A visit to Battle Abbey, East Sussex

by Jan

Whether you are a keen historian or just looking for things to do with the kids, a visit to Battle Abbey makes a fantastic day out for everyone.

The Battle of Hastings in 1066 is an event that changed the course of English history.  However, the battle didn’t take place in Hastings, but 6 miles away in the aptly named town of Battle.  On our visit to Battle Abbey, we retraced the history of this famous attack and visited the ruins of the ancient abbey.

Battle is a charming, historic town near Hastings in East Sussex.  It is only 50 miles south of London and is easily accessible by direct train or car.

At the top of Battle is the magnificent Battle Abbey that towers over the town.  It was built on the spot where the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066.  Start your visit by entering through the giant gatehouse, where you’ll find the ticket office.

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Large imposing Stone Gatehouse, flanked by two towers at Battle Abbey Gatehouse, Battle, Sussex, England

Admission to Battle Abbey

Today the English Heritage carefully manages Battle Abbey and battlefield.

The Abbey and Grounds are open from 10am to 6pm.

Admission to Battle Abbey for a family of five is currently £33.50 (2023 prices).  It is free for English Heritage members.  If you are considering visiting other English Heritage properties in the area, it is better value to sign up for membership.  Click here to join.

1066 Battlefield

We started our visit with a walk around the medieval battlefield, where all the action took place.  On 14th October 1066 William, Duke of Normandy, led his French army into battle against the Anglo-Saxon King Harold and his English army.

William believed that the throne should have become his after the death of Edward the Confessor in January 1066.

Small BoyChallenging a lifesize Norman Swordsman sculpture at Battle Abbey, Battle, Sussex

There are several trails which lead round the field, but we chose the Sculpture Trail.  On your walk you’ll meet a collection of larger-than-life wooden sculptures, depicting the different soldiers in the battle.

They also provide a series of information boards, giving a chronological timeline of events at the Battle of Hastings.  This is perfect for any visitors who want to find out what happened and when.  Visitors can also download an audio guide for the tour.

The Sculpture Trail is the longest walk at the Abbey, but only takes about 50 minutes.  It is in an open field, so very child-friendly.

The field besides Battle Abbey is believed to be the location of the famous 1066 where Harold met his untimely death, at the age of 44.

Harold started well as he led his army from the high point of Senlac Hill, but the Normans persevered, and the English started to retreat.

Wooden Sculpture of Norman Soldier on Horseback

It’s a pretty walk, with woods, open fields and ponds and it’s difficult to imagine that so many perished here.

There is a shorter, accessible walk which only takes 20 minutes, but misses out the sculptures.

Wooden Archer statue drawing his bow, Battle of-Hastings, Battle, Sussex

As well as getting a great insight into the events of that fateful day, the collection of life-size wooden sculptures helps bring the battle to life.

Of course, the best one is the archer.  Did he shoot the fateful arrow that hit King Harold in the eye?

Look across the field to see an enormous arrow sticking out of the ground!

Battle Abbey

On our return from the battlefield, we took a tour around the Abbey grounds.

The victorious William the Conqueror founded the magnificent Battle Abbey as an atonement for all the bloodshed from the battle.  It started as a Benedictine abbey and was home to monks for the next 400 years.

If you are visiting Battle Abbey with kids, use the “Explore Quest” booklet with its child-friendly trail and questions.  We started with a loop of the walled garden and a hunt for different fruit trees in the orchard.  Plus, we found two beehives.

From here, you can explore some of the ancient buildings in the grounds of the Abbey.  Look out for the icehouse and dairy.

View of roofless Common room, Battle Abbey, Battle, Sussex, England

After a walk around the grounds, you can head over to explore the ruins of the original Battle Abbey.  Information boards will help you imagine how the monks  lived nearly 1000 years ago.

Although some parts are barely above ground, the common room is in remarkable condition.  You can still see the fine craftsmanship of the arched vaults inside.

Outside, you can also see the footprint of the church.  Following orders from William, the high alter of the church is now on the site where Harold died. This is supposedly the spot where William secured his great victory over the English.  You’ll find a commemorative plaque to mark the spot.

For a great view of the Abbey and the land outside, take a walk along the walls of the Abbey.  From here you you’ll get a good view of Battle’s Norman church, which William built for local residents.

To finish the tour of Battle Abbey, head up to the top of the Gatehouse.  There are two floors, with artefacts from the Abbey’s history.  It’s a steep climb up a narrow spiral staircase.  However, at the top you’ll get spectacular views over the Abbey grounds and Battle town.

As a family, we really enjoyed our visit to Battle Abbey and thought it was good value for money.  We left with a far better understanding of the Battle of Hastings.  It’s still hard to believe that the famous battle was all over and done within 1 day!

looking through stone window with Arched vaulted ceiling - Battle Abbey, Battle

1066 Battle today

Battle still celebrates the events of the Battle of Hastings and all the local area is known as 1066 county.  It is a charming town, with a good variety of gift shops and cafés .

We headed straight for Spoiled Rotten, which has a rather good choice of ice cream and shakes.

Battle lies within High Weald, an area of outstanding natural beauty, so there are lots of things to do nearby.

Sign of Town of Battle 1066, with Battle Town highstreet in background, Battle, East Sussex, England

Things to do near Battle

There are lots of things to do near Battle.  It is in a great location for visiting the historic towns of Hastings or Rye.

You could also spend some time exploring Battle Woods.  Alternatively, the beautiful Bodiam Castle is also 15 minutes drive away.

Wooden Walkway across moat to Bodium Castle, East Sussex, England

Practical information for your visit to Battle Abbey

Where is Battle Abbey?

Battle Abbey is Battle High Street in East Sussex.  The postcode is TN33 0AE.  It is not far from the South coast, so makes a perfect day out for anyone staying near Hastings, Eastbourne, or Rye.

How to get to Battle

by car:  It is really easy to get to Battle Abbey by car.  From the M25 motorway, take the A21, which leads all the way.

by train:  There is a direct train from London Bridge to Battle, which takes about 1.5 hours

Parking in Battle

There is an English Heritage car park next to Battle Abbey.

Alternatively, there is another one at the other end of the High street just before the roundabout.

Accommodation near Battle

The nearest hotel to Battle Abbey is the Abbey Hotel in the High Street.  This Grade II listed hotel is directly opposite the abbey and has a restaurant and garden.  Click here to book the Abbey Hotel.

If you are looking for accommodation with a swimming pool, Powdermills Country House Hotel is a beautiful 18th century country house just outside the town centre.  Click here to book Powdermills Country House Hotel.

Alternatively, for more budget accommodation, The George offers cheap accommodation and is only 5 minutes’ walk from the Abbey.  Click here to book The George.

Fantastic glamping sites near Battle Abbey

The first of two Campsites near Battle is Bluebells Coppice Park.  This family-run campsite is just 7 minutes’ drive from Battle and offers a good choice of camping and glamping pitches.

Read our review of a glamping weekend at Bluebells Coppice Park.

View of cozy beds, log burner and cabinet inside Owl Yurt, Freshwinds Farm, Sussex

We have also spent a fantastic weekend at Freshwinds Farm, in Pett.  Although this is slightly further, it provides an excellent base for visiting Rye and Hastings too.

Read our review of a glamping weekend at Freshwinds Farm, Pett.

We'd love to hear from you!

Do you have any questions about our visit to Battle Abbey?  We’d love to hear your comments in the box below.

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1 comment

Avatar for Jan
Tanja/The Red Phone Box travels 24th September 2020 - 11:42 am

I didn’t know this, I thought the Battle of Hastings took place in Hastings:)


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