komoot
  • Discover
  • Route planner
  • Features
Discover

Hike ancient paths and unique landscapes — South Downs Way

Brian Toward

Hike ancient paths and unique landscapes — South Downs Way

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

7-15

days

3-6 h

/ day

104 mi

10,350 ft

10,275 ft

The South Downs Way is a long-distance hike through some of England’s most beautiful countryside. Following the chalk escarpment and ridges of the South Downs, the trail affords epic views, enchanting prehistory and the opportunity to observe rare flora and fauna.

Starting from Winchester, the Way heads east through the South Downs National Park to finish at the magnificent white cliffs at Eastbourne. The official route is 100 miles (161 km). However, to make sure each stage finishes somewhere with accommodation options, this Collection totals 104 miles (167 km).

Hailed as the perfect introduction to long distance walking, this easily-accessible path along the rolling chalk downs of Sussex and Hampshire has just the right amount of challenge and serenity.

Highlights along the Way include: Cheesefoot Head, a prehistoric site with breathtaking views; Beacon Hill, a national nature reserve that supports rare plants and butterflies; Old Winchester Hill Iron Age fort and nature reserve, a picturesque haven of history and wildlife; Harting Down, one of the largest areas of ancient chalk downland in Britain; Beacon Hill, which affords lofty views; Chanctonbury Ring, an ancient hillfort that boasts sublime views and paranormal activity; epic panoramas from Ditchling Beacon; and the mighty Seven Sisters cliffs.

People have been using the paths and tracks that have been linked to form the South Downs Way for around 8,000 years and the evidence of ancient cultures – dating from before the Bronze Age, through Roman times, and to the present day – is everywhere you look. The Way was officially opened as a national trail in 1972.

In this Collection, I have divided the route into eight stages of between 11-19 miles (18-31 km). Each Tour finishes close to accommodation and somewhere for food and drink, with the exception of stage 7 where I have given easy and brief travel instructions. However, places to stay are not always abundant so be sure to plan ahead and book in advance.

Of course, you can divide the Collection into as many days as you are comfortable with. It is also possible to walk individual stages. Public transport can be sparse in some areas but the majority of the trail is relatively well-served.

This part of the UK can be fairly busy. As such, you are never far away from civilisation. Always bring enough food and water to keep you sustained, though. I recommend sturdy footwear and waterproofs no matter what season and sunscreen

You can hike this route at any time of year and each season offers a unique perspective on the scenery. The standard way to walk the route is as shown here. There is nothing stopping you hiking it the other direction, though.

As both Winchester and Eastbourne have mainline railway stations and good bus/coach links, getting to the start and finish of the route by public transport is easy.

On The Map

loading
loading

Do it yourself

Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.

South Downs Way

100 mi

9,450 ft

9,350 ft

Last updated: September 7, 2022

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

Learn More
komoot premium logo

Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Winchester to Exton — South Downs Way

    Difficult
    05:23
    12.4 mi
    2.3 mph
    900 ft
    825 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The South Downs Way begins from the historic city of Winchester, the first capital of England and home to historic buildings such as Wolvesey Castle and Winchester Cathedral.

    

    Once you leave the city, the landscape quickly becomes rural as the trail winds through pastures and along hedgerows The large

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:38
    12.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,175 ft
    1,125 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Lofty views atop ancient hillforts, chalk grasslands covered with rare flora and fauna, pretty paths through tranquil Beech trees — there is plenty to pique your interest on stage 2.

    

    After you cross the River Meon, it’s a long and steep climb to the summit of Old Winchester Hill National Nature Reserve

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Sign Up To Discover Places Like This

    Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.

  • Difficult
    05:27
    12.1 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,175 ft
    1,250 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The Way follows the ridge-line almost continuously from this point onwards, which means enchanting views over the English Channel and Weald of Sussex are never far away.

    

    Upon rejoining the route, you start with a short but steep climb. The trail then stays fairly level as you cross a rich and beautiful

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:42
    12.6 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,300 ft
    1,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage explores one of the most wooded sections of the Way. Taking you through a patchwork of fields, woodlands and wildflower glades, this route is also rich in Bronze Age barrows and includes many archeological sites.

    

    From Cocking, it is a long climb towards Heyshott Down, which has been designated

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    06:06
    13.6 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,300 ft
    1,425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Awesome views, ancient history and abundant beauty combine on this stage, which visits a picturesque viewpoint linked to UFOs and paranormal activity.

    

    Starting with a steep climb from Amberley to Rackham Hill, the trail soon levels off and the landscape opens up around you. A short step later, you cross

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    08:14
    17.9 mi
    2.2 mph
    2,200 ft
    2,050 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    With some tough ascents and a challenging distance to contend with, stage 6 should really test your mettle.

    

    Taking you over the chalk cliffs above the city of Brighton, this stage is one of the busiest on the Way. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful hike with lots of interest and constant breathtaking views

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:22
    11.9 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,200 ft
    1,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The trail winds its way through pretty patchwork countryside along this open section of the Way.

    

    From Kingston near Lewes, rejoin the trail, climb steeply and continue along the ridge where epic views await. Next, it’s a long and gradual descent through farmland.

    

    At Southease, it is worth calling at

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Intermediate
    04:43
    10.5 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,100 ft
    900 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Passing some truly iconic sights, this challenging yet rewarding stage brings the South Downs Way adventure to its epic conclusion.

    

    From Alfriston, the trail follows the River Cuckmere south over a gently undulating landscape and culminates in a fine view of the meandering river.

    

    At this point, you begin

    by Dan Hobson

    View

Like this Collection?

Comments

    loading

Collection Stats

  • Tours
    8
  • Distance
    104 mi
  • Duration
    46:35 h
  • Elevation
    10,350 ft10,275 ft

You Might Also Like

Hike past Hampshire's Roman strongholds — King's Way

Hiking Collection by Kit P

Step back in time on ancient and beautiful hike — Downs Link

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

Endlessly beautiful – 11 stages on the Rems Valley Trail near Stuttgart

Hiking Collection by Vanessa Kopp

Gentle hills, rivers & forests – cycling in Germany’s Nuremberg Land

Bike Touring Collection by FrankenTourismus