Nestled between the South Downs and the English Channel, West Sussex is a magnificent county with a lot to offer. It’s home to towns and villages teeming with history, beauty and charm. Its coastline is both familiar and varied, and its hills are alluring, with secret treasures tucked away in every valley.
The county has attracted people for centuries. It has inspired literary greats such as Virginia Woolfe, who became infatuated with the area. She wrote: “Evening is kind to Sussex, for Sussex is no longer young, and she is grateful for the veil of evening as an elderly woman is glad when a shade is drawn over a lamp, and only the outline of her face remains. The outline of Sussex is still very fine.”
You shouldn’t just visit West Sussex, you should visit it as soon as you possibly can.
Villages and towns
Petworth High Street, West Sussex ©Getty
This small Sussex market town is made for any weather: there’s magnificent countryside to explore when the sun is shining, and when it isn’t, a wealth of treasure-filled shops beckon you in.
Arundel Castle ©Getty
Arundel is an unassuming market town nestled in the South Downs 10 miles east of Chichester, but that isn’t to say there isn’t much to see here.
Explore each nook and cranny of the cobbled town centre. Bustle in and out of brilliant independent shops before travelling back in time to the medieval castle. Built in 1067, Arundel Castle is one of England’s oldest inhabited country houses and still retains many of its original features. Ascend the town’s hill to find a Roman Catholic cathedral. Take some time here and savour the stunning gothic architecture.
A typical old English village street – Steyning, West Sussex ©Getty
Take a day to potter around Steyning, a charming town burrowed between Shoreham-by-Sea and Horsham. Marvel at Tudor cottages and Georgian town houses, wander into delightful shops, cafes and pubs. On Steyning’s doorstep sits the entire South Downs, waiting to be discovered.
Bluebells cover the woodland floor ©Getty
This moderate walk links the villages of North Marden, East Marden and Up Marden, passing swathes of wildflowers in the spring, old churches and and wooded hillsides. Route and map.
England, Sussex, Chichester, Beach at West Wittering ©Getty
West and East Wittering sit on the edge of the Manhood Peninsula, looking out to the Isle of Wight to the South, Hayling Island to the west and Chichester Harbour and the South Downs to the North. The Witterings’ white sand and idyllic villages have long attracted high-profile celebrities.
This circular walk takes you through East Dean, Chichester Harbour and West Wittering’s coast and village. Route and map.
Sunset on the South Downs/Credit: Getty Images
The South Downs Way stretches over 100 miles of rolling hills and picturesque villages from Winchester to Eastbourne, passing right through the heart of West Sussex. If you really want to get a feeling of this historic country, there are few better ways to see it than embarking on the South Downs Way. Route and map.
Where to stay
Amberley Castle ©Rob Farrow
Can you think of anywhere better to stay during your trip than a medieval castle? Erected in the 12th century, Amberley Castle is now West Sussex’s most fashionable hotel. Wander around 12 acres of formal gardens, boarded by castle walls, or try your hand at golf, tennis and croquet.
The Horse Guards Inn, Tillington © Maigheach-gheal
Tired from your day of exploring Petworth’s charming high street? Stay at the Horse Guards Inn in Tillington on the outskirts of Petworth. This bed and breakfast has sweeping views of the South Downs and a cosy pub. Spend the following day exploring extraordinary Petworth House and its 700 acre deer park designed by Capability Brown.
The YHA is a perfect place to stop when trekking the South Downs Way © Bob-Embleton
The YHA have hostels across the country, allowing people to explore the countryside on a low budget. There are a few located across the South Downs, making it the perfect place for a brief stay when walking the long-distance path.
YHA hostels are basic, hygienic and most importantly, really cheap.
Where to eat
The George, Eartham ©Kevin Gordon
The George at Eartham is a quintessentially English pub, with a warm atmosphere, fantastic food and an ideal location. The menu changes regularly, reflecting the current season and the local produce that comes with it.
This high-profile, Michelin-starred restaurant offers a one-off, indulgent evening. Sat in the heart of Horsham High Street, Restaurant Tristan serves some of the best food in the county.
The Fox Goes Free, Charlton ©Paul Farrow
Eat at the Fox Goes Free after spending a day at nearby glorious Goodwood Racecourse/Credit: Getty Image
The Fox Goes Free is an atmospheric pub and B&B in the modest hamlet of Charlton, surrounded by the South Downs’ rolling hills and situated just north of Goodwood Racecourse. You can choose from seven different areas to dine in and the menu changes daily.
Main image ©Getty