Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

25 Historical Day Trips From Brighton

Whatever your interests, in the seaside city of Brighton you will find something to engage all ages. Whether it is the regency splendour of the Royal Pavilion or the rides and activities on the Brighton Palace Pier. If it is the city location that attracts you, Brighton – ideally situated between East and West Sussex – is a prefect base from which to explore this part of the south coast of England. From prehistoric and Roman sites to the Battle of Hastings and many great medieval castles. From historic houses to an Art Deco airport. Here, we recommend 25 day trips from Brighton, under or around an hour away.

Although a seaside town, Brighton is not simply a beach destination. As one of the most diverse and vibrant seaside cities, there are many reasons to visit the city and explore its vibrant culture. As well as its extraordinary history. For our take on things to do in Brighton, see our recommendations for the Oldest Historical Sites and Landmarks that should not be missed.

If you are staying for more than a few days, or if you live there and are looking for ideas for a day trip from Brighton we have 25. Some, such as hopping on a train to London, you may have thought about. If travelling for an hour is your maximum, there is so much to see and do in a day whilst staying in Brighton. From Hampshire in the west to Kent in the east, as well as East Sussex and West Sussex in between.

From expansive views over vast countryside to quaint market towns and historic attractions. Prehistory, Romans Normans and Victorians. Weather you are in search of art or history, good food or long walks. You will certainly be spoilt for choice with our suggestions for daytrips from Brighton listed below. And of course, these are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Use our interactive map to find landmarks and points of interest that interest you. Add them or create your own itinerary.

Lewes Castle & Museum

Lewes Castle is a medieval castle in the town of Lewes, East Sussex. The castle stands high on a man-made mound and is constructed from limestone and flint blocks. Unusually, Lewes Castle has two mottes. The first motte, known as Brack Mount, was completed shortly after the Norman conquest in 1066. The second motte, known as the Keep, was completed in the 11th century. Steep climbs to the top of the castle are rewarded by spectacular panoramic views of the area and the mottes.

The museum houses a beautiful archaeological collection which includes prehistoric flints, fine Roman pottery, Saxon weapons and medieval gold rings. Features include interactive displays, a medieval gallery and a mini cinema that tells the story of Lewes. The bookshop sells new and second-hand books on the history and archaeology of Lewes and the wider area.

Lewes is a 20-minute drive from Brighton and the narrow, cobbled streets and beautiful shops on the high street make it a picturesque day trip from the city.

Saltdean Lido

Saltdean Lido is the only Grade II* listed lido in the UK. It was built in 1937-38 to the designs by the architect Richard Jones and was hailed as the most innovative design of its type in Britain. It consisted of a tea terrace, sun deck, a café on the flat roof, and had curved wings at either end. The Art Deco design of the building has been described as glorious and elegant.

During WWII, the lido was used by the National Fire Service. The pool was used as a water tank and the grounds were used by instructors and fire officers for training purposes. During this time, the site was closed to the general public, but the changing rooms were used for church services and a Sunday School.

Throughout its history, Saltdean Lido has been closed re-opened many times. In the 1990s, local authorities were selling off lido swimming pools due to the maintenance costs of these ageing structures. In 1997 a group of business men took on the site from the council but planned to close the pool forever. The Save Saltdean Lido Campaign was set up in March 2010 by local residents after plans were announced to fill the swimming pool and create 102 apartments. A successful application from this group to English Heritage resulted in the lido being protected, restored, and re-opened to the public in May 2017.

Saltdean is a coastal village in the city of Brighton & Hove. It is roughly 5 miles east of Brighton making it a very short drive from the centre. Although Saltdean Lido may not be considered a day trip from the city, it is certainly a charming way to spend an afternoon.

Bodiam Castle, Robertsbridge

Historic Bodiam Castle with autumn leaves in East Sussex, England
The evocative Bodiam Castle in autumn. Only an hour or so from Brighton.

Bodiam Castle in a 14th century castle near Robertsbridge in East Sussex. At just over an hour drive from Brighton, this castle will invoke the childhood concept of knights in shining armour and great battles!

Bodiam Castle was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III. The castle was built to defend the area against the French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War but was also designed to be an inviting home. The design of the castle is intriguing; the castle is quadrangular in plan and has no keep. Its corners and entrance are marked by towers and topped by crenellations. It also features inner courts, which allowed for space for those living and working within the castle.

Bodiam Castle is home to one of the largest bat roosts in south-east England and houses 5 different species of bats. The castle is the archetypal 14th century moated castle with ruined interior and provides a glimpse into medieval life and splendour.

Arundel Castle & Gardens

Arundel Castle boasts nearly 1,000 years of history and is situated in spectacular grounds overlooking the River Arun. It was built in the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel. The oldest feature is the motte constructed in 1068. Apart from the occasional reversion to the Crown, Arundel Castle has descended directly from 1138 to the present day, carried by female heiresses.

During the Civil War (1642-45), the castle was badly damaged. Nothing was done to rectify this damage until 1718. The impressive building that we see now owes much to Henry, 15th Duke of Norfolk who completed a restoration project in 1900.

The castle houses a fascinating collection of furniture dating from the 16th century, tapestries, clocks, impressive portraits by Gainsborough, Mytens, Lawrence, and others, and personal possessions of Mary, Queen of Scots and historical, religious and heraldic items from the Duke of Norfolk’s collection.

Arundel Castle gardens consist of a vinery, a 19th century walled kitchen garden, cut flower border and Fitzalan Chapen with its own white garden, and more. The impressive castle, rich in history and the beautiful gardens provide a day trip from Brighton that is both educational and serene. Arundel is a 40-minute drive from Brighton.

The Priest House & Gardens, West Hoathly

The Priest House stands in a traditional cottage garden in the quaint village of West Hoathly on the edge of the Ashdown Forest. West Hoathly is a 50-minute drive through picturesque Sussex countryside from Brighton.
The house is a Grade II* listed 15th century timber framed hall house with a central hearth and was originally thatched. The house belonged to Anne of Cleves, Thomas Cromwell, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The house hosts the fascinating museum of Sussex Folklore and the garden consists of over 170 culinary, medicinal and household herbs.

There are apotropaic marks (witch marks) scratched into several placed in the Priest House including the front door. They are believed to be dated to the 17th century and were thought to prevent witches from entering the house. Another key object is The Suffragette Handkerchief which consists of 66 embroidered signatures and two sets of initials, mostly of women imprisoned in HMP Holloway for their part in the Women’s Social and Political Union Suffragette demonstrations in March 1912.

Fishbourne Roman Palace

Fishbourne Roman Palace is in the village of Fishbourne, Chichester which is an hour drive from Brighton & Hove. The palace is the largest residential Roman building discovered in Britain and is dated to 75 AD. The palace was excavated by Barry Cunliffe after it was accidentally discovered by Aubrey Barrett, an engineer who was laying water mains across the field. Much of the palace has been excavated, preserved and consists of an on-site museum. Areas of the palace and the formal gardens have been reconstructed.

The original palace had roughly 100 rooms, most of which had mosaic floors. These floors were laid at the time of the construction of the palace, which makes them some of the oldest mosaics in the country. The palace gardens are the earliest dated gardens and Fishbourne Roman Palace hosts the largest collection of mosaics in situ in the UK.

Fishbourne Roman Palace provides hands-on family events and displays a wide range of Roman objects. The site will transport you back in time to a life of luxury during the Roman period.

The Long Man of Wilmington

Landscape image of Long Man of Wilmington ancient chalk carving on hillside on South Downs
Visit the Longman of Wilmington, one of a number of chalk figures cut into hillsides in southern England.

The Long Man of Wilmington or the Wilmington Giant is a hill figure on the steep slopes of Windover Hill, near Wilmington which is a 30-minute drive from Brighton. The Long Man is 235 feet tall, holds two “staves” and is designed to look in proportion when viewed from below. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The origin of the Long Man remains unclear; for many years the earliest known record was a drawing dated to 1766. It was previously thought to have originated from the Iron Age, or even the Neolithic period, but in 2003 archaeological investigation showed that the figure was likely cut in the 16th or 17th century AD.

Although the Long Man is not as old as people had previously thought, the many theories and beliefs surrounding this dominating figure in the East Sussex countryside make it a beguiling site for an afternoon walk.

Shoreham Airport

While visiting Shoreham for Marlipins Museum, it is worthwhile to stop by the famous airport. Shoreham Airport was founded in 1910 and is the oldest purpose-built commercial aiport in the world that is still in operation.

The 1930s art deco terminal building was designed by R Stavers Hessell Titlman and is Grade II* listed. The first aviator to fly there was Harold H. Piffard and the site holds a memorial garden that celebrates his flight. During the First World War, Shoreham Airport was used by the Royal Flying Corps and was one of the departure points for the earlier flights to join the conflict across the Channel.

Today, the airport is used by privately owned planes, flying schools and for light aircraft and helicopter maintenance and sales. The beautiful and bold art deco building is a site to see, and the Hummingbird Café located in the Main Terminal building is the perfect spot for afternoon tea with views across the South Downs National Park.

Hever Castle & Gardens, Kent

Hever Castle & Gardens is located in the village of Hever, Kent which is just over an hour drive from Brighton & Hove. There are three main periods in the construction of this historic castle. The oldest part dates to 1270 and consisted of the gatehouse and walled bailey. The second period was when the castle was converted into a manor in 1462 by Geoffrey Boleyn. He added a Tudor home within the walls. The third period of repair and renovation was in the 20th century.

The castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife who was the Queen of England for 1,000 days. Hever Castle was later passed into the ownership of Anne of Cleves, another one of Henry VIII’s many wives.

The gardens at Hever Castle were laid out between 1904 and 1908 by Joseph Cheal and Son, who turned the marshland into the spectacular gardens we see today. The castle is also home to one of the best collections of Tudor portraits outside of the National Portrait Gallery. The many rooms, collections, exhibitions and events that are held at Hever Castle ensure that there is something for everyone at this historically rich site.

Chanctonbury Ring

Chanctonbury Ring is a prehistoric hill fort atop Chanctonbury Hill on the South Downs. A ridgeway which is now part of the South Downs Way runs along the hill. It forms a part of a number of historical features which were created over a span of roughly 2,000 years.

Chanctonbury Ring consists of a roughly circular low earthen rampart surrounded by a ditch and is thought to date to the late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. The purpose of the structure is unknown but is likely to have filled a variety of roles such as a defensive position, a cattle enclosure, or even a religious shrine. After a few centuries of usage, the site was abandoned for roughly 500 years until it was reoccupied during the Roman period. Two Romano-British temples were built in the interior.

The site was abandoned again and remained unoccupied until a mid-18th century landowner planted a ring of beech trees around its perimeter. The walk from the car park to Chanctonbury Ring is scenic and the stunning views across the South Downs are an excellent place to stop for a picnic but beware, there is an old myth that if you walk around the hill seven times, Satan will appear and offer you a delicious bowl of soup in exchange for your soul!

Bramber Castle, Steyning

Bramber Castle is a Norman motte-and-bailey castle and is situated near Steyning, overlooking the River Adur. The castle was built around 1070 and served as the administrative hub of the newly created Rape of Bramber.

Little survives of the original structure as much of the stone was later used to construct the bridge and other buildings in the village. The most prominent remaining feature is the gatehouse tower, which stands to its full height with a window and floor joist holes are clearly visible. Also visible are the foundations of what is believed to have been the living quarters and a guardhouse. Situated to the north of the gatehouse is the original castle motte. A small church is located next to the entrance which was originally constructed for the castle’s inhabitants and is still in use today.

Bramber Castle is a short drive from Brighton and Chanctonbury Ring.

Church of St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Sompting

Sompting is a village and civil parish in the coastal Adur Dictrict of West Sussex and is a 30-minute drive from Brighton. Settlement of the area now covered by Sompting began in the Bronze Age and continued through to the Roman period. The Church of St Mary the Blessed Virgin is the Church of England parish church of Sompting.

There was a church on the site of the present building in the 11th century, and some structural elements remain from that era. In 1154, William de Braose, the 3rd Lord of Bramber passed the building to the Knights Templar who made structural changes. They widened the church by rebuilding the nave and chancel to the same width as the Saxon-era tower.

The church fell into decay during the 18th century when the living was poor in this area. The tower is the most important feature of the church and is known nationally and internationally as an exemplar of Saxon architecture. The spire is the Rhenish helm design and is unique in England with a cap of four shingled gables rising steeply in a pyramid formation. The Church of St Mary the Blessed Virgin is listed as a Grade I building by English Heritage for its architecture and history.

Cissbury Ring, West Sussex

Cissbury Ring is an 84.2-hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest north of Worthing in West Sussex. Cissbury Ring is a 40-minute drive from Brighton & Hove.

Located on the South Downs, human activity prior to the Neolithic period was limited. It is thought that hunters used the South Downs as a vantage point for spotting animal herds. The Neolithic period saw the development of settlements and an extensive flint mining operation was carved out on the southern side of the hill. Agricultural settlements continued to grow during the early Bronze Age when the site appears to have been used as a burial ground. Two round barrows have been identified here.

The Iron Age hill fort of Cissbury Ring was constructed around 400BC and was used for roughly 300 years. The hill fort encloses around 26 hectares and originally had two entrances. After 100BC the interior of the fort was used for agriculture. Evidence from the Roman period consists of a group of 11 buildings and two rectangular enclosures near the eastern entrance to the fort. There is also evidence that there was once a mint here.

Today, Cissbury Ring is a place where people can walk, enjoy the views and appreciate the countryside.

Bignor Roman Villa

A depiction of Venus in a Roman mosaic at Bignor Villa in West Sussex, England.
A close up of one of the well preserved mosaic pavements at Bignore Roman villa.

Bignor Roman Villa is situated north of the South Downs about an hour drive from Brighton. The villa was discovered by George Tupper in 1811 after striking the Summer dining room water basin with his plough. The villa is still managed by the Tupper family today who continue to strive to maintain the site for the education and enjoyment of all who visit.

The earliest structural remains of Bignor Roman Villa are of a simple timber farm structure dating to c.190 AD. A four-roomed stone building was built in the middle of the 3rd century AD and was extended between 240-290 AD. The building became the western wing when north and south wings were added at the turn of the 4th century. In its final form, the villa consisted of roughly 65 rooms surrounding a courtyard. The latest phase of the building consisted of additions to the north wing between c.300-350 AD, where most of the mosaics are located. The mosaics are some of the best Roman mosaics to be found in the UK, both in terms of preservation, artistic merit and detailing.

Devil’s Dyke

Devil’s Dyke is a 100m deep V-shaped valley on the South Downs Way, just outside Brighton & Hove. It is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest and was a major local tourist attraction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Dyke is formed in rocks of the Chalk Group which originated as marine sediments during the Cretaceous period. The hills surrounding the valley rise to 217 metres and offer spectacular views of the South Downs. Ramparts of an Iron Age hillfort remain visible and a cosy pub is situated at the top. In late Victorian times, Devil’s Dyke became a tourist attraction with a fairground, two bandstands and an observatory.
Local folklore explains the dyke as the work of the Devil with many origin stories revolving around him. At the bottom of the dyke there are two humps known as the Devil’s Graves, under which the Devil and his wife are supposedly buried. Similar to Chanctonbury Ring, if a person runs backwards 7 times around these humps while holding their breath, the Devil will appear.

Devil’s Dyke is a beautiful place for long walks and is a popular site for paragliding. Devil’s Dyke has also been used as a lesbian campsite during Brighton Pride weekend.

Cuckmere Haven

Cuckmere Haven is an area of flood plains in Sussex where the river Cuckmere meets the English Channel and is a 40-minute drive from Brighton. It is a popular tourist destination where people can go for long walks down to the beach to see the Seven Sisters cliffs.

The wreck of the Polynesia, a German sailing ship that went down in April 1890 west of Beachy Head is exposed at low tide. The beach is known for being used by smugglers between the 16th and 18th centuries. During WWII, the site was studied by the Luftwaffe as they flew missions to identify potential landing sites for the invasion of the UK mainland. A series of counter-landing defences such as pillboxes, anti-tank obstacles, ditches and tank traps were built, with many still surviving.

Cuckmere Haven is also home to a variety of wildlife and has a rich ecosystem making it the perfect day trip for history and nature lovers alike.

Rudyard Kipling House, Rottingdean

Rottingdean is a village located just outside Brighton & Hove. A 15-minute drive will take you to the centre of Rottingdean which is often the subject of picture postcards. This quaint seaside town was once the home of the famous writer Rudyard Kipling.

The house called The Elms was built by William Ridge in 1745. Rudyard Kipling rented The Elms for three guineas a week from 1897 to 1902. It was in this house that he wrote many of the famous “Just So Stories”. Sadly, when his eldest daughter Josephine died in 1899 he could no longer feel happy in Rottingdean and left for a more secluded existence in Burwash.

Kiplings Gardens is open to the public and were once part of The Elms. The gardens are considered a fine example of horticultural excellence and include the walled Rose Garden, a Herb Garden and a Wild Garden. The Wild Garden is a beautiful area to enjoy a picnic and read one of the “Just So Stories”.

Anne of Cleves House, Lewes

Anne of Cleves House is a 16th century timer-framed house located in Lewes, a 30-minute drive from Brighton. The house formed part of Queen Anne’s annulment settlement from King Henry VIII in 1541.

Anne of Cleves House is owned by the Sussex Archaeological Society and is currently a museum home to a wide-ranging collection of furniture and artefacts related to Sussex. The bedroom and kitchen of the house are furnished to resemble their original appearance at the time it was owned by Anne of Cleves. The museum also hosts an exhibition of Wealden iron making, including large machinery such as a hammer from Etchingham Forge.

Although the house belonged to Anne of Cleves, there is no record of her ever visiting the site. The house has a café and the Tudor Tea Garden is open to visitors to enjoy.

Pevensey Castle

Pevensey Castle began in the 4th century as one of the last and strongest of the Roman ‘Saxon Shore’ forts. Two-thirds of the towered walls still stand today. It is famous as it is the landing place of William the Conqueror’s army in 1066. During King Stephen’s reign (1135-54) the castle was granted to Gilbert de Clare. When Gilbert rebelled in 1147, the castle was blockaded until its inhabitants were starved into submission and the Crown repossessed it.

The castle was occupied more or less continuously until the 16th century when it was abandoned and remained a crumbling, partly overgrown ruin until it was acquired by the state in 1925. Pevensey Castle was reoccupied during WWII when it was garrisoned by units from the Home Guard, the British and Canadian armies and the United States Army Air Corps. Machine-gun posts were built into the Roman and medieval walls to control the land around Pevensey and guard against the threat of German invasion. These can still be seen today.

With a history stretching back over 16 centuries, Pevensey Castle is rich in history. The site is an hour drive from Brighton and is a perfect day trip for history lovers.

Eartham Pit, Boxgrove

Eartham Pit is an internationally important archaeological site. The oldest human remains in Britain were discovered here – fossils of Homo heidelbergensis, which date to c.500,000 years ago. Boxgrove is also one of the oldest sites with direct evidence of hunting a butchering by humans. The huge quantity of well-preserved animal bones, numerous flint artefacts, and hominin fossils are among some of the most ancient found yet in Europe. The wing bone of a great auk was found at the site, which is the oldest found bone of the species.

In August 2020, archaeologists announced that they had discovered the earliest bone tools ever found in Europe at the site and said that it provides further evidence that early human populations at Boxgrove were cognitively, socially, and culturally sophisticated.

Boxgrove is a village in the Chichester District of West Sussex. It is a 50-minute drive from Brighton & Hove, through scenic countryside. Boxgrove is best known for the Palaeolithic site discovered in a gravel quarry known as Eartham Pit which was excavated between 1983 and 1996 by a team of archaeologists from University College London.

Michelham Priory, Upper Dicker

Michelham Priory is the site of a former Augustine Priory in Upper Dicker, a 40-minute drive from Brighton. The surviving buildings are owned by the Sussex Archaeological Society and are Grade I and Grade II listed.

The Augustine Priory of the Holy Trinity was founded by Gilbert de Aquila in 1229. The Priory was seized in 1537 under Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries and was then granted to Thomas Cromwell. After the execution of Thomas Cromwell in 1540, it was given to Anne of Cleves.

The T-shaped stone-built structure, the east and north wings date from the 13th century, with the west wing dated to the 16th century. The area is surrounded by a motte, which encloses an area of almost 8 hectares. Michelham Priory is one of the most widely reported haunted places in Sussex. Visitors claim to have seen black hooded monks and a lady dressed in Tudor clothing walking the corridors!

A beautiful watermill in the grounds has been restored to working order. The Tudor building includes an interactive Victorian kitchen, a WWII evacuee bedroom and a Prior’s room. The gardens boast 15 acres of grounds with a kitchen garden, medieval herb garden, a replica Bronze Age roundhouse, an interactive medieval gallery in the 14th century gatehouse, and a café.

Newhaven Fort

Newhaven fort is the last of a long series of defences built on the cliffs overlooking Seaford Bay, dating back to the Iron Age. The first gun was sent to Newhaven in 1548 following a raid on Seaford by the French. Over the next 300 years, the gun defences were updated, however they often fell into disrepair.

In 1759, the first permanent gun battery was built at the site. By the late 1850s, Napoleon the Third was building up his navy and strengthening his coastal defences and Newhaven Fort was one of 72 coastal forts to be built. Designed by 22-year-old Lieutenant John Charles Ardagh, construction of Newhaven Fort was started in 1862 and took 10 years and 6 million bricks to complete!

At the end of the 19th century, the fort needed updating and was practically rebuilt. Modern guns were installed and when WWI broke out, the harbour became even more important to Britain. When WWII broke out, Newhaven Fort was a vital element in the defence against the threat of German invasion. Thousands of soldiers were stationed in the area with troops sent from here for the Normandy landings of 1944.

Today, Newhaven Fort houses hundreds of genuine military artefacts, hosts a realistic air-raid recreation in the Blitz Bomb Shelter and has some stunning views. This site is a 30-minute drive from Brighton and is a great place for a day trip to learn about UK defence systems and war efforts.


Although Hastings is just over an hour drive from Brighton & Hove, its significance deemed it worthy to be included in this guide to day trips from the city. Hastings is a seaside town and gives its name to the Battle of Hastings, which took place in 1066.

When visiting Hastings, be sure to visit the 1066 battlefield. Today it is peaceful with flowers and wildlife, but this evocative landscape will transport you back in time to the great battle for the future of king and country. The visitor centre includes interactive displays and a short film that re-tells the story of the battle.

The atmospheric ruins of William the Conqueror’s famous abbey can be explored, and you can stand of the very spot where King Harold is said to have died! The stonework is to be admired and the Duchess of Cleveland’s Victorian walled garden provides a glimpse into the abbey’s history.

Steeped in redefining elements of the history of the UK, Hastings is a perfect day trip from Brighton with the seaside town providing charming walks along the beach and high street and informative displays and collections related to the 1066 battle.


Tower Of London White Tower
The Tower of London.

Much like Hastings, London is too significant to be left off the list of day trips from Brighton & Hove. Easily accessible by an hour train journey or a 1.5 hour drive, London is the perfect day out. Humans have lived in the London area from the Palaeolithic time, through to the Romans and up to present day.

Direct trains from Brighton to London go to three rail stations. They are: London Victoria (52 minutes), London Bridge (58 minutes) and London St Pancras (1 hour and 16 minutes). Find these stations on our interactive map (see below), and then search for attractions and points of interest within your chosen walking distance.

Suggestions for things to do in London can be found in our London Travel Guide.

Archaeology Travel Writer

Dulcie Newbury

Dulcie is studying for her PhD in archaeology which focuses on gender and queer theory. With a passion for history, heritage, and the role these can play in mental health and wellbeing, she is often exploring new places and writing about them. When she is not studying, she loves to read and travel.

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