The South Downs

What is there to do in The South Downs? Why go for a beautiful walk of course! The South Downs National Park in Sussex is often referred to as the lungs of south-east England. Some of the best walks near London are in the South Downs. The area encompasses everything from rugged coastline, rolling countryside, charming villages and most of all, exquisite views. With a relatively small population, a national park and abundant camping opportunities, and of course charming walks and hikes. The South Downs really are a breath of fresh air!

Click ‘+MORE INFO’ below for a list of the 10 Best Hiking Trails in The South Downs

THE TOP 10 WALKS IN THE SOUTH DOWNS

We love walking in the South Downs. From gentle walks through the picturesque village of East Meon, to steep ascents up the Beachy Head coastline, the South Downs caters to hikers of all abilities. With excellent public transport links and chalky hills that drain well it’s also ideal for year-round adventures. The real beauty of the South Downs perhaps lies in the long even trails. You won’t find hikes with gruelling elevation gain (340m being the highest), but there are also only two hikes 5km and none shorter than 3km. This makes walking in the South Downs a great place for leisurely hikes that allow you to enjoy the scenery.

#1. Temple of the Winds (3.2km, 21m, 1h): The Temple of the Winds walk is a short, relatively flat trail, and it is an absolute must do for all walkers in the Sussex area, regardless of ability. From the stone bench seat halfway through the walk, you’re rewarded with some of the best views the South Downs have to offer. Lord Tennyson himself was said to have spent hours in this spot composing his poems, and once you reach the bench you’ll want to stay too.

#2. East Dean, Beachy Head and Birling Gap (15km, 314m, 5-6h): One of the finest walks is the walk from East Dean that takes in Beachy Head and Birling Gap. This challenging South Downs walk hikes over some dramatic landscapes that change every time you look around. The immense winds along the Beachy Head coastline will leave you invigorated for the final couple of miles. Just remember to hold on to your hat!

#3. Glynde and Mount Caburn (10.5km, 277m, 3-4h): The Glynda and Mount Caburn walk is a South Downs gem. Hike along an undulating trail from the quaint village of Glynde up to the top of Mount Caburn. From this high, South Downs vista, hikers are rewarded with spectacular views and stunning scenery. After Mount Caburn, the trail goes across the Lewes golf course and over Saxon Cross.

#4. Amberley and the River Arun (12km, 247m, 3-4h): Walking along the River Arun and through Amberley is a gem. This fantastically varied hike starts by walking alongside the river Arun, before trekking through the historic village of Amberley. It then hikes steeply uphill near Amberley Mount, for incredible views of the surrounding South Downs.

#5. East Meon and Buster Hill (8.5km, 140m, 2-3h): The walk from East Meon up to Buster Hill circles the idyllic village of East Meon, starting at the historic 13th century All Saints church. The walk ends with a steep ascent near Buster Hill, the highest point in the South Downs National Park, for some sensational views.

#6. Amberley to Shoreham-by-Sea (26km, 340m, 7-9h): The walk from Amberley to Shoreham-by-Sea is one of our favourite walks in the South Downs. This long and clearly marked walk hikes along a highly rewarding section of the South Downs Way. It may be long but it’s unique in that it has only a couple of steep climbs. The trail passes the prehistoric hill fort of Chanctonbury Ring, before finally walking to Shoreham-by-Sea, a small, charming coastal town.

#7. Arundel Castle and Pubs (13.5km, 187m, 4-5h): Walking to Arundel Castle and exploring the pubs is a South Downs classic. This South Downs hike starts in the delightful town of Arundel before walking alongside the River Arun and then heading uphill into beautiful woodland and countryside. There are plenty of pubs and cafes along the trail, perfect for those who want to rest a little or take their time absorbing the views.

#8. Hassocks to Lewes (18km, 194m, 5-6h): Walking from Hassocks to Lewes is a wonderful day out. The walk leaves Hassocks and hikes uphill to the Jack and Jill windmills of Clayton. It then follows a relatively flat stretch of the South Downs Way, where hikers can relax and enjoy the panoramic views. The trail finishes along the river Ouse and into the historic town of Lewes, a wonderful place to walk around Lewes Castle.

#9. Southease and the River Ouse (9.25km, 83m, 2-3h): This pleasant and quiet hike is a real immersion into quintessential English countryside. Prepare to walk alongside the River Ouse before slowly climbing uphill to be rewarded with far reaching views from the South Downs Way.

#10. The Long Man of Wilmington to Alfriston (3.2km, 67m, 1h): This short walk first hikes uphill to view the Long Man of Wilmington, a giant hill figure carved into the hillside. After trekking past the figure, the views become vast and at one point you can even glimpse the ocean glistening in the distance. The walk finishes across the river and past the 14th century church into the picture-perfect village of Alfriston, a popular place to walk around.

01. TEMPLE OF THE WINDS

01. TEMPLE OF THE WINDS

  • Difficulty
  • 3.2km
  • 21m
  • 1h

02. East Dean, Beachy Head and Birling Gap

02. East Dean, Beachy Head and Birling Gap

  • Difficulty
  • 15km
  • 314m
  • 5-6h

03. Glynde and Mount Caburn

03. Glynde and Mount Caburn

  • Difficulty
  • 10.5km
  • 277m
  • 3-4h

04. Amberley and the River Arun

04. Amberley and the River Arun

  • Difficulty
  • 12km
  • 247m
  • 3-4h

05. East Meon and Buster Hill

05. East Meon and Buster Hill

  • Difficulty
  • 8.5km
  • 140m
  • 2-3h

06. Amberley to Shoreham-by-Sea

06. Amberley to Shoreham-by-Sea

  • Difficulty
  • 26km
  • 340m
  • 7-9h

07. Arundel Castle and Pubs

07. Arundel Castle and Pubs

  • Difficulty
  • 13.5km
  • 187m
  • 4-5h

08. Hassocks to Lewes

08. Hassocks to Lewes

  • Difficulty
  • 18km
  • 194m
  • 5-6h

09. Southease and the River Ouse

09. Southease and the River Ouse

  • Difficulty
  • 9.25km
  • 83m
  • 2-3h

10. The Long Man of Wilmington to Alfriston

10. The Long Man of Wilmington to Alfriston

  • Difficulty
  • 4.2km
  • 22m
  • 1-1.25h

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”

– John Muir