The Best Walking Trails In The South Downs


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.

Carl Stanger

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!

walking trails in the south downs east dean

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.


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.

Amazing place, location and hosts! We highly recommend! We have stayed for two weeks with a small baby. Eastbourne is very child friendly.
Eva Stepankova, Little Friston Lodge

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.

Many of the best walks in the South Downs pass through some of these historically significant locations, from the impressive Iron Age hill fort known as the Trundle to the lush Roman Villa at Bignor.

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.

Happy hiking!

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


If you’re considering any of the walking trails or fancy a hiking holiday on the South Coast email us at, or call on +44 (0)1323 40 60 90 and we’ll listen to your needs and help you get the most out of your trip.

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