Out & About: East Sussex

Our guide to the best of East Sussex

Poets and writers such as Rudyard Kipling and Hilaire Belloc and artists like Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant (Bloomsbury Artists) made Sussex their home, captivated and inspired by the green hills and the gentle beauty of the South Downs and the Sussex Weald.

Stretching from the pretty town of Rye on the Kent border to the cosmopolitan seaside city of Brighton in the west, East Sussex offers a wide variety of landscape and coastal scenery, from the rich valleys and wooded ridges of the undulating High Weald and Ashdown Forest, through the flatter farmland of the Weald, culminating in the great sweep of the chalk cliffs of Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters, part of magnificent South Downs that stretches for 90 miles from Eastbourne to Winchester in Hampshire.

The South Downs Way represents some of the finest walking in southern England. It runs like a thread along the ridge of the South Downs, offering exhilarating walking, and illustrates the true character of these windswept chalk uplands. There is no better way to discover this delightful region than to follow the waymarked route across the swathe of downland on foot, by bike or on horseback - the views across the Weald and out to sea are spectacular.

Elsewhere, there are glorious gardens, stately houses, and castles to explore. Take your pick from the intimate Pashley Manor Gardens near Ticehurst, impressive Bodiam Castle in the Rother Valley, Bateman's, the National Trust home of writer Rudyard Kipling, and Charleston Farmhouse below the South Downs at Firle, once the country home of the Bloomsbury Artists.

Foodies will find cool cafes and eateries in Hastings, St Leonards, Lewes and Rye, local artisan goodies in fabulous farm shops, and some of the best English fizz following a tour and tasting (wine & food) at one of the high-tech wineries - Rathfinny, Ridgeview, Tillingham - to name but a few. Work up an appetite with a walk around Bewl Water or on a glorious stroll through the Ashdown Forest to find Pooh Sticks Bridge (Winnie the Pooh). Hike the breezy South Downs Way from Beachy Head to Cuckmere Haven, or let the dog run wild on Camber Sands following an amble around Rye or Hastings Old Town.

 

Food & Drink

Check out the cool cafes following a day beside the sea, tour the brewery that brewed your favourite pint, the state-of-the-art winery that crafted your pre-dinner fizz, or the distillery that produced your tipple of gin, visit the shop on the farm that reared your delicious Sunday roast beef and seek out the markets, delis and artisan producers that supplied the treats on the inn's menu, then enjoy them at home.

 

Walks & Nature

Explore downland trails and riverside paths, take in the rolling South Downs or the serene Wealden landscape that inspired writers like Hilaire Belloc and A.A Milne, and the Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, or walk the breezy South Downs Way between Brighton and Eastbourne. And with Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and the Seven Sisters Country Park in the beautiful Cuckmere Valley, take some time to discover British flora and fauna.

 

Culture & Heritage

Take a journey through time, exploring traditional seaside towns, medieval castles and abbey ruins, and grand moated houses. Visit the vibrant city of Brighton or historic Lewes and its hilltop castle for Ouse Valley and South Downs views, and explore glorious gardens - Pashley Manor Gardens - heady with the scent of summer blooms. No visit to East Sussex is complete without strolling around charming villages like Alfriston, where ancient timbered houses cluster around an idyllic green.

 

Activities & Days Out

Explore the sleepy Sussex lanes and downland trails by bike; or follow woodland paths through the Ashdown Forest to Pooh Sticks Bridge of A.A Milne's stories. Stroll through Hastings Old Town, browse the vintage shops or sketch the fishing boats on the beach; or take a glorious steam train journey through the Weald from Horsted Keynes to Sheffield Park Garden on the Bluebell Railway. Or take to the skies in a hot air balloon over the South Downs with stunning sea and downland views.

 

Great Places to Stay

Escape to East Sussex and treat yourself to a night or two at one of these brilliant foodie inns. Hunker down by blazing fires in beamed bars and rest and refuel having explored local towns and pretty timbered villages, or a stately pile, or following an invigorating coast path walk. Expect to find a comfortable room with cossetting extras and smart bathrooms, imaginative menus brimming with local produce, a cosy bar serving tip-top beers and eclectic wines, and great walks from the front door.