While you’re here in Lewes be sure to learn about the fascinating medieval history of the town with a trip to some of its most popular activities and attractions. We’ve gathered five of our favourite places to visit. Even if you only have a day in Lewes, all of them bar the Charleston Farmhouse are within easy walking distance of one another, so you can tick off Lews Castle, Lewes Priory, the Southover Grange Gardens and Anne of Cleves House all in one fell swoop, if you like.
Activities in Lewes
Delve into the history of this medieval town with a visit to Lewes Castle and the Barbican House Museum. You can’t miss the castle. It’s located just off the High Street and overlooks Lewes from its commanding position atop a mighty man-made mount on the northern reach of the town centre. The castle’s strategic importance lies in the fact it watches over the gap where the River Ouse cuts through the South Downs to protect the towns of Lewes and Cliffe. The site is managed by The Sussex Archaeological Society who do a fantastic job of bringing its rich history to life with the museum’s collection of artefacts as well as a mini-cinema which traces Lewes’ past from the prehistoric era.
Southover Grange Gardens
Continue your history trip with a visit to the fascinating ruins of Lewes Priory. They date back to the 11th century when the Priory of St Pancras stood on the site as the first Cluniac house in England, which was dedicated to the traditional mantras of monastic life, which encouraged art and caring for the poor. Take your time exploring Lewes Priory; follow in the footsteps of the medieval monks and visit their herb garden, which still grows today, where they would have grown medicinal plants and herbs. It’s free to enter and just a five-minute walk from Lewes Station in Lewes Priory Park.
Southover Grange Gardens
The Southover Grange Gardens are one of the real hidden gems of the region. They’re a couple of streets away from Lewes Priory Park, so you can tie a visit in with a walk around the ruins of Lewes Priory. The Southover Grange Gardens are a gorgeous stretch of beautifully manicured gardens in the grounds of Southover Grange, a picturesque house that dates back to the 16th century. Horticulturalists will love exploring the rose, walled and winter gardens. It’s absolutely stunning when the sun is shining and the weather’s warm.
Anne of Cleves House
Venture back in time and immerse yourself in the life and love of one of England’s most infamous monarchs with a trip to Anne of Cleves House on Southover High Street. The property was given to Queen Anne following the annulment of her marriage to Henry VIII in the 16th century. Today it stands as a museum featuring a fine collection of Sussex artefacts and furniture. While Anne of Cleves never actually lived in the house, it’s a fine example of Tudor architecture that’s been beautifully maintained and offers a fascinating way to spend an hour or two in Lewes.
If you’re staying with us at our Lewes Town Centre hotel and you don’t mind heading into the West Sussex countryside for a day of art and culture, the incredible Charleston Farmhouse is just a fifteen-minute drive away and well worth the mileage. The painters, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, as well as Duncan’s lover David Garnett, moved to the farmhouse on Virginia Woolf’s recommendation and established it as a countryside sanctuary for the Bloomsbury Group of artists during the second world war. The house and gardens are in beautiful condition today and do an excellent job of bringing this tale of the arts to life.