If we’re staying in England for a holiday our instinct is often to let our eyes slide to the south west of the map: the Cornish Riviera, Devon Cream teas and the long stretches of beach and pretty countryside that the western tip of England offers. However, there’s really no need to join the summer traffic jams heading west; you can save yourself the journey and go closer to home, to beautiful West Sussex. It might not spring straight to mind, but you’ll find the rolling Downs, with wonderful views and perfect spots for summer picnics; pretty villages, market towns crammed with antique shops and cobbled lanes and, of course, wonderful long stretches of golden sand.
If you’re heading to West Sussex this summer for the beaches, then you can rest assured that the climate here is one of the mildest in the UK, so you have a good chance of sunshine! There are miles of award winning coastline, with family friendly beaches at Bognor Regis, Littlehampton and Worthing, all of which have cafes to refuel at and promenades to stroll along. If you’re looking for something less commercialised, then you’ll love the gorgeous sandy beaches of the Witterings.
I love a day out at the beach with my little ones, but it’s the South Downs that make West Sussex for me. Rudyard Kipling described the South Downs as "Our blunt, bow-headed whale-backed Downs". They roll their way across West Sussex, offering some of the finest views in the country. The new South Downs National Park has some of the most beautiful and absolutely ‘English’ countryside in Britain. You’ll find a network of over 2,000 miles of well-managed, well-signed and easily accessible trails across the Downs. Lots of fine walking, cycling, kite flying and picnicking to be had here.
As well as being blessed with its countryside and fine beaches, West Sussex has some really lovely historic houses, castles, some great art galleries and gardens. There’s enough culture to fill plenty of excursions. If you’re wondering where to base yourself, here’s a round up of the main towns.
There’s a whiff of the fairytale about beautiful Arundel. With its magnificent castle and winding streets, it’s an absolute must-see if you’re planning to holiday in West Sussex. The town centre is full of gorgeous houses and quirky independent shops. There’s also a Wildfowl and Wetlands centre which is really popular with families.
This Victorian holiday town has a lovely long shingle beach and plenty of promenade to stroll along with a buggy. Butlins arrived here in the Sixties and has been transformed in recent years into a twenty first century holiday park.
If you base yourself near Chichester you can’t go far wrong, and many of the county’s attractions are easily accessible from here. It’s a really pretty city, with beautiful Georgian architecture and a stunning cathedral. The compact city centre is pedestrianised and the broad historic streets are packed with lots of good shops, restaurants and cafes. The arts scene in Chichester is thriving. The Festival Theatre is one of Britain’s finest, and the prize winning Pallant House Art Gallery is fantastic. You can wander from the city centre along Chichester canal to the harbour, for some sea air, if all the shopping, history and culture get too much.
Pretty Midhurst, with its wide streets and fine selection of independent shops is home to the Cowdray Estate. The town is swarmed with the polo crowd in the summer for the polo Veuve Cliquot Gold Cup; all very glamorous!
With its mix of old and new, Horsham is right in the heart of West Sussex but also just an hour from London Victoria station. The historic town has good shopping, weekly markets and a lovely park right in its centre.
Petworth House and Estate dominate this beautiful historic town, but they’re not all there is on offer here. The town is crammed with antique shops and is another must-see day out on any West Sussex trip.