9 Great Things to Do in Sussex
Rugged coastline, dynamic cities and picturesque villages: here's our list of the best things to do in Sussex.
Acres of bountiful countryside, 150 kilometres of coastline and some of the UK’s most vibrant cities within its borders, Sussex is a pretty impressive county. It's quite big – broken up into East Sussex and a West Sussex – so it's safe to say you’re spoilt for choice with things to do in Sussex. From the bustling bright streets of Brighton to the beautifully quiet solitude of Pooh Bear’s wood, Sussex is a county full of contrasts and a damn fun place to explore. The beauty of the county is only just matched by the selection of tremendous Plum Guide-approved boltholes there.
Bonfire Night in Lewes
One of the more unusual things to do in Sussex is attend Bonfire Night in Lewes. The town of Lewes was placed on the map by the Bloomsbury Group and kept there by their rather odd bonfire night traditions. If all you’re expecting a few Catherine wheels and sparklers, brace yourself. Thousands of people attend the bonfire parade through Lewes for its fancy dress and flaming torches. The mini-festival starts on the 4th and continues well into the night of the 5th culminating in the big old effigy of the man himself (Guy Fawkes, duh) getting absolutely toasted. And not in a good way.
Try a local delicacy
The list of foods that make Sussex famous read like a Horrible History book. Pulborough eels, Selsey cockle, Sussex Pond Pudding... we’ll stop, but you get the picture. These dishes might sound strange, but you know what they say: when in Rome. Try a Huffed Chicken after a day out on the South Downs or munch down on a delicious Sussex Churdle after an afternoon on a National Trust tour. On a more tempting note, banoffee pie was created here (1972, if you ever get it in a pub quiz) and the region boasts the UK’s largest cluster of vineyards so there is plenty of plonk to see you through.
The village of Lindfield won the Best Kept Village so many times it had to be withdrawn in order to give other villages a chance. Imagine the town hall meeting to make that decision. Great Britain is mental, isn’t it? Anyway, Lindfield is beautiful and would definitely pass the 150-strong list of Plum Guide criteria, if we reviewed at villages that is. Find a duck-filled pond at the end of the high street and a nature reserve alongside the stream. Don’t come for cosmopolitan living, do come for a perfect example of peaceful village life.
Party in Brighton
Less of a bucket list, more of a giant plastic seashell filled with coconut and lime cocktails and enough umbrellas to keep the whole of Pride dry in a downfall. Brighton serves up a glorious to-do list: shop vintage treats in The Lanes, slurp ice cream down the Pier, eat perfectly poached eggs in a trendy cafe and party with Brighton’s best in the many clubs and bars. You’ll be tired, but it will be worth it. It’s close enough to the capital for you to become a
despised beloved ‘DFL’ and take a day trip from London. Or if you'd rather stay in Brighton, we've got plenty of lovely rental homes in the city. How about this perfectly located pad in Regency Square?
Spectacular views of Sussex and the kind of forest that makes you forget that motorways and
idiots unpleasant people exist? We'll take it. Dense canopies overhead and views of pine trees can calm the heart like no other. A game of Pooh Sticks - yes this is the home of the fat, yellow bear himself - will delight kids and adults alike as will the search for the Heffalump trap.
The grand and mighty Bodiam Castle looks like it’s been plucked straight from a HBO series and if you squint at the surrounding area you can almost see fur-clad horse riders in the distance. The Kent & East Sussex Railway wind beneath the turrets and make a very handy return route after a day walking through the countryside. The River Rother provides all the fun if you’re into stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing or simply drinking wine whilst gazing out across water.
South Downs National Park
Disclosure: the South Downs National Park is really quite big. So, unless you have many days to traverse its thousands of acres you’re not going to see it all. Don’t cry into your ordnance survey map, instead book ahead to visit the Breaky Bottom Vineyard in Lewes, canoe near the chalky cliffs of the Seven Sisters or take a turn around the gardens of Petworth House. Fun fact for you: the South Downs is home to 125,000 sheep. You are most welcome.
If you're looking to stay in the heart of South Downs, The Hilltop House has plenty of countryside charm.
A proper walk. The valley of the deliciously named Devil’s Dyke is awash with footpaths and bridleways and really fun people dripping in walking gear. Legend says that it was created by the guy with the red horns in order to flood the surrounding plains. A slightly more modern legend says it was formed during the Ice Age. Believe what you like. If you like your views of bucolic hills with a side of wildflower-filled meadows and seas of pink orchids, grab your walking pole and head here.
Or shall we say formerly known as Tunbridge Wells. It is, in fact, Royal Tunbridge Wells, darling. Good old King Richard VII decided this town at the edge of East Sussex had so many well-to-do visitors it deserved a name update. Fair enough Richard, fair enough. Georgian architecture abounds throughout the town, and not more so than at The Pantiles. Wander its boutiques and delight in the gorgeous shopfronts. Take a stroll through Dunorlan Park and tootle around the boating lake. Richard VII probably loved it.