When you get tired of Brighton, go to Lewes. Head for this quaint, sleepy market town a few miles outside of the B-Town madness and we promise you – you might never go back to the sea. You might choose to stay here.
Burn Baby Burn by Ash
Sussex cream tea
The Lewes Arms
The (original) Bill's
Lewes is so damn lovely, you see. It’s on a river, which flows through the lower part of the town, surrounded by a neat mix of old and new shops and houses. Then you climb up the hill to the centre of Lewes, the site of martyrs being burned at stakes, and further on to the castle and the coaching inns. Pretty as a picture, with a darker side on Bonfire Night, when the town’s secret societies come out in full and parade their effigies and burning torches down to the fires on the edge of town.
But that’s only one night of the year – the rest of the time, Lewes is quaint, market-town perfect, its ancient Sussex buildings giving away no secrets. The ideal spot for shopping and wandering, for eating a cream tea in the Tudor-era White Hart Hotel, for checking out Sussex’s oldest brewery at Harvey’s on the river. The perfect antidote to Brighton’s hen parties.
The Lewes Arms
I have a soft spot for Fullers Pubs. They always seem to be in cool buildings, well run and do decent food. The Lewes Arms is no exception – a nice spot near the castle and some great ale on tap. Plus they host the World Pea-Throwing Competition. And games of ‘toads’. Curious folk.
Well, once this was the original Bill's – yes, Bill's of chain-restaurant fame started out here in little Lewes as a grocer with a restaurant attached. It’s nothing like how it was. But it’s a decent place to eat, the food is always ok and it’s usually buzzing with families and couples wanting to eat ‘where it all began’.
Closet & Botts
Rather grand but lovely homeware store with antique furniture, gorgeous candles, crockery, pieces for the home and classy hardware. An upmarket Aladdin’s cave, that makes you feel deeply inadequate (why doesn’t my house look like this?) and also happy to spend money on pieces that will make your house look exactly like this.
Lewes Flea Market
Housed in an old chapel just round the corner from the high street, this is a superior vintage store spread over three floors. Plenty of nooks and crannies for browsing in and decent prices too. Plus they just mix stuff up, so it’s a proper hunt-’em-down type place. Easy to spend a couple of hours in there.
Oh balls, it was closed when we were there on a Sunday. But it looks great when we peeped in the window. Lots of cool vinyl in this tiny store. One to go back to.
What we did:
Visited the castle and looked down on to the town from the ramparts. Got lost in the ‘twittens’ (the little lanes that crisscross Lewes). Wandered down to the river and through a food market jammed with pulled pork burgers and falafel wraps. Headed out to Southover Grange Gardens and wandered through an enchanted garden after dark.
What we bought:
A 2ft-high statue of the Madonna from Lewes Flea Market. Classy it is not. A set of drawer handles from Closet and Botts. From the sublime to the ridiculous…
House Of The Dead / Crazy golf?:
Um, this is Lewes, not Brighton. It’s classy. So no. Not a sniff of either.