fbpx Skip to main content

Iconic South Downs walks for Sussex Day

Iconic South Downs walks for Sussex Day

June 11, 2024

Every year on 16 June, Sussex Day is celebrated to honour the rich cultural heritage and natural beauty of Sussex. This year it happens to coincide with Father’s Day.

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the splendour of this historic county is to explore the South Downs.

With its rolling hills, picturesque villages, and stunning coastal views, the South Downs offers a variety of walks perfect for all levels of hikers.

Here are six of the best South Downs walks to enjoy on Sussex Day.

Seven Sisters and Birling Gap

Distance: 7 miles (11 km)
Difficulty: Moderate

The Seven Sisters chalk cliffs are an iconic symbol of the Sussex coastline.

This walk offers breathtaking views of these majestic white cliffs, as well as the tranquil beauty of the English Channel. Starting at the visitor center in Seaford, the route takes you across the undulating cliffs, offering panoramic views at every turn.

Birling Gap, with its beach and charming café, makes for a perfect halfway stop.

This walk is ideal for those who appreciate coastal scenery and invigorating sea breezes.

Explore the route.

Devil’s Dyke and Ditchling Beacon

Distance: 9 miles (14.5 km)
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

For those looking for a more challenging hike, the walk from Devil’s Dyke to Ditchling Beacon offers a rewarding adventure.

Devil’s Dyke is known for its dramatic views and deep V-shaped valley, rumored to have been created by the devil.

The trail then leads you through open countryside, ancient woodlands, and across the rolling hills of the South Downs.

Ditchling Beacon, one of the highest points in East Sussex, provides a spectacular finale with its far-reaching views across the Weald and towards the coast.

Explore the route.

Alfriston, Cuckmere Haven and Friston Forest

Distance: 6-7 miles (11 km)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

This walk combines the serene beauty of Cuckmere Haven with the lush greenery of Friston Forest, and the charming village of Alfriston, once a hotbed of smuggling along the south coast.

Beginning at the Seven Sisters Country Park Visitor Centre, the trail heads up the South Downs Way to the top of West Dean steps where you can enjoy the coastal vistas.

The trail then drops through the shaded paths of Friston Forest and through Litlington village.

Carrying along, you will glimpse the White Horse of Litlington, standing guard over the Cuckmere Valley.

Upon arrival in Alfriston, the circular encourages you to return along the Cuckmere River back to the Visitors Centre.

This diverse walk is perfect for families and those looking for a mix of coastal and woodland scenery.

Explore the route.

Arundel and the River Arun

Distance: 4 miles (6.5 km)
Difficulty: Easy

Arundel, with its stunning castle and charming town center, is a delightful starting point for a gentle walk along the River Arun.

This circular route offers picturesque views of the castle and the surrounding countryside.

The riverside path is teeming with wildlife, making it a great option for nature enthusiasts.

After the walk, take some time to explore Arundel’s historic streets and cozy cafés.

Explore the route. 

Chanctonbury Ring and Cissbury Ring

Distance: 9 miles (15 km)
Difficulty: Moderate

This walk begins at the May Tree Avenue bus stop in the Findon Valley, between Findon village and Worthing on the A24.

From here, follow signs towards the Cissbury Ring car park on Storrington Rise and take the path to the Cissbury ramparts.

The largest hill fort in Sussex, Cissbury Ring has a history dating back over 5,000 years. Set high up on a chalk promontory, its ditch and ramparts enclose roughly 65 acres.

From the top on a clear day you can see for miles, with views to the chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters beyond Brighton and as far as the Isle of Wight.

Once you reach Chanctonbury Ring you will see the beech trees which dominate the site. Originally planted in 1760 by Charles Goring, heir to the large Wiston Estate, the trees were casualties of the storm of 1987, with replanting happening soon after. 

When here, stop and take in views of the low Weald, seeing the crimsons, golds and browns of trees losing their leaves at the turn of the season. 

Explore the route.

Lewes and Offham Chalk Pits

Distance: 5-6 miles (9.5 km)
Difficulty: Moderate

Starting in the historic town of Lewes, known for its medieval streets and vibrant culture, this walk leads you to the summit of Offham Hill, the site of the Battle of Lewes in 1264.

It was here Simon de Montfort defeated King Henry III. This, along with the battle of Evesham the following year, helped to pave the way for our modern parliamentary system.

Offham chalk pits were a hive of industrial activity during the 18th and 19th century. Here, the raw chalk of the South Downs and the River Ouse meet and both were part of the great chalk pit and lime industry which has shaped the landscape we see today.

After descending, enjoy a leisurely stroll through Lewes, visiting its antique shops and historic landmarks.

Explore the route.

Tips for Your South Downs Walk

  • Footwear: Ensure you wear sturdy walking boots or shoes, as some paths can be uneven and muddy.
  • Weather: Check the weather forecast and dress in layers. The weather can change quickly in the South Downs.
  • Provisions: Carry water, snacks, and a packed lunch, especially for the longer walks.
  • Map: Bring a map or use a reliable GPS app to stay on track.
    Respect Nature: Follow the Countryside Code, staying on marked paths and leaving no trace.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual walker, the South Downs offers something for everyone. Celebrate Sussex Day by exploring these breathtaking walks and experiencing the natural beauty and cultural richness of this unique landscape.

Happy hiking!