Skip to Content

Top 5 Walks in the South Downs

There’s no question, the South Downs are one of the most beautiful places to walk in the UK and situated in the southeast of England, they’re certainly a highlight of hiking in this part of the world too.

One of the country’s top national parks – a move formalised in 2010 – the South Downs runs largely from the gorgeous Cathedral city of Winchester in Hampshire across to Eastbourne in East Sussex.

Taking in undulating chalk hills as well as dramatic seaside cliffs and ancient woodlands, not to mention tons of cute villages and great attractions, there’s plenty to take in as you walk through this delightful part of the UK.

So to help you get out there and explore the best out it, we’ve compiled our list of the top 5 walks in the South Downs to get you all excited about making this spot your next walking destinations.

Let’s get stuck in…

More Useful Info
  • Where to Stay When Walking in the South East
  • Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Seven Sisters
  • Box Hill Walks: All You Need to Know

This page contains affiliate links meaning Let’s Walk UK may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.

#1 South Downs Way

This is certainly the big daddy of them all, but why not kick off this list with a juicy one huh!

An official National Trail, at 160km long, this walks no mean feat, but certainly is one of the best hikes in the South Downs.

Taking in the full length of the park from Winchester to Eastbourne, most people take around 7-9 days to complete the trail at an average of 12-15km per day.

Accommodation is available in local villages and towns along the way or there is some camping available too.

The end of the trail is the most dramatic in our opinion with the section between Alfriston to Eastbourne, which includes the iconic Seven Sisters cliffs, being a real highlight.

There are some steep inclines along the South Downs Way, but take it slowly and this multi-day trail is suitable for most of average fitness – just make sure to wear comfortable hiking boots. Blisters are likely to be the biggest problem you face!

If you’re walking the whole route it, of course, makes sense to use public transport to get to and from the trial start and end.

Thankfully both Winchester and Eastbourne have good rail connections from London and if you don’t want to carry all your gear as you walk, there are luggage transfer services that can help too.

Learn more in this complete guide to walking the South Downs Way we wrote.

#2 Devil’s Dyke to Ditchling Beacon

It goes without saying that most of the following top walks int eh South Downs will take in part of the overall way and if you do the whole thing you’re going to enjoy them anyway.

If, however, you are looking for a great day or afternoon walk in the South Downs, then these other options might prove more useful as they are ideally suited to those looking to do just that.

First up we have an iconic South Downs walk which takes in the dramatic landscape that can be found inland from the city of Brighton.

Walking from Devil’s Dyke to Ditchling Beacon is a trail that can be undertaken in either direction and thankfully both points are really easy to reach using public transport from Brighton.

If you’re coming from London, simply hop on a train from Victoria to Brighton, walk out of the station and you’ll immediately find the bus stop that takes you up to the South Downs – you can even get a discount by showing your bus ticket.

Once you arrive at either Devil’s Dyke to Ditchling Beacon just make sure you walk in the right direction along the well-marked trail (we say this because the first time we enjoyed the walk we didn’t!) and you’ll reach the other end in just under 10 km.

There’s a National Trust centre at Ditchling Beacon where you you’ll enjoy amazing views, while at Devil’s Dyke, you can see Stone Age settlements and an Iron Age Fort showing how long humans have enjoyed living in this lovely valley.

#3 Seven Sisters Walk

Well we couldn’t write this list of the top 5 walks in the South Downs and not include the Seven Sisters could we!

Taking in the giant limestone cliffs that make up the coastline between Eastbourne and Brighton – this walk can easily be shortened to an afternoon excursion if you begin at Birling Gap – a National Trust car park – and end at Cuckmere Heaven near the town of Seaford.

Stop for a short rest and a picnic on the pebbles here before retracing your steps.

As you walks over the cliffs, there’s no question the Seven Sisters can be a tough hike, with lots of undulating ascents, but the stunning coastal scenery and huge lungfuls of sea air you’ll enjoy surely make up for it!

Free to walk and visit, you only need to pay for the parking here. You can also access the route via public transport from Eastbourne or Brighton, but this will add quite a bit if time, so make sure you allow a big day if you want to enjoy the walk this way.

#4 Arundel Castle Walk

Now for something totally different!

This South Downs walk is filled with glorious countryside, but it’s the historical sites that really make it worth a place on this list.

A 14km walk – this one will take you around 4 hours to complete, but remember to build in journey time if you’re coming from further away.

That said, it’s an easy travel to walk in terms of transport because it’s circular, which means you’ll be returning to where you parked your car, which certainly makes life a bit easier.

Starting in the town of Arundel, you’ll pass the magnificent Castle as part of this trail and also get to enjoy lots of lovely pubs and cafes along the way, as well as stroll sections of the River Arun and surrounding countryside.

For history buffs, the amazing Arundel Castle is the jewel in the crown here. Dating back as far as 1087, if you walk here in the summer months, it’s well worth building a visit to this mighty stone structure into your walk.

#5 Temple of the Winds

And last but not least in this list of the top 5 South Downs walks, we come to the lovely trail you can enjoy near the town of Haselmere.

We chose this  walk because at just 3.2 km it’s a more accessible option and a top option for those looking for a more gentle stroll in the South Downs.

The Temple of the Winds walk will take just under an hour and is relatively flat, but despite that you’ll still be rewarded with some seriously epic views!

Head to the Black Down car park to begin this gem of a trail – the car park lies just off the aptly named Tennyson Lane – as Lord Tennyson is said to have found this an incredible place to write his poetry!

What an accolade and a great testimony to how amazing the views are from up here!

Ideal for a Sunday afternoon stroll with all the family, there’s no question this is certainly one of the best walks in the South Downs – although it’s likely you need a car to visit.

If you don’t, then the nearest train station is in Haselmere – a lovely town where you can find some great places to eat and stay either side of your walk.

And there you have it folks – the 5 best walks in the South Downs?

Which is your favourite?

Or do have another top trail that didn’t make the list?

If so, please drop it into the comments box below, we’d love to hear your suggestions…

Sharing is caring!