I have long been fascinated by Lewes. This quaint and idyllic little town in East Sussex represents everything quintessentially English for me. Located within a short 15 minute train ride from Brighton, you can also get some fabulous views of the South Downs.
We took a day trip to Lewes on a bank holiday weekend. It was just under an hour from East Croydon, so a fairly smooth ride. My first impression of Lewes as you get out of the station is of a sleepy and charming little town. We arrived about midday amidst the high street shops rolling up their shutters. The lack of pace is almost cathartic.
We didn’t have a specific itinerary in mind, only a few ideas; we predominantly wanted the day to take its own course. Considering it was a glorious sunny day, we thought it was befitting to start our day trip with a pint. Our first pit stop was the Lewes Arms. Only a short walk from the Lewes Castle, this is a charming old style boozer serving local Sussex beers and wine.
We discovered a generous roof terrace on the first floor, where we parked ourselves for a few hours and soaked in the sunshine.
Having enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, the idea of a pub crawl started to feel more and more attractive so we decided to take a short jaunt to the next pub – The Pelham Arms. This one was definitely more of gastropub with a huge back garden and some delicious looking pub grub.
For lunch, I had already reserved a table at the popular Laporte’s Café. It came highly recommended and it definitely stood up to my expectations. It’s more of a quaint cafe than a restaurant, with a good selection of sandwiches, cakes, teas and coffees. If the weather is good, ask to be seated in the back garden.
We both had the Full English but with our own individual options: I tucked into my bacon and halloumi, while Mr. K opted for the sausages. On a good sunny day, it was a perfect brunch experience.
After lunch, we grabbed some coffee at the nearby Ground Coffee House. This was a good place to perch with a hot drink and watch the world go by. I also sampled their flat brioche (intriguing) and it paired perfectly with my cup of steamy, black coffee.
The sun was starting to hide behind the clouds, so this was our cue to hit the Lewes Castle. It is not very big so you can easily complete your tour of the castle in just under two hours. The entry price of £7.70 per person is fairly reasonable too.
I highly recommend visiting for the gorgeous views of the South Downs from one of their towers. The steps in the towers are narrow but not too arduous.
There is also a nice audio presentation at the visitor centre about the history of Lewes and a model of the entire town built to scale, which is worth checking out (included in your ticket price). More visitor information on the castle can be found here.
Back from the castle, we had a little rummage through the boutiques of the high street. We stumbled upon a shop called Flint Interior Design which had some gorgeous home accessories and fabrics, set inside a beautiful 14th Century building. This is a great place to pick some unique gifts for friends, family or for your own home.
Another great shop was The King’s Framers where my dress co-ordinated with the exterior facade!
For dinner, we decided to go further afield to a pub called The Snowdrop Inn. It is a 15 minute walk from the town centre so I recommend leaving aside a few hours to get there, have a drink and and head back. On your way, you pass through the very first Bill’s restaurant, which is now a successful chain of restaurants in London. Incidentally for a town that doesn’t welcome chains, Lewes spawned its very own chain restaurant!
The Snowdrop Inn has a history of its own. It was named in memory of the fateful Lewes Avalanche of 1836, where there were many casualties. Judging by the crowds that gathered all afternoon and evening, the pub is undoubtedly a huge favourite amongst the locals.
Besides a good selection of their wines and beers, we sampled their house burger with fries as well as the sea bream with samphire, new potatoes and capers. My fish in particular was delicious and a testament to the quality of locally sourced ingredients.
And with that, it was time to go home. It was a day well spent, but I feel I have only scratched the surface of this historic little town. I would definitely recommend visiting Lewes over a leisurely long weekend and peeling through the many layers of its charming history.
More information on Lewes can be found here.