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Sussex Villages: Discover the prettiest places in Sussex

If you love pretty villages, cute cottages, countryside and coastline you need to plan a visit to Sussex in south east England.

Sussex sits between the rolling hills of the south downs and the waters of the English Channel and is the perfect place for a UK getaway. Divided into two counties, East and West Sussex are home to 140 miles of stunning coastline, the High Weald AONB, charming Sussex villages and the South Downs National Park. 

Glynde, East Sussex
Glynde village in East Sussex

Along with its seaside towns and picturesque villages, Sussex is an historic county packed with National Trust and English Heritage properties. You’ll find 12 castles, countless stately homes and even an Indian-style Palace.

With around 140 vineyards Sussex is also a great place to sample some seriously impressive wine. Walkers and hikers will be in their element on hundreds of miles of trails, downland and the 100-mile long South Downs Way. Then there are all the museums, galleries and theatres.

Sussex Villages you should visit

I adore Sussex and have lived here my whole life, both East and West Sussex, so I’m well-placed to share some of its prettiest places. For an idyllic getaway read on for some of the best villages in Sussex with insider tips and recommendations on where to stay with my selection of Sussex holiday cottages by Classic Cottages.

Alfriston, East Sussex

For wine-lovers, walkers and bookworms

Alfriston village in East Sussex

Alfriston is one of the most beautiful Sussex villages on the South Downs Way. This small East Sussex village is one of my favourites for countryside walks, cosy pubs with ghostly tales and quaint tea rooms. There’s an exceptional vineyard nearby and it all sits within the rolling hills of the beautiful South Downs.

The large village green in Alfriston, known as the Tye, sits at the heart of the village and is overlooked by St Andrew’s Church. Next door is Clergy House, a 14th century thatched cottage and the first property to be bought by the National Trust for the princely sum of £10. Both are worth a visit.

Alfriston High Street is lined with traditional buildings and independent boutique shops, antique stores and galleries. Be sure to visit the quirky Much Ado books. When you’re done shopping, Badgers Teahouse serves up goodly cream teas. 

Alfriston village in East Sussex

Alfriston sits at the foot of the South Downs, close to the Cuckmere River. Pack your walking boots because it’s a great place for hikes and long country walks.

Follow the meandering river right down to the beach at Cuckmere Haven where you’ll be treated to incredible views of the Seven Sisters Cliffs. You’ll pass Litlington White Horse on the hill as you head towards the sea.

Pay a visit to nearby Rathfinny Vineyard and sample their Sussex Sparkling or take a wine tour. The food in the Tasting Room is excellent. Or, you could head to The George or the Star Inn for hearty food and a warm welcome.

Children will love Drusilla’s Zoo Park and adventure playground which is just 1.3 miles away. Seven Sisters Country Park, the beach, Birling Gap and Beachy Head lighthouse are within striking distance and the seaside town of Eastbourne is just 10-miles away.

The George Inn, Alfriston

Where to Stay near Alfriston

Acorn Barn is a spacious property in the Cuckmere Valley sleeping up to 8 guests. The beautifully converted barn has a host of original features with wonderful views of the South Downs.

Acorn Barn is a great base for walking and exploring the local area with direct access to the South Downs Way from the property. 

Bosham, West Sussex

For sailors, artists and birdwatchers

Bosham, West Sussex
Bosham, West Sussex

The coastal village of Bosham sits close to Chichester Harbour on a small inlet in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This small village is positively charming and is one of my favourite West Sussex villages.

Enjoy breath taking views over the natural harbour, waterside pubs and narrow streets lined with ancient fisherman’s cottages. The photogenic village has always been a draw for artists, photographers, sailors and birdwatchers.

Bosham has a long history dating back to the Romans and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The idyllic coastal setting is where King Canute allegedly tried to stop the tide advancing and ended up with wet feet.

King Harold, the last Saxon king was born in Bosham and it’s said he might also be buried there in The Holy Trinity Church. He prayed at the church before sailing to meet with the Duke of Normandy (aka William the Conqueror) in 1064. We all know what happened two years later. Bosham is also featured in the Bayeux Tapestry.

This utterly charming village with its laid-back atmosphere is perfect for unwinding and reconnecting with nature with plenty of scenic walks. Explore Bosham Quay, cross the causeway at low tide and visit the Holy Trinity medieval church.

Bosham, West Sussex
Anchor Bleu, Bosham

Head to Anchor Bleu pub on the waterside and enjoy lunch on the terrace as you watch the tide lap right up to the pub’s walls. 

West Wittering sandy beach, one of the best beaches in Sussex, is a 20-minute drive away and the city of Chichester with its shops, restaurants and Festival Theatre is 5-miles away.

Goodwood Estate is 7-miles away, known for its racecourse, Festival of Speed Goodwood Revival. It also has two golf courses. Nearby RSPB Pagham Harbour will appeal to bird-lovers and for history buffs one of the best places to visit is Arundel Castle which is 18-miles away.

Chichester, one of the best towns in Sussex is also nearby.

And in case you’re wondering, Bosham is pronounced Bozzum and I think it’s one of the most beautiful villages in Sussex.

Where to Stay near Bosham

The Old Stables sit just outside Bosham. This beautiful one-bedroom conversion retains many original features including, flint-stone walls, ceiling beams and old barn door.

The open-plan accommodation with kitchen and living area has a wood-burner and patio doors out to the garden. It’s a great base for exploring Bosham and its local attractions above.

Firle Village, East Sussex

For walkers, literature lovers and opera buffs

Firle village post office in East Sussex
Firle Village post office

Firle Village is located right in the heart of the South Downs National Park. A walk through this tiny village and its beautiful conservation area is like stepping back in time to pre-World War II and it’s often used as a filming location.

From the village discover a range of hikes and footpaths over the South Downs right to the coast. The hike to Firle Beacon with far-reaching views over the East Sussex Countryside is a must-do. If you like traditional pubs, you’ll love The Ram Inn which has been the hub of the village for over 500 years.

Literature and art lovers will want to visit Charleston Farmhouse. This historic building was home to Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant with frequent visits from the Bloomsbury Set. The farmhouse is 40-minute walk from Firle.

Pay a visit to Berwick Church. The couple, together with her son, Quentin Bell, painted beautiful murals inspired by the frescoes of Renaissance Italy on the church walls.

Berwick church, East Sussex with murals by
Berwick Church, East Sussex
View from the top of Firle Beacon, East Sussex
Views from Firle Beacon, East Sussex

Virginia Woolf’s 16th-century home Monk’s House is nearby in Rodmell. Another of the Bloomsbury Group’s rural retreats, Monk’s House is also open to the public.

Firle Place, a grand Tudor mansion with a Georgian façade sits at the base of Firle Beacon close to the village. It was built by Sir John Gage in 1473, and his descendants still live there today. Jane Austen’s Emma was filmed at Firle Place in 2020.

Firle Place closes for the winter and opens again on Sunday 26th May – Tuesday 22nd October 2024.

For opera lovers, Glyndebourne is 3-miles away just outside the pretty village of Glynde which is also worth a visit.

Where to stay near Firle

The market town of Lewes overlooked by a medieval castle and packed with half-timbered cottages is just four miles from Firle. There’s plenty to do in this favourite of Sussex towns as well as exploring the surrounding areas, River Ouse and nearby villages of Firle, Glynde and Wilmington. 

Base yourself in Lewes at The Pigeon House a Grade II listed cottage full of quirky cuteness. It’s located in the centre of Lewes within easy access to pubs, restaurants and the town’s main attractions. Anne of Cleves house is just a few steps away.

Pevensey Village, East Sussex 

For castles, coastlines and birdlife

Pevensey Village, East Sussex

As historic buildings go you really can’t beat a castle and there are two within a few miles of Pevensey. The village of Pevensey goes right back to the 4th century when the Romans arrived and built themselves a shore fort.

Many centuries later, William the Conqueror, upgraded the fort turning it into a castle. He did a pretty good job because the castle still stands and is the main attraction of the village. Pevensey Castle can be visited through English Heritage

The castle once stood on the coast but over time shingle formations built up and separated the bay from the sea. The area is now a nature reserve known as Pevensey Levels where many interesting birds and wildlife can be spotted.

Pevensey Castle, East Sussex

The main street leading up to the castle is lined with charming flint stone cottages, a cosy pub, tea rooms and vintage shops. Pay a visit to the Court House Museum which dates to the 13th century. It was once both the town hall and village jail – you can still see the dock and prison cells. The museum also holds many documents uncovering local history including Pevensey’s intriguing smuggling history.

For beach goers, Pevensey Bay with its long stretch of pebble beach is just a mile away. For walkers the 1066 Country Walk starts at Pevensey Castle heading across the countryside for 31 miles wending its way through Herstmonceux and the historic town of Battle, site of the Battle of Hastings. The walk finishes at the gorgeous town of Rye where you’ll find the famous Mermaid Street.

Another famous attraction is Herstmonceux Castle and observatory which are just 4.5 miles away. The town of Eastbourne is 5.1 miles away and for wine tasting pay a visit to Henner’s Vineyard which is just west of Herstmonceux.

Where to stay near Pevensey

Moorhen Cottage is in the hamlet of Wartling just 3.3 miles north of Pevensey village and 1.2 miles south from Herstmonceux. The perfect spot between two Sussex castles, beach and the East Sussex countryside.

The single-storey barn which sleeps two, with large garden and patio area is situated on an organic working dairy farm and makes for an idyllic countryside getaway.

East Dean, East Sussex

For lovers of iconic views and outdoor adventures

Coastguard cottages and Seven Sisters Cliffs

East Dean is one of the prettiest little villages in East Sussex with one of the biggest views. It sits in one of the UK’s newest National Parks, near Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters cliffs walk. The chalk cliffs were recently voted one of the UK’s most iconic views and East Dean is a good place to start and finish a walk at Seven Sisters County Park. Perfect for lovers of the great outdoors.

The village centre has a quintessentially English village green lined with picturesque cottages. It’s also the fictional retirement home of legendary Sherlock Holmes. There’s a blue plaque on one of the cottages walls to prove it…

The local pub, the Tiger Inn, is the prettiest of pubs overlooking the village green. The old smuggler’s pub has outside summer seating and low beams and roaring fires for winter cosiness. 

The Tiger Inn, East Dean

East Dean is one of the best villages for outdoor lovers. As well as walking and hiking the area is great for biking and horse riding through the countryside. Paddle boarders and kayakers will get their kicks on the Cuckmere River.

Belle Tout and Beachy Head lighthouses are nearby and Eastbourne, one of Sussex’s best seaside towns, is 4.5 miles away. 

Where to stay near East Dean

Stay in a gorgeous 16th century converted flint barn in the village of West Dean. (4 miles from East Dean). Historic Quebec Barn sits in an area of woodland and sleeps 4 plus one cot.

This peaceful location is perfect for enjoying walks in the South Downs and along the Seven Sisters coastline.

Firle, one of the prettiest Sussex villages
Firle Village, East Sussex

I hope you enjoyed this slice of Sussex village life. I think my home county of Sussex has some of the prettiest villages, and these are just a few of them. Whether you’re looking to enjoy the countryside, the coast or to immerse yourself in local culture and historical sights you’ll find it all in and around these charming Sussex villages.

Getting to Sussex

Sussex is easy to get to. Head directly south from London and in 50 miles you’ll be there. Reach it by train from London with Southern or South Eastern Rail in 1-2 hours. By car take the M25 and then head towards the A27 which cuts straight through the county from Emsworth in the west to Eastbourne in the east.

This post is created in partnership with Classic Cottages a ‘Which Recommended’ provider in 2022, 2023 and 2024. All views, opinions and love of a Sussex village are entirely my own.

Alfriston, pretty Sussex village
Alfriston Village, East Sussex