The county of Sussex may no longer actually exist, but you’ll be surprised to learn that there’s still land there. It’s just been divided into West Sussex and East Sussex, the two areas meeting around Brighton, where the University of Sussex lies. That’s a lot of ‘sex’ to start the introduction, and things will only get racier from here (not really). In any case, these two counties contain some of the most beautiful terrain in the UK, with the South Downs National Park taking centre stage. Beaches skirt the country’s southern coast, while the trendy boutiques and cafés of Brighton generate a cool atmosphere beside the pier and the strand. We’ve had a think, here at Plum Guide, and put together the ultimate list of places to visit in Sussex just for you, so heed our expert advice and head down to these top spots.
The Seven Sisters
One of the county's most iconic sights, and certainly the number one slot on our list of places to visit in Sussex, is the Seven Sisters Cliffs. For whatever reason, it is thought that each of the bumps in these cliffs is somehow a female sibling. Or nuns? You’ll have seen these sisters immortalised (well, they’re not mortal anyway, but you know what we mean) in such movies as Atonement, Summerland and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Snap your own photos of these chalky mounds to add to the collection of countless postcards and other memorabilia featuring them.
Meander through the adjacent Seven Sisters Country Park, whose coastline lies in total serenity. Take in the picturesque vistas in this park, comprising open chalk grassland and a zigzagging river valley. Bring your binoculars for a peek of the birds, and consider taking out paddle boards and canoeing. Try not to fall in the water, as it’s pretty cold most of the year. Keep your dogs close, so they don’t attack the livestock or farm machinery…or fall off the cliffs.
P.S. if you want more of the good white stuff, head to the nearby Beachy Head, another chalky titan in Sussex.
The South Downs National Park
The Seven Sisters, East Sussex, England
OK, so we’ve sort of already touched on this. You may not know it, but the Seven Sisters cliffs are in the South Downs National Park. We know, we know…we should have said. But, it’s bloody huge, so we’d be better off giving you a list of things that aren’t in the park; that’d be smaller. Within the park boundaries, Arundel Castle is one of the highlights. Dating back to the 11th century, this aged wonder makes for an ideal occasion for your kids to shout: ‘Mum/dad, it’s nearly as old as you.’
Amble through the grounds and enjoy the views of the surrounding countryside. At the western end of the park lies the Marwell Zoo, where your kids (and you) will love the tigers and penguins. Just don’t put them together, as the penguins won’t come out of it well. Relax at the café and attend a talk from the staff to learn about the animals in the enclosures. In the centre of the park, explore the hilly green terrain on horseback or bike. Stay the night in the charming village of Alfriston. Spot Saxon burial mounds and retrace writer Virginia Woolf’s steps in the park.
Lighthouse off the Chalky Cliffs near Eastbourne, East Sussex, England
The southern end of both sides of Sussex are lined with coastal treasures, meaning one of the best things to do in Sussex is pay a visit to the seaside. In East Sussex, work up a tan on the Camber Sands or hike along the wilder rear of the strand. Pick up some fish and chips and plonk yourself down on the sand like a lazy sloth (it’s your holiday, you deserve it), while watching the crazy kite surfers at play on the waves. Take on the massive pier of Eastbourne Beach, which is backed by majestic Victorian buildings. In its heyday, it was a top destination for affluent English folk, looking for a beachside getaway.
And don’t forget Brighton, of course. One of the most exciting places to visit in Sussex, there's plenty to do in this dynamic seaside city. Stay clear of the nudist section of the beach (or don’t), and enjoy ice creams on the pier (the one that didn’t burn down – don’t worry, it’ll be clear which that is). In West Sussex, enjoy the sandy stretches in West Wittering, Worthing and Bognor Regis. Littlehampton has its own amusement park, with slides and attractions right by the water.
Battle and Hastings
The unimaginatively named Battle is where the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066. Explore the quaint little shops and cafés, and consider the importance of this area to history. You can also go to Hastings, where you’ll spy the vestiges of the Hastings Castle. Your kids will enjoy the Smugglers Adventure activity that allows you to delve into the tunnels beneath the castle. Explore the Hastings Country Park and wander along Hastings Pier.
Back in West Sussex, Wakehurst is one of the highlights. It consists of a stately home with botanical gardens. The kind of place you could drop off the kids and leave them forever with no guilt; they’d live a life of luxury in this house. Or, come to think of it, maybe they’d end up like the kids of some sort of Dickensian novel, left to work for their keep in the servants’ quarters. Best to keep them with you then; but one more car argument, and that’s it. Explore the Wetlands section and amble along the Coronation Meadow. Or pretend you intend to do those things, while stuffing cakes down your gullet in the restaurant.