The South Downs Way route runs through the heart of the South Downs National Park in Southern England. The trail stretches for some 100 miles from historic Winchester in Hampshire to the coastal resort of Eastbourne in East Sussex and encompasses some of the very finest countrysides that England has to offer. All this is less than an hour from London!
This wonderful walking and cycling route has two main claims to fame: not only is the South Downs Way the UK’s oldest national trail, but it’s also the only one to be entirely situated within a national park.
South Downs Way National Trail
Here at South Downs Discovery, our aim is to help you get the very most out of your visit to this beautiful corner of England. If you’d love to walk the South Downs Way but don’t know where to start, we offer high-quality, self-guided walking holidays, cycling holidays and short breaks.
If you prefer to travel independently across the South Downs Way trail, we also offer a reliable baggage transfer service. Our visitor information pages give lots of useful information on all things South Downs, including walking routes, cycle routes, places to visit and much more!
South Downs Way Route Guide
Why Choose the South Downs Way?
Well-maintained and clearly signposted, the South Downs Way is ideal for walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike. There is good access to all parts of the route and there’s plenty of accommodation and places to stop for lunch. Although there are some steep climbs, it’s realistically achievable for anyone with a decent level of fitness.
On days of clear visibility, the walk across the chalk downlands of Sussex and Hampshire brings spectacular rewards – you can gaze across the English Channel and inland across the endless patchwork of fields, forests and villages of the Weald.
You should also allow time for detours as there is a great deal to see close to the route, including numerous sites of historical interest, not to mention some outstanding pubs.
Highlights of The South Downs Way
The South Downs Way takes you through a wonderfully varied landscape of woodland, chalk downs, arable farmland, meandering rivers, ancient forts and castles and picture postcards, and traditional English villages. You can choose to walk, cycle or ride a small part of the way or if you are up for a challenge you can take on the whole route.
This historic route follows in the footsteps of ancient paths and driveways and you can’t help but feel the sense of history around you. You’ll either start or end in the historic city of Winchester, once the capital of England. Take some time to wander through the ancient splendour of this beautiful city, particularly the awe-inspiring cathedral.
The path will also take you past the historic and beautiful towns of Arundel and Lewes with their imposing castles visible from the way.
You can walk or cycle the South Downs Way in either direction but we’d recommend walking east from Winchester to Eastbourne. The prevailing wind is more likely to be at your back and the finale of the spectacular Seven Sisters and Beachy Head is hard to beat!
What you’ll see along the way
- The cathedral city of Winchester.
- Old Winchester hill – has great views and there is a fine Iron Age hill-fort site at the top.
- Butser Hill – the highest point on the South Downs Way at 270 metres.
- Queen Elizabeth Country Park – a large area of beautiful mixed woodland.
- Harting Down – fantastic views across the Weald, it’s possible to see the North Downs on a clear day.
- Bignor Roman Villa – dating back to the 3rd Century AD, with amazingly preserved mosaic floors. It’s 1.5 miles from the South Downs Way and just off the old Roman road Stane Street.
- Amberley village – one of the prettiest villages in the South Downs, just off the way.
- Arundel with its magnificent castle and cathedral
- Chanctonbury Ring – said to be haunted, it’s the site of an Iron Age hill-fort dating back to the 6th Century BC. Fantastic views out to sea and along the downs.
- River Adur – views south towards the stunning hillside Abbey at Lancing College.
- Fulking Hill – spectacular 360° views.
- Devil’s Dyke – legend has it that the Devil dug the valley to drown the parishioners of the Weald.
- Jack & Jill Windmills – famous local landmarks that can be seen from miles around.
- Ditchling Beacon – heading east from here, there are fantastic views inland across the Weald and towards Ashdown Forest.
- Iford Hill – great views inland towards Mount Caburn to the north and the sea to the south.
- Monk’s House, Rodmell – this was the home of Virginia Woolf, now owned by the National Trust and open to the public.
- The picture postcard village of Alfriston is right on the way.
- Windover Hill – a great spot for expansive views.
- Cuckmere Valley – where the river Cuckmere meanders its way to the sea.
- Seven Sisters – iconic, glorious coastal scenery, arguably the highlight of the whole South Downs Way.
- Beachy Head – spectacular chalk cliff jutting into the English channel with fine views west across the Seven Sisters and east over Eastbourne and beyond.
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