Venture out of the city of London for a rural escape and you’ll find yourself in the idyllic countryside of England.  The idea of an English getaway conjures up images of quaint villages, narrow lanes, rolling hills, stone walls, forests, walking paths, fields of sheep grazing, historic churches, thatched cottages, medieval castles and cozy pubs. 

In this piece, we highlight Sussex in Southeast England, as part of our England Getaways Series.  Sussex is known for its “dramatic coastline, beautiful downland, colorful woodland and remarkable history. From east to west, Sussex is the home of some of Britain’s most famous seaside resorts and its youngest National Park,” noted by the National Trust.

We stayed in West Sussex at Gravetye Manor, a grand 16th-century country estate built by an ironmaster Richard Infield for his bride.

There’s lot to explore in the area — winding walking paths between villages, antique fairs in Ardingly, botanical gardens at Wakehurst Place, and concerts in Glyndebourne & more.

Only 12 miles from Gatwick Airport and 30 miles from central London, this area is easy to reach.

Sharing our favorites – where to stay, dine and what to do.

Find more photos on our Instagram account, click here!

STAY

Gravetye Manor:  This award-winning boutique hotel offers 17 bedrooms, a Michelin starred restaurant and a historic garden.  Set on 35 acres of tranquil English countryside and wooded parklands, this historic hotel is one of the most charming getaways in England. Gravetye is a member of Relais & Chateaux and Pride of Britain Hotels and well recognized throughout the world.

Our exclusive deluxe room, the Ash Suite, was spacious with a 4-poster bed, wood-paneling, a sitting area with views looking out to the Flower Gardens, and a large bathroom with a separate shower and bathtub. 

The rooms and suites are decorated with lush fabrics and antique furnishings and are equipped with modern amenities (flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi and iPod docks).

The Dining Room at Gravetye was a highlight during our stay – it’s beautiful setting surrounded by glass so you feel like you’re dining in the garden.  Executive Chef George Blogg and Head Chef Charles Coulombeau and team present a delightful menu – our selection included Cured Rainbow Trout with mussels, sesame, turnip, radish and trout roe, Smoked Salt Baked Celeriac with hazelnut, smoked curd and citrus for starters, and the Roasted Romney Salt Marsh Lamb Rack for a shared main were excellent.  The Crab Apple Souffle was a grand finale for dessert. 

Before our breakfast the next morning, we went for a long morning walk around the estate before we returned to the Dining Room. The traditional ‘Full English Breakfast’ included middle white pork sausage, smoked dingley dell back bacon, field mushroom, grilled tomato and eggs, with sides of lambs’ kidneys, stornoway black pudding, baked beans, wilted spinach. Quite a feast before noon!

The Gravetye Manor gardens were designed by the late owner William Robinson, one of England’s greatest gardeners who is known for his concept of the wild garden, a landscape that celebrates nature rather than controls it. Don’t Miss!  Visit the walled garden that was originally planted in 1884, and meet Head Gardener Tom Coward who oversees the gardens today with his team at Gravetye.

The hotel arranges cut flowers, and sources seasonal fruits and veggies from these gardens.  Hotel visitors admire the gardens year round with the Azalea, Rhododendron, and Wildflower gardens in the spring, and the hardy Kitchen Garden in winter.

DO

Take garden walks, play croquet, read a book in front of the fire, or go for a longer walk in the local area – see the trails below ranging from 30 minutes to over 4 hours. Wellies are available at the hotel.

  • The Cat Walk
  • The Wakehurst Walk
  • The Weirwood Walk
  • The Standen Walk
  • The Vineyard Walk

There are more foot paths available at Footprints of Sussex, click here

IN THE AREA

Special thanks to the concierge at Gravetye Manor to help us create this list.

Just minutes away from East Grinstead and West Hoathly, we found Gravetye Manor a convenient place  to stay while visiting many places in the region.

  • West Hoathley:  See historic homes and the old St. Margaret’s church in this picturesque village.  Don’t Miss!  Dining at The Cat Inn, a 16th century inn – order the steak, ale & mushroom pie or the ploughman’s lunch.
  • Lindfield:  this charming village has won regional awards as the Best Kept Village in Sussex.
  • Wakehurst Place:  Stroll through this country estate of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew – 500 acres of rich landscape with ornamental gardens, temperate woodlands and a nature reserve with wildlife.
  • Antique Show:  One of the Top UK antique fairs takes place in Ardingly, only 5 miles from Gravetye. Up to 1,700 stalls housing thousands of goods – from fine antique furniture to delicate ceramics can be found here. It has a reputation as one of the UK antique fairs where quality European decorative items can be found.
  • Sheffield Park: A landscaped garden, stretching over 120 acres with lakes, waterfalls – great example of Capability Brown landscaped gardens.
  • Standen: If you’re interested in the Arts and Crafts movement, visit this estate that dates back to the 1890’s.
  • Ashdown Forest:  There are 6500 acres of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a great place for walking and enjoying spectacular views over the Sussex countryside. Also known the world over as the ‘home’ of Winnie-the-Pooh. Visit the famous Pooh Bridge near the village of Hartfield, only 15 minutes by car from Gravetye Manor.
  • The Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club:  Founded in 1888, it is ranked by Golf World as one of the top 100 clubs in the British Isles and within a 20 minute drive of Gravetye.
  • East Sussex National Golf Club:  There are two stunning Championship courses where they have hosted European Opens. The course is located just outside Uckfield (40 minute drive). Open daily from 8.00am with eighteen holes taking 4½ hours to complete.
  • Shooting:  The area boasts some fine game shooting in the Winter.
  • Motor Racing:  Whether it be the Goodwood Revival, Glorious Goodwood or the Festival of Speed, Gravetye is the ideal base for all that Goodwood has to offer. Journey time to is approximately 75 minutes.
  • Horse Riding:  With notice, Gravetye can arrange hacks on the Ashdown Forest.
  • Sussex Polo: A professional and welcoming club. Ideal for players wanting high standards of low goal polo or to learn to play in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere all year round. Only a 10 minute drive from Gravetye Manor.
  • Hickstead is synonymous with showjumping. As host to the British Grand Prix and the only Nations Cup competition in the British Isles, it is the home of British showjumping. Located only 35 minutes by car from Gravetye.
  • Bluebell Railway: A Heritage Steam Railway running through the glorious Sussex countryside with a station on Gravetye’s doorstep. As the name suggests, at the right time of year swathes of bluebells line the tracks. William Robinson himself would throw bulbs from the moving train to encourage the flowers.
  • The Glyndebourne Festival (May-August) celebrates world-class music and theatre at its best. In the world of opera, Glyndebourne is unique. Set in the Sussex countryside, it is nevertheless recognized globally as one of the great opera houses.

FURTHER OUT….

  • Hever Castle:  Visit the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife, and later purchased in 1903 by American millionaire William Waldorf Astor. Click here to find out how you can stay at Hever Castle.
  • Chartwell Estate & Gardens:  Visit the family home of Sir Winston Churchill’s and see the museum, collection of memorabilia.
  • Brighton:  Visit the pier and beach at this coastal town on a day trip.

NOTE: We will continue to add to this list on our next trip to England…stay tuned!

Feel free to add your comments and favorites in the comments section so we can find out your favorite places to visit in Sussex.

Acknowledgements: Global Adventuress thanks Gravetye Manor for hosting us during our stay.