Things To Do In Sussex In Winter

As the Christmas lights gently dim, the long winter months ahead can seem like a challenge. But our county still has plenty of diverse ways to fill the winter days until spring is with us once more. So with that in mind, here are some things to do in Sussex to help while away the winter hours.

Visit an art gallery  

Sussex is blessed with a great artistic heritage and hand in hand with that go all the amazing art galleries we have. So if you fancy a little culture, you could head to Chichester where The Pallant House Gallery has a Sussex Landscape: Chalk, Wood and Water exhibition on until April. A little smaller, but also in Chichester, is the Oxmarket Gallery which also has a regular schedule of exhibitions.

Pallant House Chichester

There are dozens of small and intriguing art galleries in Petworth but one of the bigger and most exciting galleries is the Newlands House Gallery. Their Lee Miller & Picasso exhibition comes to an end on the 8th of January but they have a new exhibition opening in February, Two Worlds Entwined: Annie Morris and Idris Khan. Not far from Petworth, historic Arundel is another good calling point where you should be sure to visit the Arundel Contemporary.

Heading east, Brighton is a great cultural hub and the best place to start is the Royal Pavilion and the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery next door.  There are a number of different exhibitions here in the new year including the Finding Faberge exhibition.  Better still, if you go early in January you could also try some ice skating at the Pavilion.

Brighton Museum

Lewes is another great Sussex cultural centre with lots of art galleries. They’re not all open in the winter months but Chalk Gallery is an artist-led cooperative gallery and they re-open on the 12th of January.  Slightly further east in Bexhill is a county big-gun, the De La Warr Pavilion. They have a fabulous programme of exhibitions including an Ice and Snowflake, Peace and Goodwill lantern and sound installation. Finally, what better and more beautiful place to enjoy the arts than Rye, and the Rye Art Gallery or at the Hasting Contemporary?

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea

Enjoy dark skies and night walking 

The winter may not seem to be an obvious time to go walking at night (and if you do go night walking please make sure you have a guide or are properly equipped and safe). But the South Downs are an amazing spot for sunset spotting or night walking, especially on the night of a full moon.  From 4th to the 17th of February, there is also the South Downs National Park Dark Skies Festival. If you didn’t know, the South Downs were declared an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2016. There are recommended places to enjoy the dark skies of the South Downs namely Harting Down, Iping Common, Bignor Hill, Devil’s Dyke, Ditchling Beacon and Birling Gap. These all have car parks and the South Downs National Park organise a schedule of events to celebrate the festival.

West Sussex star gazing

Relax over a luxurious afternoon tea 

We have some fabulous and luxurious venues in Sussex if you’re looking for a really special afternoon tea. The Historic Sussex Hotel group includes Ockenden Manor (Cuckfield), Bailiffscourt (Climping), and The Spreadeagle (Midhurst) and they all know how to lay on a glorious spread! They are also family-run and passionate about local produce so that ticks lots of boxes and their afternoon tea is served on gorgeous crockery. Better still, all three venues have a spa so you might want to make a day or even a weekend of it and spoil yourself rotten. They also do afternoon tea at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, at Leonardslee and South Lodge both near Horsham and Alexander House near Turners Hill.

Afternoon Tea at Ockenden Manor

In the east of Sussex, both The Grand in Brighton and in Eastbourne do an outstanding afternoon tea (in gorgeous surroundings). Other venues to search out in East Sussex include Horsted Place Hotel near Uckfield, Ashdown Park Hotel on Ashdown Forest and Buxted Park Hotel also near Ashdown Forest.

Sussex afternoon tea

Try a retreat

If you’re looking for things to do in Sussex, retreats come in all shapes and sizes. For example, Sussex Retreats in Hooe near Battle offer arts and crafts retreats, yoga retreats and bespoke wellness retreats. As the name suggests, Sussex Writing Retreats are all about writing and they have retreats in 2023 in January and March. Meanwhile, Julie-Kate Olivier offers a weekend retreat of yoga and energy medicine, along with “delicious food and gentle walks amidst the tranquillity of the Sussex Downs”. Or what about a yoga and meditation retreat at the Rivendell Buddhist Retreat near Maresfield?

Midhurst Meditation

Take a course!

West Dean College in West Sussex run some fabulous courses which include printmaking, jewellery and silver work, stitchwork, botanical painting, painting in winter, life drawing, using a digital camera and lots more. Meanwhile, The New School of Art has a range of art classes at different venues across East Sussex including in Brighton, Lewes and Ditchling and Going Digital offer photography courses at Herstmonceux Castle, Beachy Head and even at Drusillas Zoo.

Beachy Head Eastbourne

Visit a museum 

Nearly every town in Sussex has its own museum and they are often run on a shoestring and yet crammed to the rafters with diverse and fascinating collections that tell the tale of Sussex. Brighton has 10 museums, Hastings has at least seven, Chichester is blessed with at least five in and around the surrounding area, and then there are museums at Worthing, Horsham, Petworth, Cuckfield, Arundel, East Grinstead, Lewes, Newhaven, Rye, Bexhill, Seaford, Eastbourne, Shoreham, Winchelsea, Ditchling and Battle … to name but a few! They are often run by volunteers so it’s always important to check their opening times before a visit.

Winchelsea Museum

Go on a gin-tasting experience 

We’ve talked lots about wine experiences here on Sussex Exclusive during the last 12 months, but it’s time to make way for the Sussex craft gins! Slake Spirits in Worthing host a Mossy Bottom tour or a Chalkpit tour & tasting. Ashling Park near Chichester may be a vineyard, but they also have a gin school where you can make your own gin! Brighton Gin also offers tours and tastings and do a number of experiences in conjunction with the Brighton i360. Gin tours and tastings are still relatively new in Sussex but are surely set to be the big trend for 2023.

Go for a walk on the South Downs 

Winter walking may not be everyone’s cup of tea but on a crisp, cold and frosty morning a hike along the South Downs is often nothing short of inspirational! Have a look at our post about the South Downs which has a number of suggested routes you might want to try. And of course, factor in a nice, hearty pub at the end of your walk for a long and lingering lunch.

Duncton Walk South Downs Way

If you like this post about things to do in Sussex in winter, you may also like:

Our Sussex Winter Survival Guide

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