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
West Marden Circular Walk
West Marden Circular Walk is a stunning stroll along the countryside. Take in views of Isle of Wight, Solent and Telegraph Hill in the distance. Get your heart pumping with some gentle ascents along this path.
East Chiltington Circular Walk
The East Chiltington Circular Walk is a wonderful stroll along the English countryside. Take in the wildflowers that blanket this area in the spring and summertime and the captivating views of the South Downs National Park. Stop at the Jolly Sportsman Pub afterwards for a delicious meal with refreshments.
Swanbourne Lake and Arundel Circular Walk
Swanbourne Lake is a beautiful walk along the emerald green shorelines. Hire a boat for the day and take in the captivating views surrounding you, such as the Arundel Castle. There are stiles along the way, but they are dog friendly with small dog doors, so take your furry friend.
Wephams Wood and Burpham Circular Walk
The Wephams Wood and Burpham Circular Walk is a stunning journey through the English countryside. This walk takes you through rolling open meadows and immerses you in nature through the woodlands. Take in the captivating views of Burpham and Amberley.
Buriton to Cocking Walk
The Buriton to Cocking Walk is a captivating stroll along the countryside. It boasts stunning views of South Downs National Park, and in the spring and summer months, you can enjoy the vibrant wildflowers that blanket this area. Buriton Chalk Pits Quarry is at the beginning of this walk and is something that you should not miss.
Amberley to Steyning Walk
The Amberley to Steyning Walk is one of the most stunning walks included in the South Downs National Park. Take in the views as you pass over Chantry Hill and explore the Chanctonbury Ring. You will also wander through a few Dew Ponds along the way, and will finish your walk at the end with views of the River Adur and Brighton skyline.
Truleigh Hill Walk
The Truleigh Hill Walk is a gentle gradient stroll through the South Downs. Take in the beautiful views atop Truleigh Hill that look out over West Sussex. You will also have views of Thunders Barrow and will walk along Monarchs Way, which retraces the escape route steps of King Charles II when he was defeated in the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
Arundel to South Stoke Walk
The Arundel to South Stoke Walk follows a beautiful, kid-friendly, dog-friendly path. You will be able to take in views of South Downs National Park, River Arun and the Arundel Castle. Halfway through, stop at the Black Rabbit Pub for a bite to eat and some refreshments.
Liss and Milland Walk
The Liss and Milland Walk takes you on a beautiful stroll in South Downs National Park. Immerse yourself in nature as you wander through the lush woodlands. Get your heart pumping along this path as you navigate the hill-ridden landscape.
The Slater Walk is a stunning stroll that boasts scenery that inspired the artist known as Eric Slater. He took in the views of the sky, sea and cliffs that surrounded him and created exhibitions as well as a book about his life. Walk along the countryside and explore why this is such a popular area.
Lewes and Kingston Circular Walk
The Lewes and Kingston Circular Walk is a wonderful journey and boasts incredible views. Explore the Ashcombe Windmill and the Blackcap Bronze Age Burial Site while on your walk. This burial site has been converted into a wildlife habitat, so you can see a mix of history and new life.
Washington, Chanctonbury Ring and Chantry Lane Walk
The Washington, Chanctonbury Ring and Chantry Lane Walk is a beautiful stroll through nature. Wander through the forest setting and take in views of the beauty of the South Downs National Park and the ocean in the distance. Stop at the St Mary’s church and take in its architectural features.
East Dean Circular Walk
The East Dean Circular Walk is a stunning stroll through the English countryside. Take in spectacular views of the South Downs National Park and Charlton Forest. You will also be able to explore Bronze Age barrows.
The Welldiggers Arm, Hesworth and Fittleworth Walk
The Welldiggers Arms, Hesworth and Fittleworth Walk is a gorgeous stretch of woodland and countryside. Explore the beautiful, small church along this path and take in the expansive views of the South Downs National Park. Challenge yourself along this path with its ascending and descending areas mixed with stiles, kissing gates and barriers to navigate.
Chapel Common Walk
The Chapel Common Walk is a great family and dog-friendly walk. Explore the range of different terrains available along this walk from open common to woodland. Walk along rivers, take a small detour to a beautiful lake or look for large red-capped mushrooms along the way.
Walderton and Adsdean Circular Walk
The Walderton and Adsdean Circular Walk is a great walk for people looking for a bit of a challenge. There are two moderate climbs and you will also have to navigate some stiles and four kissing gates. You will be rewarded with expansive views of Solent and the Chichester Harbour.
The Blackdown Walk follows a stunning path that showcases the beauty of the English countryside in the spring. Wander through fields draped with bluebells and purple bilberries and take in the sights from the top of the hillside of West Sussex sitting below.
Bignor Hill and Upwaltham Hill Walk
The Bignor Hill and Upwaltham Hill Walk is a lovely stroll that showcases captivating views of the South Downs National Park. You also will follow the Monarch’s Way, which was used in 1651 by King Charles II to escape the defeat they faced in the battle of Worcester. You will wander through fields filled with livestock and will navigate several gates and a stile.
South Downs Way: Winchester to Exton Section
The Winchester to Exton Walk is a beautiful stroll that encompasses many areas of South Downs National Park. You will climb Chilcomb and take in these stunning views. Get your heart racing on this longer walk that boasts views of the coastline and Beacon Hill. A unique part of this walk is the Wayfarer’s Dole, which is a sample of ale and bread that villagers hand out to travelers.
Steyning Upper Horseshoe Walk
The Steyning Upper Horseshoe Walk is a path along a beautiful setting that boasts views of South Downs National Park. Climbing high into the park, you will follow the ridge along the path and see the rolling countryside in the distance. Get ready for a heart pumping walk as this path, although short in length, is quite a strenuous trek.
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