The Best Castles near Brighton: From A Royal Palace to Norman Castles

On the south coast of England and in the heart of Sussex lies the seaside resort Brighton. Brighton is only an hour away from London by public transport, making it a perfect destination for a day trip from the capital.

While Brighton itself is already a great destination, the surrounding areas also have much to offer. From the natural splendor of the South Downs National Park to the beautiful castles and country estates that are now open to visitors.

From Norman castles to grand country houses with beautiful gardens. These are the best castles and historic houses that you can visit during a day tour from the city of Brighton.

Castles near Brighton

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photo: Fenliokao / CC BY-SA 3.0

Royal Pavilion in Brighton

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton is a former Royal residence on England’s south coast. The palace was built as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales (the later King George IV). The late 18th century palace was extended by the famous architect John Nash in 1815 adding domes and minarets.

The palace is built in the Ingo Saracenic style which is an architectural style that was often used by British architects in India in the 19th century. The palace was also used by King William IV and Queen Victoria until she decided that Osborne House on the Isle of Wight should become the official seaside retreat of the Royal family.

Surrounding the palace lies the only fully restored Regency garden in the United Kingdom. The palace is now a museum and a popular tourist attraction. Visit the website for opening times. 

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Scotney Castle

Scotney Castle is a Victorian country mansion and the ruins of a 14th century moated castle in the English county Kent. The castle and country house are set in a Romantic Picturesque garden that is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.  

The wooded gardens have a fine collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, kalmia, summer wisteria, and roses. The central feature of the gardens is Scotney Old Castle, the ruins of an Elizabethan castle.

The new Scotney castle is a Victorian country house that was designed by Anthony Salvin. It is one of the earliest examples of Tudor Revival style in England.

Scotney Castle is located 37 miles from Brighton. The castle is owned by the National Trust. Visit the website for opening times.

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photo: ijclark / CC BY-SA 2.0

Hever Castle

The history of Hever Castle goes back all the way to 1270 and in 1462 it was converted into a Tudor manor house by Geoffrey Boleyn. Hever Castle is most famous for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII. After the death of Anne’s father, the house was gifted to Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry VIII.  

The castle was bought by William Waldorf Astor in the early 20th century. He restored the house and added a Tudor village (the Astor Wing)  and an Italian Garden.

Hever Castle is located 35 miles from Brighton. The castle and gardens are open daily. Visit the website for opening times.

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photo: Michael Coppins / CC BY-SA 4.0

Herstmonceux Castle

In the village of Herstmonceux in East Sussex stands Herstmonceux Castle. The castle was built in the 15th century and it is one of the oldest (and one of the first) large brick buildings in England. Not many large brick buildings from this time have survived.

Sir Roger Fiennes built the moated castle that is surrounded by 300 acres of woodland and gardens. The Elizabethan garden is the biggest and the most prestigious. But the estate also has a rose garden, a Shakespeare garden, and a wild flower meadow among others.

Like many castles, Herstmonceux also fell into ruin in the 18th century but two centuries later the castle was turned into a residence again by Colonel Claude Lowther.

Herstmonceux Castle is located 28 miles from Brighton. The castle grounds can be visited from February to November. The castle is now used as the international campus of Queen’s University called Bader College. Tours of the castle interiors are therefore limited. Visit the website for more information.  

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photo: Antony McCallum / WyrdLight.com / CC BY-SA 3.0

Bodiam Castle

Picture yourself a beautiful castle and you will think of something like Bodiam Castle. The picturesque castle near Brighton dates from the 14th century and is surrounded by a moat.

The castle was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge during the Hundred Years’ War to defend the area against a French invasion. The chambers of the castle are built around the outer defensive wall and inner courts, which means that Bodiam Castle has no keep which many castles do have.

The castle turned into a romantic ruin until John Fuller bought the castle in 1829. Fuller and later owners George Cubitt (1st Baron Ashcombe), and Lord Curzon all restored the castle.

Bodiam Castle is worth visiting for its picturesque landscape, untouched Medieval exterior, spiral staircase, battlements and portcullis.

Bodiam Castle is located 38 miles from Brighton and can be reached by bus, car, and bicycle. Visit the National Trust website for opening times.

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photo: Mrs. Ella Cott / CC BY-SA 4.0

Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle is located in West Sussex, around 22 miles from Brighton. The castle was built by Roger de Montgomery, the cousin of William de Conqueror, as a motte and bailey castle. The castle was almost entirely rebuilt in 1870s and 1890s by Charles Howard, the Duke of Norfolk and its Gothic appearance dates from this remodel. You can still see traces of former structures such as the Norman keep, a medieval Gatehouse, and Barbican.

Arundel Castle is one of the largest castles in England. The castle is open to visitors from April till October. Visit the website for opening times.        

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photo: Barbara van Cleve / CC BY-SA 3.0

Pevensey Castle

The history of the site of Pevensey Castle goes back to the 4th century when the Romans built one of the last Roman Saxon Shore forts on this site. After the Norman Conquest of England, the castle became a Norman stronghold and landing place of the army of William the Conqueror.

The castle was abandoned in the 16th but during World War Two it was used again when it became an emergency stronghold. During the Second World War, machine gun posts were built in the castle to defend the land against a German invasion.

Pevensey Castle is located 25 miles from Brighton. During a visit, you can see the WWII gun posts together with an exhibition telling the stories of sieges and royal prisoners, a recreated 1940s commander’s office, and a dungeon. The castle is now owned by English Heritage and it is open to visitors.  

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photo: Kreepin Deth / CC BY-SA 3.0

Hastings Castle

Hastings Castle is a ruined keep and bailey castle that was built after the Norman invasion of England. The Norman castle is one of three first castles that was built by William the Conqueror after they had landed in England in 1066. The original structure was a wooden motte and bailey castle but after the victory of William the Conqueror’s army in the Battle of Hastings, the castle was rebuilt into a stone castle. It was not William the Conqueror but the Counts of Eu who lived at Hastings Castle during the Norman period.    

As early as the 13th century, the castle fell into ruin with many parts being lost to the sea. Some parts of the castle have survived after all these centuries and they can be visited.

Hastings Castle is located 36 miles from Brighton and can be reached by car and train.

Grand Country Houses and Gardens near Brighton

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photo: Firle Place, Firle, East Sussex by Derek Voller / CC BY-SA 2.0

Firle Place

In the heart of the South Downs National Park in East Sussex stands Firle Place. The country manor house dates back to the Tudor period but in the Georgian era, the house was remodeled to make it look like a French chateau. However, the interiors of the house are still mainly Tudor and include a large art collection with works from Gainsborough Van Dyck, and Raphael as well as a fine furniture and porcelain collection.

Firle Place is located 13 miles from Brighton. The house and its gardens are open to visitors. Visit the website for more information.

Glynde Place

Glynde Place is an Elizabethan manor house that overlooks the South Downs National Park. The house was built in 1569 and since its construction, it has been owned by the Viscounts Hampden.

Glynde Place is located 11 miles from Brighton. Guided tours are available on selected days. The historic house is also the setting of several concert series, exhibitions, and the Love Surpreme Jazz Festival. Visit the website for more information.

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photo: Margaret Anne Clarke / CC BY-SA 4.0

Borde Hill

Borde Hill is a Tudor house that was built by Stephen Borde in 1598. However it is not the house, though beautiful, that makes Borde Hill a popular attraction near Brighton. In 1893, Colonel Robert Stephenson Clarke bought Borde Hill and he started to create the beautiful gardens and woodlands that Borde Hill is famous for.   

The gardens and woodlands are home to a variety of flowers and plants including rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias, roses, and a large collection of champion trees.

Borde Hill is located 20 miles from Brighton and a must-visit destination for nature lovers. Visit the website for opening hours.

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photo: © AcabashiCreative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0; Source: Wikimedia Commons

Parham House and Gardens

Parham House is an Elizabethan country house surrounded by a 300 acres estate with an ancient deer park. The house was built in 1577 by the Palmer family. In 1601, Sir Thomas Bishopp, 1st Baronet bought the house and his family lived at Parham for more than 300 years.

In 1922, the Hon. Clive and Alicia Pearson bought the estate and they set upon restoring the house filling it with period furniture, paintings, and textiles including acquiring items that originally belonged to the house.

Parham House and Gardens are located 21 miles from Brighton. The house as well as the gardens with a Walled Garden, an orchard, Pleasure Grounds, and more are open to visitors. Visit the website for opening times.   

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photo: muffinn / CC BY 2.0

Petworth House

Petworth House is a late 17th century Baroque country house in West Sussex. The house was built for Charles Seymour, the 6th Duke of Somerset and it was inspired by the Palace of Versailles as the Duke wanted the house to rival the grand Palaces in Europe.

Many owners of Petworth House were collectors which means that the house features a large art collection with works from Titian, Van Dyck, Reynolds, and Flaxman.

The house was often visited by English romantic painters during its “golden age”.

Petworth House is located 31 miles from Brighton. The house is owned by the National Trust and open to the public.  

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photo: Wakehurst Place by Kurseong Carl / CC BY-SA 2.0

Wakehurst

Wakehurst is a historic country house and botanic gardens in West Sussex. The estate consists of 16th century mansion that was built by Sir Edward Culpeper and a 20th century garden.

In 1903, Gerald Loder (Lord Wakehurst) bought the estate. Loder spent 33 years creating the beautiful gardens. Sir Henry Price continued his garden design and he left the estate to the nation in 1963 that is now managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Wakehurst Place is located 24 miles from Brighton. The 500 acre estate is a joy to visit at any time of the year showing diverse landscapes and plants from across the globe. Visit the website for opening times.

Hammerwood Park

Hammerwood Park is a country house in East Sussex that was built in 1792. The house is designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe who would later design The White House in Washington. Hammerwood Park is one of the earliest examples of a Greek Revival style house in England.

The house was owned by several families until it fell into disrepair in the early 20th century. The house was converted into flats and in 1973 the famous rock band Led Zeppelin bought the house at auction to turn it into a recording studio. In 1982, the house was bought by David Pinnegar who restored the house and gardens to their former glory.

Hammerwood Park is located 35 miles from Brighton. The house and grounds are now open to visitors in the Summer months. The house and grounds with formal gardens are also used as film location and concert venue. 

Standen House and Garden

Standen is an Arts and Crafts country house designed by Philip Webb and decorated with William Morris carpets, fabrics, and wallpapers. The house belonged to the Beale family until 1972 when it was gifted to the National Trust. Surrounding the house lies an Arts and Crafts garden.

Standen House is located 28 miles from Brighton. The house and gardens are open to visitors Visit the website for opening times.

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