Not far from London, within easy reach of Gatwick and within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, East Grinstead is the gateway to Sussex, with a Medieval High Street and lots of things to do.
Visit the East Grinstead Museum
Start any visit here with a trip to the museum. It’s free to enter and the staff are helpful, welcoming and informative. Starting with dinosaur discoveries, and the history of the town, its industries, and people, the museum also has lots of information about East Grinstead’s pioneering hospital, the role it played in WWII and the Guinea Pig Club. There’s also a small section on local art and artists. A visit here will give you a good understanding of the town.
You’ll find it on Cantelupe Road and it’s open from Wednesday to Sunday.
Explore the Medieval High Street
A short walk from the museum is the High Street with one of the longest continuous rows of 14th-century timber-framed buildings in England as well as an interesting church and various other buildings. It’s well worth a visit and you can read more about it here: East Grinstead High Street.
You should also walk down to East Court to see the Millennium Stone, some great views, and then stand astride the Meridian Line that runs through the town.
Chess, wine and books
You might want to come back to the High Street at the end of your visit for a trip to the Tasting Rooms. In the summer months, you can sit outside this wine bar and shop. They also do tasting experiences, and cocktails made with locally produced sourced spirits. There is a good bookshop a couple of doors down with a chess club that meets outside on the pavement in the summer!
Enjoy the arts
East Grinstead has the Chequer Mead Theatre and a cinema. Both venues have a year-round and ever-changing programme.
Saint Hill Manor
Best known for being home to the Church of Scientology, Saint Hill Manor has quite a backstory in its own right. Saint Hill dates back to 1567 but the construction of a Jacobean house on the site was completed in 1733. In 1792, construction of the current house began. Saint Hill Manor is Georgian style and may have been in part designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe (who designed the US Capital building and the White House).
In the late 19th century, the estate was expanded with the editions of two new wings, a north and south lodge, and a lake. Since then it’s had an interesting history including becoming the home of the Maharajah of Jaipur, India in the late 1940s. L. Ron Hubbard acquired Saint Hill Manor and some 60 surrounding acres in March 1959 and since his death in 2011, there have been considerable renovations and restoration work. They have a year-round calendar of events and are open to the public all year round.
Not far from Saint Hill Manor is Standen House, a country house owned by the National Trust. You can explore the grounds here and in the summer they host sculpture exhibitions.
They also have an award-winning plant collection, as well as an orchard, kitchen garden, rosery and secret paths. The grounds have some stunning views and paths that lead to Ashdown Forest.
The house is an example of Arts and Crafts workmanship, with Morris & Co. interiors. It was built between 1891 and 1894. They also host exhibitions here and you can see how the house would have looked as a family home.
Kingscote Estate and Vineyard
A short drive from East Grinstead towards Turners Hill and you’ll find this fabulous Sussex vineyard. It has a wine shop and cellar door, a bar and kitchen, a wine garden and they offer tours and tastings. It’s a family-owned estate with 160 acres, and you might just hear the sound of a steam train from the Bluebell Railway.
The Bluebell Railway
The Bluebell Railway is a heritage line with a magnificent collection of vintage steam trains and carriages. And the last stop of four on the line is East Grinstead! It’s well worth visiting the Bluebell Railway station where you’ll find interactive exhibitions, staff in period clothing, original working signal boxes, and piles of vintage luggage. They organise lots of special events, and if you’re at the station, Sheffield Park is just across the way.
The Priest House
Owned by The Sussex Archaeological Society, this house once belonged to Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Anne of Cleves, Mary I and Elizabeth I in turn. It is now furnished with 17th & 18th century country furniture and domestic objects. Culinary, medicinal & household herbs are planted in the garden and the curator gives tours of the house and garden on request. It’s in West Hoathly.
Forest Way and Ashdown Forest
Hire a bike from On Your Bike in East Grinstead and head off down the Forest Way. It is a 16 km disused railway line to Groombridge via Forest Row and runs through the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Alternatively, head out to Ashdown Forest which is 2,472 hectares (9.5 sq mi) of ancient heathland with a windmill, stunning views, and home to Winnie the Pooh’s Pooh Stick Bridge!
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