In the enchanting region known as 1066 Country in East Sussex, a captivating blend of history, adventure, and nature coalesces to offer a rich tapestry of experiences.

This is a land where rolling countryside stretches as far as the eye can see, and history is etched into every stone. It’s a place where the past whispers through the centuries, and adventure awaits around every corner. At the heart of it all lies a battlefield that forever altered the course of England’s story – this is the essence of 1066 Country.

This stunning corner of East Sussex, a treasure trove of natural beauty and historical significance, unfolds with mile upon mile of serene countryside. Picture-perfect villages and medieval towns are sprinkled throughout, evoking a sense of timelessness that transports you back to a bygone era.

Encompassing the picturesque Sussex Weald and the captivating eastern stretch of the East Sussex coastline, the landscapes here are steeped in history. It was on this hallowed ground that one of the most pivotal moments in England’s history transpired. In 1066, William the Conqueror made his momentous landing at Pevensey, setting the stage for the fateful Battle of Hastings, where he vanquished the last Anglo-Saxon king and ultimately secured his dominion over the entire realm.

In 1066 Country, the past pulsates with a vibrant and palpable energy, inviting you to step into history’s embrace. You can walk in the footsteps of the Normans, explore formidable castles and awe-inspiring churches, or traverse a trail that retraces the very path of the Norman army.

Yet, it’s not merely the echoes of history that define this remarkable region. The East Sussex coastline, with its rugged beauty, and the captivating Sussex Weald, an integral part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), present idyllic backdrops for adventure and communion with nature.

Every cobblestone and castle turret tells a story, but so do the waves crashing along the coast and the rustling leaves of ancient woodlands. Whether you’re an adventurer in search of thrilling experiences or a nature enthusiast yearning to bask in the tranquility of the countryside, 1066 Country offers a tapestry of encounters that awaken the senses and nourish the soul.

Embark on an exciting journey as you traverse this diverse region. A visit to a charming vineyard can be your gateway to discovering the secrets of winemaking, while nature reserves beckon with the opportunity to spot a myriad of birdlife in their natural habitat. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, a thrilling RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) ride along the picturesque coast promises an unforgettable adventure.

Delve into history as you explore majestic castles and stately country manors that whisper stories of a bygone era. Alternatively, lose yourself in the enchanting tapestry of historic towns, where museums open doors to the past, independent boutiques invite a delightful shopping spree, and local eateries serve up culinary delights that will leave your taste buds tingling with pleasure. The possibilities are as varied as your interests, and this region is a treasure trove waiting to be explored.

Where is 1066 Country?

This captivating region unfurls across the eastern expanse of East Sussex in Southeast England, embracing a diverse landscape that extends from the lush Sussex Weald to the picturesque coastline.

Within its borders, you’ll find a tapestry of natural wonders, including the serene beauty of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). As you journey from the rolling hills of the Sussex Weald to the glistening shores of the East Sussex coastline, you’ll encounter some of the most historic and charming towns and villages in the area. Among these gems are the iconic locales of Hastings, renowned for its maritime heritage, Rye, a timeless medieval town with cobbled streets and timber-framed houses, and Battle, forever etched in history as the site of the decisive Battle of Hastings in 1066. This region beckons with an array of cultural, historical, and natural treasures, promising an exploration filled with discovery and delight.

Why 1066?

The moniker “1066 Country” is a direct homage to the monumental events that unfolded in the year 1066, culminating in the historic Battle of Hastings and the consequential Norman conquest of England.

This iconic year is one etched into the collective memory of England, an indelible chapter in the nation’s history. It marks a pivotal moment when William the Conqueror, also known as Duke William of Normandy, emerged victorious in a decisive battle against King Harold, who held the esteemed position of being the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. The outcome of this fateful encounter would lay the groundwork for William’s eventual conquest of the entire country.

The resonance of 1066 extends far beyond the pages of history books. It symbolizes a turning point that shaped the destiny of England and is woven into the cultural fabric of the nation, an enduring reminder of the profound impact of a single year on the course of a nation’s narrative.

The battle took place in the very heart of East Sussex, approximately 7 miles to the north of Hastings, precisely at the location where the appropriately named town of Battle now thrives.

Fun Things to do in 1066 Country

Immerse yourself in the rich history of the Battle of Hastings at Battle Abbey

As mentioned earlier, the nomenclature of 1066 Country is a direct homage to the renowned Battle of Hastings. Whether you hail from the United Kingdom or are a visitor from foreign shores, delving into this pivotal chapter of English history proves to be an enlightening experience.

Founded in 1071 by William the Conqueror, just five years following the momentous Battle of Hastings, Battle Abbey was established both as an act of atonement and a solemn memorial to honor the fallen. Over time, the abbey’s fate evolved, and with the dissolution of the monasteries during the 1500s, it transformed into a country estate. In the contemporary era, the primary section of the country house, originally the abbot’s residence, now serves as the premises for a private school.

Your journey of discovery at Battle Abbey begins at the Visitor Centre, where you can immerse yourself in an informative and comprehensive introduction to the history of the Battle of Hastings. From there, you can follow the well-marked signs that guide you to the Battlefield Walk. This immersive route will lead you through the estate, allowing you to traverse the very grounds where the historic battle unfolded. Along the way, you’ll encounter captivating wooden sculptures of soldiers, thoughtfully placed to breathe life into the narrative of the battle, making your exploration an engaging and evocative experience.

Following that, you can embark on an exploration of the ancient abbey cloisters, where some sections of the structures have withstood the test of time for nearly a millennium. While the church itself may have vanished, its footprint and significance are preserved in the stonework, including the location of the high altar – a poignant reminder that this very spot is believed to be where King Harold met his fateful end.

To conclude your visit, don’t miss the opportunity to delve into the Abbey Gatehouse, a structure that traces its origins back to 1338. Inside, you’ll find a compact museum that offers insights into life within the abbey’s walls. Before you wrap up your excursion, make sure to ascend to the tower roof, from where you’ll be treated to splendid panoramic views of the picturesque countryside that envelops the area.

Chart your course along the 1066 Country Walk

The 1066 Country Walk offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the region’s abundant history and breathtaking natural landscapes. Spanning a distance of 31 miles, this long-distance walking route meanders from Pevensey, where the Norman army made their historic landing, to the captivating town of Rye.

En route, this trail leads you to a selection of the region’s most historically significant sites, encompassing notable landmarks such as Battle Abbey, the splendid Norman Herstmonceux Castle, and the medieval town of Winchelsea.

While the entire journey can be completed in two days, taking a leisurely pace might extend it to three. However, it’s worth noting that there’s no obligation to tackle the full length. The official guide thoughtfully divides the 1066 Country Walk into six manageable sections, each spanning from 4 to 6.6 miles in distance. This arrangement offers the flexibility to choose a particular segment, providing the perfect opportunity for a brief and undemanding hike through the scenic expanse of 1066 Country.

If I were to make a recommendation, the section from Brownbread Street to Battle Abbey is an excellent choice. It allows you to trace the historic path of the Norman army, passing through the time-honored Powdermills Wood, an experience that promises a rich connection with the past.

Embark on a captivating exploration of Battle

While you’re in the vicinity of Battle Abbey, it’s well worth taking the time to discover the charming town of Battle itself. This picturesque and vibrant countryside town is teeming with unique, independently-owned boutiques and dining establishments, adding a delightful touch of character to your visit.

Commence your exploration by strolling down to St Mary’s Church, where you can immerse yourself in the fascinating world of the Battle Tapestry. This contemporary masterpiece, a spiritual successor to the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry, was meticulously crafted in 2017 by Tina Greene, a resident of the area, along with the dedicated efforts of more than 700 local stitchers.

In contrast to the Bayeux Tapestry, which chronicles the events leading to the Norman Conquest, the Battle Tapestry weaves the compelling narrative of how the town of Battle evolved in the wake of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, culminating in the establishment of St Mary’s Church in 1115. This intricate textile creation serves as a vivid and living testament to the historical metamorphosis of the town and its enduring connection to its past.

Subsequently, take a leisurely stroll along the bustling High Street to uncover the vibrant independent landscape of Battle. Among the myriad of options, I’d particularly recommend a visit to Rother Books, a delightful bookshop ensconced within an enchanting timber-framed structure, and BRITISH design BRITISH made, an ideal destination for a delightful array of arts, crafts, and gifts crafted by British artisans. Additionally, White Sails is a must-visit for those in search of stylish clothing and charming home furnishings. However, rest assured that you’ll encounter a plethora of other remarkable shops and boutiques awaiting your exploration along this charming High Street.

Conclude your visit by making a stop at Battle Tap, where you can savor a selection of the acclaimed beers from Battle Brewery. I personally enjoyed Fyrd’s Gold, but there’s a variety of other local beverages waiting to be sampled.

Embark on a leisurely exploration of the historic streets of Rye

The picturesque town of Rye, nestled along the East Sussex coast, has blossomed into a cherished destination in the southern reaches of England. This medieval gem is a treasure trove of history and character, with its renowned Mermaid Street standing as a testament to its rich heritage and unique charm.

Begin your journey with a visit to the Rye Heritage Centre, where you can marvel at the renowned Rye Town Model, a labor of love meticulously crafted by a local couple in 1973. To enhance the experience, the captivating Story of Rye sound and light show breathes life into the model, offering an engaging narrative of the town’s history. The show also weaves in a sprinkle of local legends and ghost stories, adding an element of intrigue that’s not to be missed!

Afterward, take a leisurely stroll through the enchanting cobbled streets at the heart of Rye’s charming center. The standout feature is undeniably Mermaid Street, where you’ll discover the iconic Mermaid Inn, a venerable establishment that ranks among England’s oldest pubs. The inn’s primary structure traces its origins back to 1420, a testament to the town’s resilience after a devastating fire. However, the inn’s cellars have an even more ancient lineage, dating all the way to 1156. What makes this inn even more intriguing is its reputation as the most haunted inn in England, with numerous reports of spectral encounters by both staff and visitors, adding a spine-tingling layer of mystique to its rich history.

Make sure not to overlook the Landgate, a segment of the original city walls that have stood since 1329, or the charming West Street, a postcard-perfect avenue. A visit to the red-brick Lamb House is a must for a peek inside a Georgian townhouse steeped in history. Last but not least, don’t forget to ascend the bell tower of St Mary’s Church for an unrivaled panoramic view of Rye and its surroundings.

Embark on an Adventure to Witness Seals in Their Natural Habitat

Seeking an adrenaline rush? Make your way to Rye Harbour and prepare for an exhilarating adventure with Full Throttle Boat Charters, where you can partake in a high-speed RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) ride along the coast.

Their Seal Safari boat excursions, with prices starting from £35 per person, offer a fantastic opportunity to not only explore the captivating East Sussex coastline but also to come up close and personal with some of the most endearing residents of 1066 Country.

According to Skipper Will, spotting seals in “Seal Bay” is practically guaranteed. A thriving colony of grey seals can be found basking at the base of the cliffs near Fairlight, and during my visit, we had the privilege of witnessing dozens of these charming creatures. While the boat tours maintain a respectful distance from the seals to avoid causing any disturbance, you’ll still be treated to an excellent view of these adorable animals as they gracefully swim in their natural habitat.

Will kindly provided me with a pair of spare binoculars, but I’d suggest bringing your own, along with a camera equipped with a zoom lens, if available.

Delve into the Past with a Visit to Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle stands as one of the most striking and essential attractions in 1066 Country. This 14th-century relic perfectly embodies the quintessential image of a castle, complete with iconic medieval features like towering spires, a formidable portcullis, and a surrounding moat. This picturesque fortress is a veritable time capsule, offering a glimpse into the medieval past.

Constructed in 1385, Bodiam Castle faced periods of neglect and decay throughout the 15th and 17th centuries. Presently, this evocative and historical site is under the care and preservation of the National Trust, granting visitors the opportunity to venture inside the atmospheric ruins. Furthermore, you can ascend certain towers, a feat that rewards you with unrivaled vistas of the stunning Sussex countryside, making for a truly unforgettable experience.

Bodiam Castle serves as a haven for six different bat species, notably boasting the largest known roost of Daubenton’s bats in the United Kingdom. The castle’s towers offer an ideal nesting environment for these winged residents, while the moat and the adjacent River Rother provide a plentiful supply of insects, the primary sustenance for these bats.

During your exploration of the castle towers, you might be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of these bats as they slumber. While the castle isn’t accessible after sunset, if you happen to be in the vicinity, you can often witness these creatures as they gracefully depart from the towers to embark on their nightly feeding excursions.

Embark on a Fascinating Journey with a Tour of Oxney Organic Vineyard

In recent times, South East England has gained widespread recognition as a thriving wine-producing region, and East Sussex stands as a prominent player in this exciting industry. In fact, East Sussex boasts some of the United Kingdom’s most esteemed wineries.

Among these vineyards, Oxney Organic Vineyard stands out as a distinguished gem and happened to be conveniently located right next to my glamping site in the picturesque Sussex Weald. Naturally, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to explore this organic vineyard.

While East Sussex is dotted with numerous wineries, what sets Oxney Organic Vineyard apart is its unwavering commitment to organic viticulture. If you’re seeking a unique and eco-conscious wine-tasting experience, this vineyard is a must-visit destination that promises something out of the ordinary.

Established in 2012 by the dynamic duo of Kristin Syltevik and Paul Dobson, Oxney Organic Vineyard is a stunning estate encompassing 35 acres of vineyards nestled amidst the serene expanse of the Sussex Weald. A visit to this idyllic vineyard offers not only an opportunity to gain insights into their meticulous organic winemaking process but, perhaps more importantly, a chance to indulge in the sheer delight of sampling their exceptional wines.

One of the standout moments of my trip was basking in the sunshine and engaging in a delightful conversation about wine and the enchanting East Sussex region with the vineyard’s owner, Kristin. I had previously enjoyed Oxney’s classic sparkling wine, so I was eagerly looking forward to sampling their entire range. Among their offerings, the sparkling rose emerged as my personal favorite, making it a perfect choice for a sun-kissed day.

Embark on a Paddleboarding Adventure on the Scenic River Rother

Paddleboarding holds a special place among my favorite activities, particularly when it comes to serene river and lake settings. It offers a serene and soothing adventure, providing an excellent means to leisurely explore the surrounding countryside.

Meandering serenely through the enchanting landscape of the Sussex Weald, the River Rother emerges as a perfect paddleboarding destination. Its gentle flow, broad expanse, and ease of navigation make it an ideal choice for newcomers to the sport.

For a delightful paddleboarding excursion, you can rent a board from Bodiam Boating Station, with the initial hour costing £15. As you embark on your journey along the river, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of the picturesque countryside. In just one hour, you can paddle your way to the Kent & East Sussex Railway railway bridge and back. If you’re fortunate, you might even catch sight of one of the historic steam trains as it crosses the bridge, adding an extra layer of nostalgia to your adventure.

If you have more time (and energy) it’s also possible to paddle all the way to Bodiam Castle in the other direction. The friendly staff at Bodiam Boating Station will be happy to share tips for your adventure.

At Bodiam Boating Station, you have the option to borrow not only stand-up paddleboards (SUP), but also kayaks, rowing boats, and multi-person canoes. However, I must admit that SUP remains my personal favorite among these choices. And once you’ve wrapped up your aquatic adventures, don’t miss the opportunity to rejuvenate at Bodiam Boating Station’s delightful Lime Wharf Cafe, which exudes a Scandi-inspired charm. Their menus are thoughtfully curated to align with the changing seasons, brimming with creative dishes crafted from locally sourced ingredients.

Savor a Unique Dining Experience with Alpacas at Fisherwood Farm

Nestled within the picturesque Sussex Weald, you’ll encounter one of the most unique and captivating experiences in all of 1066 Country. Venture to Fisherwood Farm and prepare to make the acquaintance of their three amiable pet alpacas: Pepe, Ollie, and Ricardo.

The founders, Nicki and Carol, extend a warm invitation to partake in three delightful alpaca experiences at their charming smallholding. For just £25, a group of six can revel in a 45-minute visit, offering the opportunity to not only feed the alpacas but also interact with all the endearing farm animals. This is an excellent and budget-friendly choice.

I wholeheartedly endorse considering the cream tea (£25 per person) or the afternoon tea (£40 per person) options. Both offer a more exquisite and memorable experience in the delightful company of these amiable alpacas.

I had the pleasure of experiencing the cream tea option, and it unquestionably stood out as one of the high points of my journey. The best part is having the entire setting all to yourself, savoring a delectable cream tea replete with homemade scones, all while being treated to the picturesque view from the garden that overlooks the charming alpaca field.

After indulging in your meal, the next delightful activity on the agenda is feeding the alpacas. These creatures are not only exceptionally friendly but also irresistibly cute and delightfully greedy, ensuring an entertaining and memorable encounter.

Immerse Yourself in the Coastal Charms of Hastings

Tucked away along the picturesque East Sussex Coast, Hastings is a well-kept secret on the southern shores of England. However, this vibrant coastal town unveils a harmonious fusion of history, culture, and awe-inspiring vistas of the sea.

Hastings boasts an abundance of attractions and activities, making it possible to dedicate an entire day or more to exploration. For a comprehensive list of top recommendations, I suggest perusing my friend Chloe’s excellent guide to the finest attractions in Hastings. However, if time is of the essence, here are some of the standout highlights.

Embark on a journey through the charming cobbled lanes of the Old Town, including the picturesque George Street, where you’ll encounter a delightful array of unique shops, art galleries, and dining establishments.

Stroll along the enchanting seafront, making time for a visit to the renowned Hastings Pier, a leisurely afternoon on the pristine beaches, and a delightful ride aboard the Hastings Miniature Railway.

For a captivating perspective, opt for a ride on the East Hill Lift, a funicular that transports you to the summit of the cliffs, providing breathtaking panoramic views and granting access to the scenic Hastings Country Park.

Expand your knowledge about the area with a visit to the engaging Hastings Museum & Art Gallery. While exploring, be sure not to overlook the exhibit dedicated to Annie Brassey, a remarkable Victorian lady from the region who embarked on global voyages aboard her yacht with her family, serving as an enduring inspiration for adventurous female travelers like myself.

Delve into the World of Rudyard Kipling by Exploring His Residence at Bateman’s

Your excursion through the Sussex Weald wouldn’t be truly fulfilled without a trip to Bateman’s, the captivating 17th-century Jacobean country estate that once served as the residence of the renowned author, Rudyard Kipling.

With a history dating back to at least 1634, this remarkable estate was acquired by the celebrated author of The Jungle Book and his spouse in 1902. Subsequently, it was entrusted to the National Trust, who have meticulously conserved the house, maintaining its original state, including Rudyard Kipling’s writing desk in his study.

Even if you’re not an ardent admirer of the writer, a visit to Bateman’s is undeniably worthwhile, purely for the opportunity to wander through the timeworn abode, replete with its antique decor and oak paneling. Furthermore, the splendid English gardens, adorned with an orchard, rose garden, and lily pond, provide year-round allure. Should you find yourself with ample time to spare, you can also take a leisurely stroll across the extensive estate, allowing you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty of the Sussex Weald countryside.

Indulge in Birdwatching and Bike Riding at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

While Rye primarily draws visitors for its enchanting historic town, the region also offers ample opportunities to immerse yourself in the wonders of nature. Be sure not to overlook Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, where you can relish breathtaking vistas, indulge in excellent birdwatching, and delve into a diverse array of coastal ecosystems teeming with wildlife, encompassing shingle beaches, saltmarshes, and reedbeds.

Kickstart your exploration with a trip to the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre, where you can acquire insights into the regional environment and the various animal species that inhabit this vicinity. For added convenience, the center’s cafe supplies binoculars, allowing you to observe birds while savoring a cup of coffee and indulging in locally baked delicacies.

For an optimal way to discover the area, consider renting a bicycle from Harbour Cycles and embarking on a scenic ride through the reserve. They’ll provide you with a digital map that offers a variety of trail options. As you pedal your way through, make sure to include visits to notable attractions such as Henry VIII’s Camber Castle and the Mary Stanford Lifeboat House.

If you have ample time at your disposal, you can extend your cycling journey from the reserve to Pett Level beach. During low tide, you’ll have the chance to behold fossilized tree stumps and even catch a glimpse of the remnants of the 17th-century warship, HMS Anne.

Glamping in 1066 Country & the Sussex Weald

Embracing the historic landscapes and serene countryside of the Sussex Weald and 1066 Country is best achieved through the enchanting experience of glamping. The region offers an abundance of exceptional glamping sites and distinctive accommodations scattered across East Sussex, ensuring you have a wealth of options to choose from.

Experience Glamping at Starcroft Farm Cabins, located in the vicinity of Battle

Nestled conveniently along the path of the 1066 Country Walk, a pleasant 40-minute stroll away from Battle Abbey, you’ll find Starcroft Farm Cabins. These charming cabins are situated in a tranquil wildflower meadow on the periphery of Powdermill Woods.

At this site, you’ll discover three meticulously crafted cabins, each lovingly constructed by a local artisan utilizing sustainable, locally sourced materials. What sets these cabins apart is their unique historical themes, with each one dedicated to a distinct historical period.

Swallowtail Hill, Located Near Rye

In the vicinity of the charming town of Rye, you’ll discover Swallowtail Hill, a haven for distinctive glamping experiences set within a serene private nature reserve. This remarkable destination features six unconventional cabins spread across a rewilded farm dedicated entirely to conservation efforts, devoid of crops or livestock.

Embark on an eco-friendly, off-grid sojourn within a lavish cabin nestled in its private enclave within the nature reserve, offering an unparalleled “away from it all” experience. Certain cabins, such as the Roundhouse (the one I resided in), even boast the added luxury of a wood-fired hot tub.

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