Walking In South Downs
Green rolling hills, windswept cliffs, and lush woodland – the South Downs represents the English countryside at its best. This beautiful national park covers three counties in the south of England, a lush, green region with a long history. Inhabited for thousands of years, you’ll find traces of past civilizations hidden around every corner, as you walk through some truly stunning landscapes
The South Downs is England’s youngest national park, and it represents the bucolic, pastoral side of the British landscape. Much of the chalk hills of the South Downs are covered in farmland, but there’s no shortage of wildlife that calls this beautiful region home. Keep your eyes open for rare species of butterfly and dragonfly, as well as badgers, deer, stoats, nightingales and woodpeckers. You’ll have the chance to walk through ancient groves of yew trees, and stroll along paths decorated with wild orchids.
The South Downs also have a long literary history, inspiring poets and writers to compose fitting words to match the beauty of the landscape. Most famously, Alfred Lord Tennyson would regularly stroll to the Temple of the Winds, a Bronze Age mound, where he would sit and contemplate one of the most beautiful views in the south of England. A trip to this beautiful place is enough to inspire anyone to put pen to paper.
To give you a little inspiration for your next trip, we’ve put together a series of awesome hikes in the South Downs. Happy hiking!
Top 10 Walks In South Downs
The South Downs National Park offers some of the loveliest scenery in England, with all kinds of trails to suit every walker! There are plenty of easy trails suitable for families with young children and those with accessibility issues, meaning that you can get out into the countryside to experience the wild landscapes, even if you’re a beginner hiker. However, don’t let the diminutive size of these rolling hills fool you. If you’re looking for something more strenuous, the downs are an excellent place for a workout, and some of the longer trails listed here will challenge even fit hikers. Whatever you’re looking for, the South Downs has a walking trail for you.
- East Meon and Butser Hill Walk: This lovely route is one of the finest easy walks in the South Downs. Butser Hill is the highest peak in the region, meaning you’ll have some sensational views from the summit. The trail passes through beautiful woodland and emerges on the South Downs Way, passing by the historic 12th-century church of East Meon along the way.
- Temple of the Winds Walk: The Temple of the Winds is a classic South Downs route and a must for all visitors. The trail remains relatively flat throughout, but you’ll enjoy some of the best views that the South Downs has to offer. The trail brings you to a bench offering a stunning view over the downs, in the spot where Alfred Lord Tennyson was once inspired to compose his poems. We’re sure you’ll be inspired too.
- The Long Man of Wilmington to Alfriston Walk: This short hike is a great family walk in the South Downs, with a view of the famous Long Man of Wilmington, a giant hill figure carved into the hillside. You’ve have views that extend all the way to the sea, and a wonderful panorama of the magnificent South Downs scenery. Don’t miss the opportunity toe explore the lovely village of Alfriston, with its 14th-century church.
- Southease and the River Ouse Walk: This wonderful hike is the perfect way to introduce your family to the tranquil beauty of the South Downs. The walk begins with an easy stroll along the River Ouse before ascending gently to the South Downs Way where you’ll enjoy some incredible views. Reward yourself with a pit stop at the family-friendly Abergavenny Arms in Rodmell.
- Hassocks to Lewes Walk: This hike is a real gem, and one of our favorite day walks in the South Downs. The trail departs from Hassocks and ascends steeply to Clayton, passing by a series of picturesque windmills. You’ll enjoy panoramic views on a section of the South Downs Way, before following the River Ouse all the way to the historic town of Lewes, where you can explore the impressive medieval castle.
- Arundel Castle and Pubs Walk: This wonderful walk combines fascinating history, some great pubs, and the spectacular South Downs scenery. The walk begins in the pretty town of Arundel, where you can explore Arundel Castle, and then continues along the River Arun passing through lush woodland and beautiful countryside. You’ll find plenty of pubs and cafes along the way where you can stop and admire the views.
- East Dean, Beachy Head and Birling Gap Walk: This strenuous hike is one of the best challenging walks in the South Downs. You’ll ascend a steep cliff that follows the cliff edge, passing along an invigorating windswept trail to the iconic Beachy Head and its red and white lighthouse. The views are simply stunning, and this is one of the best ways to spend a day out in the glorious landscapes of the South Downs.
- Amberley to Shoreham-by-Sea Walk: This fantastic trail follows one of the most beautiful parts of the South Downs Way, from Amberley all the way to Shoreham-by-Sea. It’s a long hike with some steep sections, but it’s a manageable hike for most fit walkers. The trail passes by the prehistoric hill fort at Chanctonbury Ring, offering a wonderful panorama over the South Downs.
- Amberley and the River Arun Walk: This fantastic hike passes through some stunning, varied scenery, and is one of our favorite walks in the South Downs. Stroll along the banks of the lovely River Arun, and pass through the historic village of Amberley. The route then takes you up a steep trail to Amberley Mount, where you’ll have an unforgettable view over the English landscape.
- Glynde and Mount Caburn Walk: This wonderful trail is a South Downs gem, passing along an undulating path that ascends from the village of Glynde all the way up to Mount Caburn. You’ll have an incredible view over the surrounding landscape, and the trail is relatively easy and accessible, making for a thoroughly enjoyable day out.
When Is The Best Time To Go Walking In South Downs
The mild climate of the south of England means that you can go hiking in the South Downs throughout the year! Autumn and winter can be wet and windy, which makes some of these trails a little hard going, particularly paths that follow the cliffs. Summer offers the best weather, but on hot, sunny days the route can often be quite exposed, as there are relatively few trees in the South Downs. As a result, we think that the best time to go walking in the South Downs is in spring and early summer. At this time of year the weather is usually fairly warm, but not too hot, and the downs are covered in beautiful wildflowers.
Other Outdoor Activities In South Downs
Hiking is one of the most popular things to do, but there are plenty of other fantastic outdoor activities in the South Downs! This part of England is a wonderful place for road biking and mountain biking, with plenty of cycling trails crisscrossing the beautiful countryside. There are also many opportunities for horse riding or wildlife watching, especially at one of the local bird reserves.
How To Plan A Trip To South Downs
Want to plan a trip to the South Downs but not sure where to start? We’ve got it covered. Check out our guide to planning a trip to the South Downs, complete with tips on where to stay and good places to eat. All you need to do is sit back, relax, and start dreaming of your next adventure in the beautiful English countryside!
Frequently-Asked-Questions About South Downs
How long does it take to walk the South Downs Way?
The South Downs Way is a long distance walking trail that runs for 100 miles across the length of the South Downs. This beautiful trail passes through some gorgeous undulating scenery, between Winchester and Eastbourne. It usually takes most people 9 days to walk the entire trail, at an average of 12-15 miles per day.
Why are the South Downs called downs?
Downs are round, grassy hill in England that are usually made up of chalk. The name comes from the Old English ‘dun’ meaning ‘hill. Downs are common throughout the UK, but they have different names in other parts of the country (for example ‘wolds’ in Yorkshire).
How big is the South Downs National Park?
The South Downs covers 628 square miles in the south of England, including the counties of Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex.
Best Hikes in South Downs
Beacon Hill and Exton Walk
The Beacon Hill and Exton Walk is a beautiful stroll that takes you through Meon Valley, the small town of Exton, and dense woodlands. Take in views atop of Beacon Hill of the Isle of Wight that rests below. The climb to the top of Beacon Hill is quite steep, but the views are worth the workout.
Queen Elizabeth Country Park Walk
The Queen Elizabeth Country Park Walk is a relaxing walk through the English countryside. The walk is popular among families and is a great place to bring the kids. Wander through the forest and explore what makes this walk a favourite.
Selborne Loop Walk
Selborne Loop Walk is a beautiful walk through the woodlands that challenges you in the beginning with a steep incline and muddy terrain. Wander along this path and meet horses and cows along the way. Take in the beauty surrounding this area as you walk through woodlands and along the English countryside.
Hinton Ampner Circular Walk
Hinton Ampner Circular Walk takes you on a journey with beautiful views of the surrounding South Downs National Park. It also showcases wildflowers in the summer months throughout the woodlands. Explore this area and take in the beauty of the English countryside.
Durford Wood Walk
The Durford Wood Walk takes you along the South Downs Ridge and showcases beautiful views of the surrounding area. Keep an eye out for the abundance of wildlife that travel along this path and head into the woodlands to explore nature. If you want to take a break, halfway through this walk you will go through Rogate, where many visitors stop for a pint at the classic village pub.
Selborne and Noar Hill Walk
This popular Selborne and Noar Hill Walk takes you through woodland, meadows, chalk grass and paddocks and showcases the beauty of the English countryside. This walk is also popular for your furry friends as dogs are allowed in this area.
Seven Sisters and Friston Forest Circular Walk
The Seven Sister and Friston Forest Circular Walk in East Sussex is an incredible path along the cliffside. During this walk, you wander along the cliffs edge that slides down into the ocean. After taking in the stunning ocean views, wander through open fields of colourful wildflowers as you make your way through this walk.
Seaford to Eastbourne Walk
The walk from Seaford to Eastbourne takes you along the white chalk seaside cliffs of Seven Sisters. This path hangs over the cliffside, so it’s essential to stay alert as you walk! And it can be muddy, making it necessary to wear appropriate footwear. The views along this walk are captivating and will take you down to the shores of the ocean, so you can take a break and enjoy the water.
Crowlink walk is a beautiful moderate path in the English countryside that leads to the Seven Sisters cliffs that tower over the ocean. The path to the highlight of this area is covered in long grass, where you may stumble upon animals feeding. This is a wonderful family-friendly and dog-friendly walk that rewards you with stunning views.
Arundel to Amberley Walk
The Arundel to Amberley walk is a challenging task that rewards you with stunning views of the Arundel Castle and Lake and the South Downs Way Ridge. This area can be quite muddy throughout all seasons, especially in the wetter months as chalk clay builds up, so ensure you wear good walking boots. As you walk along this path, you will be able to enjoy the company of the many sheep and cattle that live in this area.
Arundel Castle Walk
The Arundel Castle Walk in the South Downs showcases views of the captivating Arundel Castle that sits above Swanbourne Lake. A small fee of 13 pounds will allow you entrance into this intricately designed palace where you can learn about the history of the area. This walk can get muddy during wetter seasons, so ensure that you have proper walking boots!
Upperton Common and Petworth Walk
The walk through Upperton Common and Petworth is a family-friendly, relaxing stroll. You will come across an array of colourful wildflowers on this path, and you may spot a deer or two. The Horseguard Inn at the end of this path is a great spot to stop for a refreshment.
Bignor Hill Walk
The Bignor Hill Walk is a popular stroll among families and boasts beautiful views. Spend an afternoon wandering through the wildflowers surrounded by rolling hills in the English countryside. This walk, although not rigorous, does have some uphill walking, so wear comfortable walking shoes.
The Walderton Walk is a great stroll for people who love to take breaks and sit and enjoy the views. This path has multiple seating areas that are strategically placed along the panoramic views over South Downs National Park. Explore this area during the summer months to see the impressive sight of colourful wildflowers draped over the park.
Explore the amazing features of the Finchdean Walk as you wander through the woodlands. Along this journey you will see glimpses of Solent, which is the strait that divides the Isle of Wight from the rest of Great Britain. You will also come across the ancient St. Hubert Church, which showcases some recently discovered paintings.
Titty Hill Walk
The Titty Hill Walk takes you through the beautiful English countryside along rolling hills and immerses you in nature through its wooded areas. The path can get muddy especially in the winter months, so be sure to wear proper footwear. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, as deer and rabbit frequent this part of South Downs National Park.
Lewes Circular Walk
If you are looking for a challenging hike, then Lewes Circular Walk is for you. This path takes you on a long journey through the hills undulating across the countryside and rewards you with the stunning views. There are some substantial climbs throughout this path, so make sure you are prepared.
The Stoughton Walk is great for families looking to get a bit of exercise in and spend time in nature. You will wander through two ancient towns along this path and beautiful views over South Downs National Park. In the summer months the path is blanketed with bluebells and wild garlic throughout.
Long Man of Wilmington
The Long Man of Wilmington Walk is a stunning stroll along the white chalk cliffs that gaze out at the aqua blue ocean sparkling in the sunlight. This path takes you through a sea of wildflowers in the summer months and houses cattle and sheep. You will come across the Long Man of Wilmington and the Litlington White Horse on your journey through this path.
Racton Ruins Walk
The walk along the Racton Ruins provides views of many different areas, such as the Racton Monument and Stansted House. You will also be able to view Solent, Chichester Harbour and the South Downs National Park in the distance. This walk is mostly within wooded areas, so you will be protected on hot, sunny days.
Essential Tools for Any Adventure
This page may include affiliate links. We may get a small commission for the purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you.
We only recommend tools we personally think are great.