With the rolling South Downs, beaches and historic villages, West Sussex makes for enticing escapes. Yet much of the county is within an hour of London. Great places to stay are plentiful, from smart country houses to cosy pubs with rooms. You can go for all-out indulgence with top spas and Michelin-starred dining or use your base for coastal exploration or sporting thrills.
The best hotels in West Sussex are:
Best for Michelin-starred dining: Gravetye Manor, Booking.com
Best for action: The Goodwood Hotel, Booking.com
Best for spa: South Lodge, Booking.com
Best for family fun: Beachcroft Beach Hut Suites, Booking.com
Best for romantic breaks: East Walls Hotel, Booking.com
Best for seafood: Crab & Lobster, Crab-lobster.co.uk
Best for rustic-chic: The Pig in the South Downs, Thepighotel.com
Best for ancient meets modern: Ockenden Manor, Booking.com
Best for lording it up: Amberley Castle, Booking.com
Best for Michelin-starred dining: Gravetye Manor
Location: West Hoathly
Homegrown produce enhances the Michelin-starred meals at this Elizabethan mansion, once home to a famous gardener. The contemporary glass-walled restaurant looks onto a fabulous array of flowers, some of which end up topping the delectable dishes.
Beyond Gravetye’s own thousand acres are further treats for the horticulturally-minded, with Kew’s sister site Wakehurst and the National Trust’s autumn colour hotspot Sheffield Park nearby. For a more modest local alternative, The Cat Inn has smart rooms and Bib Gourmand-awarded dining in cosy surroundings.
Price: Doubles from £315, B&B
Best for action: The Goodwood Hotel
Fancy driving a retro racing car or taking to the skies in a biplane? The sporty Goodwood Estate is a gift experience heaven. Golf and clay pigeon shooting are among the non-motorised activities offered, and the hotel has a spa for soothing tired muscles.
Don’t miss sustainable dining in Farmer, Butcher, Chef – an impressive restaurant decorated with retro finds from fire hoses to flags. You’ll need to book well ahead, though, for vintage car racing spectacular Goodwood Revival, which tops a packed calendar of sporting events.
Price: Doubles from £150, B&B
Best for spa: South Lodge
The newest of the top destination spas in West Sussex is a huge state-of-the-art affair at historic South Lodge. A ‘wild swimming’ option complete with rushes is among its three pools and an array of other features includes a sun terrace, herbal steam room, dedicated spin studio and veggie-slanted restaurant. The country house-style lodge itself sits within 93 acres and its 88 classically furnished rooms include suites with hot tub balconies.
Price: Doubles from £285, B&B
Best for family fun: Beachcroft Beach Hut Suites
The hut-shaped suites adjoining the Beachcroft Hotel have plenty of cheery seaside style. Lounges with squashy sofas and contemporary prints open to decks overlooking the sea. Double beds and bunk beds can accommodate families of four and dogs are welcomed with treats.
Beachcroft is right opposite Felpham beach (two bikes for exploring are included). There’s also a small heated pool on site. Alternatively, with day passes, you can go large on the flumes at nearby Butlin’s Bognor Regis.
Price: Beach huts from £415 per night, B&B
Best for romantic breaks: East Walls Hotel
This antique-stuffed boutique hotel occupies a Georgian building on a quiet side street in central Chichester. Hole up enjoying roll-topped baths and hand-carved beds (upgrade to the honeymoon suite for a four-poster), or take tea in the walled garden, but spare time to explore. Chichester Cathedral is on the doorstep. You can also walk to the acclaimed Chichester Festival Theatre, from which productions often transfer to the West End.
Price: Doubles from £189, B&B
Best for seafood: Crab & Lobster
As its name suggests, locally caught seafood is the star at this foodie pub with rooms. Attention to detail in the kitchen is matched in the smart bedrooms where original beams add character. There’s also an on-site cottage for families. Just beyond the doors, look out for egrets – the Crab & Lobster is perched on the edge of the birding hotspot Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve. Sandy West Wittering beach is a few miles away, where you can hire the pub’s ‘Betty’ beach hut.
Price: Doubles from £220, B&B
Best for rustic-chic: The Pig in the South Downs
If you’re after a countryside break with Instagrammable features, the youngest hotel in The Pig chain is calling your name. Rooms here are spread across a Georgian main house, stable yard buildings and secluded shepherd’s hut-style ‘wagons’, many with views of the South Downs and the hotel’s fledgling vineyard. The Greenhouse restaurant foregrounds ingredients grown in the kitchen garden or sourced within 25 miles. Pretty Arundel with its medieval castle can be explored nearby.
Price: Doubles from £155, room only
Best for ancient meets modern: Ockenden Manor
Heritage room or contemporary spa suite? The choice is yours at this ivy-clad Elizabethan mansion house with a separate pampering complex. Take in South Downs views from the formal dining room or striking glass-walled pool as you consider your next indulgence – perhaps a massage teamed with local sparkling wine.
Cuckfield village is near commuter station Haywards Heath. Several vineyards, National Trust sites, and lively Brighton make easy day trips. Ockenden also has two sister spa properties; historic coaching inn The Spread Eagle at Midhurst and sprawling country folly Bailiffscourt near seaside Littlehampton.
Price: Doubles from £232, B&B
Best for lording it up: Amberley Castle
Location: Amberley (near Arundel)
Picture yourself sleeping behind a portcullis and playing croquet beneath battlements? At Amberley Castle, you can live out those regal fantasies. Dating back to the 12 century (Henry VIII is among former visitors), it feels part hotel, part Hogwarts. Think lattice windows, large fireplaces and suits of armour. Thankfully the bathrooms are plush, modern affairs.
Dinner is formal, creative and top-notch. For more relaxed indulgence, afternoon tea can be taken in the courtyard before historic diversions like falconry and archery. Handily, Amberley village has rail connections to London and locally to Arundel and Littlehampton.
Price: Doubles from £285, B&B
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