Things to do
Heritage and culture
Woven through the modern culture of The Living Coast are threads of intriguing history and heritage, many of them influenced and inspired by the local landscapes. Change the way you see the region by learning more about its heritage and immersing yourself in the vibrant local culture we have now.
Watch the 1:30min video
1. Visit a museum, pub, palace or windmill
The history of people on The Living Coast is housed in beautiful and bizarre buildings across the biosphere. From the dome-topped Royal Pavilion to the Brighton Fishing Museum tucked beneath the promenade, to the stone-chequered front of the 12th century Marlipins Museum in Shoreham-by-Sea or the imposing 1,000-year old Lewes Castle, the architecture is imbued with history related to their location. Then there are the iconic windmills, once used to grind grains – the West Blatchington windmill in Hove, Jack and Jill on the South Downs above Clayton and the Rottingdean windmill.
And if you prefer your history served with a pint or a cup of tea, there are countless traditional Sussex pubs and tearooms with stories to tell too.
2. Wander the lanes and twittens
Brighton and Lewes both have amazing networks of windy, historic streets, twittens and cat-creeps ( Sussex terms for narrow passages). Behind the traditional flintstone or bungaroosh walls and historic shopfronts, some dating back centuries, you’ll find both old and new delights. Walk back through time as you wend your way through the streets, stopping for an ice-cream as you saunter through The Lanes, once the centre of the seaside town of Brighthelm, browse the vintage and modern fashion statements in the North Laine, and enjoy a cream tea as you potter through the antique dealerships and craft galleries in Lewes.
3. Head for the villages
The Living Coast is dotted with wonderful villages that have been inhabited for centuries, a number by renowned historical personalities. Ditchling was home to a group of famous artists in the early 20th century and their creative influence can still be seen today, while perched above the chalk cliffs, Rottingdean was the home of Rudyard Kipling and has a history steeped in tales of smugglers. In Rodmell you can visit Monk’s House, Virginia Woolf’s 16th-century country cottage.
The villages of Offham, Plumpton, Firle, Fulking and Kingston all have their own stories to tell. Their historic churches, pubs, kilns and windmills make for interesting destinations on walking routes or cycle routes across The Living Coast.
4. Take a tour
Join a tour, follow an historic or cultural trail or even a scavenger hunt to find out fascinating facts and experience the heritage of The Living Coast. Go on foot, by bike or on a boat and learn about anything from the history of sea swimming to Sussex ghosts, film sets to street art, windfarms to wineries. There’s a tour for every week of the year.
5. Explore Stanmer Park
It’s definitely worth the cycle or bus trip to the fringes of Brighton to visit the city’s biggest park, an 18th-century estate stretching across 485 hectares of woodlands and fields. An ambitious restoration project has revived the walled kitchen garden of the stately Stanmer House and restored a number of historical features.
6. Enjoy a local festival
The Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe take place in May each year. The Brighton Festival is the largest arts festival in England and besides its line-up of local and international theatre, music and dance it makes use of outdoor spaces ranging from Shoreham Port to Brighton Beach to Stanmer Park to create events that are accessible to everyone.
Other festivals with a uniquely Living Coast flavour include Paddle Round The Pier in July which celebrates all things beach related and Burning The Clocks on 21st December to mark the winter solstice.
7. Ride the UK’s oldest electric railway through a rare habitat
The Volk’s Electric Railway in Brighton is the oldest operating electric railway in the world. Hop on just east of the Brighton Palace Pier and head down to Black Rock Beach near the Brighton Marina. Close your eyes and you can imagine Victorians promenading along the beachfront.
Although this urban coastal environment may appear barren at first, the train tracks run through vegetated shingle, an important and rare habitat for hardy plants which put on a show in the summer months. Here, yellow horned-poppies and sea kale offer a source of food to butterflies and other insects. Look towards the city, and you see a Madeira Drive’s ‘green wall’, planted more than 150 years ago by the Victorians, and home to more than 100 plant species.
8. Delve into local archaeological finds
The South Downs have been inhabited for thousands of years. There’s evidence of Stone Age communities, Iron Age forts and Roman villas within the Living Coast. Visit the Archaeology Gallery at Brighton Museum to journey through The Living Coast from the Ice Age through to the Saxon era. Or pull on your walking boots and head to the hills to see the grassy remains of settlements at Hollingbury Hill, Whitehawk Hill, Offham Hill or Ditchling Beacon.
The Marlipins Museum in Shoreham, which is the oldest secular building in Sussex, also houses local archaeological finds and tells the long and salty history of this fishing port.
9. Learn a heritage craft
Heritage crafts and skills are being lost, so why not be a part in resurrecting them. Learn how to bind books or colour fabric with natural dyes from plants grown in the garden at Ditchling Museum, or how to grow and make herbal remedies, work wood, carve stone or develop your gardening skills at Stanmer Park. And if you enjoy a good song, why not learn a few local sea shanties, many of them sung by sailors along these shores for hundreds of years.