Lewes

Lewes viewed from its castle
For other places with the same name, see Lewes (disambiguation).

Lewes is the county town of East Sussex.

Get in

By train from London Victoria (70 min), Brighton (20 min) or Eastbourne, Hastings.

By bus from Brighton (30 min), Eastbourne or Tunbridge Wells via Uckfield

Get around

On foot

There are local bus services operating within the town, but realistically you can walk from one end of the town to the other in half an hour at a very leisurely pace. Elderly visitors may want to take under advisement that the town is notoriously hilly.

By bicycle

Cycling is easy within the town and is encouraged as an easy, healthy and environmentally friendly alternative to car use.

By car

Lewes is notoriously unfriendly for car users. This is in part due to the fact that car use is so unnecessary within the town, everything can be reached using a bike, a bus or your feet! The high street is known to be a nightmare during rush hours, as the main road through town. A number of one-way streets, pedestrianised areas and most notably the parking situation make bringing a car to town a bit of a waste of time and money. Some roads are also so narrow that you wonder why they are even roads. Note: Lewes has probably the most parking attendants per a head in the UK, and therefore you are almost certain be caught if you incorrectly park your car; also, fines are quite steep. If you plan to visit by car use one of the town's car parks (there are surprisingly few, but they are all most conveniently located). Lewes District Council have more information.

Do

Lewes Castle, Lewes

Bonfire

Lewes has an extensive Bonfire tradition, celebrated annually on the 5th of November - unless the 5th lands on a Sunday, in which case it is celebrated on the 4th. Practical information can be found at the Lewes Bonfire Council website . An extensive history of the celebrations can be found at any of the society webpages, including that of the well-known Cliffe Bonfire society. .

Despite the vigour with which the town mounts its Bonfire, visitors from outside the local vicinity of Lewes are often actively and strongly discouraged from coming to town on Bonfire by locals, as a number of misunderstandings, trouble and bad press are perceived to stem from outsiders who do not understand the tradition and organization of the night, mistaking it often as a chance to get drunk in public and act inappropriately. Anti-social behaviour by visitors has also in previous years led to a firm response from those policing and marshalling the events.

Claimed as being amongst the largest such celebrations in the UK, the Bonfire is a true spectacle to behold - with several bonfire sites throughout town (each home to an individual society) which host a bonfire, the burning of effegies (often cuttingly pollitical in the case of the Cliffe Society) and of course, fireworks. A number of societies parade through the town in costume in grand processions displaying banners and effigies. The costumes ranging from the historical, luxurious to the down-right bizarre.

These processions are torch-lit with more hand held paraffin torches than you are likely to ever see anywhere else. The entire night is one large party, but one that locals take very seriously. An incredible amount of time, cost and energy goes into the organization of the night each year, and traditions such as the death march are observed with the same pride as they would have been four hundred years ago.

For safety reasons, all roads in and out of town are closed off in the late afternoon on the fifth and do not re-open until after the celebrations are over (which can be well into the small hours of Nov 6). In addition a number of side streets are also closed along with certain car parks, so that emergency response staff have clear access routes to and from incidents. Bonfire is not suitable for young children.

Buy

Lewes is proud of being one of the least "modernised" towns in England. You'll find lots of small independent businesses here, and Lewes shops are particularly good for old women's clothing, art, second hand books and antiques. Almost opposite the castle entrance is Catlins an old fashioned sweet shop with a large range of loose sweet, fine chocolates, tobaccos and pipes. Not only has Lewes retained its historic atmosphere through its old shops and buildings but it also produces its own type of currency. The Lewes Pound. Historically the town produced its own notes and as a tradition it has continued to do so. The Lewes Pound is only valid in Lewes, nowhere else in the UK.

Eat

Lewes boasts a range of international cuisine including Indian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Polish, and good old traditional English pub-grub. For a more upmarket twist on the traditional pub food menu, one can sample the new menu at The Snowdrop Inn at the bottome of town, or give the legendary "Elly Burger" a go at the Elephant and Castle pub just off of the high street. For an intimate and strictly Italian experience, try Famiglia Lazzati near the War Memorial on the high street, or for an oriental flavour give the wonderful Thai restaurant, the Pailin on Station Street a go. Late night revellers can try to stave off (or encourage depending on your point of view!) a hangover with chips in pitta from either the Charcoal Grill or Effies kebab houses, both found on the high street, and try again in the morning with a "greasy spoon" full English from either The Cafe (formerly Eddie's cafe) by the Prison, or the Casbah in the bottle neck. For the healthier palette, nothing quite beats breakfast/ brunch at Bill's Produce Store on Cliffe High St, where you can have a delicious plate of food, and then have a browse in the grocers/ produce shop under the same roof!

Drink

Harveys Brewery, Lewes

The night life is essentially pubs and restaurants, but Brighton is 20 minutes away by train, a little more by bus, with all the varied and often loud and bustling night life that you could ever ask for. Taxi's will take you to and from Brighton, but expect to pay £20 upwards for each journey.

Sleep

Go next

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