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28 OCTOBER 2019
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Thinking of a quiet seaside holiday place, within 100 miles of London and not on the British mainland?
Hayling Island might fit the bill, within easy reach of Portsmouth and its attractions, Chichester and its cathedral and famous repertory theatre, and Arundel Castle.
BTN reported on a visit during the summer and here we review the island and our base for the Bank Holiday, the Sinah Warren resort. See BTN 22 July.
Connected by a single bridge (which can be very busy at times) to the A27 Portsmouth – Brighton road, Hayling Island is a true island of 4sq miles, surrounded by water. In the days before Dr Beeching, travellers could take the steamer to Havant and transfer to a local train, crossing on a viaduct. Both have now gone. In March 1963, Beeching's infamous report axed one third of the country’s railways, including the link to the mainland. A ferry from Portsmouth has an all-year service. Foot passengers only and then it is by bus into the city. Bikes go for free.
One relic of the railway era is the Station Theatre, now the home of the local amateur repertory and also serving as the local cinema. It was once a goods shed.
Hayling Island combines all the attractions of a traditional seaside holiday with excellent sporting and leisure facilities. The island's miles of unspoilt coastline and countryside also offer a haven of peace and tranquillity, where visitors can walk, cycle or relax.
Windsurfing was invented on Hayling Island and as well as events linked to this popular activity there are also many opportunities for sailing.
Hayling Island holds a European Blue Flag award and its excellent beaches have also been awarded a Tidy Britain Seaside Award for their water quality, safety and cleanliness. The seaside shore is five miles long and offers safe places for enjoying swimming, beach volleyball, picnicking and barbeques, with some facilities accessible to wheelchairs.
The island is rich in military history and visitors can discover a fascinating WWII Heritage Trail which takes in many significant historical landmarks. Hayling Island played an important part in the run-up to D-Day, especially for the reconnaissance expeditions known as Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP), for which there is an outstanding memorial. There are two golf courses on the island and both welcome visitors. Hayling Island Golf Club was established in 1893 and is a par-71 championship links course with an Art-Deco clubhouse. Tournerbury Golf Club is nine holes and par-70 for 5906yds.
Sinah Warren has 280 rooms spread over large grounds facing a bracing sea. It started life as a "health farm" run by Monks in the late 15th century and in modern times opened as a holiday camp in 1958. Today it is part of the Warner Holiday Group, now with 14 properties. Like all the Warner properties, it is adults-only.
We experienced the Warner Bembridge Coast Hotel on the Isle of Wight last year (BTN 13 August 2018) and found the dinner, bed and breakfast package, with top-quality evening entertainment, ideal for our requirements. With a fine indoor sports and swimming pool complex, Sinah Warren makes for a perfect year-round holiday venue, and in the summer there is an outdoor heated pool. Archery, rifle shooting and croquet are on offer too and there is a well-equipped gym, plus a spa.
The whole place is disabled-friendly. All the rooms have wi-fi and there is no pesky signing on when you use it. It is straight in. You can take a fairly bland standard room or an upgraded Lodge, Premier Chalet, or Royale Suite, all of which include the Signature Experience with a bottle of wine on arrival and various niceties.
With Warner, it is the entertainment that most seem to come for. There are plenty of daytime activities within the property if that is your requirement, organised tours to the local attractions, and top-quality evening shows, including Jane McDonald taking a break from her waterborne activities. In fact, the whole complex is rather like a large cruise ship with things going on all over the place and no real extras other than drinks (and a light lunch if required) to pay.
If you want to “get off” and visit a local pub or even Portsmouth, you can do so. No gangplank either. Get back as late as you like. Pick your dates to see the TV stars you like, including Brian Conley, Dr Hook, Beverly Knight, Russell Watson and Alexander Armstrong plus tribute groups and a resident DJ.
Dining in the restaurant is from 18:00 to 21:00 and certainly during our visit people seemed to get in early. A “Seater & Greeter” took us to our dedicated table for our first meal. There is certainly no shortage of nutriment with a good choice but don’t expect fine dining. For breakfast and dinner, it is both buffet and waiter service, kippers for instance coming direct from the kitchen and speciality foods likewise in the evening. Take a look at the menus.
For a certain age group, Warner seems to have got the package right. No tipping, a congenial helpful staff and plenty to do. With Portsmouth and its attractions, plus easy parking, less than 20min away, and the South Downs National Park, all 628sq miles of it, within easy reach, Sinah Warren is as fine a location as you could wish.
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