Belle Tout Cocktail Party 11th May 2010

Belle Tout is up and running and open for business, now the last part of the project, the building of the new access road, has been completed. It offers luxury Bed and Breakfast in the newly restored former lighthouse situated at the cliff edge near Beachy Head with sensational views of the South Downs and out to sea.

In celebration of the opening of the lighthouse, there was a cocktail party on 11th May which residents of East Dean and Friston attended. David and Barbara Shaw, the owners of the Belle Tout, had kindly offered to host a number of events for the benefit of the East Dean and Friston Village Hall Trust.

It was a perfect clear night to enjoy the wonderful views ‘framed ‘ by the numerous windows in the lounge and breakfast area. Wine and delicious homemade canapés, were served throughout the evening. Groups of people, in turn, were taken on a tour, shown the bed and breakfast facilities and taken up to the lantern room. There was a presentation by Peter Hobbs, Chairman of the Village Hall Fundraising Committee, a beautiful bouquet of exotic flowers for Barbara and, very appropriately, a bottle of B & B, Benedictine and Brandy, for David. A glorious sunset over the Seven Sisters brought the evening to a close.

From the time that the work started about 18 months ago, it has been a source of much excitement in our village, especially after the documentary film,’ Build a New Life in the Country’, was shown on Channel 5 in January 2010. The lighthouse is part of our landscape and can be seen from many of our houses. In addition to the Black Tie cocktail party mentioned, there were Teas and Coffee Mornings and all in all around two hundred people went through its doors, for our fundraising, to see the restoration for themselves.

Everyone was truly amazed how beautifully and lovingly the building has been restored. Barbara Shaw takes credit for the inspirational interior décor that has been done to the highest standard. Space has been used most economically in the six en suite bedrooms that include one of the original two lighthouse keepers’ rooms. All rooms have their own individual character and are most tastefully done, and once again the most has been made of the views from each one. The original flooring and brickwork have been kept, and sealed in most areas, to good effect. A glimpse of its historic past is shown where the wall juts out on the south side of the tower where it was shelled by the Canadian forces in World War II using it for target practice. The holes in the wall where 4 of the 22 jacks were placed to move the 850 ton structure 57 ft from the cliff edge in 1999, were pointed out to us, and in the hallway stands one of the jacks as a souvenir. In the lantern room, restfully decorated in white and shades of jade, is a stained glass compass rose in the ceiling – another masterstroke of the project. From here, facing the English Channel you can see Beachy Head and the new lighthouse, and to the west, Birling Gap, Seaford Head and the Seven Sisters. Inland, views of the rolling hills of the South Downs are truly magnificent.

Most of us who live in Eastbourne and the surrounding area will be aware of much of the history of Belle Tout. We must all be indebted to David and Barbara Shaw for undertaking the awesome task of further preserving for the future this unique and iconic structure that is part of our heritage.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the light house or enquire about the bed and breakfast accommodation look up the website,, or to book up for that ‘special occasion’ ring 01323 423185.

There is no doubt that a warm welcome awaits guests at Belle Tout with Paul Maltby and Nigel Rudd, the managers, to look after them Guests are invited to relax with a glass of wine in the Lantern Room in the early evening, enjoy the views and watch the ships at sea.Breakfast is truly sumptuous, offering fresh fruit salad and dried fruits, cereals and yoghurt, croissants and homemade muffins as well as your traditional English breakfast, toast and marmalade.

In the grounds there is also the Tea Shop called ‘Touts’. Walkers and anyone willing to make the climb may pass through the gates and revive themselves with a refreshing cup of tea or coffee or a variety of cold drinks and ice creams. Touts is being run by Simon Shaw and will be open throughout the summer and most weekends out of season.

The TV team headed by Charlie Luxton, who made the Channel 5 film, revisited the lighthouse at the beginning of May during the time of these opening events to witness the completion of this monumental project and interview some of the first ‘bed and breakfast’ guests. So look out for the sequel to that programme which is scheduled to be shown this summer.

Click here to preview photos from the event

Click here to view pictures on Flickr and download them
(Current collection incomplete, the rest will be uploaded next month)

Click here to view a video of the Cocktail Party