street view of a pub

The Angel Inn, Petworth. Photograph by James Houston

Nestled in the serene surroundings of the South Downs National Park with a new contemporary art gallery, stylish shops and restaurants, Petworth offers the best of both worlds. Here, LUX shares a guide of what to do, eat and where to stay

Getting there

Depending on whereabouts you’re travelling from, Petworth is about an hour and half’s drive from London on a good day, but if you want to play it safe (we did), the direct train from Waterloo to Haslemere takes less than an hour and then, it’s a pretty twenty minute cab ride to the town along country lanes.

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The vibe

Petworth sits amidst the glorious rolling hills and valleys of the South Downs National Park, but due to its proximity London, Cowdray Park Polo Club and Goodwood, it feels less remote and more buzzy than many of England’s historic country towns. As such, it attracts a fashionable, urban crowd. Think sleek Porsches and Lamborghinis rather than mud-splattered Land Rovers.

In recent years, a small collection of smart restaurants and luxurious rental houses have opened their doors, but there’s still a strong focus on heritage and local community. Apart from the bank, pharmacy and Co-op, the shops are all independent, with a particularly impressive array of antiques markets.

Where to stay…

We checked into The Angel Inn, an upmarket gastro pub with a pretty walled garden and seven quirky guest-rooms, all of which have been recently refurbished with tasteful interiors by Augustus Brandt. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that as its an old building, the rooms do  vary quite extensively in terms of size and amenities. Scots Pine is by far the most luxurious and characterful with an orange velvet sofa, large bathroom and free-standing bath.

hotel suite

The “Scots Pine” bedroom at The Angel Inn. Photograph by James Houston

For larger groups and families, there’s East House, a self-catering apartment spread across the top floors a Grade-II listed Georgian building, or Ryde House, a grand 19-century home with three spacious bedrooms and a courtyard garden.

Where to eat…

E. Street Bar & Grill offers a laid back fine dining experience with a strong focus on local, seasonal ingredients. We had oysters to start, followed by warm roasted fig and pecan salad, and tuna steaks from the grill served with thick, crispy chips. Everything was cooked to perfection. Sitting in the courtyard on a balmy summer’s evening with a chilled glass of white wine, we felt almost like we were in the south of France.

What to do…

Contemporary art gallery Newlands House opened its doors in 2020 with two blockbuster exhibitions, a presentation of photographs by Helmut Newton and a survey of works by designer, architect and artist Ron Arad (LUX contributor and famed art dealer Simon de Pury is the artistic director), but what makes the gallery truly unique is its setting. Occupying an entire 18th century townhouse, the exhibitions weave through twelve rooms, offering an intriguing contrast between contemporary aesthetics and historic architecture. The gallery is currently showing a series of large-scale abstract paintings and sculptures by husband and wife artist duo Liliane Tomasko and Sean Scully.

Read more: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Art by Sophie Neuendorf

stone sculpture

A sculpture by Sean Scully at Newlands House Gallery. Photograph by James Houston

In terms of the town itself, a busy through-road and lack of pavements make wandering a little stressful, but there are plenty of easily accessible walking routes through the surrounding  countryside. We particularly enjoyed the”Shimmings Valley” 5k trail which leads through expansive, undulating fields, and the parkland around Petworth House, a 17th-century mansion now owned by the National Trust, is spectacular. The nearby Nyetimber Vineyard, producers of award-winning English sparkling wine, is also worth visiting, but tickets need to be booked in advance for all tastings, tours and dining experiences.

Don’t miss…

The wide array of local and artisanal produce at The Hungry Guest, especially the crayfish sandwiches and huge, squidgy chocolate chip cookies.

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