Escape to Sussex: 7 boutique getaways near London

Sussex Modern Stories  |  5 minutes read

As well as extraordinary art, wines and scenery, Sussex is blessed with a stellar choice of places to stay – all within easy reach of London.

From woodland camping to cool coastal boutiques, there’s accommodation for every budget and taste. What they all have in common is a profound sense of place, rooted in the natural and cultural landscapes that make Sussex so special.

Here are 7 boutique places to stay, selected for their style, philosophy and proximity to some of Sussex’s best vineyard, cultural and outdoor experiences.

Sand dunes + natural wine: The Gallivant, Rye


One of the most sought-after boutique hotels near London, The Gallivant effortlessly blends Hamptons cool with English-seaside fun. It’s set in a whitewashed, 1960s motel-style building behind Camber Sands’ sand dunes.

The beach hut spa and free Experience classes, such as English wine tasting and yoga, are nice touches, but The Gallivant’s biggest draw is its restaurant. Locally sourced food and clever seafood flavours share the limelight with what is reputedly the biggest English wine list in the UK.

Speaking of which, if you stay here, don’t miss your glass of English wine on the house at 5pm every day.


While you’re here

Take a tour of nearby Tillingham’s natural and biodynamic winery. You can stay here too. Book a room in their former hop barn or a bell tent and wake to vineyard views.

Stretch your legs along the network of paths through the coastal habitats of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

Port Hotel studio apartment, © Emma Croman

Sea views + modern art: Port, Eastbourne


Eastbourne’s arty renaissance has bubbled over into its hotels, thanks to Port. The hotel’s smart exterior – a charcoal-painted Victorian townhouse slap-bang on the seafront – gives way to a muted colour palette with blush-pink tones in the 19 bedrooms. Ask for a room with sea views to really make the most of the coastal location. The Studio Apartment has an enormous free-standing bath so you can soak while you eyeball the English Channel.

You can also lap up those views from the restaurant, which sources as much produce as possible from within a 30-mile radius – although the local artwork exhibited on the walls will do its very best to distract you.


While you’re here

Check out modern British art at Eastbourne’s legendary Towner Gallery.

Take in views of white cliffs, flower-strewn meadows and the meandering River Cuckmere as you hike the coast path from Eastbourne to Seven Sisters and Friston Forest.

Street art + live debates: Artist Residence Brighton


There’s no getting away from Artist Residence Brighton’s arty roots – not that you’d ever want to.

Each of the 24 bedrooms was decorated by an artist who provided their services in return for board and lodgings back when the Regency townhouse was being refurbished. Even the Tiny Sea View rooms have original murals from street artists Pure Evil, Blek le Rat and Ben Eine. For a bit more space – and bold artworks by the likes of Charlie Anderson, Ben Allen and Jessica Albarn – book one of the Comfy rooms. The hotel café and bar is buzzing from morning to night, with coffee, cocktails and more thought-provoking art.


While you’re here

There’s never a shortage of cultural things to do in Brighton, but kick things off at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.

Watch live art, catch a performance or join a debate at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts.

Vineyard sunsets + botanical painting: Tinwood Estate Lodges, Chichester


If the thought of watching the sun set over rows of vines appeals (and why wouldn’t it?), book one of Tinwood Estate’s lodges.

Follow up a vineyard tour and wine tasting at Tinwood with a glass of something chilled from the well-stocked wine fridge in your luxuriously appointed lodge. If you’re feeling energetic, you can borrow a mountain bike – then soothe aching muscles in your Jacuzzi bathtub. Or you could just head straight for the sauna housed in a wine barrel.


While you’re here

Learn a new skill at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, which runs short courses in everything from silversmithing to botanical painting.

Award-winning spa + pioneering wine: Ockenden Manor, Cuckfield


If you’re in the market for spa breaks, Sussex’s most striking spa is at Ockenden Manor, an Elizabethan manor in the comely village of Cuckfield.

While the manor house is all pretty mullioned windows and oak panelling, the spectacular spa structure is made of copper boxes and glass walls. The contrast is everything. Take your pick between characterful rooms with four-posters in the manor house or open-plan suites with roof terraces and views across Cuckfield Park in the spa building.


While you’re here

Complement your stay in an historic manor with a trip to Sussex’s oldest commercial vineyard, Bolney Wine Estate.

Glamping, camping + wine tasting: Pegs & Pitches, Haywards Heath and Battle


There are two Pegs & Pitches campsites to choose from. Beech Estate, near Battle, has camping and glamping facilities on the edge of a 600-acre wood, while nine furnished bell tents are scattered through the trees of the private five-acre Wild Boar Wood, Haywards Heath. Both sites are completely off-grid so there’s nothing to come between you and the star-filled skies – apart from a few trees, perhaps, and the flickering light of your campfire.


While you’re here

From Beech Estate, drive to Hastings Contemporary for modern art on the beachfront of charming Hastings Old Town.

From Wild Boar Wood, walk or drive the 2 miles to Bluebell Vineyard for a tour of the winery.

Fine dining + chalk man picnics: The Flint Barns at Rathfinny, Alfriston


You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d woken up in the south of France when you stay in The Flint Barns at the western end of the Rathfinny Estate.

Local art prints, clean lines and exposed brickwork adorn the walls of the 10 en-suite bedrooms and Flint Barns Dining Room. In the Michelin Plate Tasting Room Restaurant, within the nearby Winery, the modern British cuisine is perfectly paired with Rathfinny’s sparkling Sussex wines.

The Flint Barns are steps away from the 100-mile-long South Downs Way, but with vineyard picnics, tours and tastings available on the scenic Rathfinny Estate, you might not make it even that far.


While you’re here

Hike along the South Downs Way to the Long Man of Wilmington, Britain’s tallest chalk hill figure. No one really knows why he’s here, but the question is best pondered over a picnic and a bottle of Rathfinny Classic Cuvée.

This guest post was written by Emma Fast-Field, a travel writer specialising in the UK. When she’s not interviewing adventurers or writing about Sussex, Emma likes nothing more than finding a beautiful spot for a swim, a good book and a bottle of something chilled. Follow her on Instagram

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