and pistachio cake served with aniseed ice-cream and raspberry ‘air’.

Local bars

Purchases Wine Bar (+44 (0)1243 537352) is the oldest wine merchants in Chichester. The Fox Goes Free in Charlton (+44 (0)1243 811461) does a mean steak and kidney pie, and real ales. The Three Horseshoes in Elsted (+44 (0)1730 825746) is worth the half-hour drive for the garden with stunning views over the South Downs. The Anchor Bleu (+44 (0)1243 573956) in picturesque Bosham.

Local cafés

Have a break from shopping and toast your new acquisitions with a piping hot brew and some cream-slathered scones at the award-winning St Martins Tea Rooms (+44 (0)1243 786715; at 2-3 St Martins Street, Chichester. The pretty, grade II-listed building houses toasty log fires, and portions are generous – try the organic lemon and almond sponge, nutty flapjack or chocolate tiffin.

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Pretty East Lavant lane

The Royal Oak

Pook Lane, East Lavant, West Sussex PO18 0AX, United Kingdom


Gatwick is a 45-minute drive away. If you’re lucky enough to be arriving by private jet, Goodwood airfield is a 10-minute drive.


Chichester station is two miles away, with Southern services ( connecting to London, Brighton and Portsmouth.


It takes just 10 minutes to drive from Chichester to the Royal Oak. A car is useful for exploring the Downs and the area’s wealth of historic houses and gardens. There is plenty of free parking available to guests.


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The Royal Oak hotel – West Sussex – United Kingdom

Anonymous review

by Ben Musgrave , Drama king

On the way to the Royal Oak, we’d passed lots of houses built in the strange style distinct to this historic region – their walls ornamented with neatly arranged rows of flint. ‘The thing is,’ I say, ‘if we’re going to stay at places like this West Sussex pub, we need to start knowing about local architecture, and things like that.’ We’d spent that …
Read more

The Royal Oak

Anonymous review by Ben Musgrave, Drama king

On the way to the Royal Oak, we’d passed lots of houses built in the strange style distinct to this historic region – their walls ornamented with neatly arranged rows of flint. ‘The thing is,’ I say, ‘if we’re going to stay at places like this West Sussex pub, we need to start knowing about local architecture, and things like that.’

We’d spent that afternoon in the venerable market town of Chichester, gearing ourselves up for it, pretending to be grown-ups. First at the Cathedral, and then at the farmer’s market, we’d done our best, nodding wide-eyed at the tapestries and samples of ash-covered cheese. But when the farmer asked us our opinion, we’d fled, regressing to Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe.

So it was uncertainly that we pulled into East Lavant in search of our Sussex restaurant with rooms, as evening drew in. The village seemed serious, a place full of quiet money, silent driveway gates that open automatically. ‘For God’s sake, it’s just a pub’, says Mrs Smith.

The Royal Oak is certainly a pub. A fire in the grate, a dog. But the dog has a luxurious coat, and all around are wine bottles, and I swear somewhere there’s a giant bunch of lilies. Are we up to this?

Our hotel room is a blend of poised Georgian classicism, (three large white sash windows, an antique white chair, a smooth white fireplace), with deep-hued country elegance (the low black timbers, the deep mahoganies of the other furniture). But there is also a force-field of contemporary design emanating from the bed, (the modish leather headboard, the pillow-sculpture, the boutiquey throw.) We look round nervously. There are framed posters for the Ballet Russes on the wall. There are bottles of wine urging to be assessed. Isn’t this the kind of place Mrs Smith’s parents might stay while we’re all at the Travelodge?

Shutters pulled open, we admire the view, the misty fields, the warm-red, worn-bricked cottages embedded with local flint. What shall we do while we’re here? Outside the room, wellington boots and binoculars have been provided for our use. We read also that the inn can arrange shooting, spa days, all sorts. What ought we to do?

Thirty minutes later we are lying on the bed in white bathrobes watching rom-com Sleepless in Seattle, knocking back a bottle of wine, and right in the swing of this. The bed is improbably voluptuous – creating the sense that we are on some vast downy meadow, across which we occasionally range to scoff the treasures we amounted in the Sweet Shoppe.

We make an appearance in the Royal Oak restaurant at 8pm, and two dozen conversations are already roaring. We are suddenly gleeful. To start, I have seared Scottish scallops on a chickpea and chorizo stew, but rather envy Mrs S’s grilled mackerel fillet with shaved fennel et al. For the mains, I get my own back, with a sea bream whose skin was cooked to a salty crisp. But tonight is all about dauphinoise potatoes. Mrs Smith’s beef medallions are meant to come with some kind of mash, but across a crowded room she catches sight of those creamy, crispy spuds, trembling beside some pork loin. They prove too much to resist even for Mrs Smith, who normally maintains a lactose-free regimen. By the end of the evening, following an encounter with a large cheese board, Mrs Smith’s non-dairy reputation is irretrievably in tatters. But we are feeling right at home.

In the morning, we come down for breakfast, and all is now calm in the restaurant. The first meal of the day here progresses in serene stages, (self-service mueslis, yoghurts, fruits; then toast and croissants; then a cooked breakfast). It’s all marvellously unhurried – apart from the timely arrival of the next course we are left alone with our complimentary newspapers and the spring sunshine, feeling like we could stay there all day. Phrases such as ‘an Englishman at breakfast’ flit through my mind, absurdly. Despite last night’s dauphinoise dairy-shame, Mrs Smith has the cheek to ask for soya milk, and that’s no problem. And then there’s the day ahead of us.

There’s a great deal to do in this historic county, and within 10 miles, although you probably need either a car or a bicycle to really get around. On our weekend we went to the beautiful beach at West Wittering, paid homage to the mediaeval tomb of the Earl and Countess of Arundel in Chichester Cathedral, (the inspiration for Philip Larkin’s rather grown-up poem about love, An Arundel Tomb), and visited Arundel itself, where Mrs Smith bought a Susie Cooper cake-platter, and I had an unexpected conversation with the Town Crier. That evening, we walked to Lavant’s other gastropub, The Earl of March, and had another fine meal.

Half-committing to go on a walk the next morning, we trudge from our pub up a flinty track. At first there isn’t much to see. Glimpsed through gaps in hedgerows, the West Sussex country fields are pleasant, soothingly curved but nothing particularly remarkable. We pass a field of windy cauliflowers. We’ll just get to that bit at the top and then we’ll turn round…

Then we notice the cars gathered at the top of the hill. What are they all here for? It slowly becomes apparent that we’re climbing to the top of an Iron Age hill fort (the ‘Trundle’). All of a sudden we become aware that the view here from St Roche’s Hill is utterly sensational. And with each step something new is revealed. From up here we can see Goodwood Park and racecourse, Chichester, the sea, even the Isle of Wight. Far below, guided by an almost invisible sheep dog, a flock of sheep form and reform like a flock of birds. This is our kind of place.


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