Only 90 minutes away from London, this walk in the South Downs, South East of England, is a must for whoever visits or lives in the country!
Best rollercoaster trail in the UK!
The South Downs Way is one of 15 National trails in England and Wales. This 160 kilometres (100 miles) long trail runs from Eastbourne in East Sussex to Winchester in Hampshire. It usually takes 9 days for walkers to complete the trek but don't panic, the section I'm introducing to you here will only guide you between the cities of Eastbourne and Seaford.
It makes a perfect one day hike as you walk along the white chalk escarpment and ridges of the South Downs. The very famous and iconic series of chalk cliffs is known as the Seven Sisters. This part of the trail is about 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) so note that you should allow a whole day to do it with an early start. It doesn't matter which way you do it, Seaford is very accessible from Brighton but if you come from London it's better to start from Eastbourne. You will find at the end this article info about how to get to those places depending on where you travel from.
As you arrive in Eastbourne, walk towards the sea front, starting point of this hike and continue along the Victorian Pier and Victorian Promenade. You will soon start walking up to Helen garden one of Eastbourne's top tourist sights. This garden is lovely as it's perched on the top of a cliff overlooking the sea. From there you will start ascending quite a steep hill and you should come across a post sign indicating the « South Downs Way ».
Follow the sign, go up the hill!
You're on the right way, this is the path you should follow pretty much the whole way to Seaford.
Beachy head is a chalk headland and the views of the coastline from the RAF Bomber Memorial are just breathtaking. The memorial was airlifted there in 2012 as a tribute to the men who died serving with Bomber Command. It has been installed at this spot which would have been the last sights many airmen saw as they flew out over East Sussex. It's probably the most beautiful landscape I have seen in the UK but this beauty spot is unfortunately notorious and infamous in England as many people come here to end their life jumping off the cliff.
There are lot of tragic stories surrounding Beachy Head but you will surely not regret to have made it that far and you should definitely stop a while there to soak up the incredible views. If you look down you will see in the water the gorgeous little red-and-white striped Beachy Head lighthouse.
Cute iconic Beachy Head lighthouse
As you keep walking you will go passed Belle Tout which is another lighthouse at the top of the cliff. Built in 1852 this beautiful tower was partially destroyed during the Second World War. The place has been restored and renovated and nowadays people can stay there overnight which I'm sure would be a great experience.
Belle Tout Lighthouse
As you keep following this roller coaster trail you will eventually arrive at Birling Gap where there is a nice cafe and a visitor center. So far you have been walking around 5 miles which is about 8 kilometres so that would definitely be the best place to have a break, half way to Seaford, your finishing point. Enjoy the views on the sea and the beach from the cafe while sipping tea and eating some delicious scones.
Lovely beach at Birling Gap
You can go down some wooden stairs to access the beach and dip your feet in the freezing water or have a closer look at the spectacular chalk cliffs. Watch out though and don't get too close to the cliffs as rocks often fall due to erosion !
View on Cuckmere Haven with its river flowing into the English Channel
Cuckmere Haven is an area of flood plain and another very popular beauty spot on the way. Once down the beach, again go a bit closer to the cliff to admire some very impressive rock formations.
Amazing rock formations by the beach in Cuckmere Haven
To walk across the beach, you will have to step on pebbles and cross a few water streams which is not very nice but take your time and you will get there. Once you've walked past the beach you will reach the Coast Guard Cottages where there's an incredible view on the Seven Sisters. The cottages will probably look familiar to you as they are very often captured on pictures or paintings.
Looking back, view on the majestic Seven Sisters
Splash Point – Seaford
For this last section of the walk, keep walking along the coastal path. As you reach Seaford Head and a bit further Splash Point you will see Seaford beach and the little town just down in front of you.
View from Splash Point with Seaford in the background
Another beautiful view to end your hike.
Walk down the steep hill and stop at the nearest pub and treat yourself with a meal and a pint !
How to get to Eastbourne from London ?
There are trains leaving from Victoria station that go directly to Eastbourne in less than 90 minutes. They run every 30 minutes. First train leaves at 4.32 am.
How to get to Seaford from Brighton?
You can get to Seaford either by train or by bus. Trains operate every hour and the journey shouldn't take more than 40 minutes.
It's slightly longer to go by bus as it takes 50 minutes (number 12 or 12X from Brighton Station) but they are much more frequent - every 10 minutes or so.
Have you ever walked on the Seven Sisters ? How was your experience ?