Find out more about the fun activities and day trips close to Skoolie Stays at Little Thakeham Farm
There is a wealth of things to discover in West Sussex. Think fairy tale castles, glorious stately homes, wineries and vineyards and then, of course, the rolling downs.
Nestled into a private meadow right in the heart of rural West Sussex, Skoolie Stays is perfectly placed for you to explore the best the county has to offer, all within 30 minutes of our site.
Just a 30-minutes from the Skoolie Stays site and you are in picturesque Arundel. It’s lovely to wander in its own right, but as we are in a section dedicated to heritage, let’s focus on the two major draws: the Castle and the Cathedral, both of which dominate the Arundel skyline.
Home of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors, the Castle has been in occupation since 1067. It has stunning furniture, paintings, armour, tapestries and everything else you’d expect from a castle, as well as incredible views from the Keep. We love the gardens – they run regular re-enactments, which are always fun to watch, but in April they are also full of glorious tulips. You can check their events page to see what they have going on.
It is also worth visiting the gothic Cathedral. It is beautiful on the inside and out, but for a real wow factor it is worth coinciding your visit with their world famous Carpet of Flowers exhibition, which comes out just after Easter. Beautiful!
Both the Castle and the Cathedral are involved in Augusts’ Festival of the Arts.
A 10 minute drive away and you reach the beautiful Parham House and Gardens. This Elizabethan mansion was built in 1557 and is still lived in by the descendants of the original family.
The house has been sensitively restored so that guests can enjoy the beautiful furniture, paintings, books, textiles and clocks. The garden is also open to the public so that they can enjoy the deer park, mature trees, four-acre walled garden with herbaceous borders, and seven acres of landscaped pleasure grounds. It really is a very beautiful spot.
Managed by the National Trust, this 17th century mansion, inspired by the Baroque mansions of Europe, has one of the finest art collections in the care of the National Trust. It was also the setting for several scenes in Netflix’s Bridgerton.
While the house is very lovely, our favourite activity at Petworth is walking and picnicking in the grounds. The house is set in a 700-acre deer park, designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and include the Ionic Rotunda erected in about 1765.
Amberley Museum is dedicated to preserving the South East’s industrial heritage and it’s a fun day out, particularly for smaller kids.
There are 36 acres to explore and over 40 exhibits to visit, including a working print shop, traditional crafts people demonstrations, lime kilns and other ancient monuments that date back to when the site was a working chalk quarry. It also has a ‘connected Earth’ telecommunications hall (so that you can show the kids a life before mobile phones!) and an industrial narrow gauge railway.
A farmer discovered these famous Roman mosaics whilst he was ploughing the fields in 1811! The family still farm the land but they leave this part for the visitors to enjoy. And it is quite a sight.
The mosaics themselves are some of the most complete and intricate in the country. Everything is explained and there are lots of interactive elements. Fascinating stuff! Of course if your children get bored, as children have a tendency to do at historic exhibits, they also have other things going on. At the time of writing, a stunning sunflower maze was open and a pumpkin patch was due to launch for October.
Cissbury Ring is the largest hill fort in Sussex, and the second largest in the country. The 60 acre site is owned by the National Trust and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, its fortificatons built around the beginning of the Middle Iron-Age, possibly around 250 BC.
The site has some spectacular views and butterfly-lovers will enjoy spotting the chalkhill blues, marbled whites and Adonnis that live here.
Chanctonbury Ring is another Iron Age hill fort, later used as a Roman religious site. It is easily visible from various locations in Sussex due to its distinguishable crown of beech trees.
Again, the site has lovely views and is ideal for picnics as it’s a relatively short 30 minute walk up to the top. We love the lower part of the walk as there are some fabulous trees with their roots exposed due to chalk erosion. It’s the perfect spot for a game of hide and seek!
A 30-minute drive away, this 65-acre nature reserve run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust provides a protected habitat for swans, geese, ducks, and other beautiful wetland birds. It has lovely walkways and play areas – it’s very kid-friendly.
There are always a host of activities taking place, from pond dipping to wood carving to boat safaris, and they also run seasonal events – check their calendar for details. There’s also a rather lovely pub next door – The Black Rabbit…. just saying!
16 minutes drive away and you reach the 3,500 acre Knepp Estate, owned by the Burrell family for over 220 years. In 2001 they embarked on a ‘rewilding’ project, using grazing animals and restoring natural water courses in order to increase wildlife in the area. It’s triggered a return of rare species, including nightingales, peregrine falcons, turtle doves and purple emperor butterflies.
There are lots of footpaths that weave through 16 miles of the Knepp Estate, allowing you to see the effects of the rewilding project up close. Kids (and adults!) will also enjoy the five tree-viewing platforms which give fabulous, panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
Just four miles away, the RSPB site at Pulborough Brooks offers the chance to explore grasslands, pools, wildflower meadows and newly restored heathland.
The visitor centre is open year-round and there are some wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities – check out their seasonal calendar to find out what you might spot.
Warren Hill Park , 6 minutes drive away, is a recreational green space owned by the National Trust. A classic small forestry estate, you can still recognise small plantations of softwoods, hazel and sweet chestnut coppice, and beautiful straight oaks as well as semi-natural woodland.
There are plenty of broad paths, grassy glades and a small pocket of heathland and kids will love hunting for wildlife while you picnic under the trees.
The 100 miles (160 Km) long South Downs Way is a National Trail that follows the old routes and droveways along the chalk escarpment and ridges of the South Downs. Every section of it offers something different and the 48 mile stretch through West Sussex, and the areas closest to Skoolie Stays, are no exception.
Upwaltham (27 minutes drive) to Amberley is a 6.5 mile hike, taking you over Burton Down, Westburton and Bury Hill before dropping down to the River Arun. This is one of the two places where the muddy waters of the Weald have cut their way through the chalky mass of the South Downs and are a haven for wildlife.
It’s a tough climb out of Amberley as you head on the 6 mile hike towards Washington. From there it’s a 7.5 mile hike towards Washington – a hike that gives you the chance to spot the hill fort at Chanctonbury (see above).
There are some great options for mountain biking in West Sussex: the wide chalky trails of the South Downs Way, the woodland areas of Houghton or the Steyning Downland Scheme, a number of trails with varying degrees of difficulty, carefully planned, built and maintained by local volunteers and riders.
For serious mountain bikers, there are plenty of longer rides. A favourite of ours is Mountain Biking magazine’s: South Downs (MBUK 315) which takes you past Cissbury Ring. Stunning views! For other ideas you can check out Trailforks or Outdoor Active West Sussex suggestions.
Wiston Estate has been farmed by the Goring family since 1743. The ancient chalk downland produces exceptional fruit and their cuvées, both Vintage and Non-Vintage, are delicious.
They offer a variety of tours from the winery, where guests can learn about the wine production, taste the award-winning wines or enjoy the Landscape and Nature tours which take in the wider estate. There is also a lovely eatery: The Chalk Restaurant. It serves up seasonal and locally sourced dishes in a refurbished barn.
Nutbourne is a family run, boutique vineyard and winery with a range of award winning still and sparkling wines. They focus on biodiversity, carbon neutral in the vineyard and reduced footprint from production and distribution.
It is a lovely place to visit, with wildflower meadows, alpacas, lakes, places to picnic and stunning views along the vineyard trail. In the Summer they run guided tours and tastings
Kinsbrook Vineyard is a relatively new vineyard that was founded in 2014 by the Beckett family. It describes itself as young and progressive and they have worked hard to create an inclusive space to teach about minimal-interventionalist, regenerative practices.
They have a KIN Cafe Bar, where you can try a glass of their wine, or pick up a bottle (or more!) to take away. There is also supper clubs, Sunday afternoon events (summer only) and a farm shop and eatery.
Arundel Brewery creates award-winning beers and their Brewhouse Project is the perfect place to try beers from the brewery alongside delicious homemade food.
They also hold regular events here such as Jazz Thursdays, DJ Friday nights and regular invite street food pop ups to share the site.
Hepworth brews a range of lagers, bitters, pale ales, and stouts. They offer tours to groups and also have a Tap Room selling their beers, as well as others, local wines, gin and ciders.