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A captivating hike across Southern England – South Downs Way

Adventurer Nic

A captivating hike across Southern England – South Downs Way

Hiking Collection by Adventurer Nic

5

Tours

32:30 h

102 mi

11,050 ft

The South Downs Way stretches for 100 miles (160 km) from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east. It’s one of the official National Trails of the UK and it traverses the chalk escarpments and ridges of the stunning South Downs National Park.

The South Downs Way is a common 'first National Trail' for many new long distance hikers and I can see why. The signage is good and there are plenty of options to pull off the trail to re-supply or stay in accommodation in one of the quaint little towns and villages that flank the route.

I 'fast hiked' the South Downs Way with my partner James in five days but it can be walked as slowly or as quickly as you like. The majority of people approach the route with around eight days in mind.

It’s an undulating walk, with approximately 9,400 feet (2,870 m) of ascent. However, much of that is on wide, chalky bridleways that are a dream to walk along.

We travelled between the start and end points by train (changing at London’s Clapham Junction) which was quite straightforward. It’s handy that both ends of this linear trail can be accessed from London.

Having a supply of water is critical when taking on the South Downs Way. Unlike my usual mountain adventures, there are not a lot of opportunities to fill up from natural water sources. Fortunately, there are lots of taps situated along the route to assist walkers/cyclists. I've marked each of these along the route to assist other long distance walkers with their planning.

Walking the trail from west to east meant that we saved what many consider to be the best day until last. You'll pass an abundance of Highlights on the final day, which is such a boost for tired legs, as you walk along the Seven Sisters trails, taking in the awesome views of bright white cliffs and crystal clear waters.

We stayed in a mixture of accommodation types along the route, including YHA South Downs and the Sustainability Centre eco campsite, both of which are highly recommended.

Some of my favourite Highlights included - Queen Elizabeth Country Park’s beautiful woodland, the gorgeous trails approaching Chanctonbury Ring, The Singing Kettle café in Alfriston and, of course, the spectacular Seven Sisters white cliffs.

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South Downs Way

100 mi

9,450 ft

9,350 ft

Last updated: September 7, 2022

Tours & Highlights

  • Stage 1: Winchester to Coombe — South Downs Way

    05:49
    19.5 mi
    3.4 mph
    1,975 ft
    1,375 ft

    It's not often James and I venture to the South in search of adventure, as we live right on the edge of the Lake District National Park but I know that there are some beautiful sights to behold in the south of England and my hope for this trail is that it will be a refreshing change to the norm for us

    by Adventurer Nic

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  • 07:00
    22.1 mi
    3.2 mph
    2,275 ft
    2,475 ft

    Our second day on the Way started at the Sustainability Centre campsite and we finished at Littleton Farm 🚜. It was a brilliant day, made better by the fact that we bumped into my Nan's sister and her son Tony, who drove down from Surrey to surprise us!

    

    The Queen Elizabeth Country Park’s facilities came

    by Adventurer Nic

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  • 07:09
    22.0 mi
    3.1 mph
    2,475 ft
    2,300 ft

    Our third day began at Littleton Farm near Upwaltham. We started the day with fellow komooter @Ian Baines, whose wife Helen dropped us all off at the trailhead.

    

    They had hosted us the night before and treated us to a slap up meal and great adventure-swapping conversation. Ian stayed with us as we walked

    by Adventurer Nic

  • 06:44
    20.9 mi
    3.1 mph
    2,000 ft
    2,525 ft

    Our penultimate day started near Fulking and ended at YHA South Downs at Southease. We experienced nearly all weathers again - rain, wind and sunshine - but it was a belter of a day.

    

    We passed Devil's Dyke and Saddlescombe on our way to Pyecombe for a re-supply.

    

    We met a lovely couple, Mark and Karen

    by Adventurer Nic

  • 05:48
    18.0 mi
    3.1 mph
    2,300 ft
    2,050 ft

    The final day started at South Downs YHA and we walked right the way to the finish line at Eastbourne.

    This was by far our best weather day of the whole trip. The sun was shining for the duration and everything looked so fresh, bright and green.

    

    Our route took us up and over Firle Beacon before we hit

    by Adventurer Nic

  • © OSM

    Queen Elizabeth Country Park has more than 2,000 acres (809 ha) of downland and woodland to explore. The park contains Butser Hill, the highest point on the South Downs. The predominantly beech woodland was planted in the 1930s and is criss-crossed with footpaths and cycling trails. There is also a visitor centre, play areas, picnic spots, plus more to keep you entertained.

    Tip by Dan Hobson

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  • © OSM

    Harting Down

    Hiking Highlight

    Harting Down is one of the largest areas of ancient chalk downland in Britain and is managed by the National Trust. Within this timeless grassland, you can find wild herbs, pyramidal orchids, and some of the finest juniper. You can also hear skylarks, see many species of butterfly, and see rarities including the blue carpenter bee and the cheese snail.

    Tip by Dan Hobson

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  • © OSM

    Chanctonbury Ring

    Hiking Highlight

    Chanctonbury Ring is a late Bronze or early Iron Age hillfort that boasts sublime views over the South Downs countryside. The ring, which is well-known for its prominent beech trees, is hailed as a place where the supernatural happens. According to legend, if you run backwards around the ring six times on a midsummer's night you can summon the devil. There have been UFO sightings on the hill, too.

    Tip by Dan Hobson

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  • © OSM

    YHA South Downs

    Hiking Highlight

    Not only is this an accommodation/camping option for anyone walking the South Downs Way, they have a café, bar and fresh water taps too. Helpful and friendly staff. Great courtyard to sit outside and enjoy refreshments.

    Tip by Adventurer Nic

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  • © OSM

    The Singing Kettle

    Hiking Highlight

    Highly recommended stop along the South Downs Way. We dropped down into Alfriston and enjoyed brunch at the Singing Kettle. The service was top notch and the staff really took the time to get to know everyone and ensure they had a great experience. We chose to sit outside in the sunshine and indulge in a little bit of people watching. Quality food in a beautiful location with super friendly staff. What more could you ask for? 😀

    Tip by Adventurer Nic

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  • © OSM

    White Horse Viewpoint

    Hiking Highlight

    We spotted the Litlington White Horse, a chalk mural on the hillside to the west side of the River Cuckmere, from this spot along the South Downs Way. My Uncle is a ranger for the South Downs National Park and confirmed that the horse gets fresh chalk on a regular basis to keep it bright!

    Tip by Adventurer Nic

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  • © OSM

    Seven Sisters

    Hiking Highlight (Segment)

    This section of trail takes you along the magnificent white cliffs of the Seven Sisters. You are rewarded with breathtaking views out to sea, over the impressive chalk cliffs and onto the beaches below. Take care, it can get very windy on the cliff edges.

    Tip by Dan Hobson

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  • © OSM

    Birling Gap

    Hiking Highlight

    A busy hub for people coming to walk and admire the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs. There is a cafe, toilet block, ice cream van (in summer), shop, visitors’ centre and lots of indoor and outdoor seating.

    Tip by Adventurer Nic

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    5
  • Highlights
    10
  • Distance
    102 mi
  • Duration
    32:30 h
  • Elevation
    11,050 ft

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