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The Southeast Travel Guide

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  • Photo: Helmut Konrad Watson / Shutterstock

Plan Your Southeast Vacation

Surrey, Kent, and Sussex form the breadbasket of England, where bucolic farmland stretches as far as the eye can see. Once a favorite destination of English nobility, this region is rich with history, visible in the great castles and stately homes that dot the countryside. Its cities are similarly historic, especially ancient Canterbury, with its spectacular cathedral and medieval streets. Along

the coast, funky seaside towns have a more relaxed attitude, especially artsy Brighton, where artists and musicians use the sea as inspiration for their work.

Although it's close to London (both Surrey and Kent reach all the way to London's suburbs) and is one of the most densely populated areas of Britain, the Southeast feels far away from the big city. In Kent, acres of orchards burst into a mass of pink-and-white blossoms in spring, while Dover's white cliffs and brooding castle have become symbols of Britain. Historic mansions, such as Petworth House and Knole, are major draws for travelers, and lush gardens such as Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst and the Royal Horticultural Society's Wisley attract thousands to their vivid floral displays.

Because the English Channel is at its narrowest here, a great deal of British history has been forged in the Southeast. The Romans landed in this area and stayed to rule Britain for four centuries. So did the Saxons—Sussex means "the land of the South Saxons." The biggest invasion of them all took place here when William ("the Conqueror") of Normandy defeated the Saxons at a battle near Hastings in 1066, changing the island forever.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Bodiam, Dover, Hever, and Herstmonceux castles Take your pick the most evocative castles in a region filled with them dazzle you with their fortitude and fascinate you with their histories.
  2. Brighton With its nightclubs, sunbathing, and funky atmosphere, this is the quintessential modern English seaside city.
  3. Canterbury Cathedral This massive building, a textbook of medieval architecture, inspires awe with its soaring towers and flagstone corridors.
  4. Rye Wandering the cobbled streets of this medieval town is a pleasure, and rummaging through its antiques stores is an adventure in itself. Reward yourself afterward as the English do, with tea and scones.
  5. Treasure houses Here is one of England's richest concentrations of historic homes among the superlatives are Petworth House; sprawling Knole; Ightham Mote; and Chartwell.
  6. Amazing gardens Gardens of all kinds are an English specialty, and at Sissinghurst and Wisley, as well as in the gardens of Hever Castle and Chartwell, you can easily spend an entire afternoon wandering through acres of floral exotica.

When To Go

When to Go

It's best to visit in spring, summer, or early fall. Many privately owned castles and mansions are open only between April and September or...

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