Brighton is fun but sometimes you need a change of scenery. The seagulls are too loud, the summer crowds are just too much. Meaning: You need to get out. Seeing as I've had a lot of emails lately on this subject, today seems like the perfect day to talk about the subject. There are so many day trips you can take from Brighton, but I wanted to share a few of my favourites I've done time and again, each of them no longer than an hour train ride or drive away. So, let's not hold things up any longer. Here are 6 day trips from Brighton that feel a world away. I hope they inspire your off-beat travel planning and next Brighton itinerary. Let me know of any others you have in the comments.
Day trips from Brighton
1. A wander around Lewes, an under-rated Sussex town. Surrounded by chalky cliffs and set amid the rolling South Downs, the pretty market town of Lewes a 20-minute train ride from Brighton is the perfect weekend city escape hatch. Like Brighton, it has cobbled streets, cosy pubs and cafes - like this hidden French cafe – and independent shops and flea markets to lose yourself in (like this cool one), but it's smaller, and calmer, with fewer people to negotiate with when you walk around. It's the kind of place you’ll find Brightonians escaping the weekend crowds, work-weary Londoners catching their breath, and well-heeled country folk hanging out, everyone meandering the cobbled streets, dipping in and out of all the little shops.
2.Wine tasting at a little-known Sussex vineyard. Discovering local wineries makes a great day trip from Brighton, and is the perfect reason to head for the hills and escape the summer city crowds. Big name brands aside, there are plenty of smaller boutique wineries that are just as interesting. So, with your weekends away in mind readers, I’ve put together a guide to smaller, lesser-known vineyards within 10 kilometres of Brighton, for you to explore on your next trip to the seaside. Bonus tip: You could combine a visit to the Sussex winery with a hike in the countryside or some village hopping.
3. Hastings Old Town. Around an hour east of Brighton along the coast (by car or train) is the seaside town of Hastings, a smaller, more grown-up version of Brighton. It has smaller crowds, yet all the seaside nostalgia - a lovely old pier, fish n chips, old sweet shops - an art scene (there's the Hastings Contemporary), and lots of independent shops, pubs and restaurants to hang out in. The Old Town is about a 30-minute walk from the Goat Ledge Cafe on the seafront at St Leonards (try the delicious fish rolls) along the promenade. Highlights of the Old Town are a wander around the backstreets, this curious little museum at the Shirley Leaf and Petal Co, a florist which supplies wildly creative artificial flowers to everyone from Glastonbury to the Alice Through the Looking Glass film; the eccentric AG Hendy homewares shop (featured in here), and a Thai restaurant in a bookshop. On the way back to Brighton, you could stop off at Bexhill for a little mooch at the exhibits on in the De La Warr Pavilion.
4. Climping Beach and East Beach. This magical stretch of beach near Littlehampton is wild, unspoiled and even has sand dunes! You feel a million miles away from the busier town beach resorts nearby, and like you’ve found your own secret beach. It's romantic even on the most dramatic of seaside weather days. We came here one November to celebrate our winter wedding anniversary and had lunch at a cafe that looks like a giant piece of driftwood - or a Hobbit House - and it's called the East Beach Café I talk about here. Or you could pack an impromptu picnic so you’re free to stop when you find a little spot.
5 Go on safari! What to do when the savannahs of Africa are too far and the South Downs are a little too close? Hmm. Well, take out your map of Sussex and find Knepp Wildland, a place I like to call the Africa of Sussex, which is the setting for a huge rewilding project, where you'll see roaming cattle, wild pigs, deer, and can go on an actual safari in a Jeep to spot wildlife!
6. Get lost in the English desert. Yup, that's right. Dungeness on the Kent coast is the only place in England to be classified a desert, apparently. Here, you'll find a power station, one lighthouse, and a scattering of cool looking houses, some lived in, some holiday rentals, and a couple home to little art galleries. The area is also home to large nature reserve with over 600 different types of plant: a third of all those found in Britain, and is rich in particular with birdlife. A visit makes for an atmospheric day out. We also spotted dolphins in the water when we visited recently. Foodwise, I recommend the fish rolls from this incredible little place. What's also fun about Dungeness, is that the Romney, Hythe, and Dymchurch Railway stops here, so you can turn your day out to a longer coastal adventure on steam engine.
BONUS DAY TRIP IDEA: Get to know Sussex unknown. Choose a place from my new book Secret Sussex, and plan a day out around that! Perhaps you'd like to see inside a Vogue war photographer's surreal Sussex home, find a tomb shaped like a Pyramid, wander through a forgotten village by the sea, or relax at in one of Sussex's coolest cafes? COPIES AVAILABLE HERE.