Historic Horsham has a pretty town centre, a bustling market, and a thriving community. Fiercely proud of its heritage (and in particular the town’s connection with the poet Shelley who was born at nearby Warnham), Horsham makes a great gateway to the South Downs and coast or a stop-off point on your way west to places like Petworth, Midhurst, and Chichester. But whether you’re on a flying visit, on a child-free mini break, or planning ahead for the school holidays, there are plenty of things to do in Horsham to keep you out of trouble!
Horsham Museum and Art Gallery – free
The museum is found in the picturesque Causeway and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. It’s free and they have a number of different galleries and exhibitions and a busy schedule of events. You can learn about period costumes, local photography, art, and local artists, archaeological finds or just grab details of their self-guided heritage trails. Recently refurbished, it’s an excellent starting point for learning about the town.
Horsham’s Heritage Trails – free
From the museum, you can pick up details of a number of different Heritage Trails in and around the town. Each trail is dedicated to a different area of the District and includes sites of special interest and stories from all eras of the area’s past.
Warnham Nature Reserve – children under 18 free
With children going free, and adult admission costing £3, the reserve is open every day (except Christmas Day and Boxing Day) from April to September from 10 am to 5 pm and from October to March from 10 am to 4 pm. The reserve includes a 17-acre millpond, marshes, grassland, reed beds, hedges, boardwalks, hides and woodlands. They’ve also got a fabulous new discovery hub where you can look out of the lake on a cold, rainy day. Information boards here have all sorts of interesting snippets including photographs of ice skating on the millpond back in the last century.
As you’d expect, there is lots of wildlife to be spotted including Heron, Wildfowl, Woodpecker, and Kingfishers and it makes for a great walk with the kids.
Roller skating at The Rec Rink
Open Wednesday to Sunday (check opening hours), grab your skates (or hire some), and get skating at this relatively new Horsham attraction. Formerly a bowling alley, and ice rink, it’s £6 for an hour.
St Leonard’s Forest – free
To the east of the town, and part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, St Leonard’s Forest is over 700 acres and has a fabulous network of footpaths and bridlepaths. It’s also a place rich in local folklore with tales of dragons, hermits, and a headless horseman!
Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens
About 10 minutes from Horsham (on the A281), Leonardslee has lots going on. It’s a Grade I listed garden with lots of lakes and footpaths to explore and a stunning sculpture exhibition in the grounds. Oh, and wallabies! You’ll also find a fantastic Doll’s House exhibition, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and lots of different events hosted here.
Afternoon tea at South Lodge
Almost opposite Leonardslee is South Lodge, a luxury spa hotel with two restaurants namely The Pass and Camellia restaurant. Their afternoon high tea is an experience to be savoured.
For those who want to get active, or see Horsham from a slightly different angle, head out of town to Winterpit Lane, in Mannings Heath where you can learn to ride or go for a hack in the surrounding countryside with Forest Farm Riding School.
The Knepp Estate, just south of the town, is steeped in county history, and you can walk the estate and see ponies, wild pigs, and the ruins of the original castle for free. In total, the estate stretches over 3,500 acres and has been owned by the Burrells for over 220 years. Apart from the ruins, the family home is an impressive castle built by the architect John Nash. The estate now runs a series of safari experiences which include dawn and dusk safaris, and seasonal safaris. You can stay in a choice of huts, yurts, bell tents or even a treehouse and they host various workshops too. A great one for those who love nature and being outside.
Comedy and the arts
Horsham has a long pedigree when it comes to the arts, with none other than Sir Michael Caine beginning his career here. These days the town has two cinemas, The Everyman and The Capitol. The Capitol is a unique multi-arts community venue with a theatre, studio theatre and gallery. A short walk from here, The Rec Rooms (home of rollerskating) also hosts a monthly Friday night comedy schedule with some stellar acts.
Horsham has a year-round schedule of festival-style events, which includes Oktoberfest at The Rec Rooms, Horsham Festival (a festival of the arts and creative expression), a Fake Festival (think tribute acts), Film Festival and lots more.
A Mystery Trail – free
Running until March 2023 (and let’s hope they extend them), there are seven free outdoor mystery trail games across the Horsham District. For the Horsham trail start at the library to collect your trail map. There are 14 clues around the town which you need to solve.
Huxley’s Birds of Prey Centre
Just outside the town, and set in stunning gardens next to the Hillier Garden Centre on Brighton Road, is this bird of prey sanctuary. You can witness flying displays, and meet owls, falcons, eagles, hawks, owls, ravens and kookaburras. There are also tropical plants and a Japanese water feature.
Horsham Market and the Horsham foodie
Horsham Market meets every Thursday and Saturday in the central Carfax and has a good selection of local produce, art, and crafts from local artists and makers. The town has a thriving drinks industry too with craft makers of gin, beer, and even rum as well as local vineyards and you’ll find most of these at the market.
The Horsham Cellar is an outstanding independent wine and spirit merchant and is also in the Carfax, as is Crates which stocks a large range of local produce and also has a coffee shop. Down the road in the Bishopric, Gwyn’s Bakery is increasingly popular. There are plenty of places to eat in the town too with tables spilling out onto the streets in East Street, Piries Place, and the Carfax.
The Riverside Walk – free
The Riverside Walk is 13 miles long (20km) and takes you around the outskirts of the town via a mixture of scenic footpaths and slightly more urban paths. You can download the map for free which includes points along the way of interest.
Horsham Park – free
When I was a child in the 1970s, the only thing to do in Horsham Park was to slide down the giant concrete tunnels tucked away in a corner of the park. We loved them. But these days, there’s a great deal more to keep you entertained. There is a children’s play area, a duck pond, and a maze (complete with its own dragon). There is also free outdoor gym equipment and lots of space to kick a ball. There are also paid-for activities such as the tennis courts, boxing club, and leisure centre. But if you just want a picnic and a run around, it’s a great space.
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