The National Trust is a British institution that connects us with the beautiful landscapes and historic homes that contribute to the nation’s history and heritage, and preserves them for future generations. Naturally, National Trust East Sussex day trips often top the list of things to do for our guests. So we thought it about time we rounded up all the options for you.
National Trust East Sussex day trips
Houses and gardens
Gifted to the National Trust by Caroline Kipling, this was the family home she shared with her husband Rudyard Kipling and their children. It remains an honest reflection of their life and a memorial to one of history’s great authors. Architecturally, the house glows in luscious sandstone with striking chimneys on the exterior and rich panelling on the inside. Although renovated shortly before Kipling bought it in 1902, it is of 17th century structure. The house blends seamlessly into the vast acreage of grounds and woodland that Kipling purchased more and more of during his lifetime.
Ruined castles are the best friends of curious minds and creative imaginations, and Bodiam’s moated ruins tick all the necessary boxes. Externally, the castle is largely intact therefore retaining its impressive and impenetrable dominance enhanced by the challenge of getting past the most! Fascinatingly, of its three original portcullis gates, the outermost one remains yet its interior beyond is ruined. The castle remains impressive in every sense intended by its owner Sir Edward Dallingridge and makes for a wonderful National Trust East Sussex day trip.
Lamb House, Rye
Yet more literary connections, this time courtesy of Lamb House and the American author Henry James. He was so taken by the house upon a visit to Rye that he went on to buy and renovate the property before drafting novels such as The Wings of the Dove there. Unsurprisingly, he and Kipling became acquaintances and now their homes are both National Trust East Sussex landmarks. Lamb House has continued to attract literary talent although it perhaps most famously welcomed royalty as far back as 1726 when King George I’s ship landed in Camber in a storm and he needed a bed for the night!
Sheffield Park and Garden
A gardener’s delight, whatever the season, of all National Trust East Sussex gardens, Sheffield Park is one of the most stunning. Take inspiration from the shocks of colours in spring and summer, go leaf peeping in autumn or enjoy the frost bitten air and lush evergreens during winter days. While the work of Capability Brown to rethink the parkland and Repton to rework the lakes is cited in the estate’s history, the land was split in the mid 20th-century. The ornamental planting begun in the early 1900s is largely the land and gardens that the National Trust purchased and you can enjoy in all their splendour today.
Monk’s House, Lewes
The National Trust East Sussex literary thread continues at Monk’s House, which was the country retreat of Virginia Woolf and her husband for 50 years. It’s as charming now as it was for them when retreating from the hubbub of London and their creative influences shine through. Enjoy their art collections in the furniture personalised by great artist friends and Woolf’s portrait by her own sister that graces the dining room wall. The writing lodge in the cottage garden tendered by Leonard is a tranquil space for everyone – you may even be inspired to start your novella too.
Alfriston Clergy House
It was here in 1896 that the National Trust acquired its first property and the legacy of the National Trust in East Sussex began.This Wealden hall house dates back to the 1300s and was built originally for the local priest. It has housed many of them over the centuries, and undergone various renovations too. It’s a fascinating place if you take the time to digest its history of residents and renovations as well as the origins of the Trust’s mission. Extend your visit to the village of Alfriston for a spot of refreshment and the church itself, which is affectionately referred to as the Cathedral of the Downs.
National Trust walks and wildlife
Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters
When you need somewhere to unleash pent up energy, to breathe in the fresh coastal air or to occupy a few hours with wildlife spotting, Birling Gap brings coast and country together. Soak up the dramatic coastline courtesy of the Seven Sisters cliffs or wander along the coastal path there. Come armed with binoculars or rock pooling kit – your exploration options are endless.
Want to get walking? Downland adventures begin here amidst the lush rolling landscape near Lewes. The easily amused will chuckle more than once at the reference to bottoms where the Downs dip to their lowest points and wildlife reside in abundance. Views across The Weald will take your breath away on the clearest of days.
There are a number of National Trust East Sussex walking trails abound in Cuckmere Valley inviting visitors to explore the area’s farmland, chalk downland and Seaford Head Nature Reserve. The routes are mostly accessible for even the youngest legs and rarely too long to make a shoulder ride daunting for part of it!
The National Trust did well to acquire this landscape because it’s the highest point in East Sussex. Hence the views are stunning whether you look across The Weald or the downs. There’s a lovely 5 mile wander between here and Blackcap and this makes for a fabulous picnic spot. Weather wise, bring a kite to appease those less enthused on windy days and any young farm enthusiasts will be occupied spotting all elements of farm life.
Across the county border in Kent
Now, here in Camber we’re right on the Sussex-Kent border and gratefully close to yet more days trips courtesy of our National Trust membership. Three of our favourites are Scotney Castle near Lamberhurst, Smallhythe Place in Tenterden and Sissinghurst Castle near Cranbrook.
Across the county border in West Sussex
If you find yourselves exploring in the other direction, just across the border into East Sussex we’d recommend visiting Standen House and Garden near East Grinstead, Wakehurst and Nymans near Haywards Heath, and Saddlescombe Farm and Newtimber Hill on the outskirts of Brighton.
At the time of writing some but not all of these sites are open and pre-booking is required for all those that are. Access for National Trust members is free of charge but non-members are also welcome to visit for a one-off fee. Plan your day trip here
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