If you’re looking for stunning walks among 260 square miles of breathtaking scenery, then the South Downs National Park is an absolute must-visit.
The famed Downs stretch across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from Hampshire all the way to East Sussex, with the park also encompassing large parts of the Weald.
There’s a long list of over 100 walks to experience in the park, so this guide breaks that mind-boggling number down to something more manageable. You could take a leisurely stroll for a couple of miles, or get your hiking boots on for a serious seven-hour hike, but whichever way your compass is pointed or how much time you have to indulge, we’ve found a perfect South Downs walk for you…
Wilmington to Alfriston
2.4 miles, easy
Starting off with one of the shortest routes, the 2.4 mile Wilmington to Alfriston walk is a moderately easy one way journey, which should take you no more than one and a half hours. The route takes you to the Long Man of Wilmington, who stands at a dizzying 235 feet high (or rather along) making him the tallest chalk-hill figure of this kind in the UK.
Seven Sisters cliff top route
3.4 miles, easy to moderate
If you’re up to a couple of hours of moderate walking, then a slightly longer option is the amazing Seven Sisters cliff top route, with the chance of spying kittiwakes, as well as summer sightings of Brimstone butterflies. The Seven Sisters cliffs can be seen from the National Trust hamlet of Birling Gap which comes with the added bonus of a beach, complete with rock pools to explore. This route is only 3.4 miles long, so you’ll finish feeling refreshed but not fatigued.
Ditchling Beacon to Devil’s Dyke
7 miles, moderate
We’re upping the game a bit now, so it’s time to put on some proper walking shoes for a six-mile jaunt from Ditchling Beacon to Devil’s Dyke. This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful parts of the South Downs which includes one of their highest points. The area was once the site of an Iron Age stronghold and consists of a grassland habitat boasting a cornucopia of plant species. In the spring and summer, Devil’s Dyke confounds its name by presenting its visitors with its covering of wildflowers while its wild winter atmosphere is tough to match. The whole experience will last for three hours, but the memory will last a lifetime.
North Marden to East Marden
7 miles, moderate
Our next offering is this moderately paced route from North Marden to East Marden route. You’ll amble through seven miles of some of the most ancient field-pattern landscapes in England. Norman churches abound, and if you can delay your walk to springtime, ready yourself for woodland carpeted with nodding bluebells. This walk will take you about four hours, but longer if you’re going to stand still from time to time and enjoy the stunning views.
7 miles, moderate
The next route on our list isn’t much longer, clocking up 7.16 miles, and is a circular walk starting and finishing in Arundel. This famous town, built on the banks of the River Arun, and its even more famous castle is a great place to start and finish. It boasts riverside pubs and cafes, as well as the castle, so there’s plenty to do. The Arundel circuit is classed as easy, and will take you about three and a half hours. However, as well as detailing this longer route, there are a range of other shorter walks detailed here if you don’t have so much time on your hands.
9 miles, intermediate
Okay, we’re increasing the length a little more to give you just a taster of what’s to come. Are you up to nine miles? Great, then set aside five and a half hours – or six, if you’re going to sit down to eat your sandwich and Granny Smith, which we thoroughly recommend. This is the Meon Valley walk, and it takes in the soul of the South Downs National Park in Hampshire. Again, this is ranked as moderate in difficulty, but advanced in what it offers in scenery. The landscape on offer is the result of six thousand years of man interacting with nature, and presents some interesting historical sites to those ready to tackle it. In the summertime, expect to be jostled by butterflies.
12 miles, experienced
Next up is the Firle Beacon walk, and comes with a warning as we’re entering hard-core territory. So, if you’re looking to embarrass your less adventurous compatriots, how does 12.2 miles sound? Now, this route is classed as challenging, and will take you a cool seven and a half hours. You’ll need to set aside the whole day, but with the promise of two of the highest points in this part of East Sussex, plus the top-rated Abergavenny Arms in the charming village of Rodmell at the end of your journey, there’s plenty to look forward to.
15 miles, experienced
Our final offering is a 15-mile monster of a walk – the Beachy Head View Loop from Exceat. Along the way you’ll take in a birds eye view of Eastbourne, but the real star of the show is the Beachy Head lighthouse and cliff. You’ll reach this point when you’ve covered between nine and 10 miles. If you haven’t already, this landmark is a great spot to take a breather while you drink in the view. After this the Crowlink Path offers you views of the ocean and the Seven Sisters, as well as the grassy inland scenery. You can expect to kiss goodbye to seven and a half hours without breaks on this epic ramble. One of the added bonuses of this walk is that it starts and ends at the Seven Sisters Park Centre which has a bus station – just in time to rest your weary feet while someone else drives you home.
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