South Downs Way

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The South Downs Way stretches for 100 miles from Winchester in Hampshire to the white cliffs of Eastbourne. Experience dramatic scenery and visit picturesque villages as you traverse the South Downs hills. Only an hour from London, this National Trail offers the perfect holiday escape.

This long distance path has a huge variety of scenery, from spectacular panoramic ridge top views to shady woodland walks, meandering rivers and picture postcard villages, complete with thatched cottages and traditional pubs. History is a constant companion in the South Downs with iron age forts, Roman villas, majestic castles and stately homes.

If you prefer to cycle the trail see Cycle the South Downs Way for information, advice and the group support we provide.

  • 99 miles / 160 kms
  • 13200 feet / 4000 metres
  • 6-9 days
  • Winchester - Eastbourne
South Downs Way

Winchester to Exton

The South Downs Way starts in the historic cathedral city of Winchester. You quickly leave the city behind and after 20 minutes pass through the pretty hamlet of Chilcomb before climbing up onto Cheesefoot Head with its fine views to the coast. Stop for refreshments at the Milburys pub in Beauworth before you reach Beacon Hill high above the Meon Valley. Stay overnight in Meonstoke village or transfer to the market town of Bishops Waltham.

Exton to Buriton

From Exton beside the River Meon you climb steadily up onto Old Winchester Hill iron age fort and nature reserve. On a clear day you have views to the Isle of Wight. Stop for a coffee at the interesting Sustainability Centre above East Meon before reaching Butser Hill, the highest point on the South Downs Way. From here the trail passes through the woodland of Queen Elizabeth Country Park to reach the pretty village of Buriton. You will be met and transferred to your inn at nearby Petersfield or South Harting.

South Downs Way
South Downs Way

Buriton to Cocking

Before leaving Buriton take a moment to explore the chalk pits of Buriton Hanger. From here the trail to Harting Downs follows a wide gravel track with good views between the trees to the north. Above South Harting you can take a short diversion to visit Uppark. After Harting Downs the South Downs Way enters woodland again and there is a remote feel to the trail, out of season you will have this section to yourself most days. Stay overnight in Cocking village or transfer to Midhurst or Chichester.

Cocking to Amberley

The climb out of Cocking after a large breakfast can be hard work. At the top you enter woodland again as you pass through Charlton Forest and Graffham Down. The trees thin out as you approach Bignor Hill. From here the views south to the coast are fabulous making this spot an idea place for a break. The long descent into the Arun Valley is magnifient with far reaching views to the east and south. Enjoy the evening in Amberley or transfer to Arundel to visit the impressive castle and cathedral.

South Downs Way
South Downs Way

Amberley to Bramber

As you climb out of the Arun Valley you leave behind the woodland of West Sussex. From here to Eastbourne the hills are more open and windswept and the views north and south unrestricted. Enjoy a pub lunch at Washington before climbing to the raised tree circle of Chanctonbury Ring. From here you pass Steyning Bowl before dropping into the Adur Valley. For accommodation there are small hotels in Bramber and Steyning.

Bramber to Lewes

The views throughout this day are terrific. The morning starts with a long gradual climb out of the Adur Valley to the top of Truleigh Hill before decending and climbing agin to the pub at Devils Dyke. This is a popular spot for paragliders. To the south Brighton and Hove seafronts can be seen. Further on you will pass the Jack and Jill windmills at Clayton and Ditchling Beacon before descending to the market town of Lewes with its narrow lanes and alleyways waiting to be explored.

South Downs Way
South Downs Way

Lewes to Alfriston

After a short transfer from Lewes back to the South Downs Way near Kingston you climb quickly back onto the ridge. The path sweeps gently down to Rodmell and Southease where you cross the River Ouse. Stop for refreshments at the YHA cafe before climbing again to Firle Beacon. This is another beautiful spot to sit and enjoy the views before you descend slowly into the beautiful village of Alfriston with its thatched cottages, shops, tearooms and pubs.

Alfriston to Eastbourne

The walk alongside the meandering Cuckmere River to the coast at Cuckmere Haven and then across the grassy tops of the rolling white chalk cliffs to Eastbourne is considered by many to be the highlight of their South Downs Way trip. There are cafes at Seven Sisters Country Park and Birling Gap and on Beachy Head you will find a pub with wonderful views down the coast. Your walk ends with a gentle descent to Eastbourne Promenade and your sea front hotel for the night.

South Downs Way

Itinerary

Walk the South Downs Way in a single trip or divide the trail into several sections. Many groups walk for charity or simply like to test themselves by walking the 100 miles as quickly as they can. The 4 day challenge is really tough and requires conditioned legs and feet. With up to 16 hours of daylight in the summer there is plenty of time each day to walk long distances.

Before the trail was extended to Winchester the western terminus was at Buriton. Many people like to walk the original 76 mile route from Buriton close to the Hampshire/Sussex border to Eastbourne.

The distances shown are a guide only and depend on the accommodation you choose each night. Large groups may need to use hotels and inns in towns nearby, Chichester, Arundel and Brighton for example.

7 Days

  • 1. Winchester to Exton, 12 miles
  • 2. Exton to Buriton, 12 miles
  • 3. Buriton to Graffham, 14 miles
  • 4. Graffham to Steyning, 20 miles
  • 5. Steyning to Lewes, 18 miles
  • 6. Lewes to Alfriston, 14 miles
  • 7. Alfriston to Eastbourne, 12 miles

8 Days

  • 1. Winchester to Exton, 12 miles
  • 2. Exton to Buriton, 12 miles
  • 3. Buriton to Cocking, 11 miles
  • 4. Cocking to Amberley, 13 miles
  • 5. Amberley to Bramber, 13 miles
  • 6. Bramber to Lewes, 16.5 miles
  • 7. Lewes to Alfriston, 14 miles
  • 8. Alfriston to Eastbourne, 12 miles

9 Days

  • 1. Winchester to Exton, 12 miles
  • 2. Exton to Buriton, 12 miles
  • 3. Buriton to Cocking, 11 miles
  • 4. Cocking to Amberley, 13 miles
  • 5. Amberley to Bramber, 13 miles
  • 6. Bramber to Ditchling, 12 miles
  • 7. Ditchling to Kingston, 11 miles
  • 8. Kingston to Alfriston, 12 miles
  • 9. Alfriston to Eastbourne, 12 miles

4 Days

  • 1. Winchester to Buriton, 24 miles
  • 2. Buriton to Storrington, 25 miles
  • 3. Storrington to Rodmell, 25 miles
  • 4. Rodmell to Eastbourne, 25 miles

5 Days

  • 1. Winchester to Butser Hill, 20 miles
  • 2. Butser Hill to Bignor Hill, 20 miles
  • 3. Bignor Hill to Adur Valley, 20 miles
  • 4. Adur Valley to Southease, 20 miles
  • 5. Southease to Eastbourne, 20 miles

6 Days

  • 1. Winchester to East Meon, 18 miles
  • 2. East Meon to Cocking, 19 miles
  • 3. Cocking to Storrington, 17 miles
  • 4. Storrington to Ditchling, 20 miles
  • 5. Ditchling to Alfriston, 20 miles
  • 6. Alfriston to Eastbourne, 12 miles

Winchester to Amberley

  • 1. Winchester to Exton, 12 miles
  • 2. Exton to Buriton, 12 miles
  • 3. Buriton to Cocking, 11 miles
  • 4. Cocking to Amberley, 13 miles

Amberley to Eastbourne

  • 1. Amberley to Bramber, 13 miles
  • 2. Bramber to Ditchling, 12 miles
  • 3. Ditchling to Kingston, 11 miles
  • 4. Kingston to Alfriston, 12 miles
  • 5. Alfriston to Eastbourne, 12 miles

Buriton to Eastbourne

  • 1. Buriton to Cocking, 11 miles
  • 2. Cocking to Amberley, 13 miles
  • 3. Amberley to Bramber, 13 miles
  • 4. Bramber to Lewes, 16.5 miles
  • 5. Lewes to Alfriston, 14 miles
  • 6. Alfriston to Eastbourne, 12 miles

Hotels & Inns

We have listed some of the better hotels and inns with links to TripAdvisor where you can read customer reviews and check prices and availability.

If you like an early start, when booking accommodation check the time breakfast is served in the morning. All should be able to provide packed lunches. For those finishing late, check when evening meals end. If you plan to arrive mid afternoon check country inns are open as many close between 3 and 6 pm.

There is plenty of choice in Winchester for all budgets although prices tend to fluctuate throughout the year and rooms can be in short supply during public holidays. Some hotels allow you to leave your car in their car park during your trip.

In the Meon Valley accommodation options are limited. The best is perhaps the Bucks Head in Meonstoke, a short walk from Exton. The George and Falcon in Warnford is a large inn that accepts dogs. It does require a diversion from the South Downs Way so purists who want to walk every metre of the trail will want to look elsewhere. A 15 minute taxi ride from Exton is the market town of Bishops Waltham, which has the Crown Inn and several pubs and restaurants to choose from.

The pretty market town of Petersfield is 2.9 miles off the trail, follow the Hangers Way from Buriton or phone for a taxi from the Five Bells pub. South Harting is at the bottom of Harting Down, 27 miles from Winchester.

Cocking has a pub and a tiny shop but little else. A bus or taxi ride along the Causeway (A286) takes you to the pleasant market town of Midhurst, which is worth considering if accommodation options in Cocking are limited. If you continue past Cocking there are country pubs with accommodation at Charlton and East Dean.

Amberley in the Arun Valley at 46 miles from Winchester is a pretty village with a shop and two pubs. A little further along the South Downs Way you can descend to Storrington. This is a busy village with several restaurants, pubs and shops. At 51 miles from Winchester it is half way to Eastbourne. Just before you cross the busy A24 you can follow a bridleway south for 2.5 miles to Findon Village.

Steyning is a pretty village at the foot of the hills. There are shops, pubs and restaurants but the accommodation options are limited. In the neighbouring village of Bramber, 60 miles from Winchester, there is the Old Tollgate Best Western Hotel and the Castle Inn.

At Ditchling Beacon you can walk down to the village where there are two pubs, both with rooms, or phone for a taxi and enjoy a night out beside the coast at Brighton.

The historic town of Lewes is off the trail but worth the diversion. There are few other accommodation options in the neighbouring villages so most walkers find themselves in the town for a night. The best hotels are Pelham House and The Shelleys but prices tend to be high. The Dorset pub beside the Harveys Brewery is a popular choice.

In Alfriston village there are several hotels and inns to choose from. The village is compact so all are close to the trail. Prices fluctuate throughout the year and can be high during the summer months.

Eastbourne has a huge choice of hotels for all budgets so unless there is a large convention in town you should have no problems finding a room. The View Hotel and the Cavendish Hotel are on the sea-front close to the pier and town centre.