Just an hour away from the capital, the county of East Sussex is a thriving area that attracts visitors throughout the year owing to its unique landscape and collection of bustling towns.
Shaped by the English Channel, the southern border of the county is home to some of the most recognisable coastal scenes in the British landscape. From the uniquely beautiful chalk cliffs of Seven Sisters, to the expansive Camber Sands, it is hard to think of anywhere that is equal to the county in its natural landscape. But the scenery of East Sussex is not the only reason to fall in love with this county. The coastal towns of Eastbourne and Hastings, as well as the town of Lewes further inland, each boast a myriad of cultural attractions, great food (fancy and otherwise), pubs, and bars. Each has a unique atmosphere and warmly receives its visitors. It would be easy to get caught up in any one these towns, their surrounding attractions, or the landscape itself, so many returns to East Sussex are advised.
History of Sussex
Perhaps one of the most defining features of the region is its rich and influential history. The county is famous for the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the subsequent Norman Conquest that changed the course of English history. You do not have to search too hard to find evidence of the Normans’ influence on the area. If you visit to the site of the crucial battle, just 8 miles outside of Hastings itself, you can see the now partially ruined Battle Abbey. The strategic importance of the area means that the county boasts an impressive roster of historically important, and to this day, immensely impressive buildings from its time as the frontline defence against foreign invasion. Taking some time to see the imposing Bodiam Castle, the ruins of Hastings Castle, or even the later brick built, Herstmonceux Castle will not disappoint any history lover.
The coastal region of East Sussex is also knotted with exciting stories of its smuggling past. The towns of Hastings, Rye and Winchelsea were part of a confederation of five coastal towns known as the Cinque port, and were a haven for smugglers in the area. You can find out more about smuggling in the region by visiting the ancient St Clements Caves which have their own varied and interesting story. Partially natural, and in part built by the smugglers, the caves have since variously been a home, a famous attraction that drew the interest of several royal visitors, a ball room, and an air raid shelter for up to 900 people during WWII.
What can you do in East Sussex?
Visiting East Sussex you are really spoilt for choice. Whether you want to head into town, or escape into the countryside there really is something for everyone.
Head into any one of the area’s costal locations and you will be presented with a town whose relationship with the sea is an intrinsic part of its identity. Did you know that the town of Hastings for example still has the largest beach-launched fishing fleet in Europe? There are numerous cultural attractions that exemplify the area’s relationship with the sea, and curious visitors will revel in ghostly tales at the Shipwreck Museum and marvel at a visit to the Blue Reef Aquarium. If you find that you fall in love with the sea during your visit, a walk along Eastbourne Pier in the evening will leave you spell bound.
For the more artistically inclined visitor, a visit to the famous Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, or the award-winning Jerwood Gallery in Hastings should be at the top of your list. However, if you want to do something a little different, why not dress up and head out for a night at the world-renowned, Glyndebourne Opera House situated just outside of the town of Lewes.
Food and Drink in Sussex
Visiting food lovers will rejoice at the ample opportunities to eat the best locally sourced food and seafood the county has to offer. No matter where you choose to stay, you will find no shortage of delightful culinary experiences, from adventurous fine dining, to cosy home-style cooking.
But you do not have to head to a restaurant to find a great foody experience. You can easily spend an entire morning or more exploring just one of the county’s exceptional food markets. Here you will find the markets to be full to the point of bursting with locally grown and produced foods including meat, vegetables, and cheeses. You can either fix something up for yourself or head to one of many stalls offering light refreshments throughout the day in order to keep you going on your adventure.
Exploring the Sussex Countryside & Downs
The hustle and bustle of the town is not everyone’s cup of tea. And if it is not for you, East Sussex is home to a whole host of attractive opportunities to explore life outside the town.
The East Sussex countryside is criss-crossed with beautiful scenic walking roots for you to explore. Many of these are located in the stunning Seven Sisters Country Park, specific details of which can be obtained from the friendly visitor’s centre. Alternatively hop on a vintage steam train and make a feature of your journey through 22 miles of the East Sussex landscape on the Bluebell Railway. On selected dates throughout the year the railway even offers additional services including afternoon teas and murder mystery evenings to make your visit extra special. Finish your journey by alighting to check out the nearby attractions that include the Bluebell Vineyard and Wakehurst Place. If life outside the town centres sounds appealing then other sites that should not be missed during your visit include Drusillas Zoo Park, Sheffield Park and Garden, and Great Dixter.
No matter where you are coming from, or for however long you are staying the historic country of East Sussex is bound to please.