Although we’ve had our Bailey Autograph on loan for a while now here at Practical Motorhome, for various reasons this was the first time I’d taken it out – and it was a real treat to get back on the road again with a sizeable vehicle.
My last trip out was in a campervan (and if you’re looking for one, be sure to look at our best campervan guide) and while that’s always fun, the comfort and space of a full-size motorhome does take a touring holiday to a different level.
The Autograph 74-4 comes in at a length of 7.37m and a width of 2.49m, which makes it a very different prospect from driving a smaller ’van, but the high seating position, well-situated mirrors and quality reversing camera make this an easy drive, regardless of experience.
The six-speed gearbox gives a smooth journey and our quick jaunt down to the Sussex coast was a pleasant two-hour trip.
Why Sussex? Well, having originally planned to meet up with relatives in the Lake District (a plan that unfortunately withered on the vine for a variety of reasons), we were left trying to find somewhere at short notice during jubilee week. Fortunately, there was room at Normans Bay Camping and Caravanning Club Site, a pretty little campsite practically on the beach at East Sussex, not far from Pevensey.
Perfect! Great weather, comfortable ’van and beautiful walks right on our doorstep – what more could we ask? Even better was the prospect of meeting up with our sons, who are both studying nearby. The 74-4 is a 4 berth motorhome, but I think our eldest (who is in his early 20s) was grateful that he would not have to share the bed with his brother, who could only visit for the day.
My wife, Carmelina, and I had the luxury of the fixed French bed at the back, while Jack would be on the make-up double in the lounge, an arrangement you can find out more about in our guide to motorhome layouts. The double was a bit of a jigsaw and took us a little while to assemble, but he assured us he had a good night’s sleep.
Getting to grips with the Bailey was pretty easy – the washroom and kitchen both offer good spec and we found the kitchen particularly spacious and well laid out, with a Thetford K-Series combined oven, grill and hob, and a capacious 134-litre Dometic tower refrigerator.
Draining the water and changing the gas are both standard procedures, but filling the water tank is slightly unusual – the ’van has a Whale Aqua smart II on-board water pump, so you need to use the control panel to fill the tank. Having done it once, though, it was simple enough.
Overall, I really can’t fault the interior – I’d prefer the floor to be all on one level, but once you get used to the layout, you probably wouldn’t even notice it. The accommodation was extremely comfortable and the vehicle a pleasure to drive.
As for Normans Bay and the surrounding area, what a treat when the sun is shining! There’s not a huge amount to do around here – beach walks and a trip to the pub for a bite to eat were the order of the day – but that more than suited us.
Fish & chips from the onsite van and watching the sun set over the park from the beach was the perfect way to enjoy our first evening.
Incidentally, the online reviews for the park are mostly very good, but one or two bemoan the fact it’s such a quiet location – don’t these keyboard warriors look at an area online before they visit? In fact, there is easy access to more attractions, because there’s a railway station at Normans Bay on the East Coastway Line. So if you don’t want to take the motorhome out once you’re on site, you can use public transport to get to Brighton, Lewes, Eastbourne and Hastings.
The following day, however, we chose to stay local, with a walk into Pevensey Bay and a good lunch at the Aqua Bar – a pub right on the beach with decent quality meals including dressed crab, salt & pepper squid and bangers & bubble.
Stroll along the coast
Pevensey Bay itself is pretty small, but there’s a good bakery, serving afternoon tea, a decent pub – the Castle Inn – and, of course, head into Pevensey itself and you’ll find a medieval castle, now looked after by English Heritage.
After a short walk along the Coast Road, enjoying the various jubilee-themed scarecrows that seemed to have popped up everywhere, we returned to the campsite, where we were joined by my sister and brother-in-law, who also live nearby.
That’s the beauty of staying near friends and family, and as they had not been camping for a while, it was great to see them marvel at the majesty of the Bailey and declare themselves ready for their own motorhome adventure.
If you’re after some inspiration for where to go for your next tour, take a look at our round-up of the best motorhome campsites in the UK.
Bailey Autograph 74-4
- Price: £60,899
- Berths: 4
- Belts: 4
- Base vehicle: Peugeot Boxer
- Engine: 2.0-litre, 165bhp turbodiesel
- Length: 7.37m
- Width: 2.49m
- Height: 2.71m
- MTPLM: 3500kg
- Payload: 445kg
- Expenses: None
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