cuckmere haven

10 Beautiful places to visit in East Sussex

We moved down to East Sussex over a year ago now and have been busy exploring our new part of the world. I absolutely adore it here. There's still so much to discover, but I wanted to share the current favourites, as I get asked quite often about the best places to visit. You will notice a strong bias towards the coast  - it has been our dream for many, many years to live by the sea….

10 beautiful places to visit in East Sussex
  1. Cuckmere Haven

  2. Seaford Head

  3. Birling Gap

  4. Seaford Beach

  5. Camber Sands

  6. Alfriston (and the walk to it from High & Over)

  7. Bexhill

  8. Lewes

  9. Eastbourne seafront

  10. Merriments Garden

You will notice that Brighton's not on the list. I love Brighton, but I figured everyone knows about it already and there are tons of guides already written, so I thought I'd focus on some of the other places.....


1. Cuckmere Haven

This just had to be no.1 - it was the place that sealed the deal for us moving out here - we fell head over heels the first time we visited.

Cuckmere Haven is an area of flood plains where the river Cuckmere meets the English Channel. It has a lovely shingle beach with magnificent views of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs. The beach is split in two where the river meets the sea and you can access it from either side. The most popular way is to follow the path alongside the river from the Seven Sisters Country Park - it is very accessible and very popular with tourists. My favourite side is the other side - smaller and quieter. You can drive and park at South Hill Barn on the outskirts of Seaford and walk 10 minutes or so down to the beach. The 360 degree views along the way are so beautiful.

On the left you have the lush green South Downs, with the river Cuckmere snaking its way down to the sea, and on the right you have sheer cliffs and the sea. It feels wild and peaceful. If you are feeling energetic, you could walk from Seaford along the cliff path and enjoy beautiful views all the way. In fact, if you have a lot of energy you can walk from Seaford all the way to Eastbourne.


2. Seaford Head

The cliff path that leads to Cuckmere Haven starts at Seaford, at the eastern end of the beach. In just a few minutes you can climb high up on the cliffs to wonderful views of the Seven Sisters. I love coming out here to get away from it all. It’s the perfect place to come and clear your head. It’s also a nature reserve - I’ve seen lots of butterflies here in the summer and it's popular with bird watchers.  It's also a beautiful area to kayak around (especially when the sea's all sparkly) - the perfect way to access hidden coves.


3. Birling Gap

The Birling Gap is a stunning shingle beach in the middle of the Seven Sisters, in the care of the National Trust. It is accessed via a metal viewing platform and steps. It’s the kind of place to make you feel humble and in awe at the power of nature and the sea. Coastal erosion is a big issue here - as much as 0.7 metres are eroded every year with frequent cliff falls. The NT visitor centre shows photos of the area in years past, and you can see the row of cottages perched on the edge of the cliff diminishing in number.

There is so much to look at and enjoy here - when the tide is low, vast swathes of white chalk rock are exposed. As well as walking on the beach, dodging the waves and marvelling at the tall cliffs above, I love to walk on the cliff paths.

In one direction you can walk to Cuckmere Haven, and in the other, to Beachy Head and on to Eastbourne. The walking is pretty strenuous, though, with massive undulations as you climb and descend the brows of the Seven Sisters. For more information on walking in this area have a look at the Walking Club website and the Beachy Head website.

It makes a lovely spot for a picnic and there is also a National Trust cafe here which serves food.

If you do come out here to visit, may I plead with you to stay away from the edge of the cliffs - the drops are sheer and the cliffs are very crumbly….I see so many visitors posing for photos perilously close to the edge - it just isn’t worth it.


4. Seaford Beach

Well, I just had to mention Seaford beach! This is my local and I love it here. At the eastern end are a cluster of pretty pastel beach huts - if you follow me on Instagram I’m pretty sure you will have seen lots of photos of them! The area is wonderfully undeveloped (just a couple of coffee places) and parking is free - a rarity in today’s age. There is a concrete path that runs the entire length of the beach all the way to Tide Mills, the New Haven end of the beach and another nature reserve. It’s always popular with dog walkers and usually a few fishermen and sometimes kayakers and paddle boarders. It gets very busy in the summer at the weekends, but I guess that’s true of every beach! Nevertheless, we enjoyed some deckchair lazing at the height of summer :)


5. Camber Sands

Camber Sands is a vast sandy beach at the easternmost end of East Sussex, near Rye (another lovely place on our "to visit" list) and is the only sand dune system in the county. So it’s the place to come if you need a sandy beach fix and a change from all the shingle (another lovely alternative sandy beach is West Wittering in West Sussex - a firm favourite of ours). It’s a huge open space and reminds me of Saunton Sands beach in Devon.


6. Alfriston

Alfriston is a lovely, small historical village in the middle of the South Downs. It’s a popular stop off for walkers and cyclists and is full of tea shops. It has a beautiful bookshop called Much Ado (closed until 4th Feb) with a lovingly curated selection of books, including lots of crafty numbers. It also stocks Flow Magazine, a personal favourite of mine. There is a beautiful walk you can do from High and Over (a viewpoint looking over the Cuckmere Valley, with a car park) via Litlington, and along the river, which is just lovely.


7. Bexhill

Bexhill is a seaside town in-between Eastbourne and Hastings. It has some beautiful art deco architecture and is home to the De La Warr Pavillion, an art gallery with a theatre and a cafe. It’s a nice place to come for a stroll along the seafront, a leisurely coffee and cake overlooking the sea, and a wander around the exhibitions.


8. Lewes

Lewes is a wonderful town to visit, with a good range of independent shops and lots of antique shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s also lovely to wander around the steep cobbled lanes (the Twittens) off the High Street and peer at all the interesting houses. There is a castle if that is your thing and there are also the lovely public (free) Southover Grange Gardens, a little off the beaten track.

A few favourite shops include: Closet & Botts, Popsicle  (located in the Needlemakers), Wickle, Flint and the Flint Owl Bakery - but there are lots more!


9. Eastbourne seafront

Eastbourne’s seafront is a lovely place to stroll along with its famous victorian pier. I’m particularly fond of the Holywell end, which is much quieter and usually very popular with dog walkers. You can also pick up the cliff path at Eastbourne and walk towards Beachy Head and onwards to the Birling Gap. For more info on walks have a look at the National Trails website, the Beachy Head website, or the Walking Club website for the entire route.


10. Merriments Garden

I had to squeeze one garden into the list! Merriments is located near Hawkhurst, not far from the Kent border. It’s a lovely garden, packed full of flowers with lots of curves and different viewpoints. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed visiting it throughout the seasons. The cherry blossom near the Monet bridge was rather spectacular in spring, shedding clouds of white petals into the Tulips beneath.


If you'd like to see more photos, you might like to have a browse of my East Sussex albums on Flickr:

Or you might like to follow along with my East Sussex board on Pinterest:


So that’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll be back with more recommendations once we’ve done some more exploring (including some for nearby West Sussex and Kent). I’d love to hear what your favourite places to visit in East Sussex are….


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10 beautiful places to visit in East Sussex

Gratitude

As I wandered down a track last week and my view opened out to reveal the stunning coastline below, I felt completely overwhelmed with gratitude and my heart was singing with joy. I had reached this point by walking from my house, by myself. As someone who struggles with chronic fatigue and doesn't get out that often, this was a big deal. It reminded me of my thankfulness practice and I thought I would share a little of that here.

It was a beautiful day, and I felt the strong urge to get some fresh air. We are still exploring our new part of the world and my husband had managed to get to Cuckmere Haven on his morning run, so I just thought I would see how far I could get.... I walked past lots of fields with spring lambs frolicking around and their mothers eyeing me suspiciously. Birds were singing and lots of folk were out walking their dogs.....

Cuckmere Haven is one of those super special places you don't encounter very often (it was one of the reasons we chose to pack our bags and move out here). As you wander down the track from South Hill Barn, you can see the rolling South Downs on your left and fields full of sheep and lambs. There is just so much S-P-A-C-E. Space to think and breathe. Space for ideas and new possibilities...

As you descend, the view seems to grow bigger and bigger and you can see the beautiful beach and majestic cliffs, and the coastguard cottages, just clinging on to the edge of the cliffs. You literally have a 360 degree view of the most beautiful countryside and coast. I was full of so much joy, just standing there and taking it all in.

I have my beautiful mother to thank for so many things, including a love for the simple things in life and practicing thankfulness. Every day, my mum would record several things she had to be thankful for in a journal - it could be a beautiful bird song, a glimmer of sunshine on a grey day, some kind words from a friend. It wasn't an easy task for her, as she suffered a great deal of pain and sickness in her last years, as she battled with cancer. But she chose to see the positives in life, despite being dealt such a cruel hand. It is amazing how much difference it can make to your life by focussing on the good things, rather than the bad. They say that what you pay attention to grows stronger. Let it be the good stuff.

It's a practice that has stayed with me, over the years. I started out writing down the things I was thankful for in a journal every day, but this fell by the wayside as life got busy and I got tireder. So instead, I just run through it all in my mind when I'm in bed, before I go to sleep. It's a lovely thing to focus on before you drift off. Of course, there are many benefits to writing it all down, not least the chance to review it and remind yourself of all the joy in your life when you are struggling, but I think it is better to do it, than not. So as with most things in life, I think it's important to find a way that works for you.

That beautiful day last week I had so much to be thankful for. I stared at the mesmerising waves for as long as I could stand, and then I sat and watched some more. And then I wandered along slowly, looking for shells, another favourite past time I share with my mum.

Today, I am thankful for

  • The most beautiful bird song and golden light as I did my morning yoga practice
  • Having the time and space to write this post and edit my photos
  • The lessons my chronic fatigue is teaching me. I totally overdid it last week. A faint whiff of energy and I'm off - I got so excited by being able to walk to Cuckmere Haven, that I went twice, as well as several other decent walks and even cycles and started enthusiastically logging it all with a fitbit, comparing myself to my husband. What I should have been doing, is pacing myself, and doing less than I think I can. Today, my body is complaining strongly and forcing me to slow down. The fitbit has been abandoned and I'm grateful to be able to take things slowly, and for the self-awareness that comes with managing a chronic illness. Comparing myself to others is not a good thing!
  • The beautiful golden daffodils bobbing around outside my window as I write this
  • Getting one more of our plumbing leaks fixed!

What are you thankful for today?

A fabulous week in East Sussex

Back in August, we enjoyed a wonderful, restorative week by the sea, exploring the East Sussex coast. I'm also extremely excited to say that we are planning to move here (to Seaford), so sea fixes will be more than an occasional treat! Hurrah! Lots of hoops to jump through, yet, though - the house buying and selling process seems to be achingly slow....wish us luck! I still can't quite believe that all this stunning scenery will be on our doorstep!

We stayed in a fabulous cabin in the South Downs, not far from Alfriston, through Airbnb. Such a peaceful spot. I challenge you not to unwind when this is your view! The cabin was full of beautiful, original artwork by its owner and had so much character. Everything was so tactile. Even though it was August, we lit the log burning stove - just because :) I can highly recommend it if you are looking for a get away from it all spot (and it's really well located for visiting lots of places too).

There's just to much to see. We had a fun day exploring Alfriston, with its picture postcard perfect church, and Lewes. I have a feeling we only scratched the surface of Lewes - I am looking forward to going back! I did manage to find a lovely fabric shop, though, and we stumbled across some really pretty public gardens. There were antique shops aplenty, but I was very restrained (feeling rather overwhelmed by "stuff" at the moment, as we sort and declutter!).

We also headed out to Seaford at the end of the day - I was desperate for my first sea fix! It was a blustery day, so the waves were rather energetic. I'm SO looking forward to this being our local view! I hope you won't get bored of these beach huts ;)

I think the highlight of our trip was the stunningly beautiful Cuckmere Haven. You can approach it from a couple of ways. One day we came across the cliff path from Seaford Head via the picturesque coastguard cottages (really epic, classic views). Another day we walked from the Seven Sisters Country Park alongside the Cuckmere and ended up on the other side of the beach. The 360 degree panoramic views really took my breath away. I think I might have overused the word "Wow" those days :) And taken far too many photographs ;)

Another beautiful spot not far from Cuckmere Haven is the Birling Gap. There is a viewing platform that affords great views of the Seven Sisters. It was another blustery day, so holding the camera still was quite a challenge! We were lucky enough to encounter some surfers, who provided a very nice point of interest and scale for the photos :) A short stroll along the cliff path and you enjoy a lovely view of Beachy Head. The cliffs drop away very steeply, so probably not good for those with a fear of heights!

One day we headed inland for a change, to Friston Forest, for a green fix. We did the "white horse view" walk then free reigned for a while. Can you spot the white horse in my photo below?

And of course we had a day in Brighton. I love this vibrant city by the sea, full of all the quirky, cool, creative, crafty, geeky, healthy stuff we could (and will!) need. Very happy that this will be close-by.

And last, but not least, we headed West to Worthing. Another beautiful beach. It was rather a grey day, though, so I busied myself taking some Blythe photos :)

Believe it or not, these are just the photo highlights! So if you would like to see more, head over to my East Sussex set on Flickr. I've also updated my Red Bubble Shop with some Blythe seaside pics and recent floral delights from Cambridge. Enjoy :)