The best places to live in Sussex are of course completely subjective but what is indisputable is that Sussex (East and West) is blessed with a myriad of beautiful towns and villages that offer a great way of life and a strong sense of community. On our travels around the county, we’ve been lucky enough to visit many of these (if not yet all) and we’re often left with a sense of, “Wow, I wish I lived here.” So using a fairly basic criterion (which includes curb appeal, property prices, transport links, local amenities and schools) combined with a gut instinct and what the locals we’ve talked to have said, this is our list of 20 of the best places to live in Sussex.
You may not agree with our choice. You may have your own favourite or criteria or you may think we’ve missed somewhere very special. And if that’s the case, let us know and we’ll get back on the road and go and visit it for you.
Seaford is a coastal town in East Sussex between Newhaven and Eastbourne. It has a long history that dates back to the Middle Ages and it sits on a sweeping bay at the foot of the South Downs. To the east of the town is the distinctive Seaford Head and views of the Seven Sisters cliffs. To the west of the town are Newhaven Harbour and Fort. Between the centre of the bay and Seaford Head, there is a Martello Tower that is now a museum and a row of beach huts that in the summer house various shops and boutiques. Seaford has two golf courses, a cricket club, a rugby club and a football club. The town is also home to two bowling clubs and a leisure centre. Seaford Sailing Club is slightly to the west of the town and the town is ideally placed for walking with some fantastic local landmarks such as Cuckmere Valley and the South Downs.
There are regular buses along the coast to Eastbourne and Brighton, as well as north to Alfriston, and Seaford also has a mainline station that connects the town to London via Lewes or via Brighton. Independent schools nearby include Eastbourne College and Bedes at Upper Dicker. Average property prices have been on the rise here in recent years and last year (2022) the average price was £407,873.
50 miles from London, 20 miles from the coast, and just north of the South Downs, Midhurst is a pretty market town that dates back to the 12th century. It’s an easy commute from Midhurst to Chichester, Guildford and Portsmouth, and the main secondary school, Midhurst Rother College, is an Academy secondary school with an outstanding Ofsted report. Seaford College is the nearest private school about 7.5 miles to the south east.
The town has a bustling high street with a good selection of shops, restaurants, and cafés and it has a variety of local sports clubs. One of the other greatest attractions of Midhurst is the Cowdray Estate with its magnificent Tudor ruins, regular polo, shooting, golf, farm shop and walks. The average cost of a property in Midhurst was £525,528 over the year to September 2022 making it one of the more affordable places to live in West Sussex.
Shoreham is a surprisingly hip, up-and-coming place to be. Despite being home to a modern port, the town dates back to pre-Roman times, and there are lots of historic buildings that hint at its long and interesting past. At just over 50 miles from London, it’s also within easy reach of Brighton and Chichester, and of course, sits just south of the South Downs. It’s got its own museum, airport and beach, and has a backstory that includes Charles II and his escape to France, British filmmaking history and a collection of the most extraordinary houseboats.
Recent house prices averaged at £467,133 (2022) and local private schools include Lancing College and Shoreham College. Shoreham Academy was rated outstanding by Ofsted.
Robertsbridge is a pretty East Sussex village in between Hastings and Tunbridge Wells. It has its own railway station which is on the London Bridge to Hastings line so although it feels very rural, it only takes just over an hour to be in central London. The town dates back to the 12th century and the high street is lined with period properties with many from the 14th and 15th centuries. It’s also just off the main A21 (which these days by-passes the town) and the town centre is bustling with a parade of shops, pubs and a restaurant.
Robertsbridge is also set within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and as you’d expect, there are lots of great local walks, with Darwell Reservoir and Bedgebury Pinetum not far. This is an area that is oozing with history and you can also walk to nearby Battle and Bodiam Castle. Robertsbridge has its own secondary school and local prep school and at neighbouring Bodiam, you’ll find Claremont Senior School and Sixth Form which won Independent School of the Year for Performing Arts in 2021. Average house prices in 2022 were a not unaffordable £497,942.
North east of Haywards Heath, this pretty village which dates back to medieval times has always been popular. It’s small enough to have a village feel but close enough to Haywards Heath to take advantage of the main train links to London which are some of the best in the county. Lindfield is only 38 miles from London and commute times can be as quick as 45 mins from Haywards Heath.
The average price of a property in Lindfield was £503,062 in 2022 and there are lots of period and character homes. You are spoilt for choice for private schools with Ardingly College, Hurstpierpoint College, Burgess Hill School for Girls and Worth Abbey all within easy reach and there are two good state schools namely Warden Park and Oathall Schools in Haywards Heath. There are also a number of pubs and boutiques as well as an excellent deli. Sitting in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and not far from Ashdown Forest, Lindfield also has a great sporting pedigree with cricket, football and bowls clubs.
If it’s beauty and countryside you’re after, South Harting ticks a lot of boxes. As you descend the South Downs, you can see the church spire glinting invitingly, and a narrow bend opens up into a pretty high street lined with Georgian houses. South Harting has two pubs and a village shop and although it feels wonderfully remote, it is only 10 miles from Petersfield which has great train links to London that take about an hour, whilst the village also has reasonable access to the A3. With the South Downs and Harting Down just to the south, and both West Dean Woods Nature Reserve and Queen Elizabeth Country Park, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to walking, running, hiking or biking. For shops, apart from Petersfield, you have the pretty market town of Midhurst within easy reach and Chichester and the south coast just a little further.
You also have a good choice of private schools with Churcher’s College, Bedales School, and Seaford College all close by. Average house prices last year (2022) were a steady £713,333.
Just north of Brighton, pretty Ditchling has excellent links to London but sits within the South Downs National Park. Better still you might say, it has two pubs, cafés, a post office, and a delicatessen. It even has its own Film Society and the Ditchling Singers. It’s another Sussex village that can trace its origins back to well before the Romans although Ditchling was first recorded in 765. Later, the manor and its lands were apparently held by King Alfred the Great.
It has a number of points of interest including the Old Meeting House, Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft and two Sites of Special Scientific Interest within the parish. The local state school is Downlands Community School in Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint College and Burgess Hill School for Girls are both excellent private schools in close reach. Average house prices last year (2022) were £671,412.
Storrington is a rural town in the Horsham District of West Sussex. It’s a short drive from the main A24 in between Horsham and Worthing. Part of the parish is within the South Downs National Park and a large part of the town is a conservation area. Storrington was listed in the Domesday Book and a walk around reveals lots of interesting architecture. St Mary’s Church was originally built in the 11th century although was much altered and rebuilt in the 13th, 15th, 18th and 19th centuries. Next to the church is St Joseph’s Hall in Greyfriars Lane, a Grade II listed former residence of the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton look out for the gorgeous carved door in Browns Lane.
In the town centre, there is a great selection of shops, restaurants, coffee shops and pubs. There is a butcher, electrical store, supermarket, clothes and fashion boutiques, dog grooming, nail parlous, a bike shop, antiques, a Post office, a chemist and more. They also have football and cricket pitches as well as a leisure centre. There are lots to do in the surrounding area and you are only a short drive from Worthing, Horsham and the city of Brighton. That said, one of the big attractions of Storrington has to be its rural location and proximity to the South Downs and the South Downs Way and in fact, Storrington is the closest town to the halfway point of the South Downs Way.
Mainline train services are at nearby Pulborough or Amberley and trains to London take an hour and a quarter. Trains to Gatwick Airport take about 25 minutes. If you’re thinking about local schools, you have a great choice in Storrington, with Windlesham House School (prep school) just outside the town and nearby independent schools at Lancing College, Seaford College, Farlington School, Christ’s Hospital and Hurst College. Last year (2022), the average property price for property in Storrington was £613,871. For more information about local properties visit: At Home Estate and Letting Agency.
The market town of Wadhurst almost certainly dates back to before the 13th century and has its own castle (a 19th-century castellated mansion) which featured in the season finale of “The Crown”. Wadhurst’s attractive high street has a good selection of shops and pubs and some interesting period properties. Wadhurst is not far from Royal Tunbridge Wells and also has its own station with trains to London in under an hour. Set within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, nearby you’ll find Bewl Water (the largest stretch of open water in the South East) and home to sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, walking, and cycling.
Wadhurst has its own Catholic prep school, nearby Mayfield School for girls (a leading Catholic independent boarding and day school) and the outstanding Tonbridge School for boys not far away. For private co-ed options, Benenden School in Cranbrook is also not too far. Last year the average price for a house in Wadhurst was £681,216.
Worthing in West Sussex is ten miles west of Brighton, just to the south of the South Downs and sits on a stretch of sandy and shingle beach. Its Art Deco pier has twice been named Pier of the Year and it’s a town that has a rich and diverse history and a fascinating mix of architectural styles. It has three theatres and a beautiful cinema. The town itself can be traced back to the Domesday Book although there have been settlers in the area for thousands of years. As a result of a regeneration project, Worthing is a town that is very much on the up. It has an artistic and literary heritage and a slightly bohemian vibe, with a bustling town centre that includes supermarkets, clothes boutiques, art galleries and antiques, restaurants, cafés and pubs. With fantastic walking at nearby Cissbury Hill, Highdown Hill and the South Downs as well as coastal walks, it’s a great town for the active and it’s also a haven for watersport, has two golf clubs, as well as football, rugby and hockey clubs.
There are a number of good schools in the area including a sixth-form college and one college of higher and further education. There is an independent school within the town and Lancing College and Seaford College are within easy reach. The town has good transport links as it sits at the end of the main A24 to London and just south of the A27 which runs from east to west. It also has five train stations with direct trains to Gatwick and London. In 2022, the average property price was £374,113 making it one of the more affordable towns in Sussex.
This seaside town has undergone a bit of a revival since the 1980s and is now a stylish and cosmopolitan place to live with a busy cultural scene that includes two theatres, the outstanding Towner Art Gallery and a regular programme of seafront performances. It has a Brighton-esque vibe but is far more accessible and intimate.
Eastbourne sits at the gateway to the South Downs and is a short drive from Beachy Head, Birling Gap and Cuckmere Haven, while the town itself is dotted with original Victorian architecture and historical points of interest. Just over 60 miles to London, the commute takes about an hour and half but it’s an easy drive to Brighton and Hastings. The town is home to Eastbourne College an independent school and not far from Bede’s at Upper Dicker. It also has an Academy school. And perhaps the best part of Eastbourne is that the average property price in September 2022 was just £317,942 making it very affordable.
Not far outside Haywards Heath (with its great links to London and the coast) Horsted Keynes can claim a direct link to the Norman conquest. Guillaume de Cahaignes, a French knight was given this village which became Horstede de Cahaignes. As a result, Horsted Keynes is twinned with the Normandy village of Cahagnes. The village is also famous for hosting one of the earliest known cricket matches in Sussex in 1624.
Today, it is a pretty, rural village that benefits from all the amenities of Haywards Heath and Uckfield but all the advantages of the sleepy surrounding countryside. The village has a village green with pubs, a post office and village store and is close to Ashdown Forest, the Bluebell Railway and Ardingly Reservoir. Haywards Heath has two excellent schools and for private education, Ardingly College and Worth Abbey are both in close reach. Average property prices have risen here lately to £779,647 (2022).
Set in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Mayfield is about 45 miles from London (about 1 ½ hrs by train). The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book and has an interesting history. It benefited from the local iron industry in the 16th and 17th century and much of the historic architecture reflects this time. By the 18th century, it was a centre for smugglers. All sorts of legends abound about Mayfield, including one that in the late 900s, St Dunstan confronted the devil here disguised as a young woman and then pinched the devil’s nose with hot tongs. The devil then fled to Tunbridge Wells and doused his burnt nose with the spring water.
Mayfield has two pubs, a number of shops, its own bonfire carnival and is home to the well-known celebrity retreat, Fair Oak Farm. It’s also close to the Cuckoo Line (an old steam train railway line). You’ll also find an independent Roman Catholic girls school here with Benenden and the prestigious Tonbridge School close by whilst the “well above average” Beacon Academy is in neighbouring Crowborough. All of this is reflected in the slightly more expensive average house prices in Mayfield of £906,924 (2022).
Not ideal for commuting but only four miles from the coast and in the very heart of the South Downs, Steyning oozes history and character. The town dates back to Anglo Saxon times and is home to timber-framed and historic buildings, legends, twittens, and curiously named streets and homes. Apart from being a very pretty little town, it also has a thriving community with its own art scene, festival, Heritage Trail and lots, and lots of local walks. Cafés and boutiques line the high street, and cricket is played to the stunning backdrop of the South Downs and it hosts a fabulous yearly food and drink festival.
The average house price in the year to autumn 2022 was £485,174 (slightly less than the previous year) and Steyning has an excellent school. There are also a number of highly rated private schools nearby which include Lancing College and Shoreham College.
The exceptionally pretty village of Alfriston is just south of the A27 and almost halfway between Eastbourne and Newhaven. It’s in the stunning River Cuckmere Valley and oozes charm with views of the South Downs and lots of interesting old buildings. There’s heaps of history here and Alfriston used to sit on the Medieval pilgrim’s way from Battle Abbey to Chichester. The Alfriston Clergy House was the first building in Britain brought by the National Trust for conservation in 1896.
Alfriston may be small but it has three pubs, several hotels, and a number of restaurants. Recent TV fame may have pushed house prices up a little and the average price of a home here was £767,000 in 2022. Train links to London require a trip to nearby Polegate but the Sussex coast and Eastbourne are within easy reach. The village has its own primary school and a good nearby secondary school in Eastbourne. Just down the road at Upper Dicker is Bedes, an excellent private school.
Hurstpierpoint has a long, pretty and bustling high street lined with period properties, including many from the 18th century. It’s a large village with a strong sense of community that dates back to at least the Domesday Book and has a total of five churches (although not all of them are open these days). It’s also only 1.5 miles from Hassocks which has a mainline station on the London to Brighton line from which you can be in London in under an hour. To the south of Hurstpierpoint, you have the South Downs, Brighton, and the coast in easy reach. The village has its own amateur dramatics society, football club, and magazine and not only hosts its very own two-week festival but is also apparently home to the oldest English village fair in the country.
Although the nearest state secondary school is in Hassocks, the village has Hurstpierpoint College (a private secondary and sixth form with a great reputation) right on its doorstep as its name suggests. The average house price in 2022 was £676,104, slightly more than the previous year but still making it good value for the combination of country life but access to London.
Another beautiful Sussex town that has oodles of history, charm, and curb appeal is Lewes. Apart from its glorious and central castle, Lewes is home to artisan markets, a flea market, and a craft market and has its own brewery. It has narrow cobbled streets, views of the South Downs, and a thriving community. Trains to London take just over an hour and the Sussex coast and dynamic town of Brighton are just over the South Downs. Surrounded by beautiful Sussex countryside and in between Haywards Heath and Eastbourne, Lewes also has one of the most famous fireworks parades in the country and Glyndebourne Opera House is within reach.
Lewes Old Grammar School is an independent, co-educational day school in the town and there are a number of other independent schools nearby such as Brighton College and Roedean School. Properties in Lewes had an overall average price of £567,301 last year (2022).
The historic market town of Horsham is popular with London commuters because of its good train links to the capital. It’s got a pretty central square known as The Carfax and lots of interesting period features and history. It’s also a great base for sport with rugby, football and cricket clubs, and has lots of independent boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants.
The town is home to four state secondary schools (Tanbridge House School, Millais School, Forest School and the recently opened Bohunt School) and it’s also not far from a number of excellent private schools including Farlington School and Christ’s Hospital. The town’s Collyer’s is one of the leading sixth-form colleges in the country. Over the last year, the average house price in Horsham was £446,660 (2022). Beyond the town, there are some great local footpaths including the West Sussex Literary Trail and the High Weald Landscape Trail, as well as nearby St. Leonards Forest.
When you arrive in Fletching, down a narrow country lane, you feel slightly like this is a village that time forgot with its row of half-timbered properties overhanging the street. But this vibrant little village is not only stunningly pretty but has two pubs, one of which (The Griffin) is a well-known gastropub. It also has a deli/village shop, primary school and cricket club. It’s right on the edge of Sheffield Park and Gardens and not far from Ashdown Forest. The village itself is mentioned in the Domesday Book and the church dates back to the 12th century. The village and surrounding area are rich in local historical significance and a large part of Fletching village is a Conservation Area.
Haywards Heath has the nearest mainline train station with excellent services to London. The nearest secondary school is in Chailey with Ardingly College and Hurstpierpoint College as two local private schools. The average price for property in Fletching in 2022 was £411,567 which represents a drop compared to 2021 prices.
Rye has to be one of the prettiest towns in Sussex if not the prettiest and Mermaid Street is one of the most photographed streets on Instagram. A Cinque Port with fantastic views, Rye is a little labyrinth of cobbled streets and corners overlooked by its castle and church. It has enormous amounts of charm and history, and if you don’t mind the summer tourists, it’s an idyllic place to live. The town does not have the best train service to London with trains going via Ashford or Hastings but it does have a fabulous selection of shops and restaurants which include art galleries, quirky boutiques, coffee shops, pubs, historic hotels and all sorts of curiosities. Perched on a hill, there are views across the surrounding marshlands to the sea where Rye Harbor Nature Reserve offers fantastic walking and an abundance of wildlife.
Surprisingly, last year the average property price was a modest £397,018 but these were undoubtedly not properties within the fortified centre. Nearby private schools include award-winning Claremont Senior School and Sixth Form at Bodiam.
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For more information about the south east, visit: Visit Sussex