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
Arundel Castle and Wildfowl Reserve Circular Walk
The Arundel Castle and Wildfowl Reserve Circular Walk is a great place to explore with the family. Wander along the river and take in the stunning views of the ancient Arundel Castle. This castle is open to the public, so along your walk, you can stop by and see why so many people visit this beautiful structure. There is a bit of incline on this walk, so ensure you prepare by wearing comfortable walking shoes.
Butts Brow and Jevington Circular Walk
The Butts Brow and Jevington Circular Walk is a captivating stroll that boasts beautiful views of the rolling green countryside. Wander through the quaint village of Jevington, full of traditional flint cottages and explore some of the history of this area. There is a steeper climb that you will encounter along this route so make sure you are ready.
Amberley Walking Path
The Amberley Walk is a picturesque area of the South Downs National Park. Stunning greenery can be seen throughout and the path provides a bit of a challenge with some uphill walking. This path is suitable for children as well as dog walkers to get out and explore.
Monkton and North Marden Circular Walk
The Monkton and North Marden Circular Walk is a stunning and magical stroll through the woodlands, where you will find many surprises. Nestled deep in the woods, along the path, you will find a pub rich in history. You will explore a lost medieval village and other interesting areas along the way.
Slindon Park Circular Walk
The Slindon Park Circular Walk is a beautiful stroll through the unspoilt town of Slindon. You will also walk along the old Medieval Deer Park and slip into the woodlands full of beech trees. The community cafe, The Forge, is an excellent place to take a break and relax during your walk.
Firle Beacon Walk
The Firle Beacon Walk is a great path that boasts stunning views across South Downs National Park. You can also see all the way out to Eastbourne, where the Seven Sisters cliffs are located and border the ocean. There are also a lot of activities nearby for you to enjoy, such as the Bloomsbury Group country home.
Ouse Valley Walk
The Ouse Valley Walk is a stunning stroll along the English Countryside. You will see Ouse Valley, Southease and Rodmell Village along this journey, where you can explore churches that date back to the 12th century. This is a pub walk, so you can stop at the Abergavenny Arms and Monk House.
Cissbury Ring Circular Walk
The Cissbury Ring Circular walk is a beautiful stroll along the countryside. As you you walk, you will come across many different types of butterflies, including the chalkhill blues, marbled whites and grizzled skippers. Another amazing part of this path is the wildflowers and flora population, such as lichen lawns and round rampions.
Cheesefoot Head Walk
The Cheesefoot Head Walk is a gorgeous path that boasts many lovely views of the English countryside, including The New Forest, Isle of Wight, Butser Hill and The South Downs. The walk will also take you to a large natural amphitheatre that you can explore. Spend some time in nature as you wander along the wooded area of the trails.
Forest of Bere West and Upperjord Copse Walk
The Forest of Bere West and Upperjord Copse Walk is a stunning walk along the English countryside. Take in the captivating views of South Downs National Park blanketed in vibrant wildflowers in the warmer months. Get deep in nature and explore the woodlands along this path.
Windmill Hill Walk
The Windmill Hill is a short walk that boasts beautiful views of the countryside and South Downs National Park. The length makes it a great walk to bring your dog along on and it is rarely muddy. There are some kissing gates to navigate, so ensure you wear proper footwear.
Alton Abbey to New Copse to Wivelrod Circular Walk
The Alton Abbey to New Copse to Wivelroad Circular Walk is a wonderful stroll along the rolling green hills. Take in the beautiful wildflowers that surround this area and keep an eye out for wildlife. There is one stile to navigate on this journey; however, the rest of the path remains quite flat.
Ditchling Beacon Walk
The Ditchling Beacon walk takes you back in time through the ancient town of Lewes, known for its medieval streets and historical churches. You will also get to take in the stunning views from the top of Ditchling Beacon of South Downs National Park. Following the path, you will also explore Falmer and Kingston, where you can stop at The Juggs pub for a bite to eat.
Eastbourne Beach Walk
The Eastbourne Beach Walk is a popular walk among locals and tourists alike. The walk follows a concrete path that borders the beach and ocean and gives beautiful views of the chalky white cliffs that hang above. The Eastbourne Beach Walk is great for families and dog walkers and can get quite busy on a nice day.
Devil’s Dyke and Newtimber Walk
The Devil's Dyke and Newtimber Walk located in East Sussex is a beautiful, pet-friendly walk. Explore this area in the spring or summer months and witness the vibrant wildflowers. The panoramic views of rolling hills and the English countryside are another reason why this path is so popular.
Wolstonbury Hill Walk
The Wolstonbury Hill Walk is a captivating stroll that takes you up an incline to stunning views of the surrounding area. Get a great workout in as you wander along this climb into the hills. Keep an eye out for grazing sheep along the path as well!
Chalton Down Circular Walk
The Chalton Down Circular Walk is a beautiful, fairytale-like stroll through the woodlands. Stop by Saint Huberts Church at the beginning of your walk and discover the history etched across this church. Take in the captivating scenery that can be seen throughout this beautiful area of South Downs National Park.
River Cuckmere Walk
The River Cuckmere Walk takes you on a stunning journey through the woodlands, open meadows and rolling hills. Revel in the scenery as you stroll along the path and wander among the thatched roof cottages. Follow the stairs to the tops of the hills and look out over to the massive White Horse on the side of a hill.
Southease to Eastbourne Walk
The Southease to Eastbourne Walk is an incredibly beautiful walk that showcases the raw beauty of the English countryside. Look out over the puzzle pieces of different colours of green that make up the areas of the South Downs National Park. Walk by the Seven Sisters white chalk cliffs and gaze out into the ocean. This walk takes you along one of the nine sections making up the 175.4 km South Downs Way!
North Marden Circular Walk
The North Marden Circular Walk is a beautiful stroll through the English countryside that encompasses amazing views that highlight the beauty of South Downs National Park. Sheep and cattle graze the grass along this path, but are separated by fences. This path also involves navigating multiple gates and stiles, so be prepared for this.
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