South Downs Way

The 100 miles (160 Km) long South Downs Way National Trail follows the old routes and droveways along the chalk escarpment and ridges of the South Downs. Starting in Winchester youl cycle along a chalk ridge through the Hampshire and Sussex South Downs to the white cliffs of Eastbourne

The route provides the visitor with the opportunity "to get away from it all" without having to travel too far in this busy part of England. The undulating route provides a wonderful trip for long distance riders.

The ride can be done in 2, 3, or 4 days depending on your fitness, time available and how much time you want to spend exploring along the way.

The Trail

 

Distance: 100 miles / 160 kms

Ascent: 13,200 feet / 4000 metres

Duration: 2, 3 or 4 days

Start point: Winchester

End point: Eastbourne

Winchester City to Beacon Hill national Nature reserve - 11 miles (17.7 Km)

Winchester is a fantastic compact ancient city. Once the seat of King Alfred the Great,considered the first true king of England. There is plenty to see so make some time to explore before you head out into the South Downs. Once out of the city the trail is straight into gently rolling countryside with a mix of large arable fields, hedgerows and pasture. You’ll pass through the very pretty hamlet of Chlicomb before climbing steadily up towards Cheesefoot Head. This is the first great expansive view looking out towards the Solent and the Isle of Wight. From here on the trail remains on quiet farm tracks or country lanes on high undulating ground with  no steep ascents of descents.

Beacon Hill to Old Winchester Hill - 4.5 miles (7.2 Km)

This short but very dramatic section has lots of interest especially for wildlife enthusiasts. The trail crosses the Meon Valley carrying the beautiful crystal clear waters of the River Meon from one National Nature Reserve to Another. Once out of the Reserve the trail descends down to Exton. After Exton it is a gradual climb up to Old Winchester Hill National Nature Reserve where you can enjoy views back towards Beacon Hill and taking in one of the finest examples of an Iron Age hill fort.

Old Winchester Hill to Buriton  - 12 miles (19.3 Km)

 Stunning views and higher hills await. It’s down hill all the way from Old Winchester Hill to Whitewool Farm. After Whitewool farm the trail climbs up Salt Hill towards the Sustainability Centre Hostel.  From here on the trail follows an almost level ridge with great views down to the village of East Meon and heads east towards Butser Hill. At 270m Butser Hill is the highest point along the South Downs Way. Near the summit of the hill you’ll find a café and toilets. Then a long grassy descent heads down to the QECP visitor center. The trail then heads through the first large block of forestry towards Buriton.

Buriton to Cocking Hill - 10 miles (16.1 Km)

From here on the trail follows the ridge-line nearly continuously to Eastbourne with constant views north over the wooded Weald of Sussex and south to the English Channel. This section passes the National Trust’s Uppark House with its distinctive folly on Tower Hill and on to Harting Down. Carrying on eastwards the trail passes the Devil’s Jumps. These are a line of well preserved large Bronze Age Burial mounts that can be accessed from the Trail. Continuing east on an undulating route the trail passes on of Andrew Goldsworthy’s large chalk ball sculptures before descending to Cocking Hill, from where you can drop down to Cocking for food and accommodation.

Cocking Hill to Amberley - 12 miles (19.3 Km)

This section of the trail is a mix of woodland, pasture and wild flower glades. It is the most wooded section of the trail. From Cocking Hill the trail ascends a long but gradual hill towards Charlton Forest. The trail passes some more fine examples of Bronze Age burial mounds. After crossing the A285 the route ascends once again to Bignor Hill where you can see a fine example of a surviving Roman road. A short detour down the hill will take you to Bignor Roman Villa which boasts the finest preserved mosaic in the country. A short distance on brings you to stunning views across the Arun Valley from where the trail descends to the River Arun and the village of Amberley.

 

Amberley to the River Adur  - 13 miles (20.9 Km)

From here on the trail becomes gradually more and more open through a landscape of mixed farmland. A steep climb starts this section up to Amberley Mount but then levels off before descending to Washington. After Washington the trail ascends steeply up towards Chanctonbury Ring. This ring of Beech trees planted by the Goring Estate is surrounded by myth and legend and planted on an Iron Age Hill fort that also has the remains of a Roman temple within. After rounding the hills above Steyning the trail descends towards the River Adur.

 

River Adur to River Ouse - 21 miles (33.8 Km)

This section follows the arc of chalk hills surrounding the top of Brighton and is therefore one of the busiest sections, however the views both to the north and south are breathtaking throughout. The trail passes the iconic Devil’s Dyke, the largest dry chalk valley in the county, and then passes through Saddlescombe Farm. A little further east beyond the A23 the trail passes the delightful Jack & Jill Windmills and then on to Ditchling Beacon. At 248m this is the highest point along the Sussex Downs and is often a good spot for an ice cream from the van at the car park. Continuing on the Trail south east of Lewes you cross the Greenwich Meridian before descending towards the River Ouse and the village of Southease. A new youth hostel and café is now open at Itford farm just beyond the river.

 

 

River Ouse to River Cuckmere & Alfriston  - 7 miles (11.3 Km)

Before you ascent the long Itford Hill take some time to check the river for visiting seals. This section is the most open of the trail. In fact you wont pass a single tree until you reach Alfriston! This means stunning views back along the scarp slopes of the Downs to the west across the Lewes to the north and out to sea to the south. As you pass Firle Beacon you may have to share the trail with paragliders and hang-gliders at this favoured launch site. This section has numerous options to drop down and visit country pubs or you might also like to visit Charlston House, home to the ‘Bloomsbury Set’ and now a popular museum.

 

 

Alfriston to Eastbourne via Jevington  - 8.5 miles (13.7 Km)

 This often over looked section offers some of the most beautiful views to be found along the trail. From Alfriston the trail head up over Windover Hill. It is worth taking a short detour to contour around the northern escarpment of this hill to see the famous ‘Long Man of Wilmington’, the largest chalk hill figure of a man in Britain. After Windover Hill the route stays high as you feel like you’re floating above the landscape. A steep descent through ancient hazel woodland brings you to the hamlet of Jevington where the famous Banoffee Pie was invented at the Hungry Monk restaurant; a blue plaque marks the spot! It’s then up on last time over Willingdon Hill where great sea views open up as the trail head south for the coast before descending into Eastbourne.

2 Day itinerary

 Day 1   Winchester to Amberley

Day 2   Amberley to Eastbourne

3 Day itinerary

 Day 1   Winchester to Cocking

Day 2   Cocking to Truleigh Hil

Day 3   Truleigh Hill to Eastbourne

4 Day Itinerary

 Day 1   Winchester to Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP)

Day 2   QECP – Amberley

Day 3  Amberley to Housedean Farm

Day 4  Housedean Farm to Eastbourne

  • Bicycle hire
  • Luggage transfer
  • Routes maps and GPS
  • Cycle mechanical backup and support
  • Cycle accessories hire (including panniers)

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