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Things to do in Battle, East Sussex

The historic town of Battle in East Sussex sits in the heart of 1066 Country in the High Weald. The small market town in southern England is best known for being the site of the Battle of Hastings, the most famous battle in English history.

View of Battle high street from the Abbey
View of Battle in East Sussex from the gatehouse

Things to do in Battle: a local’s guide

Many people visit the town to see the battlefield and the remains of the Benedictine abbey. The Battle Abbey gatehouse which dominates the High Street is also an impressive sight.

But there are many more things to do in Battle than visit the site of the Battle of Hastings. Beautiful countryside and ancient woodland, Sussex castles and excellent vineyards can all be found nearby. Read on for fifteen fabulous things to do in Battle recommended by our local expert.

You’ll need more than a day trip so we’ve included recommendations on where to stay with my selection of Sussex holiday cottages by Classic Cottages.

Battle Abbey

The sun sets on Battle Abbey

Battle Abbey is the reason most people visit the small market town of Battle. Despite the name, the clash between the Saxons and the Normans didn’t happen in Hastings. It took place six miles north where the small town of Battle stands today.

In 1070 Pope Alexander I ordered the Duke of Normandy (aka William the Conqueror) to build Battle Abbey. The reason? A penance for the blood spilled on the battlefield during the Norman conquest.

It’s believed the site of the high altar is the spot where King Harold was hit by an arrow in the eye and died. Nowadays a plaque and small monument mark the spot.

The spot where King Harold allegedy fell with St Mary’s Church in the background

The Abbey thrived until Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. Nowadays, much remains of the abbey ruins. See the under croft and the ruined dormitory, beneath which are the Novices’ Chamber and Common Room with beautifully vaulted stone arches.

The dairy and icehouse stand near the walled garden which is filled with fruit trees and wildflowers. The foundations of the abbey church can still be seen.

Today the must-see site is run by English Heritage, and you’ll find an excellent visitor centre with interactive exhibits and documentary footage retelling the events of the Battle.

There’s an excellent children’s discovery centre and medieval-themed playground so the whole family will enjoy a visit. There’s also a cafe on site and gift shop. The Abbot’s Great Hall is now part of Battle Abbey School and is closed to the public.

Where to stay

If you love history then you’ll enjoy a stay at Matilda, a cabin which is just 1.5 miles from Battle Abbey and England’s most famous battlefield.

Named after William the Conqueror’s wife, Matilda, a stay in the medieval-themed cabin is a great way to immerse yourself in local history.

The one-bedroom cabin is surrounded by woodland with plenty of wildlife and comes with kitchen, eating area, shower room and outside terrace. The bedroom comes complete with skylight above the bed for stargazing. The White Hart Inn is just a 15-minute walk away.

The 1066 Battlefield

The Battlefield, Battle Abbey-East Sussex

It’s hard to believe that the battlefield is the site of such a bloody battle where the course of English history changed. Today, the peaceful meadow is filled with wildflowers, sheep and birdsong. Carved oak figures of Norman and Saxon soldiers have been installed in a sculpture trail across the battlefield.

The audio tour is excellent and one of the best I’ve heard. It brings all the drama of the battle to life as you walk the battlefield trail.

You might wish to read our comprehensive guide to visiting Battle Abbey and the battlefield to help plan your visit.

A bird’s eye view of Battle from the gatehouse

A climb to the top of the gatehouse roof offers great views across the battlefield, the town and countryside which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. See if you can spot Battle’s windmill. It’s said that the windmill is located where King Harold assembled his army before heading into battle.

Watch a re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings

Re-enactments take place each year on the nearest weekend to 14th October, the date of the Battle of Hastings.

The town comes alive with enthusiasts travelling from all over the world to recreate history. There are demonstrations and displays of battle techniques, armour and falconry. Horses thunder across the battlefield leading up to 800 soldiers into battle.

Tents are pitched, food is prepared on campfires and people dress in costume and live for a couple of days how they would have done back then. Well, most do. In past years I’ve spotted Normans in the fish and chip shop, a monk at the ATM machine and a bunch of peasants in the pub.

During the battle itself the shouts, clashing of swords and roars of the charge can be heard across the town. There’s an air of excitement and anticipation even though everyone is aware of the outcome. I’ve heard that sometimes they have a re-match after the main event and let the Saxons win. Just for a change.

If you wish to visit for the 1066 re-enactment, you’ll need to book well in advance through English Heritage. Extra fees apply.

Check out Battle’s Historic Buildings

Medieval buildings abound in Battle so keep your eyes peeled as you make your way around the town.

Pilgrim’s Rest, Battle

Pilgrim’s Rest, right next to Battle Abbey by the Abbey Green is a beautifully preserved Wealden Hall house dating back to the 15th century. You can’t miss the half-timbered facade and pointed medieval door. The High Street is busy with medieval half-timbered buildings and former coaching inns.

Cottages in Mount Street, Battle
Crooked cottage in Battle, East Sussex

Head to Mount Street which sits off the northern end of the High Street for picturesque cottages, one of which is particularly crooked with a rather large chimney.

If you arrive in Battle by train don’t forget to check out the station. It’s Battle’s only Gothic building and is a short walk from the High Street.

Visit Battle Museum of Local History

Battle Museum of local history

Battle Museum sits at the top of the High Street next to the Almonry. It may be the tiniest museum ever, but it’s packed with exhibits showing the town’s rich history.

From preserved dinosaur footprints, a replica axe-head, which is copy of one the few relics of the Battle of Hastings, to items from a Roman bathhouse, pottery, coins and military effects.

The museum is also home to the world’s oldest Guy Fawkes. Well, his head anyway. It’s believed to have been carved in around 1795 from a local pear tree. His silk cloak, thought to be over 200 years old is also exhibited.

The guy leads the town’s bonfire celebrations each year and heads the Battel Bonfire Boyes’ procession as they drum their way down the high street to the Abbey Green. Battle’s first bonfire celebration is in the record books as being held in 1646. Today Battle Bonfire is a big annual event in the town.

Enjoy the Almonry Gardens

One of three gardens in the Almonry, Battle

Don’t miss a peek at the Almonry’s walled gardens before leaving the museum. A team of volunteers tend the gardens which are a peaceful place to linger. The gardens are made up of three areas; the upper garden, lower garden and the Almonry’s courtyard which is my favourite spot.

Follow the Battle Sculpture Trail

Battle Sculpture Trail on Senlac Hill

While you’re in the gardens look out for a stone orb which displays Battle’s motto ‘Per Bellum Patria’ which means ‘Through War a Nation’. The orb, hand carved by Elliott Brotherton, is embellished with acorns, oak leaves, local orchids, bees and butterflies. It’s the first sculpture in a series of six which make up Battle Sculpture Trail each depicting Battle’s history and heritage. Download this pdf map to follow the trail.

See the Norman Solider on Horseback

Near the Almonry at the top of the High Street you can’t fail to miss a Norman soldier on horseback mounted on the roundabout. The striking statue, by Guy Portelli, was installed in 2016 to commemorate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

Shop in Battle High Street

Battle High Street

Amid the timber-framed, historic houses in the heart of Battle High Street you’ll find some fabulous indie shops.

My favourite is ‘British Design British Made’ which stocks high quality local art, design pieces and crafts – all British or locally made. ‘Lifestyle Battle’, is a newcomer to the town and sells Scandi hygge homeware and clothing while White Sail offer the same in a more traditional style. Barnaby’s of Battle is great for retro knick-knacks and antiques.

Rother Books has everyone covered, from young children to history buffs, hikers, cooks and lovers of a good yarn. There are independent jewellers, delis and clothes shops. Don’t forget to wander through the mews and yards that lead off from the High Street. Check out ‘Dickiebird Homestore’ in Mount Street, just past the King’s Head pub on the corner by the car park entrance.

Sample a local brew

The King's Head pub, Battle, East Sussex

There are plenty of pubs in Battle to stop for a drink and a bite. The King’s Head in Mount Street is said to be the oldest pub in the town. Other good pubs are The Chequers at the bottom of the High Street on Senlac HIll and the Bull Inn, also in the High Street. They all serve good food.

Head to Battle Brewery or it’s ‘Tap and Bottle Shop’ in the High Street for a taste of their small batch beers. You’ll find Abbey Pale IPA, Conquest best bitter, One Hop Wonder pale ale and other seasonal offerings to tempt your tastebuds from this eco-friendly microbrewery.

The Battle Tap and Bottle Shop is at 52 High Street, Battle or on a sunny day head to the brewery’s nearby farm location and bag a table with countryside views. It’s a couple of miles from Battle High Street so you could make a walk of it.

Battle Brewery Brewhouse, Beech Farm Estate, on the junction of Penhurst Lane and the A271. Check opening times as these vary.

Where to stay

The Old Barn is 4.7 miles northwest of Battle and perfect if you’re looking for a peaceful, rural retreat. The pretty converted barn sleeps 4 and has its own private garden.

Inside you’ll find stone floors and beamed ceilings. The barn is in the grounds of a Grade II listed farmhouse with farmyard animals nearby. Three other holiday cottages sit nearby which makes this a great option for group holidays. Dogs are welcome too.

The Old Barn is a great base from which to explore Battle and nearby Sussex villages.

Take a walk in Battle Great Wood

Bluebells in Battle Great Wood

If you’re in Battle for a day or two, take time for a walk in Battle Great Wood. This large area of ancient woodland is a peaceful and beautiful place for a stroll.

The woods are home to wildlife and many species of birds; we’ve spotted Roe deer and badger and heard cuckoos and woodpeckers. In Spring the forest floor is covered in bluebells, wood anemones and wild garlic. In summer you’ll find wild orchids and in autumn many forms of fungi appear.

The 1066 Country Walk runs through the middle of Battle Great Wood. Starting at Pevensey, the 31-mile walk crosses through Herstmonceux, Battle and finally to Rye. Along the route are 10 specially commissioned sculptures by Keith Pettit which form a trail. The wooden sculptures are based on the Bayeux Tapestry. You’ll find one on the main pathway through the woods.

Visit the Parish Church of St Mary

Battle Tapestry in St Mary’s Church, Battle

St Mary’s church in Battle was founded in 1115 and is a Grade I Listed building. Look out for the Romanesque nave, the Senlac commemorative stained-glass window, 14th-century wall paintings. Crusaders’ crosses are carved into pillars created while they were sharpening their swords.

Don’t miss the three-metre Battle Tapestry in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry which depicts events in the town in the fifty years after the Battle of Hastings.

In the graveyard look out for the grave of the oldest man in Sussex. Isaac Ingall lived 120 years and worked in the Abbey as a servant.

Where to Stay

If you’re looking for a romantic bolt-hole for two with stunning views then Hill Farm Cottage fits the bill perfectly. This charming Sussex barn sits in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with miles of walks straight from the front door.

With oak flooring, a vaulted ceilings and stylish open-plan living area you won’t want to leave.

Things to do near to Battle

Go for a wine tasting at Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard

The tasting room at Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard

Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard is the first biodynamic vineyard in England and produces over 30,000 bottle of red, white, rose and sparkling wine every year. Its credentials are excellent; environmentally friendly with no plastic packaging and certified by the Soil Association and Vegan Society. The wine’s excellent.

Visit the award-winning vineyard for wine tasting. There are a range of packages on offer from a self-guided tour to ploughman’s lunch or cream tea tours.

Sedlescombe Golf and Country Club

Visitors are welcome at Sedlescombe Golf Club with a choice of two courses available. Set in beautiful scenery the Great Wood Course is 18 holes while the small Little Wood course is a challenging par 3. The club has a huge sunny terrace with bar and restaurant which serves excellent food for members and visitors. Their Sunday BBQs in summer are excellent.

Things to do further afield

There’s loads to do within half an hour’s drive of Battle. Bodiam Castle and the East Kent and Sussex steam railway are both 8-miles from the town. There’s plenty to do for a full day out including boating or paddle boarding on the river Rother.

Castle lovers will also enjoy Pevensey Castle which is a 30-minute drive away. The pretty town of Rye and its beautiful sandy beach, Camber Sands, are a 40-minute drive away. And Hastings, with its pretty old town, country park and beaches are just 6 miles away.

I hope our guide of things to do in Battle has inspired you to plan a visit for yourself. As you can see it’s a great place with its long history, abbey, battlefield and lively atmosphere. With all this, plus seaside towns, castles, beaches and vineyards in the surrounding area you’ll need more than a weekend break.

This post is created in partnership with Classic Cottages a ‘Which Recommended’ provider in 2022, 2023 and 2024.