THINGS TO DO
Gardens & Stately Homes
Eating Out / Takeaways
Walking & Cycling
Sporting & Other activities
The South Downs
A fascinating place, truly a landscape of outstanding natural beauty. An area rich with geological, historical and cultural reminders of the past as well as being a vibrant living landscape today. The National Park with its stunning scenery, the South Downs Way and multitude of other bridleways offer some of the best rambling and off-road cycling in the country. Breath-taking views of the Seven Sisters from Birling Gap to Cuckmere Haven, perhaps taking in Beachy Head, is but one of the unique byways with local hostelries en route. Drive up to Firle top for a bracing walk with amazing panorama; or mountain bike to Alfriston returning along the Old Coach Road, taking lunch at The Cricketers Arms at Berwick.
Picturesque villages include Alfriston, a beautiful Medieval village boasting a fantastic church, St Andrews, ‘The Cathedral of the Downs’. Alfriston Clergy House next to St Andrews was the first building acquired by the National Trust (for £10). Firle’s narrow village street looks much as it did a century or more ago. Litlington, with a flint church dating back to 1150, West Dean, probably founded in Saxon Times, where Alfred the Great had a palace, nestles at the foot of the downs adjoining Friston Forest; and close-by at East Dean is The Tiger Inn. There are countless country pubs. Also take time to explore the picture book towns of Lewes, Arundel, Midhurst and Petworth.
Alternatively experience the great outdoors with high adrenalin activities such as Hang Gliding and Paragliding, Fly Sussex offer tuition and taster days.
South Downs Way
Alfriston Clergy House
Birling Gap and Seven Sisters
Bo Peep, Alciston
Rathfinny Wine Estate, Alfriston
The South Downs Way
From lively resorts to quiet rural beaches. There are many scenic fishing villages and coastal towns to visit.
Sovereign Harbour Marina in Eastbourne has harbour-side cafes, bars, restaurants and shops.
There is much history and culture to explore in the surrounding areas. There is 1066 country with Historic beaches and ports, including the towns of Battle, where King Harold fell; Hastings with the Old Town and Fisherman’s Museum, home of Britain’s first Norman Castle and latterly, of the fictitious Foyles War fame. Pevensey, the landing point for both the Romans in the 4th Century and William the Conqueror in 1066; Rye, perched on a hill overlooking the River Rother and Romney Marsh having the maze of cobbled streets and narrow passages with Medieval and Georgian buildings. Rye Bay surrounds the Cinque Port towns of Winchelsea and Rye, and is in an area rich in wildlife and historical interest.
Nearby Castles also include Herstmonceux with the Science Centre at the National Observatory within it’s grounds; Pevensey and Bodiam (fun for the young) with Lewes, Hever and Hastings only a short drive away.
Other places of interest include the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, Penshurst Place and Glyndebourne – world famous for it’s opera and one of the highlights of the English summer season, is within a 25-minute drive.
Gardens & Stately Homes
South East England’s wealth of internationally renowned gardens are a must see when in the region.
Within the rolling countryside and hidden villages of Sussex there is an abundance of gardens to visit. One of the most well know Capability Brown designed gardens, Sheffield Park garden is located in East Sussex. Other highlights in Sussex include Great Dixter house and Gardens, Batemans, Nymans Garden, and Pashley Manor.
Haywards Heath, Sussex, RH17 6TN
Wakehurst is set within a varied landscape of the large country estate featuring the beautiful botanic gardens, natural woodland and lakes, water features and an Elizabethan Mansion.
Near Wadhurst, East Sussex, TN5 7HE
Pashley Manor is 11 acres of award winning gardens offering colour and interest throughout the year. Enjoy the romantic English landscaping within the backdrop of the Tudor house and beautiful Sussex countryside.
Cranbrook, Kent, TN17 2AB
Immerse yourself in the history and beauty of the world renowned Sissinghurst Castle Gardens. With its walled gardens it is among one of the most famous gardens in England and hosts a Grade 1 listed building.
Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 3QX
Acres of beautiful landscape garden bordered by historic parkland and woodland. Originally designed by the famous Capability Brown in the 18th Century it is now owned by the national trust.
Northiam, Rye, TN31 6PH
Great Dixter is made up of three unique houses of which the first was built in the 15th Century, along with its garden in the arts and crafts style featuring lovely long borders with an orchard and wild flower meadow.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN3 9QG
A fantastic moated manor house, noted for its formal gardens, vineyards and bird of prey sanctuary. Beautiful award winning gardens whilst the children enjoy the enchanted forest with its giant swings and zip wires.
Handcross, Sussex, RH17 6EB
Set in the beautiful countryside this is a garden for all seasons, discover hidden corners through stone archways and stroll the tree lined avenues. Everyday there are guided walks and talks in the garden and woods.
Burwash, East Sussex, TN19 7DS
Most notable as the home to famous author Rudyard Kipling who lived at Bateman’s from 1902 to his death in 1936. Within the 300 acre estate explore the beautiful gardens that surround the old stone house which has plenty to take in.
Westerham, Kent, TN16 1PS
The family home of Sir Winston Churchill, the house paints a portrait of the Churchill family, still much as it was when they lived there. Within the Chartwell estate explore and enjoy the stunning gardens with the rose walk, lakes and so much more.
Penshurst, Tonbridge, Kent, TN11 8DG
A 14th Century Manor House and its Gardens. The House was once the property of King Henry VIII and was left to his son King Edward VI. There are 48 acres of grounds considered to be one of the most beautiful in England.
Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN3 8JB
A romantic picturesque garden with a 14th Century moated castle and a Victorian country mansion – all in a beautiful wooded estate. 780 acres of beautiful parkland, woodland and hop gardens to enjoy.
Hever, Edenbridge, Kent, TN8 7NG
Dating back to the 13th century, Hever Castle was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and is what every child wants a castle to be: crenellated, moated and haunted. Discover the magnificent award-winning gardens set in 125 acres of glorious grounds
Some Local Recommended Gastro Pubs within a short distance.
The Gun, Gun Hill
A 15th century pub simply oozing charm and atmosphere situated in the heart of the sussex countryside directly on the Wealden Way, one of the most beautiful walks in East Sussex. Very good for family dining.
(01825) 872361 – 6 miles
Webbe’s, Rock-a-Nore, Hastings
In an enviable location opposite the net huts and boats of the historic and picturesque Hastings fishing quarter of The Stade. Our fish restaurant has one of the shortest ingredient journeys in Britain.
(01424) 721650 – 16 miles
The Poet, Matfield
Set in a charismatic 16th century building, diners can expect food of the highest standards made using the finest local and seasonal produce. In addition to the food, there is a selection of fine wines, quirky cocktails, and over 70 craft gins available.
(01892) 722416 – 23 miles
The Star, Alfriston
Dating from 1345. Part of the Polizzi collection in the picturesque village of Alfriston. A Michelin guide restaurant with a Mediterranean courtyard and outside dining. Sunday lunch is The Star’s speciality.
The Ferry Inn, Stone in Oxney
17th Century pub and restaurant hidden away. One of the best restaurant for Rye and Tenterden. Exceptional menu with seafood and scallops a speciality. Outside dining.
Additionally there are many very well-regarded and award winning fine dining restaurants close by;
Rock A Nore – Hastings (01424) 721650
Gourmet, contemporary restaurants with an emphasis on fish and local produce.
The Curlew, Bodiam, TN32 5UY – (01580) 861394
A ‘Best Eating Experience’ for Modern British dining where formal food meets informal dining.
Nobles, Battle, TN33 0AE – (01424) 774422
A dining experience with seasonal & local produce in a relaxed, professional environment.
The Griffin, Fletching, TN22 3SS – (01825) 722890
Great for summer with a wood oven on the Terrace and a Spit Barbeque.
The Jolly Sportsman, East Chiltington, BN7 3BA – (01273) 890400
Country Pub / Restaurant set in the South Downs National Park, offers fantastic seasonal food and prides itself on fine cooking rather than fine dining.
The West House, Biddenden, TN27 8AH – (01580) 291341
A characterful beamed restaurant with contemporary oil paintings and a wood-burning stove; one in a row of former weavers‘ cottages in a picturesque village.
Thackeray’s, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1EA – (01892) 511921
Grade II listed clapperboard house; once home to the author, Thackeray. Two stylish, contemporary dining rooms and a delightful terrace; original features include lovely oak flooring. Exacting, skilful cooking with clear, well-defined flavours: classical dishes display modern elements.
Whether it be the finest Sussex beef or Southdown lamb, traditional local cheese, additive free chicken or truly free range eggs – top quality food is available close-by.
- Freshly caught fish from the fishing huts at Hastings and Rye.
- Fresh Free Range Eggs from Dunstars Farm, Trolliloes.
- Locally produced meat from Pomfrets, the butcher, Heathfield
- Middle Farm Shop, Firle local prodce with a difference with Cider a specialty.
- Rathfinny Vineyard, Alfiston for finest Sussex wines.
- Regular Farmers Markets in the locality – click here.
- South Brockwells Farm, Ringmer produce oven ready game & fresh asparagus in season.
- Southern Head Fisheries for fresh caught fish off the coast at Eastbourne.
- Sussex Cheese from Alsop & Walker, Mayfield.
- Sharnfold Farm & Shop, Stones Cross have PYO fruit and veg depending on whats in season.
- The Stores at Rushlake Green, Sells fresh bread, local eggs, honey, cakes & other produce.
- Tottingworth Farm Shop and Café – local home grown beef and lamb a speciality, seasonal fruit and vegetables, cakes, preserves and much more.
- Golden Rice Bowl – Tel: 01435 862342
- Fortune Inn – Tel: 01323 843596
- Eastern Promise, Herstmonceux – Tel: 01323 832533
- Heathfield Tandoori – Tel: 01435 860770
- Prezzo, Hailsham – Tel: 01323 442010
- Pizza Van: Tuesday evenings, Punnetts Town.
- Glyndebourne ‘Glyndebourne + The Oast = The Perfect Coalition’.
- Point to Point Horse Racing Sussex, Surrey, & Kent – January to May
- Horse Racing Plumpton, Brighton, Lingfield
- Heathfield Show Agricultural Show, Heathfield- Late May Bank Holiday
- South of England Show Agricultural Show, Ardingly – June
- International Tennis Eastbourne – June
- Hickstead Derby Showjumping – June
- Festival of Speed Goodwood – June/ July
- Glorious Goodwood Horse Racing Goodwood – Mid July
- Brighton Kite Festival Stanmer Park – July
- Air Show Eastbourne Airbourne – August
- Vintage Fashion & Music Goodwood – August
- Medievel Festival Herstmonceux Castle – August Bank Holiday
- Goodwood Revival Goodwood – September
- Battle of Hastings re-enactment Battle Abbey – October
- Fireworks Cowbeech – Last Friday in October;
Lewes – 5th November;
Battle – the Saturday following 5th November;
East Hoathly – Mid November
- Vintage Cars London to Brighton Vetran Car Rally – November
- Lapland UK Bewl Water, Lamberhurst; Mid November – Christmas
- Local Farmers Market Hailsham
Second Saturday every month 9am – 12.30pm
- Local Farmers Market Heathfield
Third Saturday every month 9am – 12.30pm
- Local Farmers Market Battle
Third Saturday every month 9am – 1pm
- Local Farmers Market Tunbridge Wells
Second & Fourth Saturday every month 9am – 2pm
- Local Farmers Market Middle Farm, Firle, Lewes
Fourth Sunday of every month from March to November 10am – 2pm
- Local Farmers Market Rye
Every Wednesday 10am – 1pm
Walking & Cycling
There is an abundance of local walks and cycling in the immediate countryside, including the Cuckoo trail, that follows the route of the old cuckoo line railway that used to link Tunbridge Wells and Heathfield with the coast. Discover the traditional wildflower meadows and iron workings at Ashburnum, famous for its iron blast furnace – the last one in Sussex to be extinguished in 1813.
From tranquil gardens to the steep ascent of the South Downs, the East Sussex Countryside has much to offer. The bridleways of the South Downs offer some of the best walking and off road cycling in the country. You can walk and cycle in most woods owned by the Forestry Commission – Abbotts Wood at Hailsham, Friston Forest and Bedgebury Pinetum are accessible.
Explore the shore walks of the Cuckmere Valley Nature Reserve and the Seven Sisters Country Park where the estuary meanders before reaching the sea between the chalk cliffs of Seaford Head and the famous Seven Sisters. An unspoiled haven for cycling, canoeing and for both serious or relaxed hikers.
The Ouse Estuary Project has created a nature reserve at Newhaven, with natural marsh and reed beds at the mouth of the River Ouse – new cycleways and footpaths cross the area.
Bewl Water between Wadhurst and Lamberhurst, the largest stretch of water in the South-East is host to a huge variety of wildlife and also offers windsurfing, fishing, waterside walking and cycling together with a look-out restaurant.
Sporting & other activities
Amazon Outdoor Activities, based at Knockhatch Adventure Park, near Hailsham offer Mud Buggying, Quad Bikes and Laser Clay shooting amongst the many other experiences they have available. They are able to cater for children from 11 years old aswell as groups. You will need to book though.
Sea Fishing on the Coast, or Course Fishing at Furnace Brook Fishery or Brick Farm Lakes close by or other local fisheries. Alternatively, just take some nets down to Bexhill beach for some Shrimping.
Golf Courses at Cooden Beach, Crowborough Beacon, Dale Hill, Dewlands, East Sussex National, Eastbourne, Highwoods, Holtye, Horam Park, Piltdown, Rye, Seaford, Sedlescombe, Wellshurst and Willingdon.
Hang Gliding & Paragliding on the South Downs.
Hot Air Balloon rides are available, leaving from Sheffield Park.
Point to Point Horse Racing in the local area between January and May.
Pay & Play Tennis at Cross-in-hand
Sailing, jet-skiing and wind-surfing are popular pursuits at Pevensey and Normans Bay (approximately 6 miles) – a quiet spot where the car may be parked adjacent to the beach. The Spray Water Sports Centre, Eastbourne offers courses in sailing, wind-surfing, canoeing, body-boarding and power boating or try canoeing, kayaking and surfing at The Seven Sisters Canoe Centre, Cuckmere.
Learn how to handle and fly birds of prey with Sussex Falconry, who offer various experience days locally in Herstmonceux.
For those that wish for some retail therapy, serious shopping is available in Eastbourne, Brighton, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Tenterden, and outlet shops at Ashford.
Or perhaps, a day trip to Calais via Eurotunnel or Eurostar from Ashford to Lille, Brussells or Paris.
There is much to see and do in this unspoiled area.
- Knockhatch Adventure Park, Hailsham, with outdoor ski centre, climbing facilities and various daily displays.
- Drusillas Zoo, widely regarded as the best small zoo in the country with ‘Animal Magic’ and ‘Playland’ – perhaps followed by a cream tea at Alfriston or a dip in the sea.
- Bodiam Castle, near Robertsbridge often has fun and educational events for children.
- Smugglers Adventure, Hastings is a labyrinth of caves and smuggler’s lair.
- Paradise Park, Newhaven to discover dinosaurs and some fascinating history.
- The Observatory, Herstmonceux, where science comes alive at the former Greenwich Observatory.
- Local beaches at Normans Bay, Pevensey Bay, Cooden Beach, Birling Gap and Cuckmere Haven or the resorts of Eastbourne, Hastings and Brighton
- Leisure Centres at Hailsham and Eastbourne, and the freshwater open-air pool at Pells Pool, Lewes.
- The Spa Valley Railway that travels between Eridge and Tunbridge Wells, The Kent & Sussex Railway, Tenterden and The Bluebell Line, Sheffield Park, to experience the characteristic sights, sounds and smell of full-size steam engines where nostalgic trips can be taken!
For more ideas click here.