We’re here to help with the questions you didn’t think about. How will you get to your start point? How will you get home from your end point? How will you decide where to stay? What are the best maps and guidebooks to use? How hard is it?
Take a look at the options and the route and feel free to contact us to tailor make your tour.
There are a number of ways of breaking down the South Downs Way to make it manageable for different distances and whether you are walking or cycling. Approx 15 miles per day walking or 25 miles per day cycling would be a good distance for reasonably fit and active people to aim for and allow for time for breakfast in the morning, a stop for lunch and not finishing too late in the day. You may want to do a bit more or less than this, and accommodation and stops will affect the exact mileage on any day. You may want to do the South Downs Way in stages at different times, so the below “sections” will help you get an idea of how they join together and what you may want to do.
Because the South Downs Way is pretty much one ridge, which drops frequently into valleys along the way, there aren’t lots of natural breaks along the way. This means that some stops will mean coming down from the trail at the end of the day and getting back up onto it the following morning. For walkers, we are happy to arrange transport to do this, and many of our accommodation suppliers will offer this transport themselves. For cyclists, our view is that the additional mile or two and the extra climb to get back on the ridge is just what is needed to reflect the descent the previous day!!
It is possible that these sections won’t join exactly for your particular experience as it will depend on accommodation availability and selection, weather conditions, how far you want to travel on each day and whether you have any VIP experiences or other things you wish to fit in. Each experience will be tailor-made to suit you. We have detailed the various stages below, going from East to West. Have a look at our detailed Harvey’s Walking Map on this link to get more information
Eastbourne to Alfriston (10.5 miles walking)
If you are walking the South Downs Way, you will be starting at the Western end of King Edwards Parade and following signs to Beachy Head. This is a beautiful coastal walk above the cliffs and then on over the Seven Sisters hills (there are indeed at least seven of them!) before descending into Cuckmere Haven. From here you head inland through woodland and up the valley to arrive in Alfriston
Eastbourne to Alfriston (7.5 miles cycling)
Cyclists take an inland route, starting on the junction of Carlisle Road and Paradise Drive. You climb immediately up alongside Eastbourne gold course, down to Jevington and then back up hill again to Windover Hill (just above the Long Man chalk carving) and down a steep descent to the river and valley into Alfriston
Alfriston to Lewes (13 miles)
Alfriston is a lovely little town and from here you climb from the valley up to Firle Beacon. This is a very exposed section with some wonderful views, all the way through to the descent at Southease. Just after the road crossing at Southease there is a tap for a refill, before climbing back up and walking along the ridge, following the curve of Juggs Road, back down to the right, past the railway and onto the A27
Lewes to Steyning (15 miles)
There is a steady climb up from the A27 at Lewes and there is a water tap alongside the main road to top up. When you reach Plumpton Plain, you keep going on towards the well known Ditchling Beacon before beginning your descent past Pyecombe golf course and crossing the A23 at Pyecombe itself. The road at the bottom of the golf course can be very busy so take care here! From Pyecombe the terrain is a little hilly for a while and you make your way up to Devil’s Dyke and a long section on to Steyning. There is a YHA up above Steyning on the trail itself, or you can descend into Steyning along the trail.
Steyning to Amberley (13 miles)
Climbing up from Steyning, you spend some time on higher ground before descending onto the A24 just south of Washington. You can drop into Washington for lunch and re-join the trail via a marked route, or push on along the South Downs Way, climbing back up towards Kithurst hill, before heading down to Amberley, situated alongside the river Arun.
Amberley to Cocking (12 miles)
This section begins on the edge of Amberley, near the working museum and crosses the river Arun before climbing up onto the downs and passing the edge of Coombe Wood to the A29. After the road the path climbs to Westburton Hill and on to Bignor Hill. From here, the path passes through woodland before descending from the downs then descending onto the A286, just south of Cocking.
Cocking to Queen Elizabeth Country Park (13 miles)
This section begins on the A286 just south of Cocking and climbs onto the downs towards Harting Down. This is a pretty open section, with great views to the north and South all the way to Harting Down. From Harting Down, it is more wooded and there are some minor road sections, which take you through the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. At the park, once you have descended through the woods, there is a cafe, water fill and nice rest area.
Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Exton (15 miles)
Queen Elizabeth Country Park. The path passes through the park and under the A3 then climbs to the top of Butser Hill. From here you head to HMS Mercury and salt Hill, to Meon Springs fisheries, then on to Old Winchester Hill, across the River Meon and into to Exton
Exton to Winchester (12 miles)
This section covers the western end of the South Downs Way starting at the small village of Exton in the Meon Valley. It climbs from the valley floor onto the downs at Beacon Hill, passing through beautiful open countryside to the cathedral city of Winchester, at the very western end of the South Downs Way. The finish point for the South Downs Way is King Alfred’s statue.