“Arrive as a visitor, leave as a friend”. This was our perfectly pitched greeting from Richard Proctor, General Manager of the Braye Beach Hotel, the only establishment on the island with 4 stars and with a warmth and ambience that has to be experienced first-hand.
Resplendent in his red braces, Richard is a wonderful character and instantly makes guests feel at ease with a blend of charm and bonhomie that is never intrusive. An Alderney resident for the last three years after an international career in the hotel industry including what might appear to be more glamourous islands like Bermuda, Richard says he knows that he has now found the place where he wants to stay for a long time.
The Braye Beach Hotel is a row of converted fishermen’s cottages literally on the edge of the most stunning soft sand beach. It’s rare to find a hotel that offers true doorstep beach access but this really is the case here. Step outside from the lower ground floor straight onto the sand, and the water’s edge is just a few feet away, perfect for a quick swim before breakfast.
Everything about the Braye Beach exudes quality but not of the shiny ostentatious type. There’s nothing ultra-modern or minimalistic, and it’s all about a friendly experience – guests strike up conversations in the bar and restaurant, and the locals come in for dinner and special occasions. The hotel is the place for celebrations and anniversaries.
The dress code is casual; Richard’s braces are by far the smartest item of apparel to be seen, and yet one feels a gentle undertone of well-heeled guests. They just don’t want to brag about it.
A state- of-the-art 25 seat cinema is ideal for inclement weather days and there are weekly screenings of popular films. Guests can also bring their own DVDs or select from the hotel’s library.
The main restaurant offers a la carte dining or a choice from the bar menu, and it spills out onto a lovely terrace with sea view for al fresco dining. It’s all very flexible and easy going but with an underlying attention to quality and detail. Just like Richard, who is attentive and interested in his guests but constantly watching over proceedings and ensuring no detail is missed by the rest of his efficient team.
The food is excellent and inventive with British staples such as fish & chips, fruits de mer and beautifully textured, locally reared beef (served as both fillet and sirloin) for those who prefer more traditional cuisine.
Bedrooms at the Braye Beach are very comfortable, not huge but well-equipped with tea & coffee making facilities and a mini-bar. A nice touch is the jug of real milk in the fridge to avoid all that messing about with tiny plastic cartons. It’s all so simple and other hotels should take note.
Tired city dwellers will find that 2 days at the Braye Beach offers the kind of uplifting experience that feels more like a week’s holiday. And getting there is just a 40 minute hop from Southampton or a wider range of connections via Guernsey; so much easier than a long drive to Cornwall or the Lake District, and much more special too.
On the morning of our departure, Richard was there making tea and toast and bidding a fond farewell. It’s the kind of place that you want to recommend to everyone, yet at the same time feeling that you have discovered a real treasure of a hotel. Just like Richard, it’s a place where I would love to stay a lot longer.
For further information, please visit www.brayebeach.com.
Under the same ownership is the Fermain Valley Hotel on Guernsey and taking a twin centre break at each hotel is a perfect way to experience the very best of each island.
Other accommodation options on Alderney include three more hotels, 9 B&Bs and a range of self-catering options including a converted fort, Fort Clonque, which is now a Landmark Trust property and often has to be booked up to a year in advance.