South Downs Way

This page describes walks on the South Downs Way between Winchester and Eastbourne.

Walks: South Downs Way

This is an official national trail following the ridge of the South Downs between Winchester and Eastbourne (or vice versa). Walkers, cyclists and horse riders are permitted along most of the path (diversions are available on some sections eg where narrow footbridges are unsuitable for horses/cyclists).

Description of the path

The route can be traveled in any direction of course. At the eastern end, between Eastbourne and Alfriston,it is possible to take an alternative inland or coastal route. This page currently reflects only the coastal alternative.

The South Downs are related to the North Downs, both being an expanse of warm sea millions of years ago. Over time rocks were raised up and put under so much lateral pressure that they arched. The top of the arch (or dome) was weakened by this force and has been gradually eroded to the extent no chalk remains. This is now the Weald - the land that lies between the North and South Downs. The path is therefore following the remaining edge of the chalk arch.

The route follows the higher part of the downs and therefore does not visit many towns. Passage places are Winchester, Exton, Old Winchester Hill, Butser Hill, Harting Down, Cocking Down, Bignor Hill, Amberley, Chactonbury Ring, Devil's Dye, Ditchling Beacon, Balmer Down, Iford, Hill, Firle Beacon, Alfriston, Cuckmere, Beachy Head & Eastbourne. The north route goes via Jevington from Afriston to Eastbourne.

The route crosses and coincides with several other long distance walks, at the eastern end it is coincident with the [unofficial] South Coast Path

It is possible to run or cycle the trail in one outing; however walking will take a little longer. Herein lies a challenge: since the path follows to upper chalkland and there are few crossings north - south - especially in the west. Regular public transport connections are often very limited. Therefore a number of options may be necessary in such cases: out & back, bed & breakfast [see the National Trail website below] or try camping out.

As Robert Macfarlane did in his book "The Old Ways" where he had an interesting experience at Chactonbury Ring in the early hours of one morning. He was following the footsteps of both Laurie Lee ["As I walked out one midsummer morning"] and Edward Thomas ["The South Country"].

South Downs Way Stats

1. Overall

Topic Info comment
Terminus Winchester King Alfred's statue
Terminus Eastbourne Entrance on Duke Drive
Total Distance 161 km [2]
Lowest point 3 m [amsl] at Cuckmere
Highest point 270 m [amsl] at Butser Hill [1]


  1. Butser Hill is strictly not on the way - but its only a few hundred metres away and you must not miss the opportunity.
  2. The official distance - reality is often more..

2. Stages Completed

The stages below are those completed. The distance is taken from gps track data.

If a stage below is underlined you can find out more about it by clicking on the stage name.

Stage Distance Terrain
Winchester - Cheesefoot Head 5.9 km moderate
Cheesefoot Head - Millbarrows 7.7 km moderate
Millbarrows - Exton 7.2 km moderate
Exton - Salt Hill 9.7 km hilly
Salt Hill - Queen Elizabeth Country Park 8.7 km hilly
Cuckmere - Eastbourne 12.6 km hilly

3. Progress Table: Overall percent and total distance walked so far .

Completed % Who Distance Year Notes
32.2% completed KM, HM 51.8 km 2016-ongoing both directions

Points of Interest

King Alfred's statue, Winchester Winchester: - King Alfred statue in The Broadway. The start or end of your walk, take time to enjoy Winchester.
Seven Sisters - twrds Cuckmere Seven Sisters: - a spectacular section of the walk - a roller coaster challenge to your legs - especially when you have covered a few km already.

Notes for Walkers:

Transport to and from the South Downs Way is not as plentiful as it is along the coast from Portsmouth to Eastbourne. To date, because of this, all stages at the west end have adopted an "out & back" and are planning further stages likewise.

More will be added here once we have more experience. The National Trails website includes a bus route map.


Start: 30 Nov 2016

End: Ongoing

References & Links:

Date Reference or link
20161201 South Downs Way [wikipedia]
20161201 South Downs Way [National Trail]
20161201 South Downs Way [National Trail] accommodation
20160730 Geology Map - zoom to [this location]

Updated KM 24 March 2017