Best Coastal Walks in the South Downs National Park

By Dave Roberts   

on June 29, 2020   No ratings yet.

Best Coastal Walks in the South Downs National Park

The South Downs National Park has a coastal section known as the South Downs Heritage Coast which boasts some excellent walking.  This section between Brighton and Eastbourne includes a number of urban areas, but also some spectacular coastal scenery. Sections such as the chalk cliffs at Seven Sisters and Beachy Head are iconic, and any visit to this section of English coast should include them. The section will soon form part of the England Coast Path, and most of the coastline can also be walked by following the South Downs Way.

The South Downs Way Alfriston to Eastbourne via Seven Sisters

Height Gained – 500 metres ,  Distance – 17 km, Time –5 hours 

So it’s no surprise that our first choice is to walk the relevant section of the South Downs Way from Alfriston to Eastbourne following the coastline. This includes the entire section of coastline from Cuckmere Haven onward that includes the Belle Toute Lighthouse and Beachy head.

South Downs Way 9a from Alfriston to Eastbourne via Seven Sisters
Photo by Mal B on / CC BY-ND

England Coast Path from Shoreham-by-Sea to Eastbourne

Height Gained – 860 metres ,  Distance – 52 km, Time –2 days

This section of the England Coast Path is approved but not officially open, according to the official site. However, it can still be largely walked and follows the coast closely from Shoreham-by-sea via Hove and Brighton, Seaford and on to Eastbourne. Some sections follow established routes with Vanguard Way between Newhaven and Seaford, and the South Downs Way from Cuckmere Haven on to Eastbourne and eventually all along the entire coastline of England.

A Walk on Seaford Head

Height Gained – 80 metres ,  Distance – 6 km, Time –2 hours 

This walk may be short, but the views from Seaford Head across towards Seven Sisters are second to none. The walk skirts the slopes of Seaford Head, but you can easily walk up to the highest point an back if you want an even better view.

Photo by Dmitry Djouce on / CC BY

Seven Sisters To Eastbourne

Height Gained – 350 metres ,  Distance – 13 km, Time –4 hours 

Taking in the landmarks of the Seven Sisters Cliffs and the chalk headland of Beachy Head beyond, this is one of the best coastal walks in southern England. You can take a whole day over this walk if you wished, with cafe and visitor centre at Birling Gap as well as the Belle Tout Lighthouse to take your time over. Or if it seems too much for you, then there’s a shorter version of the walk that takes in just the Seven Sister, finishing at Birling Gap.

Belle Tout Lighthouse and Lookout Hill

Height Gained – 100 metres ,  Distance – 3 km, Time –1 hours 

This easy walk from Birling Gap makes an ideal family outing, full of interest and with a convenient National Trust Visitor Centre at Birling Gap. The Belle Tout Lighthouse has a fascinating story, having been moved 17 metres in 1999 in order to prevent the historic building from succumbing to coastal erosion. There’s also the beach at Birling Gap to explore afterwards.

Belle Tout Lighthouse: Photo by mikelo on / CC BY-SA

Beachy Head to Birling Gap from Eastbourne

Height Gained – 350 metres ,  Distance – 13 km, Time –4 hours 

At over 160 metres high, Beachy Head is the tallest chalk cliff in the UK. It also boasts the unfortunate record of being a suicide hot spot. This circular walk is another that’s conveniently based around Birling Gap (though the walk starts from Eastbourne Downland golf course) and takes in the spectacular stretch of heritage coast between there and Beachy Head.

Featured Image – Photo by Dmitry Djouce on / CC BY


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Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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