One of the most loved and popular places to visit in England, East Sussex is home to some of the most inspiring and beautiful landscapes in the South East. A place steeped in important history, this is where salty smugglers and armour-clad Norman’s once roamed (William the Conqueror first engaged the Saxons here in 1066) and if you wander the cobbled streets of its picturesque ancient villages it will instantly transport back to its medieval origins. It’s also a region where protected rolling hills – which look like they could come straight out of a landscape painting – meet shingly and sandy shores dotted with a mix of sleepy and bustling towns and often flanked by towering vertical chalk cliffs. It’s a hard place to chose but here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in East Sussex, UK…
1. Rye – a pretty medieval village which is one of England’s best-kept secrets
It’s best not to wear your high heels if you’re planning a visit to this gorgeous East Sussex gem. As Rye is filled with winding streets, slanty uneven pavements, and buildings that jut precariously above the street below you won’t be able to appreciate all the medieval charm this attractive little town has to offer if you are too busy trying to keep your balance on the cobbles! Ancient Alehouses stand shoulder to shoulder with an absolute hotchpotch of leaning architecture that spans centuries. Nestled in this treasure trove you’ll find indie shops, frothy coffees, and cakes.
Get your historical fix by visiting Lamb House, a pearl of Georgian architecture, whose wood-panelled interior has housed both royalty and famous authors alike. If the sun is cracking the flags and you don’t want to be cooped up indoors, take the short drive (or walk) down to Camber Sands where you’ll be met with dunes, sand, and salty sea air.
2. Camber Sands – one of the most beautiful beaches to visit in East Sussex
It’s located very near Rye but this place definitely deserves a special place of its own. It’s a beautiful unspoilt spot which is unique in East Sussex as it really stands out among the sea of shingly beaches, as that’s right this beach is covered in fine golden sand! It’s a very beautiful and popular beach to visit in East Sussex for obvious reasons and it’s the only sand dune system in East Sussex.
As well as being popular with sunbathers and swimmers, Camber Sands is also a great place for windsurfing and kite-surfing. It’s also regarded as being one of the best places for beachcombing in the UK.
3. Battle – the market town famous for marking the site of the Battle of Hastings
If you paid attention in your history lessons you’ll know that this gorgeous place in East Sussex is home to a very important historical event. All the way back in 1066 this is where William the Conqueror and his gang fought (and won) in the most famous conflict ever to take place on English soil – The Battle of Hastings.
Today it’s marked by a compact market and popular tourist town nestled in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, that grew up alongside the famous historic battleground. Aside from the year-round programme of historic events, including celebratory bonfires and battle re-enactments, other highlights include the pretty medieval abbey and stunning surrounding ancient woodlands.
4. Lewes – a beautiful historic county town with medieval roots
There’s a joke in East Sussex that to live in Lewes, you need to have one leg longer than the other, due to the fact it is built on two sides of a steep-sided valley. These hills give it all of its allure, however, and you will find a range of interesting sites and things to look at. It has been a cultural seat since the Normans arrived in 1066 boasting nothing less than; a castle, a working brewery offering tours (and maybe a taste or two, yum!), and various museums and gardens.
It’s a fantastic place to visit in East Sussex for independent shops, cafes, and restaurants, and for literary aficionados, it’s also top class. Head down the road and visit Monks’ House, the home of Virginia Woolf, admire the gardens or take a guided tour to truly appreciate the ‘great charms’ which she spoke about so dearly. Lewes has plenty of accommodation on offer, perfect for striking out into the East Sussex countryside.
5. Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters – a coastal area of extraordinary beauty to explore in East Sussex
Located at the foot of the South Downs, the Birling Gap offers a cracking view, a nice cuppa, and the ability to explore amongst the rocks down by the sea. Whichever way you turn you will be looking at something beautiful.
When facing to the south, a super rocky beach (reached by steep steps, so mind yours) gives a windswept panorama of the English Channel, turn Northwards and you will see rolling meadows and quintessentially English country charm. “Ah but what about East and West?” Well, turn East and you’ll be looking along the length of Beachy head (more about that in a bit) and turn West and you’ll be able to see the iconic Seven Sisters, a series of rocky chalk outcrops that are both beautiful and ever so slightly menacing.
6. Bodiam Castle – a beautiful 14th-century moated castle to visit in East Sussex
For old and young minds alike, Bodiam Castle is a great day out if you want to get a taste of the past. Stare through arrow slots, stride across medieval courtyards, and walk across the bridge spanning the large moat.
The castle’s exterior is really well preserved, giving a real flavour of 14th-century life, unfortunately, the inside isn’t quite so well maintained, but that said you’ll still be able to indulge your ‘inner knight’ with a bit of brainpower and imagination. Easily one of the best castles to visit in England.
7. Batemans House – a stunning 17th century Jacobean house which was home to writer Rudyard Kipling
You wouldn’t normally associate anything in East Sussex with ‘The Jungle Book’ however this beautiful country house was once the home of the famous author and British imperialist Rudyard Kipling.
As an example of Jacobean architecture, it is really stunning. You can visit the study where he composed a great many of his works, and if the weather is nice, take a stroll around a stereotypical English country garden, before stopping in the café for a quick brew. One of the best places to visit in East Sussex.
8. Beachy Head – the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain
Vast sea panoramas and a bit of a walk, great! Beachy Head is one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks and one of the most famous places to visit in East Sussex. Radiant white cliffs drop rapidly to the tumultuous sea. You can walk all the way along the top of them (please stay away from the edge).
If you are brave enough, you’ll be met with a super view of Eastbourne, and depending on your vantage point you might even be able to spot the Seven Sisters. Beachy Head also has a small museum dedicated to the local area. If you are feeling brave, and have super sturdy walking shoes (and a tide table) it is possible to walk down through ‘Cow Gap’ at the bottom of the cliffs and make your way along the rugged coastline all the way along to the Birling Gap. (Warning: it is not for the faint-hearted!)
9. Seaford Head and Seaford Beach – a beautiful place to explore in East Sussex
If you go West from the Seven Sisters you’ll find yourself at Seaford Head and their gorgeous long wide beach. Whilst not quite as iconic as Beachy Head it also promises great views of the surrounding countryside and is in fact the best place to get the best view (and maybe a quick snap) of the Seven Sisters.
It also happens to be a nature reserve, so if you want to take your binoculars and tick a few different species off your list then this is the place to do it.
10. South Downs – often referred to as the lungs of south-east England
Rolling chalk hills, greenery, and countryside loveliness, it sounds good to us. With over 250 square miles of countryside to explore you will be spoiled for choice. Beachy head forms the start of the south downs and to the North West, the beauty continues. There is a structured path if you want to stay firmly on the beaten track, with 100 miles of things to see and do along the way.
Stop by Ditchling Beacon, the third-highest point on the South Downs, which offers 360-degree vistas where you can take in the sights, sounds, and sea air that blows in from the Channel. If you like a bit of geology pay a visit to Devils Dyke, which is a sweeping ‘dry valley’ formed in the last ice age.
11. Lullington Heath Nature Reserve – one of the largest areas of chalk heath in Britain
Along the South Downs you might just come across Lullington Heath, the nature lovers amongst you will want to stop for a while. It is a rare example of chalk heathland and provides a home to several species only found in this area.
Butterflies, wildflowers, and various birdlife are easy to spot and there is a visitor centre to give you a little bit of education before or after your visit. A very tranquil and beautiful place to explore in East Sussex.
12. Bexhill – a relaxed coastal town with a traditional seafront
Unlike Brighton, Bexhill has been left well alone when it comes to tourism. It is relatively underdeveloped and is a breath of fresh air if you want to enjoy the seaside without the crowds.
It does have a long and quiet promenade, perfect for an evening stroll. It’s also pretty convenient as the pebble beach can be hard going for those who are slightly less agile. There are seafront shops so you can stop for refreshments but its charm lies in the fact that there isn’t too much around.
13. High Weald – one of England’s finest and most stunning landscapes to explore
They don’t just give out awards for areas of outstanding natural beauty you know? It has to actually look really special. Fortunately, High Weald easily meets the requirements. When most people use the words ‘home counties’ High Weald is really what they mean.
Rolling meadows, timber-framed cottages with whisps of chimney smoke seeping upwards, and the occasional wooded area make a visit something to remember. There are numerous walks and rambles to partake in amongst this 500 square mile area of gorgeousness. Whether you want to wear a few inches off of your walking boots or recline in a wildflower fronted pub with a mug of dark and cloudy beer, you’ll find something to appeal.
14. Cuckmere Haven – a peaceful, pet-friendly riverfront beach
For a beach trip that isn’t the usual ‘pier and ice cream’ look no further than Cuckmere Haven. Sand castles might not be possible, but what you will get is striking views of chalk cliffs, waves that look like white horses galloping to the shore, dilapidated wooden groynes and a view to die for.
Just to the east of the Seven Sisters, Cuckmere Haven provides ample opportunity for a relatively remote walk and on a quiet day you’ll be lucky if you see anyone. The pebble beach can be hard on the old hooves, so wear something sturdy.
15. Eastbourne – a seaside resort which is the UK’s sunniest place!
We really love Eastbourne, it’s like somebody shrunk Brighton and sent it off to a finishing school. It has a lovely pier and sea walks. It has whatever you are looking for in the seaside all within a 15-minute walk. If you long for peace and quiet, head west to Holywell, where you’ll be greeted by well-manicured gardens, colourful beach huts, and a wonderful natural lagoon created when the tide goes out, or go East by the pier and get your fingers greasy with fish and chips before maybe having a candy floss for dessert.
The pier offers a lovely walk in the evening and once you are done you can head directly opposite the pier into the centre of town for a couple of drinks and maybe a nice evening meal at one of the countless restaurants.
16. Brighton’s West Pier and the South Laines – the fun bohemian city’s most unique spots to visit
Brighton’s West Pier was the pier to copy at one point in its history, it was an example of what the British seaside was all about, but over the years it fell into disrepair before being irreparably damaged by a fire in 2003. Whilst sad, the remains of the pavilion now stand staunchly out to sea, a haunting skeleton that speaks of better times long since passed.
However, take your camera at sunset and you’ll be able to get atmospheric and indeed quite beautiful images. The withered remains of what was once the jewel in the beaches crown provide amazing opportunities to get silhouettes and images that will have your mates calling you ‘the next David Bailey’. Even if you aren’t a whizz with the camera it doesn’t matter. The view alone is worth the visit and once the sun sets, you’ll be able to raise a glass to the past whilst exploring Brighton’s vibrant nightlife.
Don’t leave without exploring the rest of the eternally popular bohemian town and Brighton has some truly incredible spots and attractions. Easily one of the best though is the South Laines which are an atmospheric maze of independent and cafe-lined streets. Also throw in jewellery stores, antique stories, traditional pubs, and upscale restaurants and you’ve got yourself a pretty fabulous place to visit indeed!
17. Alfriston and Cuckmere Valley – one of the best areas to explore in East Sussex
Drive out of Eastbourne to the North West and you’ll find yourself in Alfriston nestled in the heart of a very beautiful and highly photogenic valley formed by the River Cuckmere. It is a kitsch little village that comes complete with picturesque churches, a village green, and meandering river walks.
Stop for a tea at one of the numerous village cafes or pay a visit to the first-ever National Trust property at St Andrew’s church. The village has several guesthouses and would be somewhere super picturesque to stay if you are looking to explore the surrounding area.