The best place to live in Sussex is 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.
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 £424,857 over the year to September 2021 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 £443,650 (2021) 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 2021 were a not unaffordable £533,186.
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 £562,447 in 2021 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.
Just 55 miles from London, close to the Kent border and surrounded by stunning countryside, Northiam has a number of attractions that make it a great place to live. Iconic Rye is seven miles south and from Northiam you can also take a leisurely pleasure boat trip to nearby Bodiam. On the outskirts of the village is a Site of Special Scientific Interest within an old quarry and the historic house Great Dixter. Great Dixter was built in 1910–12 on the site of an existing mid-15th century house and the gardens are Grade I listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. The Parish Pump on the village green is always a talking point and with lots of historic and listed buildings within the village, there is even a legend that Elizabeth I left her slippers here after she rested under the oak on Church Road. Northiam Station is a museum and operates a steam train service to Bodiam and Tenterden and the church dates from 1090.
Average house prices in Northiam in 2021 were £486,962 and the village, described as somewhere that time has stood still, has its own bakery and café. For schools, Northiam has its own Frewen College – a private school specifically for children with dyslexia, and the village is still within reach of prestigious Tonbridge School, Claremont Senior School in Bodiam and Benenden School in Cranbrook.
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 were a steady £619,250.
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 (2021) were £450,263.
Almost half way between Billingshurst and Petworth, Wisborough Green is set around the village green and has two pubs, a shop, a post office, a cricket pavilion and a social club. It’s also close to Fishers Farm which has excellent facilities for younger children with a family-friendly pub next door. Train links to London are from nearby Billingshurst and take just over an hour. For walking, you have the Wey and Arun Canal footpaths, and the South Downs a short distance away.
Wisborough Green has a thriving community and average house prices last year were £624,167. The local state school, The Weald, has a good reputation and a sixth form, and Christ’s Hospital, Seaford College, Dorset House, Pennthorpe School, Cranleigh School, and Farlington School are all private schools within easy reach.
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 £621,031.
Set in the centre of a triangle between the three pretty and historic towns of Petworth, Midhurst and Haslemere, you’ll find Lurgashall down a series of wiggly lanes. It’s set around a central green and as an excellent pub and a village shop. It also has a cricket club and its own winery which makes a range of drinks including liqueurs, honey meads, and, of course, wine. It’s known as a great cricket venue with the beautiful backdrop of the South Downs and it’s close to Blackdown, the highest place in West Sussex and once home to Tennyson.
Although Lurgashall feels pretty remote, the train links to London from Haslemere are excellent and take about 50 minutes. The average house price in 2021 was £617,783. For schools, Haslemere has the Royal School, while Cranleigh School and Seaford College are also close by.
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 which 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 2021 was just £313,836 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 prices come in at an affordable £495,909 (2021).
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 which is reflected in the slightly more expensive average house prices in Mayfield of £725,783 (2021).
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.
The average house price in the year to autumn 2021 was £489,084 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 £702,305 in 2021. 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 2021 was £574,811 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 £501,750 last year (2021).
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 – including Michelin starred Tristan’s.
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 £425,208. 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 2021 was £569,600.
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 £366,810 but these were undoubtedly not properties within the fortified centre. Nearby private schools include award-winning Claremont Senior School and Sixth Form at Bodiam.