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 of 2023/ 24.
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 John Craxton (A Modern Odyssey) exhibition and a Jake Grewal ( Some days I feel more alive) exhibition both on until April. A little smaller, but also in Chichester, is the Oxmarket Gallery which also has a regular schedule of exhibitions.
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. 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 including the Finding Faberge exhibition. You could also try some ice skating at the Pavilion.
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 although they close for Christmas, they do re-open in January. Slightly further east in Bexhill is a county big-gun, the De La Warr Pavilion. They have a fabulous programme of exhibitions and there is an excellent museum just a short walk away. Finally, what better and more beautiful place to enjoy the arts than Rye, and the Rye Art Gallery or at the Hasting Contemporary?
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 10 – 18 February 2024, 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.
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 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, both 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 an excellent Afternoon Tea at Ashdown Park Hotel.
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 will be hosting one-day retreats in 2024. Or what about a yoga and meditation retreat at the Rivendell Buddhist Retreat near Maresfield?
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.
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.
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 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. Gin tours and tastings are still relatively new in Sussex but you can now also do a rum tour at Goldstone Rum in Henfield.
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.
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