11 Best Things to do in Battle East Sussex — the Battle of Hastings town
Visiting Battle? Excellent! In this article I’d take you to the historic site of the Battle of Hastings, the beautiful town of Battle and offer my guide on the best things to do in Battle East Sussex.
Battle, a lively colourful parish built around the aftermath of the most bloodiest battle in English history, now a tranquil town amidst the abbey ruins following the Suppression. The abbey ruins and the battlefield are the most popular visitor attractions but this historic town has so much more to offer. This guide to the best things to do in Battle East Sussex, England has the top 11 experiences for you to explore. The Battle of Hastings town makes for a fabulous day trip, and this guide is designed as an intimate resource for when you visit this heritage town.
ABOUT BATTLE EAST SUSSEX
The charming town of Battle is set amidst a picturesque and tranquil landscape of South East England, in the county of East Sussex. The town falls in the district council of Rother and is in the TN33 postcode district, about 77 km (48 miles) southeast of London.
The town of Battle East Sussex portrays a happy hug of colourful shops with distinct architecture that had expanded as years went on. The expanding colours of the town are the footprints of the thriving community set amidst wild spaces released to nature, the places where we are free to roam and enjoy.
1 | Battle and Battle of Hastings
Battle, or ‘Battel’ (as known back in the day), takes its name after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the most famous conflict in English history. While one may assume that the pivotal conflict took place in Hastings, it did not; it took place at the hills, Senlac Hill, just north of East Sussex Coast, in the present-day charming and fittingly named town of Battle.
Battle of Hastings was a conflict fought by the invading army of the Duke of Normandy (later, known as William the Conqueror) and England’s Anglo-Saxon King Harold and his army in the 11th century. It was the bloodiest battle ever, resulting in the victory of the Normans. The battle turned the course of British history, leading to the Norman conquest of England and is one of the most important in English history.
2 | Battle Abbey
As a memorial to the loss of lives at the battle and as a reparation for the bloodshed of the conquest, William the Conqueror built the Benedictine Abbey of Battle. He instructed that the high altar of the abbey church was built at the exact spot where King Harold died. The abbey was symbolic of the power and authority of the Norman rulers and became one of the richest religious houses in England. The town of Battle grew alongside the success of the abbey.
As with many abbeys and monasteries in England in the 16th century, much was destroyed during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. However, the beauty of the abbey ruins is still one of the best attractions in the Battle of Hastings town, a place to imagine the stories that the walls have to tell.
3 | What to expect in Battle East Sussex England
A visit to Battle and you shall discover that at the heart of Battle is the bustling mix of old and new independent shops and businesses. Alongside this compact market town, are the battleground of the infamous conflict of 1066, a tranquil medieval abbey ruins, the very spot where King Harold was killed, the serenity of St Mary’s Church, along with the surrounding ancient woodland that has stood time till this day.
The town of Battle runs a year-round activities of lively events alongside theatre and music. Battle’s most famous celebratory events are Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes night in November, and battle re-enactments in October. Popular events aside, uncovering England’s history through the remnants of the battle, the captivating abbey ruins, the peaceful St Mary’s church, and Battle Museum offers a lot more to a visitor at anytime of the year and its worth making the trip for.
HOW TO REACH BATTLE EAST SUSSEX
The historic market town of Battle is well served by public transport. There are regular trains from London Charing Cross and Gatwick Airport to Battle. The trains from Charing Cross run direct and take about 1 hour 15 minutes or sometimes involve one change, and take about 1 hour 25 minutes depending on services on the day. Check for the latest train times with First TransPennine Express. Trains from Gatwick involve one change and typically takes more than 2 hours. Check train times from Gatwick to Battle.
If driving, you could reach Battle via A2100.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN BATTLE EAST SUSSEX ENGLAND
Here are my suggestions on what to do in the heritage town of Battle and a glimpse into how I spent my day on a day trip from London. As a conscious green traveller, I opted for a train ride instead of driving which may have been quicker. It was an early start and I took the train from London Charing Cross to Battle, East Sussex. After 3.5 hours of travel, I arrived at 10:00 a.m. ready to discover the best things to do in Battle East Sussex.
1 | Battle Railway Station
Arriving at Battle Railway Station East Sussex from London Charing Cross and the cuteness of the railway station was instantly noticeable. It is a small station with two platforms connected by a footbridge, and stairs on each side. It has a ticket office and a waiting room but it is the architecture that was eye-catching.
The windows are tall, narrow, have pointed arches and come with glazed latticed glass. The exterior of the station is finished in coarse stone and has steeply pitched roofs. Typifying Gothic architecture, the building was designed by William Tress who took inspiration from the nearby medieval Battle Abbey. The station was opened in 1852 and is a Grade II listed building.
> How to get to Battle town from Battle Railway station
Upon exiting Battle Railway Station, turn left, and walk to the top of the road, where you turn right into Lower Lake. Keep walking along the pavement (you may have to cross over to the other side as the pavement narrows down in some places). You will pass through two mini-roundabouts and into Upper Lake, leading you to the High Street, towards the centre of town. The grand gatehouse to Battle Abbey and Battlefield is on the left.
> A little background to Battle Abbey and Battlefield
The imposing Gatehouse of Battle Abbey on Battle High Street is located at the southern end of Battle town. This was the site where the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066.
Beyond the grand doors and walls of the imposing architecture of Battle Abbey Gatehouse is the battlefield where the bloodiest of battles in England took place. The Battle Abbey ruins and Battlefield is the most well-preserved of the Battle of Hastings that serves as a deep reminder of the events of 1066.
Battle Abbey and Battlefield are managed by the English Heritage. Visiting this heritage site will incur an entry fee. I recommend that you get the English Heritage pass. It makes entry free and easy.
2 | Visit the Battle Abbey and Battlefield
The ruins of Battle Abbey are strikingly beautiful and are another of the best things to do in Battle. There is a lot to take in on the grounds surrounding the abbey. Here are some of the highlights.
2.1 | Battle Abbey Gatehouse, Exhibition and Viewing Platform
Explore the Abbey Gatehouse and go to the top of the tower via the stone spiral stairway. Stop at each floor on your way as each is dedicated to specific exhibitions and displays of artefacts. The viewing platform at the top of the tower offers incredible views of Battle High Street, Abbots Hall, parts of the Battlefield and the countryside beyond.
2.2 | Dormitory range, Site of High Altar and the Crypt
The ruined dormitory range with beautiful ribbed vaulted stonework pillars and its rooftop are a stunning site. The site of the abbey church and the high altar is another compelling site. A stone slab is laid here to indicate the precise spot where King Harold was killed. It looks impressive with the tower of the Church of St Mary the Virgin framing the area. Areas of low stonework are still intack, marking the remains of the 13th century crypt which are especially hauntingly sombre.
2.3 | The Dairy, Icehouse and the Walled Garden
The dairy and the icehouse with a conical thatched roof seems mystical and worth having a look. Next to the icehouse, there is a little room that looks like a hobbit house, where ice would have been stored inside during winter to be used in warmer months. The peaceful walled garden is a pretty place to walk amidst pear and apple trees interspersed with meadow flowers and beehives.
Abbot’s Hall and the cloisters are impressive also. However, the Abbot’s Hall is now a school, so these are off limits, except in August, where tour groups can be organised to visit.
After seeing all there is to see at the Battle Abbey, along with the free tours and a dive back to 1066 with plenty of opportunities to ask questions, I assure you, a visit to Battle Abbey is worth the trip.
TTS pro-tip: The English Heritage offer free tours for visitors. When I visited, these took place at 11:30 a.m. and at 1 p.m. I joined both as they covered two different routes.
3 | Go on the Battlefield Walk
The Battlefield Walk is one of the best things to do in Battle East Sussex. There are some easy routes, short routes and some over-variable terrain. Situated on a sloping hill, the battlefield is set against the backdrop of the Abbey Towers. The longest walk, begins near the tower at the Gatehouse, around the kids playground, through a little gate situated on your right. Steps are uneven here. The clear designated path meanders through the woodland, down to the meadow, across and then up the hill. Also known as the sculpture trail, there are sculptural representations of the Norman and English soldiers along the trail that tell the story of the battle. It can take between 50 minutes to an hour to complete the trail.
The walk across the meadow was especially peaceful and tranquil, with the sweet fragrance of wildflowers, the buzz around the blooms, the soft breeze and sunshine filled moments. The air of serenity rests over the valley and it was hard to imagine the thundering troops from England and France were battling it out on this very site, on October 14, 1066.
TTS pro-tip: Pick up an audio guide before you go on the Battlefield Walk. These are free. Swipe them at each station to hear exactly what happened at that spot back in 1066.
Where: High Street, Battle, East Sussex, TN33 0AE
4 | Battle Museum of Local History
Towards the northern end of the town’s High Street is the Battle Museum of Local History. The Battle Museum is located within a site famously known as The Almonry. The museum brings together all of the town’s history including a 200 year old Guy Fawkes. There are ancient Roman artefacts, Victorian memorabilias and an axe from the Battle of Hastings 1066.
Where: The Almonry, High Street, Battle, East Sussex, TN33 0EA
5 | The Almonry, Battle, East Sussex
The Almonry is a site owned by Battle Town Council and it encompasses the Battle Museum of Local History, the council offices and a public garden.
It appears that the area known as Almonry was the site of a house built in 1090, when the town was first laid out. The house was known as KNIGHT from the early middle ages. It was sold into private ownership in 1930 until it was purchased by the local council in 1987.
6 | St Mary the Virgin Church, Battle England
The Church of St Mary the Virgin was founded over 900 years ago by Abbot Ralph. St Mary was established to serve the community of Battle that began to grow around the Abbey on the battlefield. This beautiful church is an exceptional medieval building boasting a Romanesque nave and home to some great history. The tomb of Sir Anthony Browne, the man who was granted the abbey by Henry VIII rests here. Notable on display are the Crusaders’ crosses carved by their swords and the Battle Tapestry, a 3-metre long tapestry depicting the development of Battle from October 14 1066 to the founding of the St Mary’s in 1115 AD.
7 | Walk the High Street in Battle
The High Street in the town of Battle is a bustling one. There are plenty of shops, clothing boutiques, cafes, museums, restaurants, traditional pubs and little teashops for that traditional English tea, some of these spill out to the pavement.
Beyond the vibrancy of the town, the architecture of the buildings are certainly a cause for pause and capture. These heritage buildings feature half-timbered facades along with cute curvy windows and colourful scenes.
For lunch, try Burton’s Restaurant situated on the east of the Abbey, or for a quick pick-me-up, there is a cute little teashop called Bluebell on the west of the abbey. The House of Cards is a unique independent card store and is a joy to explore.
8 | Go beyond the High Street in Battle
While a walk along the High Street of Battle reveals the bustling modern town, it is the side streets and little alleys that tell a touching story of its medieval past.
The Bayeux Cottage on Mount Street is a Grade II listed building. It has been refurbished to meet modern day celebrations such as weddings and graduations but still retains the old day glamour of timbered vintage buildings.
Situated a little further from Burton’s Restaurant is The Pilgrims Rest. A timber-framed building and a Grade II listed heritage site. The Pilgrims Rest looked really beautiful from the outside and I can only imagine the historic charm it holds in its interior.
Other notable delightfully pretty buildings are the Abbot’s Cottage on Upper Lake, and the Tudor House, just across from the Abbey. The Abbot’s Cottage was built circa 1400. It was home to John Hammond, the last Abbot of the Abbey after he gave up the monastery because of the suppression in 1538.
9 | Go on the Battle Walk
The Battle Walk is a 7.2 km (4.5 miles) circular walk through Battle Great Wood, Battle Abbey and the 1066 Battlefield along with Battle Museum. It is an easy walk through woodland with some hilly sections and takes a little under two hours to complete.
ADD TO YOUR ITINERARY ON THINGS TO DO IN BATTLE EAST SUSSEX
If you have more time, plan ahead for the following two walks. Get your directions and map from the Ordnance Survey.
10 | Discover 1066 Country Walk
The 1066 Country Walk marks the path taken by William the Conqueror and his army after landing in Pevensey. The route spans almost 50 km (31 miles). It begins at Pevensey Castle, passes Herstmonceux Castle, 1066 Battle Abbey and Battlefield, Winchelsea, ending in Rye. This is a relatively easy, low level route through the countryside.
11 | Explore the woodlands around Battle
Battle England is set within one of the most picturesque landscapes in southern England. The landscape offers a wealth of pathways and cycle tracks to explore. Explore the Country Trail, Heritage Trail and the Battle Sculpture Trail. Learn more about the cycle tracks from the official East Sussex County Council.
12 | Explore Bodiam, East Sussex
Step back in time in Bodiam, a little village not too far from Battle. Surrounded by natural beauty and popularly known for the town’s beautiful castle, Bodiam is a ‘must visit’ destination by anyone to this corner of England.
Recommended read: A fun day out in Bodiam, East Sussex.
Keep exploring …
If you are exploring Sussex county, you may also like to explore other counties in England? Here are some articles that you may find helpful:
I had long wanted to visit the welcoming countryside of East Sussex along with the historic town of Battle but for some reason, I never did until a few days ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the long battlefield walk, the serenity of the meadow and the stories of the past. It was a perfect day trip from London on a warm sunny September day. A reminder to myself that I don’t always have to go too far for a quintessential day.
My sincere wish is that you have found this guide on the 11 best things to do in Battle East Sussex, England to be helpful in planning your travel to the Battle of Hastings town. If so, I would love to hear from you along with your experiences in Battle.
Have a splendid time exploring Battle.
**All photos by Georgina