The rolling hills and meandering valleys of the beautiful South Downs paint a picturesque backdrop for a weekend of countryside pursuits. But with dramatic coastlines, charming villages, independent wineries and flourishing food scene, a weekend in West Sussex has so much more to offer than just country walks. From where to stay to what to do, here’s SL's ultimate guide to West Sussex….
Where To Stay
Set in stunning parkland, with Climping beach just a short walk away, this 1920s, mock-medieval mansion is brimming with character. The narrow, winding hallways are paved in old stone, with walls shrouded in handwoven tapestries, and the sitting rooms – complete with snuggly sofas and roaring open fires – are showcase authentic antiques, to add to the charm.
Expect bedrooms with standout period features – think grandiose four poster beds, exposed wooden beams and creaky oak floorboards – and most come with their own stone fireplaces laden with freshly cut wood.
Cosy up for the night after a sumptuous three-course meal at Tapestry, the intimate dining space – three-course set menus start from £53.50 and include dishes such as salmon ravioli; roasted pheasant breast and herb-crusted saddle of lamb.
For the ultimate indulgence, head over to the spa to laze by pool, take a dip in the outdoor Jacuzzi or unwind with a heavenly Temple Spa massage – Head in the Clouds is pure bliss.
Bailiffscourt, Climping St, Climping, West Sussex, rooms from £265 per night
Chichester Harbour Hotel, Chichester
This boutique hotel set in the centre of Chichester offers a relaxed retreat for those wanting a little more than a quiet countryside escape. There are plenty of shops to indulge your shopping fix, a range of restaurants and you’re less than ten minutes by car from the undulating hills of the South Downs National Park or the excitement of Goodwood races. The hotel is effortlessly chic and contemporary in design. Pull up a pew at the bar and sample their delicious cocktails, or book into their award-winning Jetty restaurant for sumptuous plates of fresh seasonal produce. They also offer fantastic late and mid-week discounts on stays including dinner and breakfast.
Chichester Harbour Hotel, North Street, Chichester, West Sussex, rooms from £135
The Swan Hotel, Arundel
A traditional country pub set in the market town of Arundel. The characterful Grade II listed building allows for a truly traditional stopover in Sussex, and with an array of quaint, independent shops and the majestic setting of Arundel Castle on the doorstep, there’s plenty to see and do. Plus, The Swan serves up tasty pub grub, including rabbit terrine with piccalilli; New Forest pheasant with fondant potatoes; and moules marinière served with Slindon bakery bread and French fries.
The Swan Hotel, 27-29 High Street, Arundel, West Sussex, rooms from £65 per night
Old Railway Station, Petworth
You’ll be hard pushed to find something more unique than a weekend break in an old railway carriage. Stay in colonial splendour in the main station building, which was built in 1892, or step aboard the old Pullman train carriage and curl up in one of the eight luxury suites, all with stunning panoramic views of the Sussex countryside.
The Old Railway Station, Petworth, West Sussex, rooms from £130 per night
Crab & Lobster, Sidlesham
This rustic 16th-century inn, nestled on the charming West Sussex coast, overlooks Pagham Harbour and the bird sanctuary. Cosy and welcoming, Crab & Lobster has everything you need for a British countryside break: flagstone floors and fireplaces, great food, and luxurious rooms to retire to after a seafood supper in their dining room. Selsey’s pebble beach is nearby, if you’re wanting a breath of fresh sea air, but for those who prefer sand, West Wittering’s stretches of golden sands are less than ten miles away, and within easy access by car.
Crab & Lobster, Mill Lane, Sidlesham, West Sussex, rooms from £175
The Church House, Midhurst
A boutique bed and breakfast offering all the comforts of a luxury hotel, this converted guest house in the heart of Midhurst is a home away from home – owner Fina Jurado is on hand to attend to your every whim. Grown-up and elegant, The Church House is the epitome of rural chic, with exposed beams, distressed wooden floorboards and a smart country kitchen where guests can help themselves to an array of breakfast treats. Rooms are unique and imaginatively decorated with a mix of period features and contemporary quirks, and there’s a communal lounge area with shelves of books and a roaring fire. Dinner is only available for house parties, but there are several places nearby including the Duke of Cumberland Arms, which boasts glorious views of Black Down, the highest point in South Downs National Park.
The Church House, Church Hill, Midhurst, West Sussex, rooms from £140 per night
The Penthouse, Petworth
Set on the top two floors of an 18th-century house in the small West Sussex town of Petworth, this self-catering apartment promises a truly unique stay in the in the heart of the South Downs National Park. Originally a Victorian photographer's studio with a beautiful, light-flooded apartment is bright and airy and comes with stacks of space – the whole house sleeps up to six people, making it ideal for a weekend away with the girls. You’ll find plenty of shops, cafés and restaurants to keep you occupied in the nearby market town, and nature enthusiasts will love its close proximity to the National Park.
The Penthouse, Petworth, West Sussex, from £330 per night for six people; £240 per night for one or two people per night; minimum two-night stay on weekends
Where To Eat
Duke of Cumberland Arms, near Midhurst
Having been named Pub of the Year at the 2016 Celebration of Sussex Awards, you can expect big things at the Duke of Cumberland Arms. As well as boasting stunning views of Black Down – the highest point in South Downs National Park – it has a cosy setting, with exposed beams, wooden furniture and vintage knick-knacks, and it serves fantastic food. Notable mentions on the menu include pan-seared scallops, crispy bacon, mixed leaves, Parmigiano-Reggiano and balsamic reduction; venison, haggis & ale pie, topped with cheddar mash, buttered seasonal vegetables; and pan-fried halibut, fricassee of bacon, cabbage, chard, garden peas, samphire, purple potatoes, with beetroot dust and Langhams hip hop beer sauce.
Duke of Cumberland Arms, Henley, near Midhurst, West Sussex
Farmer, Butcher, Chef, Goodwood, Chichester
Headed up by multi-Michelin star-winning executive chef Darron Bunn, Farmer, Butcher, Chef celebrates sustainable, local produce, with all meat, dairy and vegetables produced and foraged from the on-site farm. The in-house butchery provides the restaurant with all its meat, so you can be safe in the knowledge the food you’re eating has been ethically reared and prepared just a stone’s throw from your dining table. Delights on the menu include charcoal beef feather blade with charred broccoli wild garlic and bone marrow; wild mushroom and asparagus leek roll; and spiced haunch of lamb with anchovies, broad beans, baby beets and smoked bacon.
Farmer, Butcher, Chef, New Barn Hill, Chichester, West Sussex
Samphire, East Wittering
This gem of a restaurant – it was hailed Restaurant of the Year at the Celebration of Sussex Life Awards in 2015 – is set 50m or so from East Wittering's pebble beach, and as you would expect from a seaside food joint, there’s plenty of fresh seafood to choose from. Rustic in style, reclaimed wooden tables and brightly coloured mismatched chairs are scattered around the dining room, and walls are adorned with driftwood signs, for a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere. Whilst it’s snug, you’ll feel right at home the minute you walk through the door. The menu changes daily, depending on what ingredients are available, but might feature samphire south coast fish stew with pan-fried seabass, mussels, crab, brown shrimp, Israeli couscous and samphire; Moroccan marinated lamb rump with slow cooked neck, roasted vegetable couscous, harissa and yogurt dressing; or beer battered fish & chips, crushed peas and tartar sauce. Fish, meat and veg are all locally sourced, with the chefs sometimes wandering to The Fish Hut, just metres away at the top of the beach.
57 Shore Road, East Wittering, West Sussex
The Lickfold Inn, Petworth
Celebrated chefs Tom Sellers and Graham Squire offer a modern take on old-fashioned British pub food. Hole up in the bar and work your way through the glorious menu – the Scotch egg and Welsh rarebit are must-haves – or book into the upstairs dining room, where you’ll find an array of inventive dishes all inspired by the local countryside, including wild rabbit terrine with sand carrots and tarragon; Dunsfold deer with salt baked celeriac and toasted hay; and burnt apple soufflé with crème fraiche. Food is locally sourced by artisan suppliers and producers, with every dish made fresh in-house.
The Lickfold Inn, Highstead Lane, Lickfold, Petworth, West Sussex
The Parsons Table, Arundel
This delightful Arundel eatery serves up top-notch British cuisine, with a focus on local produce. Owners Liz and Lee bring with them years of experience – Lee worked as the sous chef at Claridges and Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, and Liz has previously worked at The Savoy – so you know you’re in good hands. A firm favourite among locals, it’s always jam-packed and has a lovely bustling atmosphere. Food is seasonal and artistically presented on rustic crockery. Look forward to pressing of ham hock and foie gras; roasted Daikon radish, herb quinoa; and roasted breast of Barbary duck.
The Parsons Table, 2 & 8 Castle Mews, Tarrant Street, Arundel, West Sussex
Photo credit: Emma Gutteridge
What To Do
Ben Law’s Woodland House, Lodsworth
Grand Designs fans might remember Ben Law’s eco-build woodland house, which got the seal of approval from presenter Kevin McCloud as his all-time favourite Grand Design. Ben built the house himself using materials entirely sourced from Prickly Nut Wood, where the house still stands, and also where Ben still lives. For something off the beaten track, take a trip to Prickly Wood to see the house in all its glory. Ben also runs a range of inventive courses and events from his woodland home, where you can learn about sustainable living and house building.
Ben Law’s Woodland House, Prickly Nut Wood, Lodsworth, West Sussex
Beach House Park, Worthing
Take a quiet stroll around the gorgeous gardens of Beach House Park – ten acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, and just short walk from Worthing beach. If you’re feeling peckish, stop off for a spot of lunch or afternoon tea at the Palm Court Pavillion.
Lyndhurst Road, Worthing, West Sussex
Giovanna Ticciati, Petworth
Interiors addicts should browse the stylish furniture range at Giovanna Ticciati – a collection of bespoke furniture and home furnishings channelling minimal, elegant style.
New St, Petworth, West Sussex
Turner Pies, Rustington
Get your pie fix at Rustington’s award-winning pie shop, which also specialises in handmade bakes including artisan breads, savoury quiches and delicious desserts. Be sure to try their steak and ale or chicken and ham pies – these were both winners at the British Pie Awards 2016.
133 The Street, Rustington, West Sussex
Goodwood Races, Chichester
For a fun-filled day out, book a trip to Goodwood races, where you can enjoy all the excitement at one of the most beautiful racecourses in the country. There are some great food options too – in May, the grounds will play host to a food festival where you can enjoy organic produce from Goodwood Home Farm and award-winning fare from local artisan suppliers – as well as the hotly anticipated new farm-to-table restaurant, Farmer, Butcher, Chef.
Goodwood House, Chichester, West Sussex
Sussex Vineyard Tour
The English wine scene is coming into its own and award-winning wineries are popping up all over the UK. Sussex is one of the best spots for English wine, so a visit to the local vineyard is a must for any wine lover. There are plenty of wineries to choose from, but for an indulgent experience, book Best of England’s Sussex Vineyard Tour – a day-long tour of both the Bolney and Ridgeview Estates.
The tour includes a brief history of the vines, an introduction to the wine production process, followed by lunch in one of the nearby restaurants or gastro pubs, and a ‘Tipsy Afternoon Tea’ at Rathfinny Vineyard.
Pick up from Haywards Heath Train Station, £149pp
The Exclusive Cake Shop, Chichester
Serving beautiful cakes in charming surroundings, this delightful vintage tea shop is the perfect pit stop for afternoon tea and cake.
47 North St, Chichester, West Sussex
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