Sea, South Downs and Sparkling Wines: a Road Trip to Sussex

The scenic Seven Sisters get their name from the cliffs along this part of the Sussex coast
The scenic Seven Sisters get their name from the cliffs along this part of the Sussex coast | © nobleIMAGES / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Leon Beckenham
26 March 2021

Head due south out of London and into the Sussex countryside, where you can discover world-class vineyards and enjoy bracing South Downs walks. When you hit the coast at Brighton, you can stroll along the prom and meander through the winding shopping lanes.

No matter how much we might love the buzz of London, we all need the odd escape to more serene surroundings. Luckily, with the counties of East and West Sussex on the capital’s doorstep, you don’t need to travel far to get a fix of fresh air and a glug of English fizz. In addition to its quaint towns, lush rural landscape and scenic coastline studded with sandy stretches, these quintessential English counties offer a bounty of home-grown produce, too.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to have some fantastic food and drink producers right here in Sussex. Long hours of sunlight in this southern swathe means we grow some of the best fruit and veg in the country,” says Nick Hempleman, of the Sussex Produce Company. And for those who enjoy a glass or two? “This same sunlight – and the chalky soil of the South Downs – means the best sparkling wine in the world is grown here,” he adds.

So, for an out-of-town experience to reconnect with nature and sample some excellent local tipples on the way, join us for a road trip that combines Sussex scenery, South Downs strolls and sparkling vineyards – with a smart seafront hotel, too – all bookable on Culture Trip.

The sign to the famous Brighton Lanes area of Brighton in East Sussex.
Vineyard near Petworth, West Sussex, UK. September.
Grab some fish and chips and breathe in the fresh sea air at Brighton beach | © Chris Harris / Alamy Stock Photo Head to Brighton Lanes for independent shops and boutiques | © Jim Holden / Alamy Stock Photo Get merry at the UK's finest sparkling wine vineyards | © Ian West / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to Stay: the Hotel

A Room With a View

Bed and Breakfast, Guesthouse
4.7/5 (411 Reviews)
A room with a view
Courtesy of A Room With a View / Expedia

This charming Grade-II-listed Georgian B&B, right on the seafront in east Brighton, certainly lives up to its name. And it’s not just one room with a view, it’s actually 10, most of which give you fabulous snapshots of the sea as well as the Palace Pier, which is practically opposite. Thoughtful in-room extras include Nespresso machines and binoculars, so you can ogle the marine birdlife outside. Bathrooms are sleek – some come with a free-standing tub – and fluffy robes and slippers make it feel more like a boutique hotel than a B&B. Splash out and book the top-floor room, where you can gaze at the horizon from your private rooftop terrace. Breakfast ties in plenty of local produce: try the hot waffles before setting out to explore the South Downs and the beach.

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What to Do: the Experiences

ToursSussex Vineyard and Winery Bus Tour
From $136 per person
8 hours
5 (1)

All aboard at Brighton station, and you’ll be whisked away by bus to the first of two of the finest wineries in England. Here, you’ll get a guided tour around the vineyards before a lesson on English-wine production. Next, it’s to the tasting room to sample at least four award-winning sparkling wines. After a pub lunch showcasing local produce, it’s on to the second winery for another tutored tasting. Feeling a little fuzzy-headed? The finale is a bracing trip to the highest point in Sussex, with panoramas as far as the English Channel.

ToursSouth Downs Full-Day Experience From Brighton
From $83 per person
6 hours 30 minutes
5 (25)

Few places in southeast England can rival the natural beauty of the South Downs National Park, and this full-day tour allows you to experience the country’s newest national park to the full; designated in 2010, it stretches from Winchester to Eastbourne. A luxury minibus from Brighton transports you to the most famous spots in the area, from the top of the South Downs to the Long Man of Wilmington hill figure. Other stops include a traditional Sussex farm, an award-winning brewery and the showstopper: the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs.

ToursHidden Spring Tour and Tasting Experience
From $28 per person
1 hour 30 minutes

Just outside the market town of Heathfield, in East Sussex, amid the hedgerows and green patchwork of fields, is the aptly named Hidden Spring Vineyards. At this family-run winery, you’ll get to meet the owners, walk around the vineyards and learn how the wine is made – from pressing to fermenting. It’s then, of course, on to the important stuff of sampling the swag; you’ll head to the tasting room to try four different wines, including at least one sparkling. Bottoms up!

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