As regular readers will know from our travel section we love exploring the UK, whether it’s a weekend in Manchester or a cosy weekend in the Cotswolds. Depending on the trip, how we get there is always a big decision – is it quicker to get the train or will we need to drive if we’re going to a remote location? Or perhaps the train fare down the road to Sussex is coming up at £450 for a single and we need to look at other options….

We recently went on a bank holiday jaunt around East Sussex and Kent, and as we knew we’d be making lots of different stops we went the driving route, hiring a beast of a car, the new Honda CR-V. It’s a little bigger than we’re used to but seeing as we were packing seven people in, we needed a biggie. The car itself is super smooth and easy to drive with an automatic handbrake for those of us who are terrible at hill starts (hands up). We loved the Apple CarPlay feature which allowed us to have Google Maps and Apple Music come right up on the car’s navigation screen. 

Our first stop was St Leonards which is right next door to Hastings and has been making a little name for itself as the ’new’ Margate, due to new businesses, restaurants and bars appearing in recent years. We headed straight for dinner at Farmyard, a new natural wine bar and bistro from ex-Londoners Kate and Ben Norum. it was absolutely packed on a Friday night and we got the last available table and settled in for some seriously good food and wine. 

farmyard in st leonards sussex

The wine list is made up of 100 natural, low intervention wines, with over 40 by the glass, and there’s some stunners on there. Little Bastard from Mosel, an orange wine from Sicily, Bagio Blianco, and a wonderful Chardonnay from Tillingham in East Sussex were particular highlights but there’s a lot more to discover and the staff will happily help you find it. 

On the food front, there’s simple bistro dishes made with the absolute best ingredients – charcuterie made in Lewes, Bexhill beef, local cheeses, and veg from a nearby organic farm. Standout dishes for us included the bone marrow and soldiers; the salt marsh lamb chops with harissa beans, broccoli and almonds; and the salt cod brandade crostini with saffron aioli. 

The next day we took a morning exploring Hastings with its pretty houses, shops and sea front. Being slightly hungover, we didn’t pass up the chance to have a couple of fresh fried fish sandwiches from a man selling them by the old fishing sheds. Driving further along the coast, we next came to Rye, which has to be one of the nicest towns in Sussex. We just so happened to be there for a small blues and jazz festival and caught a few bands in between browsing the antique shops and peering in the windows of local estate agents to see if we could afford a house here (we couldn’t). 

Tillingham Wines Sussex

Inspired by our previous evening, we decided to pay a visit to Tillingham vineyards which was about a 10 minute drive from Rye, so having a car here really was useful. It was even more useful at the end of our Tillingham visit as we bought so much wine we were definitely thankful to be able to shove it all in the boot! Tillingham has an amazing location with beautiful views and they make some great wines. Soon there will be a restaurant and a few hotel rooms on site so watch this space for more info on that soon. 

Moving on, we drove to Deal which is right on the coast in Kent, between Sandwich and Dover, where we spent a couple of nights. We absolutely loved this little town, which was super laid back and friendly and had enough little restaurants, pubs and delis to keep a car full of Londoners happy.

In the morning we ventured out for a walk along the beach, and even though it was Bank Holiday, wasn’t busy at all and had loads of space to sit and swim in the sea. Having seen pictures of the packed beaches at Margate and Brighton, we were glad we’d chosen Deal. We stopped at a cute little coffee shop on the beach called Hut 55 where we tucked in to scotch eggs, sausage rolls and flat whites before walking on all the way to Sandwich and back.

At night we checked out a couple of the pubs including the very hipster The Rose, and our favourite, The Ship Inn. Being by the seaside, there was only one choice for dinner – fish and chips. Encouraged by the big queue of locals at Sea View we joined the line and got mountains of fish and chips to eat on the beach as the sun went down. Bliss.

The next morning it was back to London feeling fresh after a UK countryside weekend. We loved Farmyard in St Leonards, Tillingham Vineyard, and the whole town of Deal especially, so if you’re looking to get out of town, get yourself to one of those, or do the whole tour of Sussex and Kent like we did.