From enjoying a family seaside holiday to immersing yourself in medieval history, explore our top 10 things to do in Sussex this summer
Image: English Heritage
1. Relive the Battle of Hastings
The most famous date in English history, 1066, marked its 950th anniversary last year – and the English Heritage-run site of the Battle of Hastings had a revamp to celebrate. On a visit you’ll see the battlefield itself (where wood-sculpted Normans and Saxons evoke the fateful clash), and the remains of the abbey founded by William the Conqueror, where a new rooftop viewing platform offers stirring views over the medieval village and countryside beyond. Don’t miss the walled gardens and underground ice house, a hobbit-like burrow in the grounds installed by a Georgian landowner in the days before fridges.
2. Discover the history of British motor racing at Bexhill-on-Sea
An elegant Edwardian seaside resort that also boasts to being the birthplace of British motor racing. The 8th Earl De La Warr hosted Britain's first automobile races there in 1902. Find the roots of British motor racing at the Bexhill Museum, see Victorian, Edwardian and Art deco buildings, and explore the antique shops and charming architecture of the picturesque Bexhill Old Town.
3. Indulge in a wine tour and tasting
At Bolney Wine Estate, you can discover the history of English wine, with its roots in Roman times, learn about the wine-making process and take a walk among the vines of this 40-year old vineyard with an expert guide. Once your taste buds have been suitably prepped, you can sample some of the wines with a charcuterie-style lunch.
4. Immerse yourself in art at Hastings
Known for the nearby field where the 1066 Battle of Hastings took place, this shingle seafront town has recently undergone some regeneration, and is now home to a younger crowd of residents who have brought in a cosmopolitan atmosphere. The award-winning Jerwood Gallery, in the picturesque Old Town, houses a collection of modern and contemporary British art. You can also embrace the town’s maritime heritage, with a visit to the Fishermen’s Museum and Shipwreck Museum.
5. Find the classic seaside at Camber Sands
Unlike many beaches along the Sussex coast, this one actually has sand – five miles of it – and it has the only sand dunes in the county. Near the town of Rye, it offers classic seaside activities like donkey rides and sandcastle building, watersports like kitesurfing and windsurfing, as well as plenty of room for relaxing – it’s over half a mile to the water’s edge at low tide. There is also the nearby Camber Sands holiday park, which offers lots to do for families.
6. Experience living history in Rye
The ancient buildings, cobbled streets and timbered houses of Rye, perched above chocolate-box scenery, have proved a magnet for visitors, celebrities and filmcrews in search of period settings. This medieval haven has also been periodically visited by royalty – in 1573 the title ‘Rye Royale’ was bestowed upon it by Queen Elizabeth I after she stayed there. Its community of creatives sell their wares in the independent shops set among beautifully preserved Medieval, Tudor and Georgian buildings. Climb up St Mary’s church tower for the best viewpoint of the town’s terracotta roofs below.
7. Feel at home in a country house hotel
Live the high life for a few days at Ghyll Manor, a 17th century country house hotel with a Tudor beamed exterior, nestled in 40 acres of private countryside. Featuring 29 individually designed bedrooms with period features and modern facilities, this Boundless-owned property is an ideal base from which to see the best of the county. From here you can explore nearby High Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, walk on the South Downs, visit a historic National Trust property and reach the seaside at Brighton in about 40 minutes, or West Wittering Beach in just over an hour.
8. Get up close with the animals at Drusillas Park
Why just look at the animals when you can interact with them? With an animal encounter at Drusillas Park you can go behind the scenes, feed the animals, and even cuddle some of them. With a range of experiences to choose from, including a picnic with a panda or a snuggle with a snake, this is a memorable experience for any animal lover aged 6+.
9. The lights of Brighton
If it’s bright lights and a big city you’re after, with a bit of seaside thrown in, then Brighton’s the answer, with many points of interest within walking distance of each other.
First, get your bearings with a trip up the British Airways i360, a 162-metre observation tower on the seafront. No trip to Brighton is complete without a stroll along the iconic Brighton Pier, which first opened in 1899 and reflects much of its original architectural charm, with the addition of more modern arcades and seaside treats. Retreat from the seafront into the cooler, quieter Lanes of the historic quarter, a warren of independent shops, and explore the distinctive Asian-style Royal Pavillion, a former royal residence with restored rooms, gardens and tours.
10. Get back to nature at West Wittering
Offering far-reaching views of Chichester Harbour and the South Downs, the natural and unspoilt West Wittering Beach is a favourite destination for a family day out. The high water quality has helped to make it one of the premier Blue Flag beaches in the UK, and the whole area is internationally recognised for its wildlife, birds and unique appeal, while shallow lagoons perfect for exploring are left on extensive sandy flats at low tide.