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Travel a straight line for 50 miles directly south from London and you’ll hit Sussex. Once the historic kingdom of the South Saxons, Sussex was cut in half into East and West Sussex in 1888. Encompassing both coast and countryside, Sussex is home to a variety of natural landscapes, as well as picturesque villages, charming towns and historic cities. The natural habitats across the county include some of the greatest expanses of forest in the country, so much so that it accounts for 15 per cent of the UK’s total land cover, while on the coast you can discover both quiet beaches and bustling seaside resorts.
Sussex towns, villages and cities
Hastings Old Town
Whether you’re looking to explore pretty villages, lively towns and cities or scenic coastal resorts, Sussex has it all.
Sussex is home to some of the South Coast’s most popular seaside towns, including Bognor Regis, Eastbourne, Bexhill and Hastings. Hastings is a hit with many – split into three sections, it offers something for everyone. First, there is the old town, with its castle, cliff railways and fishing huts, before the main town centre, packed with shops and restaurants, and the Victorian quarter of St Leonards. Camber, close to the Kent border, is extremely popular with beach-goers, as it’s home to Camber Sands, one of the only sandy beaches in Sussex.
Within Sussex’s countryside, you’ll also find some other wonderful places to visit, including Burwash, the home of Rudyard Kipling, and Lewes. Not only is Lewes home to Glyndebourne, one of the country’s best opera houses, but it’s also renowned for its traditional bonfire night celebrations.
Brighton Royal Pavilion
Finally, there’s also some fantastic cities to visit and explore. Chichester, in the west, is great for lovers of history and architecture, with its spectacular cathedral, city walls and guildhall. Brighton is also home to some iconic buildings of its own, including the Pier and the Royal Pavilion, as well as an excellent nightlife scene and a whole host of independent shops.
Attractions for all in Sussex
Family fun in Sussex
Sussex has a variety of days out which are sure to entertain kids big or small. Come rain or shine, the county offers endless things to do with the kids, whether it’s a ride aboard the Bluebell Railway, a round of crazy golf at the seaside, making some furry friends at a zoo or a farm park or exploring the towers of Bodiam Castle.
Discover Sussex's arts and culture
For those seeking a little culture, Sussex is also a great destination. Year-round, there are arts and music festivals showcasing the best of local artists, while the region’s entertainment venues and art galleries are also sure to inspire and get you thinking. Among the highlights are Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion and the Hastings Contemporary.
Beautiful gardens in Sussex
Borde Hill Gardens
From stunning landscaped gardens to gorgeous castle grounds, Sussex is also home to some beautiful gardens that make the most of their countryside backdrops. These include the 300 acres of woodland and themed gardens at Herstmonceux Castle, as well as the award-winning Borde Hill.
Explore Sussex's fairytale castles
Throughout the countryside and at the heart of historic towns you’ll find Sussex’s much-loved castles, including Bodiam Castle and the previously mentioned Herstmonceux Castle. There are also some equally splendid National Trust properties to visit, including Bateman’s, the home of Rudyard Kipling, and Petworth House, where the Trust’s largest picture collection can be found.
Nature reserves and woodlands in Sussex
For those looking to see wildlife in their natural habitat, Sussex is perfect as it’s home to a number of nature reserves, with many cared for by the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Among them is Rye Harbour, a coastal reserve spanning shingle, saltmarshes and reed beds, one of the UK’s most important conservation sites. For a woodland wander, Ashdown Forest, the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood, can’t be beaten.
Sussex by the sea
The Seven Sisters
Lined with pebble and shingle beaches, Sussex’s coastline is a dramatic one, with amazing views out over the English Channel. The shingle and sandy beaches of The Witterings are popular with surfers, while Camber Sands is loved by families for its vast stretches of sand. There’s also plenty to see if you walk along the coast – in the Seven Sisters Country Park for instance, you’ll be able to see a series of striking chalk cliffs. Beachy Head, a famous beacon with its own lighthouse, is well worth visiting too.
South Downs National Park
Sussex is home to the UK’s newest National Park, the South Downs covers 628 square miles of landscape, comprising of chalks and a series of sandstone and clay hills in the western Weald. The South Downs Way winds its way through the Park for over 100 miles, connecting Eastbourne on the south coast to the city of Winchester in neighbouring Hampshire – the perfect way to soak up the National Park’s scenery.
Wonderful walks in Sussex
The views from Hastings Country Park
With so much to see, Sussex is the perfect destination for a walking holiday. As well as all the other great locations already mentioned, there are a whole host of country parks and footpaths to take a trek on. Hastings Country Park promises excellent views up over the Old Town, while new sections of the England Coast Path will be opened in Sussex over the coming years.
Dogs are welcome at many top attractions across Sussex, and with so many fantastic places to explore allowing dogs, it’s the perfect place to visit with your four-legged friend by your side. Alongside the several beaches which welcome pets year-round, there are country parks to explore, days out to be had, including learning the history of the Battle of Hastings at Battle Abbey, and pubs to relax in.
Breweries and vineyards in Sussex
Sussex has many breweries and microbreweries producing ales and lagers, including Harveys, Longmans, Langhams and West Sussex to name a handful. The Sussex Beer and Cider Festival takes place once a year where you can investigate all that the county has to offer. Wine connoisseur Oz Clarke named Sussex as his special place for wine and the county’s reputation for producing fine wine is on the rise. Most vineyards are open to the public and welcome novices and experts alike.
Places to eat in Sussex
Make sure you pick wisely when you visit Sussex, with so many places enjoy special dining experiences, it'll be difficult to fit them all in. From sophisticated fine-dining venues to cosy cafes in seaside towns, Sussex has a bit of everything. Being both coastal and forested, it has surf and turf options in abundance. Hastings is the largest fishing fleet in the county although several other towns have smaller fleets like Rye Harbour. Keep an eye out for some good steak and seafood restaurants during your trip to the county. Credit for the invention of banoffee pie can also be attributed to Sussex with the dish first developed at The Hungry Monk in Jevington. Local delicacies also include the intriguing Sussex Pond Pudding and Sussex Plum Duffs.
History of Sussex
The name, Sussex, is derived from the name of the tribe who once lived in the region called the South Saxons, or Suth Seaxe. By the time the Domesday Book was compiled it was documented within as Sudsexe. However, its history dates back much further than Saxon times, with Bronze Age and Iron Age sites scattered throughout the county. Sussex was also home to significant Roman settlement, and visitors can still see Roman road and excellently preserved buildings, such as the Fishbourne Roman Palace, today.
One of the most famous fights in the history of Britain occurred in the county and that’s the Battle of Hastings when the Normans, led by William the Conqueror fought King Harold I in 1066. The altar of Battle Abbey is said to be built on the spot the latter fell in battle. Today, you can visit the town of Battle to learn all about the events of that day in 1066.
After the kingdom was taken over by the Normans, the area was split into five baronies, with each home to its own castle – these castles can still be seen today. Sussex really began to come into its own in the 18th century, when sea bathing for health became fashionable among the wealthy, leading to the birth of the several seaside resorts we know and love today.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT SUSSEX
- Joseph Hansom, architect of Arundel Castle, also designed the London black cab
- England’s first onshore casino opened in Brighton in 1962 at the Metropole Hotel
- Chichester Cathedral is the only example of a cathedral with a hospital attached (St Mary’s)
- John Logie Baird first demonstrated television in 1926, in a house in Hastings
- Bexhill on Sea hosted Britain’s first motorsport racing event in 1902
- Fishbourne is the largest excavated Roman site in the UK covering six acres
- The world’s oldest bell can be found at St Botolph’s in Hardham
- Author, playwright and wit Oscar Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Ernest in Worthing
Sussex is well connected to the rest of the country by a very good road and rail network. The main artery into the county is the M23 that leads to the London Orbital M25 which filters traffic in from all across the south east. The A27 runs parallel to the coast from east to west, serving Eastbourne, Chichester and all in between.
The rail network is very comprehensive and you can be in Brighton from London in around 90 minutes, or Hastings in a similar time. You can reach all the coastal towns and many of the inland towns with ease from outside the county. There is also a comprehensive Stagecoach operated bus service across the county, with National Express coaches stopping at most major towns and some villages.
Stay in a cottage in Sussex
Experience everything in this guide and more with a wonderful holiday to Sussex – a great staycation destination all year round. Whether you’re after a holiday by the sea or a break in the heart of the countryside, you’ll find your perfect break among our collection of Sussex cottages.
Perfect for families: Chenies, Middleton-on-Sea – sleeps 16
Complete with direct access on to the beach, a swimming pool, hot tub and tonnes of space both indoors and out, it doesn’t get better than this when choosing a property perfect for family gatherings.
This quirky showman’s carriage is the perfect little retreat for couples to enjoy a few days away, just the two of them. With beautiful views of Bodiam castle and an on-site café, you’ll hardly have to venture far from the property.
Perfect for dog lovers: Elsie Cottage, Northiam – sleeps 2
This period cottage is located in a characterful village in the heart of the Sussex countryside. Offering a beautiful spot for you and your pooch to start daily walks, it also has a beautiful courtyard garden for you to relax in the afternoon sunshine.
Our cottages in Sussex cottages come in all shapes and sizes, whether visiting as a family, a couple or you need somewhere that's dog friendly. You can also choose between beautiful cottages on the coast to peaceful rural retreats.