Haven Hall Hotel, Isle of Wight

The ultimate B&B

David Barratt and Arielle EssexEnthusiastic and lively, David Barratt and Arielle Essex appear on my screen, for Zoom is now our new normal for interviewing. A winning combination of property developer and artist designer, both with a fondness for luxury, they’re in their late 60s and have been together just 8 years, running the hotel for the last 5 years.

How did the hotel come about, I ask. They were looking for a home, Arielle explains and when they found the Edwardian house in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, they fell in love with it and its location. Perched above the sea, with 2 acres of garden it seemed idyllic – with a happy atmosphere, bright and light. And so began the project to create the perfect place: initially scheduled for a year, to restore period features, convert the loft and add a couple of wings, it actually took 4 years to complete as plans kept changing.  

Haven Hall HotelThe result is a truly luxurious home, which they love to share, filled with antiques Arielle finds at auctions. David handles front of house, “within minutes of someone booking, I call them to discuss details and give them a list of excellent restaurants on the island”, he says, “then when guests arrive, I meet them in the car park, carry their cases inside and share a glass of prosecco with them as they settle in”. He thrives on socialising and is really interested in people, delighting in the breakfast conversations he joins in with, “retired judges chat to business people, film actors and sports stars; all interesting people who have life experience and thoughts to share”.

Haven Hall HotelArielle, meantime, runs back of house and the kitchen. She personally cooks the award-winning breakfasts and is ultra – vigilant about every little detail throughout the hotel, something often commented on by guests.  Her artist’s eye keeps the house beautiful, whilst her efficiency and dedication to superb service ensures that guests’ every need are thought of.

The originally traditional garden has borrowed ideas from Lutyens’ Great Dixter in East Sussex, including an effortless looking cascade of steps, which were a challenge, “who knew that steps had deep foundations”, laughs Arielle. Her design skills and their joint love of beauty shows in the garden, with herbaceous borders tumbling beside neat, meandering paths, that offer fine sea views. No wonder then that Alan Titchmarsh has awarded Haven Hall ‘The Best Hotel Garden on the Isle of Wight’ in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Crucially, there’s always a space just for you in charming, hidden nooks or on the patio, with a heated swimming pool and tennis court for the active. The garden today is so harmonious and serene, it’s hard to believe that a crane the size of Tyrannosaurus Rex was used for lifting earth out and topsoil in. If you’d like to arrive by helicopter, just 45 minutes from Battersea, the croquet lawn neatly becomes a helipad: the Queen of Hearts would be speechless. 

Haven Hall HotelWith herb and vegetable gardens, the recent addition of beehives and a real commitment to sustainability, using a heat pump and solar panels, Haven Hall Hotel is a model for boutique properties to emulate.    

How long do you plan to keep running the hotel, I enquire. David replies that they think another 10 years, they’ll continue as long as it’s fun. For a couple in semi-retirement, they certainly seem busy: passionate about their hotel, their new projects and their desire to offer exceptional personal service.

To visit this slice of paradise on the isle of Wight, visit havenhallhotel.com. For more on the Isle of Wight, go to visitisleofwight.co.uk.

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