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South Downs

Hiking in South Downs

Hiking

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Photo: Heinz

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Amidst the hustle and bustle of South East England sprawls the South Downs National Park, a haven of rolling hills, vibrant wildlife and rich cultural heritage. Walks in the South Downs explore majestic white sea cliffs, serene ancient woodland, charming market towns and glorious lowland heaths.

Covering 995 square miles (1600 km), there are near endless possibilities for hikes in the South Downs. Adventure awaits amongst natural splendour. The grassy downlands contain a remarkable array of plants and creatures. Peregrines hunt on the dramatic coastline, whilst the brilliant blue of the Adonis butterfly epitomises the region.

Here is the sort of rural magnificence that inspired the works of author Jane Austen and artist John Constable. Find your own inspiration as you ramble amongst this quintessentially English scenery. The short, soft, springy chalk grassland, so unique to the Downs, is a pleasure to tread. Discover intriguing historic sites and experience breathtaking panoramas along the verdant spine of this wonderful countryside.


Top 20 best walks and hikes in South Downs

    Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    1
    Difficult
    07:08
    15.5 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,950 ft
    1,950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    2
    Difficult
    06:16
    14.4 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,025 ft
    1,025 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
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  • 3
    Intermediate
    03:41
    8.34 mi
    2.3 mph
    700 ft
    700 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    4
    Intermediate
    03:39
    8.53 mi
    2.3 mph
    450 ft
    450 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    5
    Intermediate
    04:21
    10.1 mi
    2.3 mph
    575 ft
    575 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    6
    Intermediate
    02:30
    5.43 mi
    2.2 mph
    650 ft
    650 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    7
    Difficult
    05:27
    12.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    925 ft
    925 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    8
    Intermediate
    02:21
    5.07 mi
    2.2 mph
    650 ft
    650 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    9
    Easy
    01:51
    4.35 mi
    2.4 mph
    200 ft
    200 ft
    Easy hike. Great for any fitness level. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    10
    Easy
    01:46
    3.86 mi
    2.2 mph
    425 ft
    425 ft
    Easy hike. Great for any fitness level. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    11
    Intermediate
    04:56
    12.0 mi
    2.4 mph
    200 ft
    200 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    12
    Intermediate
    03:00
    6.60 mi
    2.2 mph
    625 ft
    625 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    13
    Difficult
    05:43
    13.3 mi
    2.3 mph
    775 ft
    775 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    14
    Intermediate
    02:13
    5.11 mi
    2.3 mph
    325 ft
    325 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    15
    Intermediate
    03:27
    8.29 mi
    2.4 mph
    225 ft
    225 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
    16
    Difficult
    05:01
    11.1 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,200 ft
    1,200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    17
    Intermediate
    04:17
    9.60 mi
    2.2 mph
    925 ft
    925 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    18
    Intermediate
    01:57
    4.71 mi
    2.4 mph
    125 ft
    125 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Great for any fitness level. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    19
    Intermediate
    02:11
    5.10 mi
    2.3 mph
    275 ft
    275 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.
    View
    20
    Intermediate
    03:43
    8.03 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,000 ft
    1,000 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View

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More Information

Exploring the white cliffs of the South Downs coast

Some of the best hiking trails in the South Downs place you amongst the stunning white cliffs of the Seven Sisters. Dover might have the more famous cliffs, but these are certainly the most beautiful. Nearby Beachy Head is the tallest at 531 feet (162 m) and makes for a superb objective.

There are numerous vantage points from which to appreciate these undulating chalk walls. With the sea breeze in your hair and the waves crashing below, walking along the cliff top is an unforgettable experience.  It is important to note that you should always stay at least five metres from the edge, as chalk is brittle and landslides are not uncommon.

Diverse landscapes with stunning views

Hikes in the South Downs can last a few hours or even days. The South Downs Way traverses the high escarpment for 100 miles (160 km) from historic Winchester in the west to the coast at Eastbourne, visiting many highlights along the way. However, you may want the freedom to experience this sumptuous region on your own terms. However you choose to explore the national park, there is a wide variety of landscapes at your fingertips.

An adventure on the high spine of the Downs rewards you with sweeping views to the English Channel and the Isle of Wight. The elevated chalk grassland drains and dries quickly, making it an attractive proposition all year round. Meanwhile, ancient yew forests, containing some of the oldest living trees in Britain, offer an equally invigorating experience.

The diversity of the landscape means there are many unique habitats. All of Britain’s native snake species are found here, whilst badgers, weasels, stoats and deer can be spotted by the eagle-eyed hiker.

Seeking historical treasures

Walks in the South Downs allow you to discover sights of great historical interest. From the gothic castles and remnants of the Second World War to the huge 17th century hill figures and Neolithic forts, this is a land of ancient intrigue.

South Downs's best walks and hikes on the map

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