England’s South East coast is a dream destination for hikers, and there’s no better place for a walking trip than the South Downs National Park.
This lush region, composed of rolling chalk downs, magical ancient woodlands and dramatic, plunging cliffs, is simply littered with fantastic hiking trails.
From the epic South Downs Way to the spectacular cliff-side trail at Beachy Head, there’s a walking route here to suit everyone.
Some of the best walks in the South Downs will take you through incredibly varied scenery, passing from shady woodlands to windswept cliffs in just a few hours.
Expect diverse wildlife, expansive views, and incredible historic remains at every turn! To give you a little inspiration, check out our top recommendations for walks in the South Downs, to suit every taste!
Best Views in the South Downs
The major highlights of walking in the South Downs are the remarkable views that you can expect to enjoy on any adventure in the region.
The green rolling hills and lush forests create a picturesque, postcard-perfect vista that simply can’t be beaten on a sunny day!
These views have inspired poets and writers throughout the ages – indeed, the famous poet Alfred Lord Tennyson so loved this region that he would sit for hours on end at the Bronze Age Temple of the Winds, gazing at the breath-taking views and waiting for inspiration to strike
Other walks with exceptional views include the climb to Butser Hill, offering a spectacular panorama from one of the highest peaks in the region.
The route from Hassocks to Lewes passes some pretty windmills before enjoying a wonderful vista from Clayton over the South Downs Ways.
However, for sheer jaw-dropping drama, the iconic route to Beachy Head simply can’t be beaten – expect amazing views over the cliffs and a thrilling day out on the trail.
GO OUT. DISCOVER. ENJOY.
Best South Downs Walks For Nature Lovers
The South Downs is a treasure trove for nature lovers, with incredible biodiversity packed into a relatively small area. The park is home to some of the most ancient forests in the whole of the UK, most notably at Kingley Vale. This ancient yew forest contains trees that may have roots as far back as the 9th century, although precise dating is somewhat difficult. Whatever their age, these magnificent trees make a fantastic destination for a leisurely walk.
Kingley Vale – This ancient yew forest contains trees that may have roots as far back as the 9th century, although precise dating is somewhat difficult
The sweeping chalk downs that are characteristic of this beautiful region provide an important habitat for many animals, birds and insects, including the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, deer, badgers, and nightingales.
The expansive, open heaths and rich bog-lands are home to over 20 species of dragonfly and many rare amphibians.
A walk across Shortheath Common is an excellent place for wildlife watching, and if you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the elusive nightjar!
The Arundel Wetland Centre is also a great place to learn more about the rare animals and birds that live in the reserve.
Best South Downs Walks For History Buffs
The South Downs National Park covers a region of England that has been inhabited for thousands of years, and today it is littered with historic remains.
One of our favourite parts of the South Downs Way passes from Amberley to Shoreham-by-Sea, skirting by the prehistoric hill fort at Chanctonbury Ring.
In addition to these ancient fortifications, history buffs will love the walk that passes by Lewes Priory, a medieval foundation in a truly spectacular setting. With picturesque historic villages, bustling market towns and grand medieval churches, a hike in the South Downs means walking in the footsteps of countless visitors through the ages.
Best South Downs Walks For Families
The South Downs is an ideal location for a family walking holiday, with plenty of easy, pleasant trails that pass through some lush countryside.
The beautiful route along the River Ouse from Southease is one of our favourites, offering lovely views and a gentle incline (with a family-friendly pub at the end of the trail!).
Kids are sure to love the trek to the Long Man of Wilmington, an impressive chalk figure carved into the steep slopes of Windover Hill.
The South Downs truly has a walk to suit everyone, whatever your tastes! As autumn approaches, there’s no better time to get out into the national park and enjoy some late summer sun as you watch the leaves turn.
Accommodation For Your Walking Holiday
Of course, given the number and sheer variety of walking trails and hikes on offer around the South Downs you should consider staying in well-located accommodation close by – we have self catering properties in the idyllic villages of East Dean and Friston which is on the South Downs Way, such as Little Friston Lodge and The Cottage at Friston Down