Out & About: West Sussex

Our guide to the best of West 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 vibrant seaside city of Brighton in the east to the cathedral city of Chichester in the west, West Sussex offers a wide variety of landscape and coastal scenery, from the wooded hills at Black Down north of Petworth on the Surrey border, through the flatter farmland of the Weald, culminating in the magnificent chalk downland of the South Downs and the watery landscape of Chichester Harbour beyond, where peaceful pleasures of yachting, fishing, bird-watching and bathing are pursued.

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. Harting Down, The Trundle at Goodwood and Devil's Dyke are three favourite start points.

The long marshy arms of Chichester Harbour are haven to a wealth of wildlife (birds and seals) and best seen on a boat tour from the quay at Itchenor. Explore shoreline footpaths from the pretty waterside villages of Bosham, Birdham and Chidham for peaceful, far-reaching views, and a stroll through Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve (RSPB) is a must for bird-lovers.

Amble the historic streets in Chichester - seek out the glorious Norman Cathedral and the notable Pallant House Gallery - or follow the Antiques Trail through pretty Petworth. For history buffs, there are Roman villas at Fishbourne and Bignor plus a magnificent castle at Arundel. Stately National Trust piles include Petworth House (Turner paintings) and Uppark, a fine Queen Anne mansion overlooking the South Downs. Foodies will find local artisan goodies in fabulous farm shops (Cowdray Park; Home Farm at Goodwood) and some of the best English fizz following a tour and tasting (wine and food) at one of the high-tech wineries - Tinwood, Wiston, Bolney - to name but a few.


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 waterside paths, take in the wild marshlands and serene Wealden landscape that inspired writers like Hilaire Belloc and Alfred Lord Tennyson, and artists like J.M.W Turner, or walk the breezy South Downs Way between Harting Down and Devil's Dyke near Brighton. And with Pulborough Brooks RSPB Nature Reserve and wildlife-rich Chichester Harbour, 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 country houses. Visit historic Chichester and its magnificent cathedral, or riverside Arundel for its stunning castle and French Gothic-style Catholic cathedral, and explore glorious gardens - Borde Hill Gardens - heady with the scent of summer blooms. No visit to West Sussex is complete without strolling around the quintessential villages - picture-book thatched and timbered houses cluster around idyllic greens.


Activities & Days Out

Explore the Sussex lanes and downland trails by bike or stay in a safari lodge overlooking the tiger enclosure at Port Lympne Reserve; or take a glorious 10-mile steam train journey through the Weald from Tenterden to Bodiam on the Kent & East Sussex Railway. Or take to the skies on a hot air balloon over Petworth Estate with far-reaching views across the Sussex Weald to the South Downs.


Great Places to Stay

Escape to West 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.