East Dean, Beachy Head and Birling Gap hike
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!
If driving, use postcode BN20 0DJ, to reach the free car park on Village Green Lane, East Dean. Regular trains run directly from London to either Brighton or Eastbourne, from which you can take
either bus 12, 12A or 12X to East Dean and walk to the village green car park to start the trail.
|When to do|
Yes, Birling Gap
East Dean, Beachy Head and Birling Gap
Route Description for East Dean, Beachy Head and Birling Gap hike
If you need anything at the start of the hike, just behind the car park, on the village green, is the Tiger Inn Pub and Hikers Rest Tea Room.
To start the walk from the car park, come out of the car park and go left on Village Green Lane. When you come to Gilberts Drive, cross over onto the footpath on the opposite side and go right. Follow this footpath and then cross back over when the footpath runs out and follow this path for about a quarter of a mile. As the road curves to the right you’ll see the Seven Sisters Sheep Centre ahead of you on the left. Cross over and onto the driveway for Birling Manor. After about 25m pass through the gate on your left, into the field.
Follow this same trail for just over a mile, as it passes through a couple of gates and travels alongside a flint wall and boundary fence. Here, on the right, you’ll get your first glimpse of the ocean.
When the fence line ends you pass through a gate with a small farm on your left.
At the end of the farm there are some buildings and the trail splits. Take the trail diagonally to the left, through two gates and into a field. Follow this trail in the same direction, with the fence line on your right for the next 4.5km until you reach Beachy Head Road.
Cross the road and follow the grassy trail to the right, parallel with the road. After a short distance you’ll reach gorse bushes on your left and a flint wall on the opposite side of the road. Turn left here, between the two rows of bushes. Follow this trail down-hill, taking the right trail when it forks, all the way to The Kiosk café at the very bottom.
When you reach the bottom of the hill take the trail to the right marked with the wooden sign for the misspelled ‘Whitebread Hole’. The trail takes you uphill at first, then take the left fork, heading steeply down-hill into Whitbread Hole, with a large playing field spread out on your right. The bench on the nearside of the playing field is a perfect place to rest or enjoy a picnic.
After passing the playing field on your right head uphill and take the right-hand trail of the three trails in front of you. Shortly afterwards, take the first trail on your left and follow it for just over 0.8km, as it levels out and then eventually climbs the very steep hill you can see ahead of you on your right. The cliff edge is under constant erosion so take care keep clear of the edge at all times.
When you reach the top of this windy summit you’ll find a small war memorial and incredible views of the ocean. Take the tarmac path that leads away from the memorial, and when it ends, turn left onto the grass. Follow the popular grassy trail to the left, along the cliff edge, for just over 3.2km, until you reach Birling Gap.
The views on this cliff top trail are stunning and along the way you’ll pass the iconic red and white Beachy Head lighthouse below and the Belle Tout Lighthouse on the peak, now a highly-regarded, restored private residence. Just a bit farther along you reach Birling Gap, with a large car park, restaurant and free public toilets.
Walk through the car park at Birling Gap and along the trail to the right of the toilet block. Turn left onto the stony driveway and follow it to the top of the short hill, past the houses.
Turn right at the top and follow the sign for East Dean, 1 mile away.
Walk across the field in front of you and continue straight ahead after passing the barn with the orange roof. The trail naturally curves left here but continue straight ahead instead and you’ll soon be on another trail. Follow this trail, with the trees on your right, until you reach the flint wall in the distance ahead of you.
Turn left along the flint wall, through the gate and into the field. After about 25m look for the wooden stile on your right and cross over it. Follow the trail down-hill, with the wall on your right until you come to a stone stile in the corner.
Cross over the stile to the left and follow the trail downhill, through a small patch of woods and then into another field. Turn right out of the gate and you’ll find yourself on a small lane behind the East Dean village green. Follow the lane to the right, then cross the green to your left until you reach the car park where the trail began.
Pleasant Rise Farm, 20 minutes away in Alfriston, is one of the closest campsites to East Dean. This family friendly, and very affordable campsite, is within walking distance of the picturesque village and other walking trails.
The Longman of Wilmington hike, from Wilmington to Alfriston, is a great hike to combine with your visit to the area.
If you’re looking for a longer day out, and don’t mind getting your feet wet, consider the walk from Seaford to Eastbourne. You’ll have to get your feet wet while crossing the Cuckmere River, but this is truly a gem of a walk.
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