8 Enchanting and Historic Castles to Explore in Sussex

Ypres Tower and Rye Castle Museum

At the heart of the town of Rye stands Ypres Tower, a formidable structure overlooking the River Rother. Despite its name, Ypres Tower functions as a castle, having been constructed in the 14th century as part of the town’s defenses. Over the centuries, it served various roles, including a prison and mortuary.

Today, Ypres Tower operates as Rye’s town museum. Visitors can ascend a spiral staircase to the first floor or take a virtual tour if stairs are a challenge. The balcony offers views of a recreated medieval herb garden. Inside, the museum features a relief model of the town, a map of shipwrecks along the Sussex and Kent coast, and a rare smuggler’s lamp, making it well worth an hour of exploration.

For more ideas on visiting Rye, check out our guide.

Camber Castle, near Winchelsea

Camber Castle, an English Heritage property, is seldom open, with access limited to occasional guided tours. Located on a coastal nature reserve between Rye and Winchelsea, it remains hidden yet accessible. Built during the reign of Henry VIII as an artillery fort, it retains its original outline. Today, sheep graze the grounds, adding a pastoral charm to this historic site.

Hastings Castle

Hastings Castle, perched atop the cliffs of the seaside town of Hastings, offers a glimpse into history despite its ruins. As the first Norman motte and bailey castle built in England, its remains tell the story of the 1066 invasion. The site, part of the Smuggler’s Adventure attraction, provides spectacular views of Hastings and the sea. Access is easiest via the West Hill Lift, a funicular from the seafront.

For more activities in Hastings, see our guide.

Bodiam Castle

Straddling the Kent-East Sussex border, Bodiam Castle is a picturesque structure with crumbling battlements reflected in its moat. Visitors can cross the wooden drawbridge to explore the courtyard and climb the spiral staircase for views over the River Rother valley. The castle, a National Trust property, also houses the largest bat roost in southeast England.

Bodiam Castle features a tea room and gift shop. Nearby, The Hub offers a great lunch option. The castle hosts regular events, including archery talks and sessions throughout the year.

Herstmonceux Castle, near Hailsham

Herstmonceux Castle, a 15th-century red brick castle surrounded by a moat, is located in the village of Herstmonceux. Originally a private home, it underwent extensive restoration in the 20th century. Though the castle itself is not open to the public, visitors can book limited guided tours or explore the 300 acres of themed gardens and woodland. Dogs are welcome, and the Chestnut Tea Rooms offer refreshments.

For more details on visiting Herstmonceux Castle, see our guide.

Pevensey Castle, near Eastbourne

Pevensey Castle, originally a Roman ‘Saxon Shore’ fort, was later expanded after the Norman Conquest. Today, visitors can walk across the drawbridge, explore the dungeon, and visit a new museum showcasing artifacts found on the site. The castle is managed by English Heritage and offers a fascinating glimpse into the past.

Lewes Castle, near Brighton

Lewes Castle, dating from Norman times, offers stunning views from its high vantage point in Lewes. The castle is worth visiting for its history and the panoramic views of the East Sussex town. Adjacent to the castle is the Museum of Sussex Archaeology, which provides insights into the area’s history through various exhibits.

For more things to do in and around Lewes, see our guide.

Arundel Castle, near Chichester

Arundel Castle, a picturesque fortress visible from the A27, sits atop the town of Arundel. With parts of the castle dating back nearly a millennium, it offers a range of attractions, including the original Norman Keep, State Rooms, Bedrooms, and Gardens. The castle also houses artworks by Van Dyck, Gainsborough, and Canaletto. Different ticket levels are available depending on how much you wish to explore.

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