Sussex is home to some beautiful gardens, from the majestic parklands of stately homes to enchanting intimate walled gardens overflowing with colour. Here’s a round-up of some of our favourite Sussex gardens open to the public. Where is your favourite garden in Sussex and which are missing from this list?
Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens, West Sussex
The spectacular and ancient gardens at Leonardslee were nearly lost forever, but thanks to the largest garden restoration project in England (and possibly Europe) they opened once again to the public in 2019. In spring, the gardens are particularly spectacular, when the sunny banks of daffodils are followed by swathes of bluebells and stunning displays of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias. Any time of year, this is a very special and tranquil garden.
Currently, the unique woodland gardens are home to the exhibition the “Walk of Life”, a series of stunning sculptures by renowned South African Artist, Anton Smit.
Allow at least 3 hours for a visit, although we’d recommend longer, giving you time to wander around the lakes, then up into the hillsides and around the vineyard and wallaby enclosure (look out for the white wallabies) to Dolls House Museum by the Clocktower Cafe. Wine lovers will also want to prebook a wine tasting starting at £7 per person. To explore all the woodland paths, you’ll probably want to make a return visit.
For a special occasion, book afternoon tea at Leonardslee House or even stay overnight in one of the sumptuous historic bedrooms.
Visiting Leonardslee Gardens
Opening times: Open daily
Peak (27 March – 30 October): 9am – 5pm | Last entry 3:30pm | Last member entry 4:30pm
Off Peak (31 October – 26 March): 9am – 4pm | Last entry 2:30pm | Last member entry 3:30pm
Closed Christmas Day – 25th December
Tickets: Adult £14.50 (aged 17+), Child £6.50 (aged 5 – 16), Family £26 (Entry for one adult and up to 5 children aged 5 – 16) or £37.50 (Entry for two adults and up to 5 children aged 5 – 16)
Parking: Free parking for coaches and cars is available at the entrance. Disabled parking is located near the main entrance.
Facilities: Toilet facilities are available in the car park near the entrance to the gardens and by the main cafe once inside the gardens.
Accessibility: The Leonardslee Shuttle Service is free of charge and enables visitors with limited mobility access to the lower gardens and lakes. Manual and electric mobility wheelchairs are available for hire on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please visit the Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens website for further information.
Getting to Leonardslee Gardens
Leonardslee Gardens, Brighton Road, Lower Beeding, Horsham, RH13 6PP
From the M23/A23: Head South on the M23/A23 and take the exit signposted Handcross, follow the B2110 through Lower Beeding, at the end of the road turn left. The entrance is immediately on your left.
From Horsham: Head South out of Horsham and follow the A281 for approximately 10 minutes, the entrance is on your left.
From Cowfold: Head North on the A281 through Crabtree, the entrance is on your right at the top of the hill.
The nearest train station is Horsham, with trains from London Victoria and Clapham Junction.
The number 17 bus runs between Brighton and Horsham stopping outside the gardens.
West Dean Gardens, near Chichester, West Sussex
West Dean Gardens (pictured above and below) reopened to the public at the end of June. The extensive gardens are stunning, with numerous secluded, tranquil spots as well as sweeping vistas. It’s easy to spend a whole morning or afternoon in this glorious garden in Sussex.
We visited last week and thought the gardens were looking. wonderful. There’s a one-way system in place around the walled garden, which is as lovely as ever, although the greenhouses were mainly empty.
The restaurant is open for takeaways only, as is a pretty Gardener’s Cottage near the car park before you enter the gardens. Sandwiches cost from £3 with children’s sandwiches costing just £1. Pastries, and some delicious looking traybakes, as well as hot and cold drinks, are also available. There’s also a pop-up cafe inside the grounds, again just for takeaways.
All-in-all the changes to the gardens made to adapt to the current circumstances have little impact on your visit. And we felt perfectly safe there. As well as the permanent toilet facilities, there are plenty of temporary toilets and of course, hand sanitisers abound.
It really is a fabulous time to visit the gardens and perfect for photographers as there are fewer visitors than normal. Don’t miss the plant sale by the entrance to the gardens. The prices really are very reasonable.
Read our review from a previous visit here, West Dean Gardens.
Visiting West Dean Gardens
Opening times: 7 days a week from 10.30am to 5pm. Last entry is 30 minutes before closing time.
Tickets: Entry is £10 per adult, Children under 16 free. Free entry for Children under 16. Free entry to NHS workers + one adult (Please show ID on arrival). Entry is by timed tickets available to book online, and pre-booking is essential for ALL visitors.
Parking: Free parking is available, with designated spaces for disabled visitors and coaches.
Facilities: Toilet facilities will be available and a stringent cleaning regime is in place. There are three locations where sandwiches and drinks may be purchased to eat in the grounds. More details visit West Dean Gardens FAQ.
Getting to West Dean Gardens
West Dean Gardens is 6 miles north of Chichester on the A286 towards Midhurst. For satellite navigation use postcode PO18 0RX to find West Dean Gardens. The nearest train station is Chichester, from where you can pick up a taxi or bus.The number 60 bus runs from Midhurst to Chichester bus station (opposite Chichester railway station) every half hour Monday to Saturday. On Sundays, buses are every hour. For an up-to-date timetable visit the Stagecoach website.
Pashley Manor Gardens, Ticehurst, East Sussex
Pashley Manor Gardens near Wadhurst in East Sussex is tagged as ‘one of the finest gardens in England’. We visited this week after the gardens opened to the public again as restrictions lifted.
The gardens are set against the stunning backdrop of Pashley Manor, a beautiful Grade I listed private residence. We were lucky to see the back of the house swathed in its second summer bloom of wisteria. The gardens are set in 11 acres of land with a range of garden rooms and vibrant herbaceous borders all family owned and maintained. A wander around Pashley takes you into the heart of an English country garden and makes for a calm and peaceful visit. We plan to go back next Spring for the renowned Pashley Manor tulip festival.
We spent around 2 hours exploring the kitchen garden ripe with summer fruit, the fragrant rose walk and the historic walled garden. The pond was a hive of activity and we looked on as some baby ducklings scuttled into the pond. The majestic black swan was making its presence known and an array of ducks basked in the sunshine. There are a number of statues interspersed amid the planting, many of which are for sale. A sculpture of Anne Boleyn stands on the moated island which is believed to be the site of the original dwelling at Pashley. It was used as a hunting lodge and owned by the Boleyn family.
Read our full write-up of our visit to Pashley Manor Gardens
Visiting Pashley Manor Gardens
Opening times: 1 April – 30 September, Tuesday to Saturday, Bank Holiday Mondays and special event days. The gardens are closed on Good Friday. 10am – 5pm (last entry 4pm)
Tickets: Entry is £11.50 per adult, £5 per child (6 to 16 years), under 6 free. Numbers will be limited and there is no pre-booking. No dogs are allowed in the gardens (except assistance dogs) but they may be walked in the car park field.
Parking: There is plenty of on-site parking in the field opposite the house and gardens.
Facilities: There is an on-site café (last orders at 4pm) and gift shop (open 11am – 4.30pm) and toilets which are cleaned regularly. Picnics are only allowed in the car park field where tables are available.
Getting to Pashley Manor Gardens
The gardens are located on the B2099 between the A21 and Ticehurst village. There are brown tourist signs en route. The address is Pashely Manor Gardens, Ticehurst, near Wadhurst, East Sussex, TN5 7HE.
Herstmonceux Castle Gardens. near Hailsham in East Sussex
The beautiful moated Herstmonceux Castle, is home to seven formal and themed gardens. Discover the woodland walk, wild meadows, ancient chestnut avenue and a folly during your visit.
The Elizabethan garden which dates back to at least 1570 is the grandest of Herstmonceux’s gardens. Two lawns known as the Croquet Lawns and Queens Walk are divided by a path lined with English yew hedges and bordered by lavender. Wide borders edge the walled garden with colourful and textured planting.
Other gardens include the Shakespeare Garden where plants from the Bard’s sonnets and plays are displayed. Each plant is labeled with a note of the play or sonnet and the quote which mentions the plant. The Apothecary Garden is planted with medicinal herbs and plants. The rose garden, statue walk, shady garden and lower garden are lovely to explore.
Read our in depth review of Herstmonceux Castle.
Visiting Herstmonceux Castle
Opening Times: Open daily 10am – 7pm from Saturday 4th July to Sunday 13th December 2020. Last admission pre-5pm. Please note that as the castle is primarily a university campus it is not always open to the public. Please check the castle website or telephone the castle on 01323 833 816.
Tickets: Entry price for the gardens and grounds (does not include castle tour) is £7 for adults and £3.50 for children aged 4-17 years. Under 4’s go free. Family tickets and senior concessions are available so check the website for details.
Parking: Plenty of free parking is available at the front of the castle.
Facilities: Currently the tea rooms, visitor centre and shop are closed as are castle tours. Visitor numbers are limited due to Covid-19 restrictions for the time being. The tearoom toilets are open with a one-in, one-out policy and 2 metres markers are placed in suitable locations. Additional cleaning regimes have been implemented across the site and hand sanitiser stations are installed.
Getting to Herstmonceux Castle
By car – Wartling Road, Hailsham, East Sussex, BN27 2RN. Ensure your SatNav uses the Wartling Road entrance and follow the signs as the postcode may not lead you to the correct entrance.
By train – Take the train from London Victoria station to Polegate station. From there, you’ll need to take a taxi to Herstmonceux Castle which will take around 18 minutes. There’s a taxi rank outside the station.
Bishops Palace Gardens, Chichester, West Sussex
This beautiful walled garden in the heart of the historic town of Chichester lies adjacent to the cathedral and is surrounded on two sides by the city’s Roman walls. It’s a wonderful place to relax for an hour or two but everything can be seen in about half an hour or so. It’s one of our favourite free to visit Sussex gardens.
Visiting Bishops Palace Gardens
Opening times: 7 days a week from 8 am to 7pm.
Tickets: Free entry
Parking: There is no onsite car park. We recommend parking at the East Pallant Car Park, just a 5 minute walk away. Charges apply.
Facilities: There are no onsite facilities
Getting to Bishops Palace Gardens
The gardens address is 4 Canon Lane (off South Street) Chichester, PO19 1PX. Chichester train and bus stations are less than a ten-minute walk away along South Street turning left into Canon Lane.
Wakehurst near Ardingly, East Sussex
Wakehurst is Kew’s wild botanic garden and home to the Millennium Seed Bank. It’s stunning to visit at any time of year but the autumn vistas and spring colour are especially beautiful. There are over 500 acres of natural beauty and landscapes to explore including the Water Gardens and Himalayan Glade, woodlands and the Loder Valley Nature Reserve. The Millennium Seed Bank is the largest and most ambitious conservation project in the world which makes Wakehurst one of the most important gardens in Sussex.
Various projects and exhibitions are held during the year including Glow Wild, an illuminated lantern trail, held in November and December.
Wakehurst – photo credit @JimHolden
Opening times: 7 days a week from 10.00am to 6pm.
Tickets: Entry is £14.50 per adult, Children under 16 free. Young Person (17 – 25): £7.25. BLC holders / NHS workers / care-home workers: Free (Please show ID on arrival). Wakehurst, Kew and National Trust Members: Free. Entry is by timed tickets available to book online, and pre-booking is essential for ALL visitors.
Parking: Parking is available and free for garden entry ticket holders and Kew/ Wakehurst members. Car parking charges apply to National Trust members.
Facilities: Toilet facilities will be available and a stringent cleaning regime is in place. Parts of the site are closed to the public but the main gardens are now open.
Sheffield Park near Uckfield, East Sussex
The gardens are a horticultural work of art with lakes reflecting the planting and landscapes. Five lakes are at the heart of the garden with a series of paths leading around them. Take time to wander through the woodland glades and seek out the magnificent trees that edge the lakes. There are acres of parkland with numerous walking trails to explore.
Visiting Sheffield Park Gardens
Opening times: Garden, Shop and Wood Walk 7 days a week from 10.00am to 5pm. Parkland: Dawn til dusk.
Tickets: Entry is £10 per adult, Children £5, Family £25, One adult family £15. Pre-booking is essential for ALL visitors.
Parking: Parking is free and there is accessible parking available. The car park can become busy and sometimes full during the peak seasons in May and October. Please note there are speed bumps on our driveway which may not be suitable for low clearance vehicles.
Facilities: Toilet facilities are available and a stringent cleaning regime is in place. The outdoor food outlet has reopened and will initially be serving a limited range of takeaway hot and cold drinks and some light snacks situated in the gardens. More details visit Sheffield Park and Gardens
Getting to Sheffield Park Gardens
The gardens are located midway between East Grinstead and Lewes, 5 miles north-west of Uckfield, on the east side of A275 (between A272 and A22). If approaching north-bound from Lewes, they are just past the Bluebell Railway, over the River Ouse bridge on the right. Coming south-bound from the A22 Wych Cross, follow the brown signs for Sheffield Park and the Bluebell Railway. The address is Sheffield Park, Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 3QX.
Check times on the 121 timetable – runs hourly and travels from Lewes via Bluebell Railway Sheffield Park station, Saturdays year round.
Check times on the 246 CTLA community bus timetable – runs every Thursday from Uckfield Bus Station to the bottom of the main Sheffield Park drive on the A275.
Arundel Castle Gardens, West Sussex
With the stunning castle as a backdrop, the award-winning tropical and English gardens and grounds at Arundel Castle are spectacular. We visited last year and fell in love with the serene Fitzalan Chapel’s White Garden. There’s also a Kitchen Garden, A Rose Garden and glasses overflowing with chillis, grapes and lemons. While the castle itself remains closed the gardens are now open.
Arundel Castle Gardens
Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday10am – 5pm (pre-bookable time slots)
Tickets: Entry is £10 per adult, £5 per child (5 to 16 years), under 5 free. Entry is by timed tickets available to book online, and pre-booking is essential for ALL visitors.
Parking: A pay and display car and coach park is directly opposite the castle entrance (Mill Road Car Park). There is no onsite parking.
Facilities: There is no on-site catering or shop, however, you’ll find a good range of facilities in Arundel just outside the castle walls. Toilets will be cleaned regularly. Hand sanitisers are at the entrance and at key locations around the gardens.
Getting to Arundel Castle
The castle and its ground are about a ten-minute walk from Arundel railway station which is on the main train line between London Victoria and Bognor Regis. Some trains on this line divide at Horsham, in which case you will need to make sure you are on the correct part of the train. Gatwick airport is also on this line making it easy to get to from there too. If coming by car use the postcode BN18 9PA in your sat nav and park in the pay and display car park opposite the castle entrance.
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