Yea, Sussex by the sea!
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According to legend, this 300-foot valley is the result of the devil’s abortive attempt to flood Sussex (he was frightened off by a crowing rooster, and accidentally threw a shovelful of earth into the sea that then became the Isle of Wight).
What to do: Enjoy the panorama! Devil’s Dyke is the UK’s largest dry valley, and at different times of the year it’s draped in mist and carpeted in wildflowers. The painter John Constable called it “the grandest view in the world” so, you know, bring your binoculars – then enjoy a local ale in The Devil’s Dyke pub.
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This distinctive vintage steam-train line has been running along the picturesque border of East and West Sussex since 1960.
What to do: Hop on at Sheffield Park, sit back, and enjoy the view all the way to East Grinstead. Enjoy afternoon tea in the lounge car, take a vineyard tour, and visit the very bridge where the game Pooh Sticks was dreamed up.
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At 813 feet above sea level, this is the highest point in East Sussex, and commands views out to sea and across the South Downs and the Sussex Weald. In times past locals would light warning beacons here to alert their neighbours to imminent invasion.
What to do: Bring a picnic, take in the dizzying 360-degree views across the county, marvel at the brave people hang-gliding in the area, and enjoy a soft-scoop ice cream from the van that seems to have been on site every day for the past 50 years.
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Thanks to it being within easy reach of London by train, the faded Regency seaside glamour of Brighton is a real pull for tourists. Avoid the weekend crush and wander round on a weekday, allowing yourself time and space to take in the shabby-chic sights.
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Get a good dose of medieval history and visit the town that sprang up directly after the Battle of Hastings, which changed the course of British history in 1066.
What to do: Visit the Abbey of St Martin, built by William the Conqueror after he won the Battle of Hastings. The high altar is said to be placed exactly where Harold II, the Anglo-Saxon king, fell after being hit in the eye by an arrow (as tradition has it). Watch a re-enactment of the battle and even learn archery.
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Flickr: vicki_burton / Creative Commons
Hastings’ Cliff Railways are funicular railways built into the cliff face. The East Cliff Railway takes you to Hastings Country Park, and the West Cliff Railway has views round to Beachy Head. Just don’t look down if heights aren’t really your thing.
What to do: Have a coffee on colourful George Street, visit the Shipwreck Museum, and take in the sights of the Old Town.
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This 227-foot hill figure (also known as the Green Man, the Lanky Man, and the Lone Man) is thought to date back to the Iron Age, although it may well have been created in Tudor times. No one really knows for sure.
What to do: Stop off to admire the giant while breezing through the glorious Sussex countryside. Once you’re finished searching for faded facial features – or wondering whether the Long Man originally had a willy that the puritanical Victorians erased – seek refreshment at the nearby Giant’s Rest pub.
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By day, the market town of Lewes is a genteel mishmash of cobbled streets, Tudor buildings and tea rooms. Come nightfall on 5 November, however, the streets erupt in a complex and sometimes frightening parade of painted faces, fireworks in barrels, and near-pagan ceremonial burning crosses and effigies. It’s a fascinating place.
What to do: Bonfire Night in Lewes is highly recommended. In the day, visit Glyndebourne, a country estate and opera house, mooch around Anne of Cleves’ house, and have a peek at the Round House, a former windmill that used to belong to Virginia Woolf.
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Ashdown Forest dates back to medieval times, when it was a deer-hunting forest. Later, it was the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood in A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books. Now it’s part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is home to deer, birds and grazing animals.What to do: If you’re a Pooh fan then you should visit Pooh Sticks Bridge, Galleon’s Lap, Roo’s Sandpit, and the North Pole. You can also go on a series of walks, and even do some horseriding.
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With street names like Wish Ward, Mermaid Street, and Watchbell Street, the medieval coastal town of Rye is a little bit dreamy. In the 1100s Rye was part of the Cinque Ports federation, defending against attacks from the French, and some of the ancient fortifications still stand.
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Chanctonbury and Cissbury Rings are hill forts in the South Downs. Iron Age and Bronze Age artefacts have been found in both areas. Both rings are very pretty, a great place for a walk – and very slightly spooky. Legend has it that the devil will appear to you in Chanctonbury Ring if you run around the trees seven times anti-clockwise. When he appears, he will offer you a bowl of soup for your soul.
What to do: Take a picnic (and a dog) and go for a ramble. If you’re trying to get pregnant, sleep under the trees in Chanctonbury Ring for one night. According to old pagan lore, it should help you on your way.
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The Seven Sisters are a series of chalk cliffs that run between Seaford and Eastbourne. Often they act as stand-ins for the white cliffs of Dover in films, as the Dover cliffs are too developed.
What to do: Strap on your hiking books, hoik up your bumbag, and set off across the Sisters for a hike that takes in downland, forest, rockpools, and spectacular views of the sea. Or just have a cup of tea in the National Trust café and enjoy the sights through a window.
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A trip to Sussex wouldn’t be complete without indulging in the simple joy of walking through a greenwood carpeted with bluebells.
Lewes doesn’t just celebrate Guy Fawkes’ night on November 5, as pointed out by Sarah Mann.