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Summary

South Downs Sussex National Park self guided walking holiday

No of Nights: 1 – 7

Stay: Hotel / Guesthouse

Grade: Easy-Moderate

Information

Enjoy 2-8 days’ walking the south downs and coast in England’s newest National Park on the South Downs. Discover some of the very best scenery in the country and visit ancient villages steeped in historical and literary interest. Stride out across unspoilt rolling green hills, breathing fresh sea air as you gaze out at ever-changing landscapes. Our flexible routes allow time for visiting the many places of interest in the area and, in the summer months, for swimming on nearby beaches. With Country Walks, you do not simply follow the national trail; instead you experience the very best that the South Downs has to offer.

Enjoy

  • choice of expertly-crafted, self-guided walks through tranquil unspoilt downland scenery
  • stunning views of the heritage coast
  • beautiful downland villages
  • lovely old country pubs for lunch and numerous teashops!
  • the reassurance that we have expert knowledge of the Sussex Downs, having lived in the area and led groups there for 20 years
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Tour review scores and score breakdown

10 / 10

Based on 3 reviews

Guest reviews are written by our customers after their tour of South Downs Sussex National Park.

Guest reviews

  • Just to say thank you so much for the Sussex Downs weekend. It was lovely to discover a beautiful part of the country that was new to me. Perfect walking terrain too - and really excellent walks.
    - Jo Williams, Exeter, Devon

  • Thank you once again for the magic moments you gave us in East Sussex. We were very happy with everything: quality of the hotel, food, walks, excellent route notes and well documented and interesting commentary notes.
    - Marie-France and Josiane, France

  • Just a line to thank you again for a marvellous weekend. Not only are the walks in the beautiful South Downs a delight, but the chance to learn about and see some of the works of art and haunts of the Bloomsbury set added much interest and enjoyment.
    - Claudia Schiebek, London SW19

Itinerary

Choose from these 9 wonderful walks:

Alfriston Walk
A fascinating walk for your arrival day, exploring Alfriston, the perfect downland village. It’s steeped in history, set in a beautiful valley that reaches back into the mists of time. Our notes will guide you around the village’s hidden corners. We recommend dinner at Dean’s Place award-winning restaurant. Alternatively, there are several old inns in the village where you can dine.

Jevington Walk
This truly splendid walk combines the great open spaces of the South Downs with the vast spreading acres of the Weald, the beautiful Cuckmere Valley and three picturesque downland villages. Stunning panoramas gently unfold as you ascend Windover Hill with its great long barrow, the largest burial mound in Sussex. Secluded Deep Dene, an awesome hollow in the hills, is a special place of splendid isolation and remoteness, with only sheep and seagulls for company. Discover the deeply sunken Wealdway, an old smugglers’ route descending to Jevington for lunch at a favourite old inn. Magnificent views extend to the distant Weald, its blue hills, patchwork fields and little woodlands combining with the wide expanse of sky above to give a great sense of freedom and solitude. It is here one experiences that elemental sense of timelessness so unique to Sussex. Return via Wilmington with its ruined priory and Long Man.  (5 miles/8 km, easy walking)

Seven Sisters Walk
Whether you choose 6 miles or 10, you will enjoy one of the finest coastal walks in England with stunning views of the spectacular Seven Sisters towering above Cuckmere Haven. An ever-changing kaleidoscope of clouds race across a blue sky as the musical outpourings of skylarks, seemingly suspended above, accompany you. We recommend a picnic on the beach at Birling Gap where high white cliffs meet an aquamarine sea. Here, tide permitting, stop for quiet contemplation or perhaps a dip, sitting on the beach, looking out at the ever pounding waves as they crash and hiss along the pebble shore. On along towering cliffs, past Belle Tout Lighthouse, this most exhilarating of walks culminates at Beachy Head where sheer walls of white chalk plunge 200 metres into the sea. Finish with tea at an excellent old farmhouse. The coastal stretch of this walk is particularly undulating so expect a series of ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ over great waves of landscape, the “blunt, bare-headed, whale-backed Downs”, so beloved by Kipling. (6 miles/9.6 km, moderate or 10 miles/16 km, strenuous walking).

Southease Walk
Follow in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf as she strode across the Downs. She too marvelled at this loveliest of landscapes, which inspired many of the striking perceptions introduced into literature through her famous ‘stream of consciousness’ techniques. Far below in the Ouse Valley stop for a poignant pause at the river in which she chose to tragically end her days. Visit beautiful Southease Church on the South Downs Way and lunch at the excellent Abergavenny Arms. Your walk culminates in a visit to Monks House, the small weather-boarded home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf. The house and Virginia’s garden writing room wonderfully reflect the life and times of the literary circle in which they moved. The gardens are delightful, especially in the summer months when you can spend an hour or so soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying distant views just as Virginia did.(6 miles/9.6 km, moderate walking)

Charleston Walk
Today join the meandering River Cuckmere where cattle browse in lush water meadows. Vast green panoramas gently unfold as you tread springy downland turf. Stand and stare at magnificent scenes before you: long, sweeping views extending northwards over the Weald and south to the sea. At Charleston Farmhouse, visit the house and vibrant gardens at the heart of Bloomsbury. It’s still a place of wonder and inspiration, transformed by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell as a refuge for the artists and writers who helped to shape 20th century taste. Lunch either at the farmhouse or at the renowned Rose Cottage, one of the best old inns in East Sussex. Finally, at Berwick Church enjoy discovering the unique, colourful murals and frescoes of the Bloomsbury Group, controversially depicting the life of Christ against the background of war-torn Britain.  (9 miles/14.4 km, moderate walking)

Litlington Walk
The best downland scenery combines with considerable historic appeal. This walk starts at Seaford where you climb gently to the crest of the Downs, revealing gradually the wonderful coastline of Cuckmere Haven and the Seven Sisters. Discover more spectacular viewpoints as you journey along an airy stretch of rolling grassland, in summer populated by chalk-loving wild flowers. At Hope Gap, tides permitting, descend to the beach, known only to locals, before regaining the cliffs to reach The Seven Sisters Country Park with its picturesque meanders. An appealing farmhouse beckons inviting you to indulge in coffee and home-made cake! Tiny Westdean is a hidden gem boasting a pond, ancient church and the oldest residence in the land. It’s hard to believe that King Alfred once had a palace here! Your route takes you back through Litlington, renowned for its tea gardens  - tea and cakes anyone! Finally there’s lovely riverside walking back to Alfriston.  (7 miles/11.2 km. moderate walking)

Crowlink & Lullington Heath Walk
Another delightful route with grand extensive views across open, rolling countryside. It starts along one of the most beautiful stretches of Heritage coastline, traversing four of the famous Seven Sisters. At the National Trust’s Crowlink your delightful route of rolling downland heads inland to the tiny downland village of East Dean. Here we recommend lunch beside the village green, either at the well-known old Tiger Inn, still retaining its flagstone floors, or the equally-popular Ramblers’ Rest. Then there’s Friston’s ancient church before more superb panoramas unfold as you traverse the gallops above Jevington on route to Lullington Heath’s Winchester Pond, in the summer home to a great variety of dragonflies. There’s another opportunity for tea at Litlington’s famous tea gardens before finally returning to the start at Exceat.  (10 miles/16 km, moderate walking)

Birling Gap & Eastdean Walk
A wonderful walk which will appeal particularly if you love to stride out on a long walk across the downs, much of it on a relatively-unknown stretch of bridleway. From the lovely village of Jevington you cross a number of stunning landscapes, just the sound of the wind and the birds for company until eventually you join the Heritage Coast at Birling Gap. Here you can have lunch or enjoy a swim from the beach before joining the famous South Downs Way with stunning views in all directions. The Way was once an important route for settlers, traders and farmers: now The South Downs Way with its many stretches of exhilarating walking is nowhere more spectacular than the landscapes found on this walk. Eventually you turn inland and make your way to the tiny East Dean and, finally, to Jevington where you started. You may even have time to indulge in a cream tea at Jevington’s delightful tea rooms!  (12 miles/19.2 km, moderate walking)

Lewes, Balmer Down and the River Ouse
This walk begins and ends at Lewes, a very attractive town with an abundance of old buildings, including a notable castle. Once out of town, the way lies over tracts of lonely downland where the walking, though often energetic, cannot fail to be enjoyable. There are sections through fields, woodland, a nature reserve and along the River Ouse. Setting off from Lewes, you’ll pass the site of the Battle of Lewes as well as the famous castle and former jousting-ground, glimpsing many vestiges of the town’s medieval past. Enjoy fantastic views in all directions from breezy Blackcap and Mount Harry as well as peaceful hidden valleys unknown to all but downland walkers. There is a delightful village at Kingston with its equally delightful Juggs Arms for lunch and at the end of the day there is a choice of various tempting tea rooms in Lewes.  (10 miles/16 km – moderate walking)  

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Hotels

We offer a choice of accommodation in the beautiful downland village of Alfriston. A number of factors combine to make Alfriston one of the most appealing downland villages nestling in the heart of Sussex.

Stay at 14th Century Deans Place Country Hotel to enjoy four acres of gardens, a heated outdoor pool, croquet and mini putting green and a large terrace for alfresco dining during the summer months. Deans Place is a ‘Best Loved’ Hotel, Johansens recommended and its restaurant has been awarded an AA rosette.

Riverdale House is a large Victorian guesthouse, peacefully situated, and offering very comfortable en-suite quality accommodation. Or choose Dacres for a spacious studio apartment with wonderful gardens and organic breakfasts. Like Riverside House, this is just 5 minutes’ walk from the centre of the village.

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Grade of the walks

Routes are selected for their accessibility and suitability for anyone of average fitness, able to walk between 5 and 10 miles (8 and 16 km) on varied terrain for up to 5 hours with a break for lunch and optional breaks for reading commentaries along the way. Since you will be walking on downland, ascents and descents are to be expected on most walks. Some routes contain options for shortening the length of the walk.

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Tour price and costs

Price per person:

from £259 for 2 nights, depending on choice of accommodation, room type and season, based on 2 people sharing a twin/double. Please enquire for single occupancy, or more nights.

Price includes:

      • Personalised itinerary
      • High-quality en-suite accommodation
      • Full English breakfasts
      • Recommendations for lunch and dinner and, where applicable, coffee or tea breaks
      • Detailed route directions in easy-to-handle A5 format
      • Marked-up Ordnance Survey map and map case
      • Commentary notes on features of  interest along the way
      • Self-guided tour of Alfriston
      • Details of places to visit
      • Nature guide to help identify common species
      • Travel information
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Flights

By road: total mileage from central London: 66 miles (1.50 hours). Ample car parking at the hotel and B&Bs.

By rail: regular Eastbourne trains from London Victoria to Polegate (1.20 hours) with onward travel by taxi (15 minutes) or bus 126.

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