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.
View Walking In South Downs on Map
- Map Data: ©OpenStreetMap
- Tiles: ©CyclOSM
Best Hikes in South Downs
Kipling Roedean and Rottingdean Walk
The Kipling Roedean and Rottingdean Walk in East Sussex is a gorgeous path that travels along the stunning undercliff. The ocean can be seen to one side and the rolling hills to the other as you wander along this path. This area is well known for its literary history featuring Rudyard Kipling.
Edward Thomas Memorial Walk
The Edward Thomas Memorial Walk takes you through stunning scenery and is full of the famous yew trees. This area is known as Little Switzerland due to its resemblance to the captivating scenery that you normally see in that area of Europe. The walk does have some steep walks uphill, but the views are well worth it.
Blackdown and Ridge Hill Walk
The Blackdown and Ridge Hill Walk is a beautiful stroll through the English countryside. Wander along this path in the summertime and see the blanket of vibrant wildflowers dancing in the wind as you walk through the woodlands. Keep your eyes open for wildlife that lives along this path as many different types of animals are known to travel through this area.
Cuckmere Valley Walk
Cuckmere Valley is a wonderful walk that gets your heart pumping. Wander along the path through the field until you reach the incline. When you reach the top after your steep trek, you will be captivated by views of the Seven Sisters cliffside that hangs over the ocean.
Jane Austen Trail
The Jane Austen Trail became famous as this literary genius once lived along the trail in a quaint house in the village of Chawton. The surrounding countryside invited creative inspiration and acted as a beautiful, relaxing setting for her to buckle down and write her books. This path showcases Jane Austen’s home as well as beautiful scenery amid the woodlands. The wooded areas can get muddy, so come prepared with proper walking boots.
Liss and Hawkley Walk
The Liss and Hawkley Walk is not for the faint of heart. This walk takes you along undulations throughout, and the path can be tough to navigate without a GPS. The views reward anyone brave enough to take this walk on, with stunning rolling hills in the distance and wildflowers blooming throughout during the spring and summer months.
The Corhampton Walk is a lovely family-friendly stroll along the countryside that houses sheep and horses. As you walk along the path, you will pass through multiple small villages, which are fun to explore. The final highlight of this walk is climbing to Old Winchester Hill and taking in the captivating scenery below.
Liss, Hawkley and Steep Walk
The Liss, Hawkley and Steep Walk is a great workout for anyone who wants a bit of a challenge. This path takes you through fields, woodlands, rolling hills and provides fantastic views. There are quite a few kissing gates to navigate but the views are worth the effort!
East Liss, Hawkley and Edward Thomas Circular Walk
The East Liss, Hawkley and Edward Thomas Circular Walk is a stunning path that takes you through fields, woodlands and hill tops that provide fantastic views. Come and see the wildflowers dance in the wind during the spring and summer months around this area. There are some steep climbs involved in this path, so make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
Chanctonbury Ring Walk
The Chanctonbury Ring Walk takes you along a stunning path with gorgeous views of the coast. You will also be able to learn about the legends of Chanctonbury Ring and indulge in a break for a pint at the pub in Washington Village. Be prepared for some steep climbing and navigation of stiles, gates and kissing gates along the way.
South Downs Way: Cocking to Amberley Section
The Cocking to Amberley Walk is a gorgeous stroll along ancient Roman roadways. You will pass the Bronze Age Burial Mounds as you walk along the path and stumble upon the quaint village of Amberley. You will see views of the ocean from Bignor Hill in the distance, and you will enter Arun Valley.
Exton to Buriton Walk
Get your heart pumping with a stroll along the Exton and Buriton Walk. This walk with some acceleration takes you through the woodlands and boasts stunning views of Butser Hill and the coastline. In the spring and summer months, this area is blanketed by vibrant wildflowers that make this walk feel like a fairytale.
Kingley Vale Walk
Kingley Vale is a very unique walk in West Sussex that takes you to views over Hampshire, Sussex, and the South Coast. As you walk through this path, you will be surrounded by 2000-year-old yews, which are some of the oldest living organisms in Great Britain. This walk is very popular among tourists and locals alike, and if you are lucky, you may find a spent bullet along this trail, as this area was used as a World War II training area.
Rowlands Castle and Finchdean Walk
The Rowlands Castle and Finchdean Walk is a stunning stroll through the English countryside. This path boasts captivating views of South Downs National Park and houses fields of sheep. Ensure you wear some comfortable walking shoes as this path can get muddy in the wetter months.
St Catherine’s Hill Walk
Explore the St Catherine’s Hill Walk and stroll through the cathedral city of Winchester, taking in the stunning views. You will also wander through peaceful meadows along the English countryside and along River Itchen. Climb Saint Catherine’s Hill, an ancient hill site, and take in the breathtaking vistas across the city.
Kingley Vale and the Devil Humps Walk
Discover the Kingley Vale and the Devil Humps walk and explore the viking burial grounds, known as the Devil Humps or King’s Graves that surround this area. You can also see Bow Hill here and Goosehill Camp. Also, the auxiliary units of World War II are nestled here which you can explore along your walk.
South Stoke Circular Walk
The scenic South Stoke Circular Walk takes you along the River Arun. Climb to the top of South Downs National Park and take in the captivating views that surround you. Stop at the Black Rabbit pub at the beginning and end of this path for a bite and a pint!
The Cissbury Walk takes you along the largest fort hill in Sussex and boasts beautiful views. Many animals, such as free-roaming ponies, live along this path. Take a heart-pumping climb up the Cissbury Ring and revel in the stunning scenery.
Slindon Estate Circular Walk
The Slindon Estate Circular walk has incredible views spanning 3500 acres that make up the Slindon Estate. The rolling countryside path takes you up to Nore Hill and through gorgeous woodlands full of beech trees. This is also known as Hilaire Belloc’s, famous writer and poet, favourite place on Earth.
Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walk
The Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walk takes you along sheer drop cliffs that fall down to the ocean below. The views are stunning, and the slopes provide walkers with a challenge. This is a dog-friendly walk; however, it is a good idea to keep a leash handy with the cliffs and abundance of sheep on this path.
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