Uncover the best secret places to visit in Sussex

Beaches, Coastal, Activity

Posted by Elianne on 17th May 2023

From romantic follies tucked away in quintessentially English country villages to gently sloping hills leading down to white chalky cliffs, Sussex has many places off the beaten track just waiting to be discovered. Some of these Sussex hidden gems are secrets passed down from generation to generation and some are discovered quite by accident. It matters not how you find out about them - only that you add them to your bucket list as soon as possible.

Read on to find out about secret Sussex beauty spots that will take your breath away.

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Kingley Vale

The Kingley Vale Nature Reserve, near Goodwood

Perhaps more famous for Glorious Goodwood and the Festival of Speed, this area of West Sussex is also home to one of the finest yew forests in the world, including a grove of ancient trees which are said to be among the oldest living things in Britain. It may have a touch of the Harry Potter about it, but this mystical and enchanting place is a must-see for any secret explorer, and is one of the best hidden places in West Sussex. 

You can take a guided tour around the nature trail which takes about an hour and a half but bear in mind it can be quite steep in places. If you can make it to the top, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views across the English Channel. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on leads.

Stay nearby: The Cart Barn - sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Brede Woods

Brede High Woods, Brede

Though there are plenty of beautiful places in Sussex that are filled aplenty with ancient woodlands, this special area is within the High Weald AONB and deservedly so. Just out of Brede, a pretty blink-and-you’ll-miss-it little village, Brede Woods are home to areas of sweet chestnut coppice and pine trees, dotted in between magical ponds and twinkling little streams.

Try to visit in the spring when new bluebells burst out of the woods at every turn and baby rabbits are dashing about; it is truly magical experience and one of the best secret places in East Sussex where you can escape the crowds. 

Stay nearby: Wisteria Cottage - Staplecross - sleeps 4

Racton Folly

Racton Folly, near Chichester

Not the best place to head to if you are easily spooked, as the abandoned ruins of this 18th-century folly are said to be haunted! Though you can’t actually visit the folly, it is definitely worth having a peek from the adjacent footpath - it's a wonderful backdrop for romantic summer photos while the sweeping views across to Chichester Harbour are also highly photo-worthy.

There are lots of tales about the Folly - a popular one is that it was built by the second Earl of Halifax so that he could watch his merchant ships dock at the nearby port; it has also been suggested that it was commissioned as a summerhouse for the nearby Stansted Estate, as well as a place for smugglers to store their wares. Whatever the true tale behind this folly, it's certainly one of the best secret places to visit in West Sussex.

Stay nearby: Little Bridges - sleeps 2

Lake view through the leaves

Lake Wood and Grotto, Uckfield

This magical delight, owned by the Woodland Trust, is one of the best places to go in Sussex to if you love wildlife-spotting and beautiful views. A mixture of broadleaved and ancient woodland over 400 years old, it is especially pretty when bluebells fill the musky woods at springtime.

The combination of water and trees gave the area the interesting name of Lake Wood and Grotto, and it has inspired generations of visitors who come back year after year with their own families. Filled with over 60 species of bird as well as a fabulous carved-out cave and grotto which completes the path around the lake, this is one of our favourite hidden places in East Sussex and is sure to capture the imagination of any age of visitor. 

Stay nearby: Chauffeur's Cottage, Uckfield - sleeps 6

Bateman's Burwash

Bateman's, Burwash

Not only one of the prettiest little villages in the area with traditional English cottages lining a charming high street, it is also home to one of our favourite places to see in Sussex:  Bateman's, the 17th-century Jacobean home and inspiration of the author Rudyard Kipling. Follow the winding country lanes from Burwash village and you will arrive at this magnificent house surrounded by glorious gardens, just waiting for visitors to come and look around.

When inside, have a peek at Kipling’s library - with his messy desk covered in ink spots and book-lined walls, it looks as though he is still there, writing one of his amazing books. The recently restored Park Mill will also be able open to visitors soon so make sure this secret spot is high up on your list.

Stay nearby: Brand's Cottage, Etchingham - sleeps 2


Dungeness, Lydd-on-Sea

This vast expanse of shingle beach on the Kent and East Sussex border is known as the Marmite of the South. For those who love miles of bare and deserted space, this is one of the best places to visit in Sussex; you will find this enchanting windswept stretch of desert (it is indeed the UK's only desert) a secret paradise that you will want to keep just for yourself. 

The beach has breathtaking views across the Channel and along the Sussex and Kent coast. Only interrupted by quirky beach huts and old shipwrecks, the crowning glory of Dungeness has to be the huge power stations that sit magnificently at the sea's edge. For more wonderful days out by the coast, we've rounded up 10 of the best beaches in Sussex

Stay nearby: Stonihoe, Dungeness - sleeps 4 + 1 dog


Winchelsea, near Rye

More than a village and not quite a town in size, Winchelsea is under some debate as to whether it is the smallest town in the UK. With its own mayor, it is thought of as so, yet it really does give the feel of a bustling village. Either way, it's one of our favourite places to go in East Sussex. Rising high up above sea level, just ten minutes away from the medieval Cinque Ports town of Rye, it has an unusual grid pattern, with wide straight streets giving wonderful vistas all around.

Once a hub for the medieval wine trade, it is famous for its medieval stone-vaulted cellars which you can see as you walk through its streets. Guided tours will show you the best of Winchelsea during the summer months, including its three medieval gates and one of the best medieval church buildings in Sussex. Make sure you don't miss a trip to the town's coastal cousin Winchelsea Beach, which is a five-minute drive away - just don't make the mistake of walking there unless you have a few hours to spare!

Stay nearby: Angel Cottage - Winchelsea - sleeps 6

Battle Abbey

Battle Abbey, Battle

A small country town, Battle has just one main road which leads to perhaps the most majestic sight that you will see in Sussex. The spectacular Battle Abbey, built on the site where William the Conqueror defeated King Harold in the 1066 Battle of Hastings, is beautiful at any time of day, but particularly magical at sunset. If you're looking for family-friendly attractions, Battle Abbey is one of the best days out with kids in Sussex too!

Battle also has some excellent tea rooms and many lovely gift shops in the town which you will be able to spot from the Abbey towers. If you have time, you could always head along the coast to Hastings Castle; depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, it was one of three castles that William the Conqueror ordered to be built after his invasion in 1066. If you love history, myth and legend, or spectacular architecture, Battle is one of the best places to go in Sussex. 

Stay nearby: Wesleyan Lodge, Battle - sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Pagham Harbour

Pagham Harbour, near Chichester

Over 600 acres of tidal mudflats and shallow lagoons make this wildlife haven one of the best places to go in West Sussex to see a huge variety of wildlife including ducks, herons, curlews, lapwings and many more. Follow one of the nature trails or take a guided tour to see the amazing birdlife during the day and then sit back and watch the sun set across the Sussex coast.

There are various special highlights each season, but if you can go to Pagham Harbour's North Wall at dusk on a winter's evening, you will witness a true winter wildlife spectacle as hundreds of brent geese and wigeon fly overhead to graze in the fields to the north of the reserve. This is a really magical experience and worth going for alone.

Stay nearby: Coastguard Cottage, Aldwick - sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

West Dean Gardens

West Dean Gardens

These delightful restored gardens are the perfect antidote to everyday life. Whether you take a romantic woodland walk beside the twinkling stream where ripples of water form tiny waterfalls over craggy rocks, or walk through the walled fruit garden with its arch of pear trees, you can be sure that you will have stumbled upon a real hidden treasure.

Don't leave without visiting the working Victorian glasshouses and the 300-foot Edwardian pergola as well as the beautiful Sunken Garden and Arboretum. However you choose to spend your time there, you can be sure that this is one of the most magical places to visit in West Sussex. 

Stay nearby: The Cart Barn, Chichester - sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Stay with us in Sussex

If we have inspired you to visit any of these secret locations, have a peek at our lovely cottages in Sussex - just be sure to keep them under your hat!

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.