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A Day Trip to Lewes

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Richard Gailey

Think Sussex is all about Brighton? Think again. Just 8 miles out from Brighton city centre you’ll discover the beautiful town of Lewes, nestled within the rolling hills of the South Downs. You may know Lewes from its famous Bonfire Night tradition, but for the other 364 days of the year this is a quaint little town comprised of charming medieval streets and a wealth of interesting independent shops. If you need an escape from Brighton’s hectic atmosphere, Lewes’ small town charm is the perfect antidote.

A Day Trip to Lewes


Looming over the town is, of course, Lewes Castle. Built in 1069, it is over 900 years old and perhaps the greatest example of a Motte and Bailey castle in the country. What’s more, its narrow spiral stairways lead up to some seriously stunning views across Sussex. The adjoining Barbican House is a fascinating museum that tells the story of the Castle and some of Sussex’s archeological finds with some engaging activities for children to get involved with. Another must-see historical attraction is the house of Anne of Cleves. The fourth wife of Henry VIII, Anne lived in this beautiful timber-framed house in the town centre, which now serves as a museum exploring Tudor life and the history of Lewes.

A couple of miles outside Lewes you’ll find the unique Glyndebourne opera house, a beautiful country estate dating back to the 16th century. Over the summer the house transforms for the Glyndebourne Opera Festival, which has been host to some of the greatest operatic performances in the world. Before the performances guests often picnic and enjoy champagne out on the lawn before losing themselves in an evening of drama.

Lewes Castle on a grey day.

Lewes Castle. Photo Credit: Peter.


Adding to its endless charm, Lewes is chock-a-block with quaint little tea rooms. Pay a visit to Baltica, where you can browse traditional hand-stamped Polish pottery whilst enjoying delicious handmade cakes, tea and coffee. Just around the corner from Lewes Castle you’ll find the delightful Lewesiana, which doubles up as a floral boutique and a tea room with stunning views of the South Downs.

For something a little more substantial, there are plenty of cosy pubs around Lewes that serve food too. Pelham House is a great option for a relaxed dining experience. They use locally sourced produce for their delicious and varied menu. Whether you want to enjoy some wild salmon or the typical Sunday roast with all the trimmings, this is the place for you. There’s also the delightfully named Snowdrop Inn, which is a great choice for vegetarian dishes and has an extensive range of local beers. And of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Lewes without a visit to Harvey’s Brewery, the oldest active brewery in Sussex. You can take a tour around the brewery and pick up a fantastic selection of Sussex bitter, IPAs or Old Ale to take home with you.

Harvey's Brewery

Harvey's Brewery.


Brighton has an overwhelming selection of quirky shops, but Lewes certainly has its fair share too. Even if you’re not much of a reader, you’ll want to pay a visit to The Fifteenth Century Bookshop. The name speaks for itself: there’s an impressive beamed exterior that stands out and a fantastic array of books (including rarities and collectables) spilling out into the street. Every two weeks the town holds a bustling Farmer’s Market, with a focus on providing the highest quality organic food in Sussex, all from local businesses and producers.

15th Century Bookshop

Fifteen Century Bookshop. Photo Credit: Raymond Knapman.

If you’re looking for truly unique antique treats, you’ll be absolutely spoilt for choice in Lewes. There’s the Church Hill, Emporium, and Cliffe Antiques Centres to name just a few. Each stocks a diverse selection of weird and wonderful trinkets to take home with you. Flint is also a wonderland of beautiful objects, from handmade cashmere scarfs through to bath soaps and luxury candles. To satisfy your sweet tooth, a visit to Bonne Bouche is a must. It has a mouthwatering selection of luxury chocolates in all sorts of flavours, from salted caramel to buck’s fizz.