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Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head

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Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head
Author: Steve Hallam, Published: 11 Apr 2017 Walk Rating:star1 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide star1 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide star1 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide star1 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide star0 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide
East Sussex, Eastbourne
Walk Type: Coastal
Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head
Length: 5 miles,  Difficulty: boot Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide boot Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide boot Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide
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12 °C, Clear/sunny, Wind: 0 mph ESE
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I had forgotten how glorious this part of the South Downs is. This five and a half mile circular walk, which starts on the edge of Eastbourne in East Sussex, offers spectacular cliff top walking followed by rolling downland. This is a walk of two halves: the first is characterised by lots of people but no sheep; the second offers lots of sheep but little or no people. The highlights are the views, followed by more views, and then some more.

All of this walk is on firm and dry grassland, with no road walking at all. There is one steep, and challenging climb, with two smaller slopes. There are no stiles but you will need to negotiate several gates. The first part of the walk is ideal for dogs, as long as they avoid the sheer cliffs. The second half contains a mile or so through sheep fields, where dogs will need to be under close control. Allow 2.5 hours.

The walk starts at St. Bedes, BN20 7XL, where the road along Eastbourne esplanade (King Edward’s Parade, and then Dukes Drive) bends to the right. This is right outside St Bede’s Preparatory School and by The Kiosk café. There is a small amount of free parking here, with lots of Pay and Display roadside parking along the esplanade. There is a bus stop close by, served by the 3 / 3A Eastbourne town bus route. Eastbourne itself is well served by trains from London, Brighton and Hastings.

Walk Sections

Start to Beachy Head
Start to Beachy Head

Start point: 50.7519 lat, 0.2674 long
End point: 50.7392 lat, 0.2513 long

The walk starts down the track that runs by the side of The Kiosk café. (Alternatively, you can climb straight up the Down, and then go over the other side, which is what I used to do when I was younger.) Follow this track around the cliff side, enjoying the view out to sea. The track opens out on to extensive downland grassland; this is dog heaven (see the image of this name in the gallery). The route follows the top of the low cliffs – but not too closely. Bear in mind that rabbit chasing dogs have been known to perish over these.

When you run out of land straight ahead, follow the broad path that climbs the steep slope to your right. (But before you do so, a slight and careful deviation towards the cliff edge provides a spectacular view of the now unused Beachy Head lighthouse. My GPS walk track shows this.) The climb feels a lot steeper than it looks. Feel free to either zig-zag or make frequent pauses undercover of ‘stopping to admire the view’. At the top, turn left to follow the tarmac path. You can take the South Downs Way path that runs slightly downhill for a while, if you wish, but having had to work so hard to gain height, I prefer to retain it. After a few yards you pass a memorial to the airmen of World War II Bomber Command, on your left. This marks the top of Beachy Head. It is here because it was said that for many airmen Beachy Head was their last ever sight of Great Britain.

This section ends a few yards further on, where the Beachy Head Visitor Centre comes into view behind you, on your right.

Beachy Head to Road Crossing
Beachy Head to Road Crossing

Start point: 50.7392 lat, 0.2513 long
End point: 50.739 lat, 0.2321 long

The route carries on along the cliff top, affording wonderful views down the coast towards Birling Gap, The Seven Sisters, and the Cuckmere Valley. If you are so minded, keep an eye on the gulls riding the wind to your left: every so often, upon closer inspection, one of these may turn out to be a Peregrine falcon!

You will come to a slight depression in the height of the cliff, with an extensive area of scrubby bushes. (You will see that my track runs slightly inland from the cliff edge, but it is perfectly viable to stick to the cliff until it is time to turn right.) Turn right here to walk down the nearest edge of this scrubby area (there is no sign) to the road at Shooters Bottom. Here you will see two barrier gates facing each other, one on each side of the road. This road crossing marks the end of this section, and the image for the next section shows these barriers.

Road Crossing to End
Road Crossing to End

Start point: 50.739 lat, 0.2321 long
End point: 50.752 lat, 0.2671 long

Cross the road and carry straight on up the slope opposite. After a short while, you cross over a path signposted Birling Gap one way and Eastbourne the other. Go ahead through a metal gate and continue to climb alongside a stock fence. At the top of the slope you then pass through a wooden gate. This is sheep country (so take care with dogs). And Corn Bunting, Linnet and Buzzard country. The path descends the next slope, heading slightly left towards a single timber post in a gap between windblown and stunted Hawthorn trees. Go through a second wooden gate, down again, and then up another slope to reach a third wooden gate. On the other side of this gate is a crossroads, marked by a single wooden post with blue arrows on all four sides.

Turn right and walk along the brow of the broad ridge. The path passes to the left of the scrubby bushes ahead of you. Carry straight on until a wooden gate beside a five bar gate leads into a fenced track. Follow this track, enjoying the views, until you come to a tarmac road, guarded by another pair of barrier gates. Cross the road and head straight on. The path goes to the left of the isolated windswept Hawthorn tree ahead of you.

You soon come to another footpath crossroads, with a four-way wooden fingerpost. Turn right, in the direction of the sign for the South Downs Way. Follow this to a triangular shaped grassy open space. Turn left here, continuing on the South Downs Way. Follow the wide grass path down the slope. You should be heading in the direction of a prominent, but aesthetically dubious, block of flats showing a lot of white. This path continues down the increasingly steep slope, towards the start point. I can confirm that this slope is a brilliant place to bring young children sledging, when conditions underfoot are appropriate. You will emerge to the point where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2017 by iFootpath and the author SteveHallam and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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8 gallery images for "Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head"

7736_0SteveHallam1491166452 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide Image by: Steve Hallam
Uploaded: 02 Apr 2017
View of the sea from the track at the start
7736_1SteveHallam1491166452 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide Image by: Steve Hallam
Uploaded: 02 Apr 2017
Dog heaven - watch them go!
7736_2SteveHallam1491166453 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide Image by: Steve Hallam
Uploaded: 02 Apr 2017
Part of the Eastbourne downs
7736_3SteveHallam1491166454 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide Image by: Steve Hallam
Uploaded: 02 Apr 2017
More of the Eastbourne downs
7736_4SteveHallam1491166454 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide Image by: Steve Hallam
Uploaded: 02 Apr 2017
The view of Beachy head lighthouse from the bottom of the steep climb
7736_0SteveHallam1491166694 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide Image by: Steve Hallam
Uploaded: 02 Apr 2017
A view across the downs towards the Cuckmere valley
7736_1SteveHallam1491166694 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide Image by: Steve Hallam
Uploaded: 02 Apr 2017
Sheep country
7736_2SteveHallam1491166695 Eastbourne Downland and Beachy Head Walking Guide Image by: Steve Hallam
Uploaded: 02 Apr 2017
Eastbourne from the Downs

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