Stuart Forster heads to England’s south coast and recommends 6 super things to do in Sussex.
Disclosure: This post was paid for by Classic Cottages, a company offering holiday cottages across southern England. Some of the links and banners below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Lapped by the water of the English Channel, Sussex is famed for the white cliffs that rise above the sea at Seven Sisters. That chalky ground shares characteristics with the terroir of the Champagne region in northern France. In recent years a number of wine estates have been established in Sussex, producing sparkling wine that can impress.
Sussex’s clifftops and the South Downs National Park are ideal for lengthy walks. So too is the High Weald Area of Outstanding National Beauty.
Dotted with medieval castles and Martello towers built to defend Britain from French invasion, Sussex has much for history lovers. At Bignor Roman Villa, near Pulborough, you can view mosaics laid down approximately 1,800 years ago.
Hastings, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis count among the seaside towns of Sussex.
Here’s a look at six ideas for things to do during days out in Sussex.
1 – Walk your dog on the South Downs
The South Downs National Park features ancient yew forest, heathland and grassy hills. Those hills roll over chalky terrain ideal for cultivating grapes.
Sussex’s sparkling wine is winning critical acclaim and it’s possible to tour estates such as Nyetimber, Rathfinny and Tinwood.
The footpaths and bridleways of the South Downs are well-suited for dog walking. During the springtime lambing season, dogs should be kept on their leads. Classic cottages offer a range of dog-friendly cottages in Sussex.
Local sights include the Long Man of Wilmington, a 72-metre (235-foot) figure cut into Windover Hill. Stroll past him on a lengthy walk before returning to your cottage and cracking open a bottle of local bubbly.
2 – Explore Arundel Castle and Gardens
Arundel Castle is one of the largest castles in England. Its motte, the conical hill upon which a Norman-era fortress was constructed, dates from 1068. In the late 19th century, Henry, the 15th Duke of Norfolk, commissioned the castle’s restoration.
From springtime into autumn, the historic landmark opens its doors to visitors.
The expansive grounds host a week of medieval-style jousting during the summer. The aim of the horseback contest is for armour-clad knights to break their lance on the shield of their opponent.
The castle gardens feature colourful borders. In spring, typically from mid-April, well over 100,000 tulips bloom around Arundel Castle. With more than 130 varieties of tulip, expect an array of colours.
While in town, set aside a few minutes to step inside Arundel Cathedral. The interior of the Roman Catholic place of worship is light and spacious. In addition to the Stations of the Cross depicting the Passion of Christ, gaze up at ornate friezes sculpted into the walls and colourful stained glass windows.
The cathedral was designed by Joseph Hansom. The architect’s other projects include Birmingham Town Hall and Leicester Museum and Art Gallery. He was also the inventor of the Patent Safety Cab, the mode of transport popularly known as the Hansom cab.
3 – Bathe in the English Channel at Brighton
Stride across the rocks and pebbles of Brighton Beach and take an invigorating dip in the English Channel.
Forgot your swimwear? Don’t worry, Brighton is the location of the UK’s first public naturist beach. It opened on 1 April 1980 – a date which may have left many people reading the news wondering if the announcement was true. That stretch of beach is a mile east of Brighton Pier.
The town that we today know as Brighton began evolving into a seaside resort during the late 18th century. Brighthelmstone remained the Sussex town’s official name until 1810.
Dr Richard Russell is credited as being a key figure in the development of “sea side mania”. Russell, who lived between 1687 and 1759, wrote about the health benefits of Brighton’s seawater.
The destination became fashionable when George, the Prince of Wales, purchased property by the seaside. In 1815 the prince commissioned Paul Nash to design the Royal Pavilion, a grand building whose exterior is reminiscent of an Indian palace.
4 – Orientate with a flight on the i360
Get your bearings over Brighton and the South Downs with a flight aboard the British Airways i360. The i360’s enclosed viewing pod rises and drops around a 162-metre ( feet) seafront tower.
The attraction opened in August 2016. The Nyetimber Sky Bar provides guests with opportunities to quaff drinks, including Sussex-made beer and sparkling wine, while enjoying coastal scenery.
The i360 was designed by Marks Barfield Architects, also the creators of the London Eye. Each flight has a duration of approximately 25 minutes. It’s worth arriving 20 to 30 minutes ahead of your time slot to clear the security checks.
5 – Attend the world’s biggest Bonfire Night celebrations
The Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations are impressive. Traditionally held on 5 November, the annual event commemorates the suppression of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The celebrations take place on the preceding Saturday if that date falls on a Sunday (as it will in 2023).
Noisy and colourful, Bonfire Night in Lewes sees fiery processions and fireworks blasting in the sky above the Sussex town. Roads are closed ahead of the traditional celebrations.
Stroll through Lewes at almost any other time of year and the town feels peaceful. You can discover the town’s history in Lewes Castle and Museum.
Plaques commemorate Lewes’ associations with Thomas Paine, an excise officer while he lived in the town. He authored pamphlets including Common Sense and Rights of Man which influenced thinking around the time of the American and French Revolutions of the late 18th century.
Paine has a seasonal beer named after him. It’s brewed at Harvey’s Brewery, whose shop on Cliffe Street is a good spot to pick up supplies and merchandise.
6 – Look around Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens
On the outskirts of Horsham, Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens spans more than 240 acres. Laid out in the 19th century, the gardens underwent extensive renovation ahead of reopening in 2019.
Leonardslee House, which dates from 1801, hosts Interlude, a Michelin-starred restaurant. Chef Jean Delport and his team prepare the food served at Interlude. Afternoon tea is an option in the Italianate-style mansion.
Tristan, another Michelin-starred restaurant, is located in nearby Horsham. Discover the history of the Sussex market town in Horsham Museum and Art Gallery.
Continue along the Causeway from the compact museum to stroll through the churchyard of St Mary’s Church to the River Arun.
Places to visit in Sussex
If you have additional recommendations about places to visit in Sussex, please leave a comment below with your suggestions.
Accommodation in Sussex
Find Sussex holiday cottages on the Classic Cottages website.
Map of Sussex
Sussex consists of two counties. The Google Map below centres on West Sussex. Zoom into the in map to view details or see locations in East Sussex:
Travel to Sussex
Looking to experience car-free travel? Book rail travel to stations in Sussex via the Trainline website.
Travelling to the United Kingdom from abroad? Gatwick Airport lies on the county border of Surrey and Sussex.
Books about Sussex
Planning a trip to Sussex? You can buy the following books via Amazon by clicking on the links or cover photos:
Sussex: South Downs, Weald and Coast by Tim Locke, part of Bradt Guide’s Slow Travel series:
See the Visit South East England website for more ideas about places to visit in Sussex.
Stuart Forster is an award-winning travel writer and blogger. He is a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers and a frequent visitor to both East and West Sussex.
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this post outlining 6 super things to do in Sussex. Looking for a local’s tips about things to do in Brighton? Here’s a look at With a Local: Brighton, East Sussex.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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