Summer in Sussex: seaside resorts, blooming gardens, country lanes and crowds, crowds, crowds. When nights turn nippy and crowds depart, Sussex still has a lot to offer, usually at bargain prices. Here are seven good reasons for an off-season visit.
Ashdown Forest, dwelling place of Pooh and his friends in East Sussex, was recently ranked as one of the top three spots in the country for leaf viewing. In West Sussex, West Dean Woods, Chichester and Wakehurst Place, Ardingly both ranked in the top 15.
The Bluebell Railway
From October through early November, take the Autumn Tints ride on one of the Bluebell Railway’s steam-hauled trains. In colder months, warm yourself on a weekend tea service ride. The Christmas special is a Victorian treat with appearances by Santa and Scrooge, and the post-Christmas Fairy Godmother specials keep the holiday glow going.
Live Like a King
When summer crowds depart, luxury B&Bs and historic hotels go begging. One night free seems to be the starting point for discounts, even for a stay of just three nights.
Look for deals and perks on accommodation in Sussex from the most modest to stately 900-year-old Amberly Castle in South Downs, West Sussex whose richly done up rooms and fine restaurants will make you long to be snowed in.
Christmas Shopping From antique stores in Petworth to Horsham’s picturesque town centre, Sussex villages are rich in one-of-a-kind stores and boutiques.
Brighton, the shopping capital of the county, features both nationally known stores as well the Lanes, an area of fun, eccentric shops like Choccywoccydoodah whose elaborate all-chocolate window tableaux are world famous.
To Market, To Market
No matter where you stay, there is bound to be a Christmas market or fair nearby. Most are in town squares, historic buildings, or similarly scenic venues, such as the Christmas Craft and Card Fair held in mid-November at the Michelham Priory just west Hailsham, East Sussex. Fairs go on from mid-November to early January, each lasting a weekend, so check the local calendar to see what’s on during your visit.
In historic Sussex, Christmas past is never far out of reach. The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, north of Chichester, West Sussex, enlivens its Christmas Market with touches from the past like craft and trade demonstrations, traditional brass and wind ensembles, and a hog roast.
Several of the museum’s rescued and restored historic houses and buildings are adorned inside and out with period decorations, and the crackling hearth fires are always good for warming yourself on a cold day.
Brighton’s gorgeously eccentric Royal Pavilion, built the early 1800s as a residence for the Prince Regent, offers a glimpse of Regency-era yuletide decorations as well as a chance to enjoy the bracing outdoor weather with a Christmas ice rink that is perhaps the best in the country.
Open from mid-November to mid-January, the rink includes a beginners area, training aids for young skaters to hang on to, and a rink-side restaurant and bar, ensuring fun for the whole family.
In almost every Sussex village, holiday tourists will find tree decorating and light up ceremonies, carol singing, and visits from Father Christmas on the calendar of events.
And really, what better place to be on the shortest days of the year than tucked up in a cozy country house hotel sipping mulled wine?