Start your weekend getaway early on a Saturday morning. The historic city of Chichester is within a 2 hour drive of London, and only an hour from Brighton, Guildford and Southampton, so you’ll make it in time for a delicious coffee or brunch in one of the city’s many independent cafes.
Next, make your way to The Novium Museum, and see evidence of how this free-to-enter museum is built over the remains of a huge Roman bath house! There are three floors to discover, telling the story of Chichester district’s past over the last 500,000 years. There are loads of interactive elements for the children to enjoy, from drawing to dressing up, plus dedicated opportunities for selfie-lovers.
The City Walls await discovery next – take a stroll along the most intact Roman Wall defences in Southern England; virtually the whole circuit is accessible and there are numerous information boards available. The City Walls Trail has been created to help you explore this elevated route around the city. Why not take a picnic with you and enjoy it one of the award-winning parks along the way.
Now time to take to the water! Just a 15 minute walk from the city centre finds you at the Chichester Canal, which formerly linked Chichester to the sea. During scheduled boat trips (these run daily and last 75 minutes) your guides will reveal the canal’s history while you’re spotting local wildlife; look out for herons and kingfishers. You’ll soak up the fantastic views of the cathedral and beautiful Sussex Downs.
Recharge your batteries after a busy day with a film at Chichester’s art house Cinema at New Park – a unique, independent cinema with a colourful history, the main screen seats just 120 in very comfortable seats with great projection and sound systems and offers an intimate screen experience from a time gone by. (Check the website for listings and opening times in advance)
The City Centre boasts a wealth of restaurants for you to choose from, from popular names like Wagamama and Pizza Express to smaller independents such as Field & Fork – you’ll receive a warm welcome whichever you choose.
At the end of the day rest weary heads at one of Chichester’s cosy B&Bs.
Spend a leisurely Sunday morning in the city centre browsing the array of independent retailers, unique boutiques and high street brands on offer. There’s something for everyone; from designer clothes, watches and handbags through to high street fashion, retro-clothing and toyshops.
You may wish to take in morning service or later wander around the beautiful Cathedral and its grounds, and (depending on the season) see if you can spot the Peregrine Falcons flying in and out of the nesting box on the northwest side of the Cathedral Tower (or check out the live Chichester Peregrines webcam) – you may need your binoculars! Continue on to the Cloisters and St Richards Walk to reach one of Chichester’s best kept secrets; Bishops Palace Gardens. Tranquil, beautiful and full of colour from the many species of unusual plants and shrubs, this is a peaceful place for a picnic or a bit of wildlife spotting.
Why not continue your explorations through the city and see if you can hunt out some of the City’s Street Art. Most of the pieces you’ll see are works left from Chichester Street Art Festival, held in 2013, and are much treasured by the local community. The newest piece, by Belgian Artist Joachim, is ‘The Watch Dog’ – see if you can find him in the Georgian quarter of the City, known as the Pallants.
No doubt you’ll be well on your way to your 10,000 steps, but if you’re still keen for more before you return home, it’s time to jump in the car and head out of the city…
See the largest residential Roman building in Britain, at Fishbourne Roman Palace. Marvel at the amazing mosaics and imagine the luxury of this first-century palace fit for a King.
Then take a drive up to Midhurst and take in the dramatic ruins of Cowdray House; a Tudor manor house, which was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1793, set in the landscape of Cowdray Park which is famous for its glamorous Polo Championships.
Tea and cake can be sought out in various venues in this delightful town; the The Spread Eagle hotel, or maybe you'll discover the Walled Garden. Take a peep into the Midhurst Museum, possibly the smallest museum in the world – just one small room where the displays change every month.
Finally, Petworth offers a warm welcome, with its winding cobbled lanes and hidden streets, independent shops and more antique shops than any town in the South of England! Discover the impressive 17th Century Petworth House (National Trust) and its stunning gardens. See if you can spot the deer, which roam free in the park, before exploring this quaint little town and indulging in some retail therapy or treating yourselves to tea and cake in one of the town’s charming cafes.
The whole family will return from your weekend away feeling they have discovered a most beautiful and inspiring corner of southern England, all of which is less than two hours from London – come again soon!