Chichester to Battle
Put the pedal to the metal and follow in the wheel tracks of pilgrims past with the ultimate Sussex road trip. For those who love driving, sweeping and stunning views, and great Sussex landmarks
This road trip was inspired by Sussex’s own Route 66, namely the A259, along with some of the other stretches of Sussex road, that are frankly so stunning, that they deserve to be a destination in their own right. The A259 traverses the full breadth of the county from just north of Camber in East Sussex right across to Thorney Island in the west. Not all of it is beautiful to drive, so our Ultimate Sussex Road Trip picks out the best bits and takes you on a journey of winding roads, history, vineyards and views.
Designed as a three-day trip, starting in Chichester with stays at or near Bramber and Lewes and ending in Battle. You can do this Sussex road trip the other way round if you prefer.
All distances and prices are approximate and subject to variations depending on your chosen route and detours. Chichester to Battle is 104 km (via the most direct route).
Your starting point is the historic cathedral city of Chichester. Dating back to Anglo Saxon and Roman times, you can walk the perimeter of the city via the ancient city wall, enjoy a boat trip along the canal, go bird watching at Chichester Harbour, visit art galleries, catch a play at the Chichester Festival Theatre, explore Roman ruins and admire the 12th century cathedral. In short, there are plenty of reasons to visit Chichester so you might want to build in an additional day before you set off on your road trip to explore.
For more ideas visit: Things to do in Chichester
Places to stay in Chichester
Harbour Hotel Chichester: a boutique hotel with spa and in-house restaurant set in a restored Grade-II listed Georgian property in the heart of Chichester. Rooms from £121 per night. Street parking.
The Millstream Hotel: if you prefer to be outside the city, this 3 Silver Star traditional British retreat is set within its own attractive gardens in the harbour village of Bosham and has a 2 Rosette Sea School Restaurant and Marwick’s Brasserie. Rooms from £122 per night. Private parking.
Places to eat
Both hotels have excellent restaurants and there is plenty of choice in the town. Lookout for The Brasserie at Chichester Festival Theatre which has a set menu for £35.
Day 1. Chichester to Bramber
Chichester to Bramber 40 km. You have a choice of travelling via the A259 along the coast or via the A27 with deviations.
Your route – the A259
Leaving Chichester behind, you pick up the A259 which starts as dual carriageway before becoming single lane. It’s a straight road and autumn is a great time for this stretch as it’s tree lined and the autumn colours are impressive. Look out to your left at Elbridge and Bersted for views across to the South Downs where you can make out the distinctive white domes of Goodwood racecourse and the pylons of Bignor near the Roman Palace. There are parts of this road that aren’t wildly attractive and a little built up near Bognor but you soon break free again of the congestion as you motor on towards Climping.
Stop for a beach walk at Climping or a coffee at Bailiffscourt (and say hello to the peacock). From here, you can choose to carry on the A259 along the coast but it does become congested and built up, so our recommendation is turn to inland up the Ford Road towards Arundel. It’s a long straight stretch of road but it’s worthy of a couple of stops. There are three notable churches along this road, namely St Mary church at Climping which got a mention in the Domesday Book, St Andrew church at Ford Marina which dates to the 11th century and is home to some Medieval frescoes and St Mary Magdalene at Tortington, a small mid-C12 church. Alternatively, coincide your road trip with market day at the old Ford Airfield (you can’t miss the giant plane outside) on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Lunch at Arundel
Arundel is home to a magnificent Medieval castle (parts of which have been considerably refurbished in the centuries since) and an impressive late 19th century cathedral in French Gothic style. The castle closes in winter but nonetheless, Arundel is a beautiful place for a lunch stop with a river, quirky boutiques, antique shops and a museum.
Places for lunch
The Parsons Table in Tarrant Street gets a mention in the Michelin Guide. Alternatively head south east out of town and just after the railway station turn left towards Burpham. It’s a long wiggly road but at the start you’ll catch fabulous views back across to the town and its two impressive landmarks. The George at Burpham comes highly recommended and if you walk around the back of the church there are more great views of the Downs.
For more ideas: Things to do in Arundel
A27 to Arundel
An alternative route to Arundel is along the A27. On a clear run, it’s a lovely tree lined road with lots of straight stretches. If walking is your thing, pull over at Slindon and walk to the famous folly.
Arundel to Bramber
Fully replete, get back on the A27 and head east. It’s another good tree lined stretch of road, perfect for autumn, and you’ll pass the Angmering Park Estate. At Clapham, take the A280 signed to Horsham and Findon. This takes you via Long Furlough, a gorgeous stretch of road. There’s an easy-to-spot castellated toll house and amazing views to your left of the South Downs. Pull over in one of the laybys to your right if you can.
From, here, you take the A24 north and stop at Chalk, part of the Wiston Estate. You’ll see the signs. They have an excellent restaurant (you might want to come back here for dinner) or you might just want to try wine tasting (not you, if you’re the driver) or just stock up with some great quality wines. Then it’s onwards ho, to Bramber via the A283. Historic Steyning is off to your right, and worth a quick detour as Bramber is pretty small.
Places to stay in Bramber
The Toll House Hotel: this has dog-friendly rooms if you’ve brought your hound, and rooms start from £84. It has its own restaurant and parking.
The Castle Inn: is a family-run hotel with rooms starting from £50. They also have their own restaurant.
Day 2. Bramber to Lewes
Bramber to Lewes 30 km.
Start your day with a quick exploration of Bramber. A short walk and climb takes you to the ruins of a Medieval castle and its church with views of the South Downs. And a little further into the village is the incredible St Mary’s, an enchanting historic pilgrim inn dated to about 1450, with a unique Elizabethan trompe l’oeil, connections with Oscar Wilde and five acres of beautiful gardens. Bear in mind, it is only open to the public from May to September.
Other places nearby worthy of a visit are:
- Tiny Grade I listed Saxon church of St Botolph’s which has fragments of Medieval wall paintings.
- Incredible Gothic Revival Lancing Chapel which dominates the skyline. It is open to the public by arrangement and is the largest school chapel in the world.
The A283 and the A27
For the next stage of your Sussex road trip from Bramber, the A283 takes you more or less along the edge of the River Adur until you pick up the A27 and the wonderful Shoreham bypass. Subject to traffic, this is a fabulous bit of road and cuts out more of the congested and undrivable parts of the A259! Whizz along it and enjoy its undulations and views, particularly as you near Stanmer and catch views to your right of Brighton and beyond.
You could head into Brighton for lunch (but frankly it’s a pain to park), so head to Stanmer Park Nature Reserve. Here you’ll find a restaurant and café, a shop with lots of lovely local produce and a walled garden. There is also good walking in the park and a quirky flea market and as One Garden is managed by Plumpton College which has a specialist wine division, it’s another chance to stock up on local wine.
Alternatively, deviate off the A27 down the B2123 to Rottingdean. This is another great bit of road over the Downs with wonderful views and Rottingdean has a beach, lots of cafés and restaurants and its own walled garden and windmill (with more great views). The walk up to the windmill is a great way to burn off any excesses. If you want to carry on from here along the A259 the views are amazing, but they are mainly behind you.
Back on the A27, it’s a straight and then curvaceous road before you turn off into Lewes.
Places to Stay in Lewes
Trevor House: is a Georgian property offering B&B accommodation in the High Street (with private off-street parking). Rooms start from £95 per night.
The Jolly Sportsman: a short drive from Lewes at East Chiltington, the Jolly Sportsman is dog friendly and has free parking and a pub restaurant that serves seasonal Sussex produce. Rooms start from £145.
Places to eat in Lewes
There are plenty of places to eat in Lewes and their speciality is good pub grub so head to The Pelham Arms or The Rights of Man Pub.
Day 3. Lewes to Battle
Lewes to Battle 45 km.
It’s worth spending a little time exploring Lewes which is home to a fantastic Norman castle and priory, a 16th century timber-framed house that belonged to Anne of Cleves, a great flea market, the famous Harvey’s Brewery (where you can do a tour) and an incredible 15th century bookshop.
Other places nearby worthy of a visit are:
- Glyndebourne – one of the most celebrated opera houses in the world.
- The South Downs and Lewes Golf course.
- Charleston House – modernist home and studio of the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant now a museum with a year-round programme of exhibitions, events and festivals.
For more ideas: Things to do in Lewes
For the last day of your Sussex road trip, you could just hop back on the A27 and whizz along to Pevensey Levels but why would you want to when there is one of the best roads in the county to enjoy! From the A27, drive east. Here you get a real sense of the approaching Ouse Valley to your right, and of the South Downs to your left until you reach Drusilla’s Zoo where you turn right towards Alfriston.
Alfriston is hopelessly pretty with its Smugglers Inn, old buildings and village square. The Star Inn dates back to the 14th century and used to accommodate monks on a pilgrimage from Battle to Chichester, so it feels right that as you’re retracing their steps, you stop here for lunch or coffee at least. It’s now owned by Alex Polizzi! There is lots more to explore in this village like the Clergy House and the fabulous bookshop but you may not have time!
From Alfriston, carry on south and if you can, stop at Rathfinny vineyard off to your right. It’s about 2 km up to their tasting rooms but well worth the effort with its spectacular views across the Downs to the sea. And don’t forget to stock up with more Sussex wine when you have finished in their shop. In the summer, they have a great outdoor restaurant here too. Once you’re back on the road, you enjoy glorious view of the sea and Cuckmere Haven below before you finally rejoin the A259.
This really is a stellar part of your road trip, and you follow this iconic stretch of road east past Exceat. At East Dean (do stop at the market) you turn right to follow the coastal road via Birling Gap and on to Beachy Head. Each one of these places is worth of a stop for a leg stretch and you can get coffee and cake at Birling Gap in the National Trust café. You won’t want to turn your wheels away from this road with its undulating curves and fabulous sea views but eventually you must head back north to the A259 and then the A2770 to rejoin the A27 at Polegate.
The final stretch
Once you’ve conquered Polegate and Eastbourne, there’s a nice straight stretch of road to Pevensey. If you have time or the inclination, stop at Pevensey to explore the castle (which dates back to Roman times) and is close to the landing site of William the Conqueror. You can then follow the A259 towards Hooe if you wish but a much nicer road cuts across the Pevensey Levels to Wartling, Herstmonceux Castle and the Science Centre and Observatory. The Levels have their own unique atmosphere and feel wild and untamed even in summer.
Finally, you’re heading to Battle via the A271, perhaps with one last stop at the Ashburnham Place tea room in the orangery and a quick stop to look back at the incredible views behind you!
Last stop Battle
Battle is of course home to Battle Abbey and the battlefield of 1066. There’s plenty to see and do in Battle, with a museum, market and nearby vineyard at Mountfield. And from Battle, well the decision is yours … do you carry on driving to Rye, or do you turn around and pilgrimage your way back to Chichester again!
For more ideas: Things to do in Battle
Places to stay in Battle
Powdermills Country House Hotel: is about a mile from Battle centre and has acres of gardens, park and woodland. It’s a Grade II listed 18th-century country house hotel with an outdoor swimming pool and pet-friendly accommodation. The Orangery is its award-winning restaurant. Rooms start from £128.
Claverton Country House Hotel: combines Edwardian character with modern design. It has free onsite parking and is set in secluded landscaped gardens 3 miles from Battle Abbey. Rooms start from £90.
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