We all know Brighton is full of amazing things to do but how about if you want to escape the hustle and bustle and venture further afield? East Sussex has it all from ancient castles to award winning opera houses and you can find it all in our things to do in East Sussex guide! Have fun!
Glyndebourne presents some of the highest quality opera in the UK, and in beautiful countryside to boot! It has to one of the most beautiful picnic spots in England and if you are lucky enough to have a ticket for the opera you’ve got yourself a perfect afternoon and evening in store. If you’re thinking about food and drink then you’ve got a few options. Most people arrive a couple of hours before the performance starts and picnic in the grounds (weather permitting) but there’s also a restaurant on-site along with bar facilities. Also disabled access and parking is ample and the staff are incredibly helpful.
Tickets prices vary, entry to grounds is free
New Road, Lewes, BN8 5UU
Home to the Gage Family for over 500 years, Firle Place is one of the finest country estates in the UK. The house itself has a large collection of Old Masters Paintings and Sevres Porcelain to feast your eyes upon. Why not bring the home to life with one of their guided tours? No visit is completed without viewing the rest of Firle Village and the old church.
Firle Place, Lewes, BN8 6LP
The former residents of this interesting and beautiful house, were members of the Bloomsbury Group and so almost every flat surface is decorated with art. Artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell moved here in 1916 and for the next sixty years the house was a focal point for great artists, writers, thinkers and socialites. After Grant’s death in 1978 it was saved for the nation by a trust, which then spent six years restoring the dilapidated building. It now resembles the way it looked in the 1950s. Be sure to visit the the pond and be met by the thousand fish who’ll come up to see you! If you only visit the gardens, you’ll be amazed at the kaleidoscope of colour, it’s a walled oasis of tranquillity.
From £10 for house and gardens or £4.50 for gardens only
Firle, Lewes, BN8 6LL
These gorgeous flower gardens date from the 16th century and are a great place to relax and spend a day in. An oasis just a few miles from Brighton full of unusual plants and each season the formal bedding displays are planted to produce a mass of colour so matter the time of year there’s always something to look at.
Southover Road, Lewes, BN7 1TP
Located just off the busy high street in Lewes, follow a set of steep stairs taking you to the top of this 1000 year old castle and you’ll find magnificent views of the Sussex Downs and the surrounding areas. This castle was built by William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey, the son-in-law of William the Conqueror. Various events take place annually including two plays and you can hire the venue for weddings and parties. There is also a childrens area, a garden area and the adjoining Barbican House is home to the Museum of Sussex Archaeology and houses local collections from the Stone Age to medieval times.
Adult £7.20 / Child (5-16) £3.80 / Concessions £6.60 / Family £19.50 (2 adults and up to 4 children)
169 High Street, Lewes, BN7 1YE
When William of Normandy, known as William the Conqueror, landed in England in 1066, he ordered Hastings Castle to be built. Be sure to do ‘The 1066 Story’ – an exciting 20 minute audio-visual programme covering the Conquest and the history of the castle through the centuries. The castle, though in ruins, is fascinating and the chapel still has many features to explore for the keen eyed.
Child ticket £3,70 – Adult ticket £4,50
Castle Hill Road, West Hill, Hastings, TN34 3AR
St Clement’s Caves were formed around 14,000 BC, during the last Ice Age and ever since, these mysterious caves have had a fascinating part to play in the history of the area. They have served as a home, a hospital, an air-raid shelter and a ballroom and over their long history have been visited by everyone from The Rolling Stones to royalty! Today the Caves provide the perfect backdrop for a vivid recreation of the dark and often bloody story of smuggling along the Sussex Coast during its heyday back in the 17th and 18th centuries.Step back in time though mysterious tunnels and caverns to discover the dark secrets of the smugglers. Over 70 life-sized characters, new eerie lighting, sound effects and dramatic recreations bring this mysterious , dangerous and often blood thirsty world vividly to life!
Adult ticket £6.75 / Junior (3-12) ticket £4.75
Smugglers Adventure, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 3HY
A lovely beach for beach combing or just relax and watch the fisherman land their boats whilst having some fish and chips. You’ll also find the Jerwood Art gallery here with the Fishermen’s museum and nice cafe to have a rest plus if you’re hungry there are plenty of fresh seafood restaurants to take your pick from.
Entry free (it’s a beach!)
The United Kingdom’s steepest cliff railway! The West Hill Lift retains its original wooden Victorian coaches, and also runs through a tunnel and offers some remarkable views stretching round to Beachy Head in the West and out across the Channel. Stop off at the West Hill Cafe too which is open throughout the Summer and offers a wide range of drinks and meals. The East Hill Lift provides access to Hastings Country Park which overlooks the Old Town and Rock-a-Nore. It was in the country park that Hastings resident John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, got the inspiration which led to his first TV experiments.
Family of 5 – £6.80 / Return – £2.50 / Senior Citizen/Student Return – £1.50
Queens Square, Hastings, TN34 1TL
A free museum with lots to see including artefacts, stuffed animals and a full size boat you can explore which tells the tales of Hastings’ fisherman through pictures, accounts and films.
Rock-A-Nore Road, Hastings, TN34 3DW
Housed just 20 minutes from Hastings centre and free admission this place is a must visit to day trippers and a place you may want to spend quite a bit of time in! You’ll find many interesting exhibits covering a surprisingly broad spectrum including everything from a Punch & Judy exhibit to the history of the development of television and a Native American section with a showcase of beautifully fashioned clothing. There has to be something there for everyone to enjoy, including the kids!
Bohemia Road, Hastings, TN34 1ET
Well worth a trip if you have children with you. Hastings Miniature Railway opened on 5th June 1948 and still remains a popular tourist attraction today. This fun miniature railway has several engines that have been beautifully restored.
Single £2.00 / Return £3.00
Rock-a-Nore Road, Old Town, Hastings, TN34 3DW
The highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising to 162 metres (531 ft) above sea level, Beachy Head allows uninterrupted views of the South East coast from Dungeness in the East, to Selsey Bill in the West. Perfect for walkers, day trippers, picnic makers or just for driving through – don’t miss the opportunity to see Beachy Head, whatever the weather. If you’re a nature lover, this is one of best things to do in Eastbourne.
Beachy Head Road, Eastbourne, BN20 7YA
You’ll be amazed at how much history is squeezed into this small museum! “How We Lived Then” has well over 100,000 exhibits laid out on FOUR floors of authentic old shops, room-settings and many various displays which have been collected over the last FIFTY-ODD years jointly by the owners, husband and wife team, Jan and Graham Upton. The Collection appeals to people of all ages. It’s pure nostalgia for the older folk and history for the young.
20 Cornfield Terrace, Eastbourne, BN21 4NS
A Railway Adventure in Eastbourne. Travel behind the famous one-eighth scale miniature locomotives as they meander for nearly a mile around the beautiful country park. Enjoy a pleasant stroll around the five-acre lake where nature and wildlife may be seen in their natural habitats. Relax in the prize-winning tea gardens with a beverage, lunch or Cream Tea from the railway style cafe. Plus there are picnic areas, a Railway Gift Shop and an adventure playground for the kids. Your arm may ache at the end from all the waving but it’s well worth it!
Adults: £5.25 / Children & Seniors: £4.75 / Under 3’s Free / Family Ticket (4 people): £18.50
Lottbridge Drove, Eastbourne, BN23 6QJ
An action packed 2 acre family fun park by the beach with indoor and outdoor fun. Splash in the new Super Splash Park, ride the Thunder Falls water ride, take a flight on the balloon ride, carousel, dodgems, bat ride and much more. Visit Rocky’s Adventure Land, a huge indoor soft play area, with separate area for under 5’s. Includes baby friendly cafe. Why not enjoy a quick round at the outdoor American Adventure Golf – great for all ages!
Adult £5.50 / Children £10.50 / 1 & under £2.00
Royal Parade, Eastbourne, BN22 7LQ
The Gardens and Grounds of Herstmonceux Castle comprise of a 300 acre estate including woodland, formal themed gardens and the 15th century moated castle. Made from red brick Herstmonceux Castle is one of the earliest examples of a brick built building in England. As you head through the themed gardens you will work your way towards the woodland trails where you can enjoy a peaceful stroll and take in the carefully managed flora and fauna of the estate. Discoveries such as Woodhenge, 300 year old Chestnut Trees, the Folly and Secret Garden as well as our Lake and Moat Walk all add to the escapism of everyday life. Be sue to keep an eye out for the wandering Peacocks! Refresh yourself after your stroll at Chestnuts Tea Room and the Visitors Centre.
Adults £2.50 – £12.70 / Children Under 16 £3.00 – £8.30 / Children Under 5 Free / Family Ticket for 5 £14.00 – £38.90
Wartling Road Entrance, Hailsham, BN27 1RN
A small historic museum detailing the history of Rye from Roman times with lots of artefacts from different centuries. The castle itself is small also but worth a visit. Be sure to ask to see the secret dungeon which is open on Thursdays and Mondays and you’ll get a surprise!
3 East St, Rye, TN31 7JY
This historic mill in the Forest is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Generally open once month during the Spring and Summer, check the Sussex Mills Group website for details of dates. You can spend a pleasant hour or so here exploring the mill with the help of the enthusiastic volunteers who care for it. It is pleasant stroll from the nearby “Friends” car park and could easily be combined with a longer walk on the lovely Ashdown Forest.
Crowborough Road, Nutley TN22 3HY
Lots of hands-on fun for the kids along with a number of science talks and a planetarium. Permanent exhibitions include ‘The Domes of Discovery’ which shows various techniques that are used in astronomy, ‘Earth and Beyond’ which tells Earth’s story and takes you on a journey from the beginning of time, ‘Forces’ which explores the concepts of gravity, magnetism, air pressure and electromagnetic force, ‘Light and Colour’ where you can investigate many different aspects of light and colour and how this technology is used by the telescopes at the centre and ‘Constellation Quest’ where you can use innovative ‘Minority Report’ style technology to interpret the constellations. This venue really does foster a love for science and a desire for learning in kids.
Adult £8.80 / Child (4-16 yrs) £6.80 / Senior £7.10 / Family of 4 £27.75
Herstmonceux, Hailsham, BN27 1RN
A great place for a long walk and to take in wonderful views of Sussex. There is a park trail which takes you through the different habitats and past the main features of the park and the beach trail which is a shorter alternative. The Visitor Centre on-site provides an excellent free first port of call and houses displays detailing the history, geology and wildlife of the Park as well as a souvenir shop selling local craft items. Cyclists can use the valley floor to cycle to the beach or for those wanting a longer or more challenging ride the nearby Friston Forest offers marked mountain bike trails. Canoeists can also use the slip way behind the riverside car park to enter and exit the meanders. Car parking, toilets, refreshments and bike hire are all available on site.
Seaford, BN25 4AD
A small 10 acre zoo near Alfriston ideal for kids between 2 and 10 years old. Drusillas is a unique attraction, with a good variety of smaller animals (no elephants, lions or giraffes, but lots of meercats, gibbons and penguins), plus a great play area, graded for different age groups. There are also a variety of workshops on offer and kids can even feed the animals too! The park also has the Thomas train which takes you on a ride around the park and a Hello Kitty Secret Garden which has rides.
Prices from £10.50
Alfriston Road, Berwick, BN26 5QS
Set in the heart of an historic landscape, with spiral staircases, battlements and a portcullis, 14th century Bodiam Castle is one of Britain’s most picturesque and romantic ancient monuments. There are also lots of seasonal events throughout the year including the ‘Knight & Princess Academy’ for kids, ‘Building Bodiam’ where you can walk around a recreation of a medieval tented village and archery lessons as well as free guided tours. In Summer the grounds around the castle are a great place to spend a lazy summer afternoon so pack up a picnic and bring a rug to sit on and enjoy the view!
Adult: £7.80 / Child: £3.90 / Family: £19.50 / Group adult: £6.80 / Group child: £3.40
Robertsbridge, Bodiam, TN32 5UA
Battle Abbey is a partially ruined abbey built on the scene of the Battle of Hastings. An audio guide and 30 minute walk around the battlefield provides a fantastic insight into what happened in 1066 and afterwards. It’s good for kids too with plenty of space to run around plus there’s an interactive museum and cafe. There’s also a small museum and a nice picnic area to enjoy in the Summer months.
Adult entry £8.30
High Street, Battle, Hastings and Battle, TN33 0AD
The Bentley Wildfowl and Motor Museum is a fantastic day out for all of the family. A stunning collection of cars and with friendly faces to explain each vehicle’s origin. There are some real beauties here and the wildfowl area is surprisingly big and and great for the kids to enjoy and learn about some interesting animals. A courtyard cafe with outdoor seating serving tasty food with delightful views over the beautiful Sussex countryside.
Adult £8 / Senior £7 / Child £6
Halland, East Sussex BN8 5AF