The 11th century Lewes castle looms over the town’s specialist shops: antiquarian book and antique shops, delicatessens, boutiques, restaurants, pubs and Harveys Brewery. The ruins of the Priory of St. Pancras, destroyed by Henry VIII, lie alongside the railway and historic houses include Anne of Cleves House (now a museum). Southover Grange, the home of 16th century diarist John Evelyn, displays the craftwork of the Sussex Guild. Shelleys Hotel was the home of the poet’s family for 200 years and was visited by Dr. Johnson.
Tom Paine, who inspired the American war of Independence and wrote The Rights of Man, lived in Lewes, as did Gideon Mantell the 19th century geologist and dinosaur expert. William Cobbett lectured here on his Rural Rides, and John Harvard who founded the American university, married a Ringmer girl in 1636. Dr. Richard Russell, famous for introducing sea water bathing in Brighton, lived in Lewes, as did Edward Perry Warren who commissioned the sculptor Rodin to make a copy of The Kiss, and Charles Dawson, who discovered the Piltdown Man.
Lewes is a good centre for visiting famous gardens: Sheffield Park, Nymans, Leonardslee, Borde Hill, Wakehurst Place with its Millennium Seed Bank, Denmans, Great Dixterand Pashley Manor. It’s a good centre, too, for historic houses: Firle Place, Glynde Place, Michelham Priory, Preston Manor, Brighton Pavilion, Petworth House; and Herstmonceux, Bodiam and Arundel castles.
Nearby Charleston Farm, home to Bloomsbury group painters Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell (whose sister Virginia Woolf lived in Monk’s House, Rodmell) was visited by John Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry, Lytton Strachey and E.M. Forster. Glyndebourne Opera House, Brighton, (with its annual Music and Arts Festival) and Eastbourne are within easy reach.
Children are well catered for with Ashdown Forest Llama Park, Drusillas Zoo, Bluebell Railway and Lavender Line steam railways, Bentley Wildfowl and motor museum. Newhaven Fort provides a glimpse into wartime Britain.
For walkers there are the South Downs Way winding through the South Downs National Park, the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters between Eastbourne and Seaford, Ditchling Beacon, Devil’s Dyke, Birling Gap, and Arlington Reservoir.