Review by Fiona Duncan, published 9th November 2008.
Great news from little Alderney: at last there's somewhere decent to stay.
Ten years ago, we joined good friends, Alderney aficionados who spend each summer on the island in a pretty little house overlooking the sea. We had great family fun – I remember bicycle rides around the island and magical night time barbecues on deserted beaches – but we disliked our crummy hotel, the Seaview, so much that, frankly, we couldn’t wait to leave. We didn’t go back.
Until now. "The Seaview has been transformed," my friend Sarah told me. "Come and see what you think. We practically lived on its terrace this summer." Some transformation that must be, I thought to myself. Our aim, when we stayed before, was to leave the hotel as soon as possible after breakfast and not go back until bedtime.
Three of us travelled there; any excuse for 48 hours away. Lui wanted time to read her book, Sarah wanted to walk round the island and show us the sights, and I wanted to revisit those amazing beaches. Time expands when you're having fun: we managed everything, plus long lunches outdoors in unseasonal sunshine.
The magic ("the Alderney feeling", the locals call it) worked quickly; indeed by the time I'd been driven to the hotel from the large shed that masquerades as the airport terminal by a taxi driver who knew everyone, from the pilot to the porter, I felt more relaxed than I had in weeks.
Secretly, I didn't have high hopes for the new Braye Beach. Contemporary seaside hotels may look good at first glance, but so often they lack substance. Not so. The hotel's location, right on curving Braye Beach, pied dans l'eau, is spectacular enough, but it's the high quality of the interior design that really impresses here.
Set in a terrace of tall, gabled old Alderney houses that remind one of an illustration from Little Tim by Edward Ardizzone, the ground floors have been opened up to create an immediately welcoming little sitting area and, to either side, a long, soothingly coloured dining room and a bar leading to the wraparound decking terrace where Sarah now whiles away her summer days.
Downstairs are a series of sitting rooms under stone vaults and a cinema – good touch this – for those inevitable rainy days, showing three well-chosen films a day. Bedrooms (17 with sea views,10 without) are remarkable for their price, faultlessly executed, contemporary yet cosy, with attractive pictures and the odd ornament to give them character.
Which brings me to our one disappointment. All three of us instantly warmed to our bedrooms when shown them, but all three of us stopped in our tracks when we saw their obscured, salt-sprayed windows that badly needed cleaning. The beach and sea below sparkled in the sunshine; the windows should have done too.
Windows aside, the new Bray Beach would make a great choice for anyone looking for a sophisticated hotel, with or without children, on a beach devoid of crowds.
Braye Street, Alderney, Channel Islands (01481 824300; www.brayebeach.com). Doubles from £110per night, including breakfast. Two night breaks, including flight, transfers, breakfast and one dinner from £294 per person. Access possible for guests with disabilities.