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.
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.
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 regional style of Focaccia, eaten upside down to allow the salt to hit your tongue. 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.
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.
Uncover Depot's award-winning independent 3-screen cinema and contemporary café-restaurant, located in the centre of Lewes, East Sussex. 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.
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.
If you are more in the mood to forage for your own goods, join wild food guide and cook Mike Cutting in the great Sussex outdoors, on a summer stroll discovering edible and medicinal wild plants growing on the coastline. Mike is a seasoned outdoor cook with years of experience using wild ingredients, and has a particular interest in preservation methods including pickling and fermentation. On this walk you will be given ideas and inspiration on how to begin incorporating tasty, nutritious wild food into your cooking at home.
Walk the South Downs Way
"The magnificent Cuckmere Estuary near Seaford is the starting point for a short walk at the southern tip of the South Downs Way. In just a few miles it takes in forest, downland and flood-plain valley. The first climb offers views back over the Estuary. Rivers are rarely straight but these ancient meanders are the stuff of a thousand Instagram posts. In Westdean, look out for the gabled spire and square tower of 12th-century All Saints Church. If you can take time to explore, you'll find the ruins of an Elizabethan manor house inside the walled enclosure at the heart of the village - possibly the site of Alfred The Great's royal residence. The White Horse of Litlington can be glimpsed as you climb up the valley away from the forest. As you descend to Litlington, look out for a distant flint building to your right, Clapham House. This was once the love-nest of Mrs Elizabeth Fitzherbert who secretly married the Prince Regent, later George IV, in 1746. Now, time for a well-earned beer."
Cadence Cycle Club
Pre-book an e-bike with Cadence Cycle Club and take in the 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.
Cadence Cycle Club
Long Man Brewery
Long Man beers 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.
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.
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
Marchant's Hardy Plants
Marchants Hardy Plants is widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading small independent nursery/gardens, cultivating a wide variety 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.
Long Man of Wilmington
Not far from Church Farm you’ll find The Long Man of Wilmington, an imposing figure cut into the the steep slope of Windover Hill, facing roughly north towards the Weald. 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.
The Eight Bells, Jevington
For hundreds of years, the Eight Bells has been at the heart of Jevington, a small village just outside Eastbourne. This small, independently owned free house has a rich history, a welcoming bar and gardens... and sweeping views of the Downs. Whether you’re walking, cycling, passing by or coming to dine, there's something for everyone, from the best local beers and a tasty bar menu, to Saturday Brunch and à la carte dining. The Barn is an outside bar and grill open Friday to Sunday throughout the summer. The menu includes hot dogs and burgers, rotisserie chickens, market steaks and skewers (with choices of plant, fish and meat) and some very summery puddings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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