Exploring the South Downs Way: 5 Key Sights along the 100 Route
Exploring the South Downs Way: 5 Key Sights along the 100 Route

Exploring the South Downs Way: 5 Key Sights along the 100 Route

When it comes to breathtaking hiking trails in the United Kingdom, the South Downs Way is an undisputed gem. Spanning 100 miles along the southern coast of England, this long-distance footpath offers a journey through diverse landscapes, historic landmarks, and natural wonders. In this extensive guide, we will delve deep into the South Downs Way, uncovering everything you need to know to embark on this epic adventure.

The South Downs Way at a Glance

Distance: 100 miles (160 kilometers)

Duration: 7-9 days

Difficulty: Moderate

Location: South East England, United Kingdom

Introduction to the South Downs Way

A Historic Path

The South Downs Way, established in 1972, is one of England’s National Trails, designed to showcase the country’s stunning landscapes and cultural heritage. Stretching from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex, this iconic trail takes you on a journey through time, as well as nature.

A Varied Landscape

The South Downs Way meanders through a diverse range of landscapes, including rolling chalk hills, lush woodlands, and picturesque river valleys. You’ll encounter breathtaking vistas, charming villages, and a sense of serenity that’s hard to find elsewhere.

A Hiker’s Paradise

Whether you’re an experienced trekker or a casual walker, the South Downs Way has something for everyone. Its well-maintained paths and moderate difficulty make it an ideal choice for those seeking a memorable hiking experience without extreme challenges.

Preparing for Your South Downs Way Adventure

Gear and Essentials

Before you set foot on this remarkable trail, it’s crucial to be well-prepared. Here’s a list of essential gear and items to consider:

  • Hiking Boots: Invest in a sturdy pair of hiking boots with ankle support to tackle varied terrain.
  • Backpack: Choose a comfortable backpack with enough space for essentials like water, snacks, and extra layers.
  • Navigation Tools: Carry a map, compass, or GPS device to stay on the right track.
  • Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Dress in layers and check the weather forecast to ensure you’re prepared for all conditions.
  • Accommodation: Plan your accommodations in advance, whether you opt for campsites, B&Bs, or hostels along the route.

Getting There

From London

If you’re starting your journey from London, you can take a train from London Victoria or London Waterloo to Winchester. The train journey takes approximately one hour.

From Eastbourne

For those starting from Eastbourne, you can take a train from London Victoria to Eastbourne, which also takes around one hour.

Starting Your Adventure

The South Downs Way can be hiked in either direction, from Winchester to Eastbourne or vice versa. The choice is yours, but many hikers prefer the west-to-east route to have the wind at their backs.

Exploring the South Downs Way

Winchester to Exton

Distance: Approximately 15 miles

Your South Downs Way adventure begins in the historic city of Winchester. This charming city, known for its medieval cathedral and captivating history, is a perfect starting point. After exploring Winchester, follow the well-marked path towards Exton.

Along the way, you’ll pass through lush farmlands, woodlands, and quintessential English countryside. Be sure to take a moment to visit the lovely village of Exton before continuing your journey.

Exton to Buriton

Distance: Approximately 13 miles

Leaving Exton behind, you’ll head towards Buriton. This section of the trail offers splendid views of the Meon Valley and the surrounding hills. Keep an eye out for wildlife as you make your way through this beautiful landscape.

Buriton, a picturesque village, provides a delightful stop for refreshments and a chance to explore its historical charms.

Buriton to Cocking

Distance: Approximately 9 miles

As you leave Buriton, you’ll encounter some steeper ascents and descents, adding a bit of challenge to your hike. The reward? Stunning panoramic views of the South Downs National Park.

Cocking, your destination for this leg of the journey, is a quintessential English village with a traditional pub where you can enjoy a well-deserved meal and rest your tired feet.

Cocking to Amberley

Distance: Approximately 12 miles

From Cocking, the trail leads you to Amberley, a charming village nestled by the River Arun. This stretch offers a mix of woodlands and open fields, providing a scenic and tranquil experience.

Amberley is an ideal place to explore, with its historic castle and welcoming pubs.

Amberley to Upper Beeding

Distance: Approximately 10 miles

Your journey continues to Upper Beeding, passing through beautiful landscapes and idyllic countryside. This section of the trail allows you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the South Downs.

Upper Beeding is a small village with a rich history, and you’ll find comfortable accommodations and eateries here to recharge.

Upper Beeding to Alfriston

Distance: Approximately 15 miles

The trail from Upper Beeding to Alfriston takes you through some of the most stunning scenery on the South Downs Way. You’ll traverse rolling hills and enjoy panoramic views of the English Channel.

Alfriston, your destination, is a delightful village with thatched cottages and a charming atmosphere. It’s a perfect place to explore and relax.

Alfriston to Eastbourne

Distance: Approximately 11 miles

The final leg of your journey leads you to Eastbourne, marking the end of your South Downs Way adventure. As you approach the coastline, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the sea.

Eastbourne, a popular seaside town, offers plenty of amenities and attractions to explore. Be sure to celebrate your accomplishment with a stroll along the picturesque promenade.

Points of Interest Along the South Downs Way

While the entire South Downs Way is a feast for the senses, there are several notable points of interest along the route that are worth exploring:

1. Winchester Cathedral

Starting in Winchester, you can’t miss the opportunity to visit the stunning Winchester Cathedral. This historic masterpiece is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and a symbol of the city’s rich heritage.

2. Old Winchester Hill

Near Exton, Old Winchester Hill is an ancient hill fort with incredible views over the surrounding countryside. Take a moment to explore this historical site and appreciate the breathtaking scenery.

3. Devil’s Dyke

Located just north of Brighton, Devil’s Dyke is a deep V-shaped valley offering some of the most dramatic views on the South Downs Way. It’s a fantastic spot for picnicking and enjoying the landscape.

4. Beachy Head

As you approach Eastbourne, don’t miss the chance to visit Beachy Head. This iconic chalk headland stands tall above the sea, providing jaw-dropping views and photo opportunities.

5. Seven Sisters Cliffs

The Seven Sisters Cliffs are a series of striking chalk cliffs near Eastbourne. Hiking along these cliffs provides exhilarating views of the English Channel and the surrounding countryside.

Challenges and Tips

Terrain and Weather

While the South Downs Way is considered a moderate hike, it’s essential to be prepared for varying terrain and weather conditions. The trail includes some steep ascents and descents, so ensure your footwear is up to the task.

Additionally, the British weather can be unpredictable, so pack waterproof clothing and check the forecast regularly.


It’s advisable to book accommodations in advance, especially during the peak hiking season. The trail offers a range of options, including campsites, B&Bs, and hostels. Plan your stops according to your daily hiking pace.


The South Downs Way is well signposted, but it’s always a good idea to carry a map, compass, or GPS device. Mobile phone reception can be sporadic in some areas, so having a backup navigation tool is wise.

Leave No Trace

Respect the natural beauty of the South Downs National Park by following the Leave No Trace principles. Pack out all your litter, stay on designated paths, and avoid disturbing wildlife.


Embarking on the South Downs Way is a remarkable adventure that promises to leave you with lasting memories of England’s stunning landscapes and rich history. From the medieval charm of Winchester to the dramatic cliffs of Beachy Head, this trail offers a diverse range of experiences that will satisfy both nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike. So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your backpack, and get ready for an unforgettable journey along the South Downs Way.