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South Downs

Cycling in South Downs

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Photo: Kevin

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Cycling in the South Downs isn’t the sort of thing you’ll be satisfied with doing just once. This stunning region of chalk downland sprawls across 260 square miles (670 km2) of England’s south east coast and gives cyclists innumerable routes through woodlands, across rolling countryside and past wildflower meadows. 

You’ll find cycle routes across the South Downs that pull you from the ancient city of Winchester all the way to the towering white cliffs at Eastbourne. Rides will take you past Roman villas, Iron Age hillforts and extraordinary historic manor houses. The South Downs area may have achieved national park status as recently as 2011 but its history is truly ancient. 

From flat coastal routes to undulating rides through the Downs’ very core, cycling here will lift you up and capture your heart. 

Intermediate
01:09
7.41 mi
Intermediate
01:22
9.43 mi
Intermediate
01:32
8.89 mi
Intermediate
03:04
32.9 mi
Intermediate
02:36
26.0 mi
Easy
00:37
4.01 mi
Intermediate
01:59
12.6 mi
Intermediate
01:29
9.63 mi
Intermediate
01:32
12.5 mi
Difficult
03:14
30.2 mi
Intermediate
01:31
9.47 mi
Intermediate
02:12
19.5 mi
Difficult
03:52
38.1 mi
Difficult
03:42
23.6 mi
Difficult
03:53
35.3 mi
Difficult
02:57
30.8 mi
Intermediate
01:31
14.1 mi
Easy
01:07
11.0 mi
Easy
01:16
9.38 mi
Difficult
01:38
10.5 mi

Top 20 cycling routes in South Downs

    1
    Intermediate
    01:09
    7.41 mi
    6.4 mph
    775 ft
    775 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    2
    Intermediate
    01:22
    9.43 mi
    6.9 mph
    925 ft
    950 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
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  • 3
    Intermediate
    01:32
    8.89 mi
    5.8 mph
    1,300 ft
    1,300 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    4
    Intermediate
    03:04
    32.9 mi
    10.7 mph
    325 ft
    325 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    5
    Intermediate
    02:36
    26.0 mi
    10.0 mph
    875 ft
    900 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    6
    Easy
    00:37
    4.01 mi
    6.6 mph
    425 ft
    400 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    7
    Intermediate
    01:59
    12.6 mi
    6.4 mph
    1,000 ft
    1,000 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    8
    Intermediate
    01:29
    9.63 mi
    6.5 mph
    850 ft
    850 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    9
    Intermediate
    01:32
    12.5 mi
    8.1 mph
    1,000 ft
    1,000 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    10
    Difficult
    03:14
    30.2 mi
    9.3 mph
    1,975 ft
    1,975 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    11
    Intermediate
    01:31
    9.47 mi
    6.3 mph
    925 ft
    950 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    12
    Intermediate
    02:12
    19.5 mi
    8.9 mph
    600 ft
    600 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    13
    Difficult
    03:52
    38.1 mi
    9.8 mph
    1,800 ft
    1,800 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    14
    Difficult
    03:42
    23.6 mi
    6.4 mph
    2,050 ft
    2,050 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.
    15
    Difficult
    03:53
    35.3 mi
    9.1 mph
    1,850 ft
    1,850 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    16
    Difficult
    02:57
    30.8 mi
    10.5 mph
    950 ft
    950 ft
    Expert bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.
    17
    Intermediate
    01:31
    14.1 mi
    9.3 mph
    650 ft
    650 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    18
    Easy
    01:07
    11.0 mi
    9.9 mph
    275 ft
    275 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    19
    Easy
    01:16
    9.38 mi
    7.4 mph
    100 ft
    125 ft
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.
    20
    Difficult
    01:38
    10.5 mi
    6.4 mph
    850 ft
    850 ft
    Expert bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

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More Information

Exploring unique chalk terrain

The South Downs are primarily a chalk escarpment that sprawls across England’s south east, creating a huge region of rolling countryside. Cycle routes in the South Downs come in many shapes and sizes thanks to the variety of terrain that the national park offers, with river valleys, undulating farmland and peaceful meadows. With more woodland than any other national park in England, you can pedal for hours under the watchful gaze of oaks and beech trees.

The highest point in the area is Butser Hill at 890 feet (270 m), so no matter where you go cycling in the South Downs, you’ll never be facing too-lengthy a climb, although they can be steep. Routes will take you through utterly beautiful landscapes, with serene river valleys complete with traffic-free trails and plenty of birdsong. Rivers like the Meon reveal more about this unique landscape, with its flawlessly clear, chalk-filtered water. Pedal alongside to discover quaint villages, friendly cafes and pretty lunch stops.

Riding throughout the area is sure to bring you fantastic views with little effort on your part. When you reach a ridgeline, look down across wooded valleys, past farmhouses nestled into hills and out to the English Channel. The South Downs is nothing if not green and in spring and summer, you’ll find yourself gliding through every shade imaginable. 

See history around every bend

If you like to have intriguing objectives on your forays, bike rides in the South Downs will deliver more than their fair share of historic sites. The Long Man of Wilmington is one of the region’s most incredible sites. This fascinating carving shines with its chalk white outline against the vivid green grass and is of unknown age. 

If you cycle to Bignor in the middle of the South Downs, you’ll find the well-preserved remains of a Roman villa. Rest your bike up and marvel at the incredible mosaic floors uncovered by a farmer over 200 years ago. 

North of Bignor, discover the 18th century water pump and mill at Coultershaw Bridge. This glimpse into the local industrial past is the perfect sandwich stop before you explore the surrounding bridleways and country lanes.

Grand country houses side-by-side with open commons and hilly woodlands give cycling in the South Downs a perfect blend of nature and human history. 

South Downs's best cycling routes on the map

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