London is an amazing city, but sometimes you need to escape.
But have you considered East Sussex or West Sussex?
Suppose you enjoy strolling along windswept beaches, exploring castles, and immersing yourself in history. Sussex is one of the best places to explore away from London.
There is so much to love about Sussex.
Whether it’s a weekend break or longer, the quaint villages of East Sussex and West Sussex will captivate you.
You can wander spectacular castles like Arundel or the castle ruins of the 1066 Battleground.
Sussex allows you to walk and explore:
- seaside walks along old piers
- or seaside walks near chalk hills.
And one place not to miss is a South Downs National Park walk. One of the newest national parks in England stretches across both West and East Sussex.
To help with planning your break away from London, here are things to do in Sussex.
18 Places of Sussex to Explore Away from London
Within an hour or more from London, Sussex is a region to relax and unwind.
You have quaint pubs, small boutique shops and walks across the meadows. And deciding whether to choose West Sussex Beaches or East Sussex Beaches is the perfect weekend break from London.
You have the South Downs National Park if you love hikes and nature. But if you love coastal walks, the Seven Sisters is a must-see of East Sussex.
If you are ready to start planning, here are 18 places in Sussex, away from London, waiting for you to explore.
7 Places in West Sussex
- Petworth House and Garden
- Cowdray House
- Arundel Castle
- West Dean Gardens
- Bosham seaside village
11 East Sussex Destinations
- Herstmonceux Castle
- Seven Sisters
- Bodiam Castle
- Pevensey Castle
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7 Best Places of West Sussex
Find Winnie the Pooh
Lodsworth is a tiny village in West Sussex that the illustrator EH Shepard of Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows called home. His gravestone in the village cemetery has images from his books.
Lodsworth was a farming and forestry village that dates back to the middle ages. Today it has a population of about 300 living in those stone cottages.
The large manor house built by the Bishop of London is hidden from view until we walk to the local cricket ground, where we discover this piece of local history.
Hollister Arms is the focal point of the village and the perfect place to keep in touch with everyone living here.
The Larder is a local not-for-profit shop with a good food selection, including bread from the French bakery down the road and beer from the local brewery.
But the walks from Lodsworth to surrounding villages allow you to see more of this beautiful countryside.
Like many parts of England, people can access public footpaths (tracks through farmlands and small forests) to nearby villages.
The Montague Family of Midhurst
Midhurst is a town with a special history of the Montague family.
Cowdray House is a Tudor house dating back to the 1500s. The Montague family built it, visited by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
Within the 16,500 acres of the Cowdray Estate are a polo field and a cricket field. The estate is now used for functions.
But the small village of Easebourne, near Midhurst, is linked to the estate. The colour of the windows, yellow, green and white, signified the tenant of the estate. Like yellow was the house of a manager.
Location: Cowdray Park, Midhurst GU29 0AY
Creating History at Arundel Castle
The visible feature when you arrive in Arundel is the keep of Arundel Castle.
Arundel Castle was established in 1067 by Roger de Montgomery, a cousin of William the Conqueror. Since the 11th century, the Duke of Norfolk has owned the castle by the Howard family. They were the Earls of Arundel and then the Dukes of Norfolk.
This castle is surrounded by a stone wall encasing the castle and large gardens. The family lives in the castle, so access is limited to the following:
- the keep (the oldest part of the castle dating back to 1067)
- the castle chambers
- castle main rooms
Outside you can visit the chapel set among the various gardens. The most intriguing garden was Oberon’s Palace garden with a floating crown.
While in Arundel, visit St Mary’s Cathedral, The Priory, and the Town Hall. And wander the narrow streets down to the River Arun, the focal point of the castle and village in bygone eras.
Location: Arundel BN18 9AB
Weird but Curious Exhibition at Chichester
The city of Chichester dates back to Roman times. You can still walk along the old Roman wall or visit the local museum built over an old Roman bathhouse.
The city’s focal point is the Chichester Cathedral, dedicated to St Richard.
On one side of the cathedral are many chapels; on the other side, the day we visited, a very odd exhibition, “Shadows of the Wanderer.” It scared the living wits out of us!
Walking through the cloister of the cathedral, we came across St Richard’s walk leading to the church houses. Lovely old stone houses lead back to the Chichester Cross, a 1500-year-old market area.
Singleton and West Dean Gardens
Near Chichester are the West Dean Gardens, said to be one of the greatest gardens in England.
With a 300-foot pergola, Victorian Glasshouses, a 50-acre arboretum parkland walk, and many garden ideas, it is popular for a day’s outing.
We loved the Walled Kitchen Garden, to see pears being grown on a wall. But found the fibreglass trees at River Lavant quite unique.
You can stay for lunch or afternoon tea unless you want to visit the nearby village of Singleton. Here the cottages are built of stone, implanted with rocks of flint. A familiar site in Arundel.
Petworth House and Gardens
The stone cottages of Petworth are quaint, but the focal point of the village is the Petworth House and Gardens.
What was the servant quarters is the entrance to Petworth House and Gardens. It is a large building with the kitchens in their original state, the various offices of the more important servants and sleeping quarters.
You can then cross the courtyard to the stately Petworth House.
Location: Church St, Petworth GU28 0AE
Oysters and Cockles at Bosham
When the tide comes in, it is the best time to visit the seaside villages of Emsworth and Bosham.
In the estuary of Chichester Harbour when men fished for oysters and cockles. Emsworth has a “mill pond” where the water gathers, and people can fish safely around the walled area.
Many old houses surround the Bosham estuary with views over the water. The Holy Trinity Church is a beautiful building of stone and is depicted in the Bayeux tapestry.
11 Places to Explore in East Sussex
East Sussex has the popular seaside resorts of Hove and Eastbourne but also the famous battlefields of Battle and Hastings.
You can visit the amazing Seven Sisters or cosy up in a quaint pub in Alfriston.
When you want to explore East Sussex’s castles, buy your English Heritage membership ticket. This way, you can enter reduced cost to some of the spectacular historical places of East Sussex.
French Market in Heathfield
The town of Heathfield was rebuilt in 1880 for the Cuckoo Line steam railway. Old Heathfield is about 3.5 km from Heathfield. The village was built on an ancient track connecting South Downs (West Sussex ) to the Weald. The 14th-century inn serves a refreshing cider.
The Cuckoo Line is now known as the Cuckoo Trail as a cycling and walking track. You can walk for 45 minutes to Horam for a fabulous breakfast.
Heathfield holds an annual Anglo/French Market (Le Marche) every August Bank Holiday. There are many stalls, and we loved the French bread and cheeses.
Burning Fires of Lewes
Lewes is an inland town between Brighton and Eastbourne with an interesting history.
A historic town, with the Lewes Castle ruin, Lewes Priory and Anne of Cleves house (divorce settlement from Henry VIII). Wander the narrow cobblestoned streets or Harveys Brewery down near the River Ouse.
Or visit the White Hart Hotel frequented by Thomas Paine, who is, to Americans, the Father of Independence. Although English, he published an article on the sentiment of independence from the British.
But if you arrive at Lewes on the 5th of November, they have one of the most spectacular bonfire nights in Sussex.
A Day of Castles with English Heritage
One of the best purchases you can make is to buy an English Heritage ticket.
Entry prices to English heritage sites are costly when purchased individually. But with an English Heritage ticket, you get to see so many more places at a fraction of the price. Some English Heritage carparks are reduced for ticket holders.
Click below to organize your English Heritage ticket now so you are ready to explore the Castles of England.
The Herstmonceux Castle was built in the 15th century from local clay bricks and is one of the oldest brick buildings in England.
But when the castle and grounds were sold to the Admiralty, a large number of observatories were built for the Greenwich Observatory. With no light pollution, stars were observed here from 1946-1988.
The castle grounds are also used for medieval tournaments, which are a lot of fun to experience.
Location: Hailsham BN27 1RN
The famous Battle of 1066
The highlight of any day visiting castles has to be the battlefield of 1066. Known as the Battle of Hastings, where King Harold lost the battle to William the Conqueror.
Entering through Battle Abbey’s gates is the famous battle site. A Benedictine abbey dedicated to St Martin of Tours was built as penance for the many lives lost.
Using our English Heritage members card, we visited the gatehouse exhibitions, climbed the tower for views and walked around the battlefield.
In 2016, the town of Battle celebrated the 950th anniversary of the Norman invasion.
Location: Butter Cross, High St, Battle TN33 0AE
Rye on the Sea
Rye is an old medieval town, 3km inland from the sea, where 3 rivers meet; Rother, Tillingham and Brede. Rye was an important stronghold in medieval times.
One of the oldest buildings in Rye is Ypres Tower, built in 1249—a great place for a picnic lunch overlooking the estuary.
You’ll love wandering the cobbled streets, passing under the Gate Tower or finding your way to the smuggler’s favourite, The Mermaid Inn.
Prestigious Moated Bodiam Castle
Bodiam Castle was built about 1385 to defend the area against the French in the 100-year war.
It is known as a quadrangular castle because of its shape with a central courtyard and buildings built along the walls.
To see inside, the twin-towered gatehouse at the north crosses over a very large moat. Look for the fish that seem extra large too.
But for something special, you can enjoy a steam engine train ride from Tenterden Town station to Bodiam—an extra special event for a day excursion to Bodiam Castle.
See inside Pevensey Castle
Pevensey Castle is an old Roman fort taken over by the Normans during the 1066 invasion.
You can visit the castle walls of the castle now in ruins. It was last used in WWII by the Canadian Army as a base stronghold.
Stroll the Seaside Pier of Eastbourne
Eastbourne seaside is a wonderful place for lunch with views of the pebble beach and Pier.
The town resembles Brighton and Hove with many “Regency” era buildings. So a walk along the pebbly beach to the pier makes it a great place to explore.
Walk the White Cliffs of the Seven Sisters
Seeing the Seven Sisters is the highlight of a day trip in East Sussex.
When you travel from the town of Seaforth, there is access to the chalk cliffs overlooking the English Channel.
And when the tide is out, you can walk down to the stony shore and along the sea edge to the Coast Guard cottages.
It is known as the Seven Sisters for the seven ridges visible.
Visit the Smugglers Inn at Alfriston
Alfriston is a small village with a small market square that has been unchanged for centuries.
Enjoy a drink at the old Smugglers Inn. And step inside the local grocery shop with its original serving bench, shelving, and cash distribution.
Before you leave, walk the lovely common in front of St Andrew’s church.
Finding old Bathing Huts of Hove
When you walk along the seaside of Hove, you can see its more popular neighbour, Brighton.
However, Hove has grown as a seaside resort from a small fishing village. This is why in the 19th century, Hove built streets of beautiful regency houses.
But it’s down at the seaside where you can wander past the colourful old bathing huts. And if you need a walk, it’s only 3kms to Brighton along the waterfront.
Best Places of Sussex away from London
When it’s time to explore more of England with a break away from London, some of the best places in East Sussex or West Sussex won’t disappoint.
Hiring a car for the weekend allows you access to some remote places of Sussex, like the Seven Sisters. You can reach quaint villages to enjoy lunch at an old inn frequented by smugglers centuries ago.
You can unwind your mind on a seaside walk. Or challenge yourself to a walking trail in the South Downs National Park.
But whatever you plan to do for your break away from London. The places of East Sussex and West Sussex will have you returning for more.