This journey around the South Downs is a one-size-fits-all itinerary for those wishing to explore everything the region has to offer. You'll enjoy experiential to home comforts food and drink, iconic gardens and outdoor spaces as well as burning off the calories in between by foot and bike.

Itinerary Summary

East Sussex
3 Days
Mid range
Day 1

1 Morning

McBeans Orchid Nursery

Start your South Downs trail on the quest for the perfect orchid. Established in 1879 in a nursery just outside Lewes, McBean’s has been at the forefront of British orchid cultivation ever since. A visit offers the chance to see - and buy - some of the world's most spectacular orchid varieties. Drop by, get acquainted with these extraordinary plants, make a purchase (orchids make fantastic gifts) and take away a piece of English horticultural history.

McBean’s Orchid Nursery
Experience

McBean’s Orchid Nursery

1 Morning

Lewes independent shops

A day trip to Lewes is a feast for the senses, not to mention retail sensibilities. The achingly picturesque county town of East Sussex is the mecca of the county's independent spirit, with artisan shops, eateries and food markets around every historic corner, ready to entice you in. Grab a coffee at Ground or Flint Owl Bakery, stock up on plants at Fi's Yard or From Victoria, or feed your fromage fetish at the inestimable Cheese Please. Fridays are a great day to visit to sample some of Sussex's best produce at the weekly food market in (where else?) Lewes Market Tower. If you happen to be in town on the right day, your visit will be uplifted by the malty aromas of the latest batch under way at Harvey's Brewery on Cliffe High Street.

Lewes independent shops
Pub / Bar

Lewes independent shops

1 Lunch

Caccia & Tails

If there is one gastro delight you have to take away from your time in Lewes, it's a Focaccia Genovese from Caccia & Tails. Locals flock to the deli in droves to savour this sensationally salty regional style of Focaccia. There's also a menu of street pasta dishes and New York Italian classics made fresh on site every day to eat in or take out. Our gourmet garden lunch tip: buy pretty much anything from the menu and hot-foot it to the gorgeous Southover Grange Gardens for a picnic you won't forget in a hurry.

Caccia & Tails
Restaurant

Caccia & Tails

1 Afternoon

Walk the South Downs

The South Downs is one vast garden trail in its own right, a lush carpet of fields, grasslands and wildflowers rolled out over undulating hills stretching off to the horizon. Luckily, Lewes is located within the national park itself, so if you're in the mood to walk off lunch you can head west out of town and be in the Downs within minutes. Head for Blackcap and spend a couple of hours soaking up some of the finest views England has to offer before returning to Lewes for your evening's entertainment.

Coming soon
Experience

Coming soon

1 Evening

Depot Lewes

Uncover Depot's award-winning independent 3-screen cinema and contemporary café-restaurant, located in the centre of Lewes. Check the listings to see what’s on screen during your stay – Depot’s commitment to ‘crossover cinema’ offers an eclectic mix of mainstream, independent and event cinema. The restaurant offers modern dining in a light and airy space with terrace, walled garden and private hire facilities. There is an emphasis on local suppliers and vegan options are always available. Depot is a Sussex Modern partner.

Depot Lewes
Restaurant

Depot Lewes

1 Overnight

Upper Lodge

Upper Lodge is a house in Sussex with an award-winning holiday cottage and artist's studios, tucked in its own woodland overlooking the pond, The cottage will recharge you after your busy day as it's kitted out with local products and art, making it a stylish and creative hideaway and a very special place to stay.

Self-catering

Upper Lodge

Day 2

2 Morning

Forage Brighton

Start Day 2 atop the Seven Sisters – the seven chalk promontories that make up one of Europe’s most iconic coastal landscapes. But this is not merely a clifftop stroll. You’ll be in the company of wild food guide and cook Mike Cutting, discovering the natural larder/pharmacy of edible and medicinal plants growing on this magisterial coastline. Over three hours, you’ll learn how to identify wild ingredients and, if you’re bitten by the foraging bug, pick up tips to take home and begin incorporating into your own cooking.

Forage Brighton
Experience

Forage Brighton

2 Morning

Walk the South Downs Way

The magnificent Cuckmere Estuary near Seaford is the starting point for a three-mile walk at the southern tip of the South Downs Way. In just a few miles it takes in forest, downland and flood-plain valley. Every new step of this walk is the stuff of a thousand Instagram posts… but be sure to take it all in yourself before you start snapping. Social media can wait. These are East Sussex scenes to stir the soul. From the meandering estuary, you head for the historic village of Westdean, then on to Litlington, where a well-earned beer or coffee awaits…

Historic

Walk the South Downs Way

2 Afternoon

Cadence Cycle Club

Pre-book an e-bike with Cadence Cycle Club and take in today’s following stops. Their state-of-the-art EMTB (electric mountain bikes) are perfect to explore the local area either guided or unguided, and with knowledgeable staff and bikes rented on a per battery basis rather than per hour, you have total freedom. If the walk has left you feeling peckish, you can refuel with a coffee and sourdough sandwich or sausage roll at the Cadence cafe.

Cadence Cycle Club
Experience

Cadence Cycle Club

2 Afternoon

Long Man Brewery

Now for that beer. But not just any beer… Long Man ales are the definition of craft: handmade, locally sourced, and above all sustainable. The benefits of this approach are there for all to taste in every pint of their award-winning beers. Ingredients are lovingly grown and brewed to create crisp, clean craft ales with distinctive hoppy aromas. Stop into the Brewery Shop to buy cask ale, bottled beer and so much more - from gin to wine to cider, plus local products and brilliant gifts for the beer lover in your life.

Coming soon
Experience

Coming soon

2 Afternoon

Rathfinny Estate

Just three miles from the sea, where the coast meets the countryside, Rathfinny is passionate about pairing their wines with the finest food and working with local suppliers. Visitors can book an al fresco dining experience of antipasti lunches and bottles of Sussex Sparkling wine to be enjoyed in the relaxed setting of the Flint Barns grassy bank overlooking the vineyard and South Downs of Sussex. Rathfinny is a Sussex Modern partner.

Rathfinny Estate
Experience

Rathfinny Estate

2 Overnight

The Star at Alfriston

A striking grade II Listed 16th century building in the beautiful medieval village of Alfriston, recently reopened after an extensive renovation. The front of the hotel, known as The Inn, opens onto the High Street, and offers relaxed all day dining with local beers, open fires and oak beams. The Restaurant has its own inner courtyard, at the heart of the hotel, created as a lovely spot for warm weather dining; this highlight of the hotel has a Mediterranean feel, with interesting climbing plants, lots of terracotta pots and unique trellises made by the local blacksmith. Head Chef, Tim Kensett, serves simple, unfussy dishes with a focus on clarity of flavour, and the ever-changing seasonal menus utilise the abundance of exceptional Sussex produce. The 30 bedrooms have been designed in Olga Polizzi’s inimitable style, using contemporary furniture and local antiques, English wallpapers and fabrics by Richard Smith, with splashes of vibrant colours and textures. The perfect place to end a day of remarkable Sussex sights.

The Star, Alfriston
Hotel

The Star, Alfriston

Day 3

3 Morning

Marchant's Hardy Plants

Start Day 3 at Marchants Hardy Plants, widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading small independent nursery/gardens and cultivator of all sorts of unusual grasses, herbaceous perennials and woodland plants. Small in size but with a big reputation, Marchants is a must-visit nursery for anyone looking to add something a little bit special to their garden, whether contemporary or traditional in style.

Coming soon
Experience

Coming soon

3 Afternoon

Long Man of Wilmington

En route from Marchants to a fine gastropub lunch, take a small detour to The Long Man of Wilmington, an imposing figure cut into the the steep slope of Windover Hill. At 226 feet (68.9 meters) it’s one of largest representations of a human figure to be found anywhere in the world - a major local landmark you’d kick yourself for missing.

Coming soon
Experience

Coming soon

3 Lunch

The Eight Bells, Jevington

Lunch on day 3 comes courtesy of a 300-year-old country pub steeped in history and nestling in the small village of Jevington just outside Eastbourne. The Eight Bells is a gourmet free house serving food indoors and out, accompanied by a stellar selection of local beers.

The Eight Bells, Jevington
Pub / Bar

The Eight Bells, Jevington

3 Afternoon

Charleston

The modernist home and studio of the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, Charleston was a gathering point for some of the 20th century’s most radical artists, writers and thinkers known collectively as the Bloomsbury group. Visitors can also wander round the beautiful walled garden and enjoy the ever-changing flowers and colours. The garden was design especially to be an artist’s garden. It’s filled with traditional cottage planting, fruit trees, sculptures, ponds and little water features. The garden at Charleston is free to visit with a ticket to the gallery, house or an event. Charleston is a Sussex Modern partner.

Charleston
Gardens

Charleston

3 Afternoon

Middle Farm

Nestling at the foot of Firle Beacon, Middle Farm is a 625-acre working family farm offering a warm countryside welcome and a sensational selection of local food and drink. The sunny Tearoom courtyard offers reviving coffees, light lunches and sumptuous Sussex cream teas complete with locally-revered scones. Step inside the unassuming Cider Barn for a celebration of Sussex tipples. The National Collection of Cider & Perry is a vast and utterly unique compendium of England's national fruit, where you can taste, compare and buy from a range of over 100 different draught ciders and perries.

Middle Farm
Experience

Middle Farm

3 Dinner

Fork Lewes

Set in the centre of Lewes, Fork has a wonderful terrace and garden to sit and enjoy their farm to table menu. Choosing from both small and large sharing plates curated by a Michelin Star Chef, depending on how full you are after the previous stops, Fork will certainly keep you in food heaven for the rest of the trip.

Fork Lewes
Cafe

Fork Lewes

3 Overnight

Laughton Place

A stay at Laughton Tower is never forgotten. This moated brick tower is all that is left of a much larger house built in 1534. Then, the tower served as an outlook post complete with a set of private rooms. It now stands proudly on the flatlands between the South Downs and Ashdown Forest, in one of the quietest, most peaceful, most picturesque settings imaginable. End your South Downs stay in style, at the heart of a landscape that inspired the Bloomsbury set at Charleston and Rodmell, and the Surrealists at Farley Farmhouse.

Laughton Place
Self-catering

Laughton Place

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