The itinerary below is a guide for how a typical 8 day walk along the entire length of The South Downs Way would be arranged. We can of course tailor your holiday to include half or full day’s breaks, and we can reverse the direction of the walk from Eastbourne to Winchester.
Starting Point – Winchester
The Saxon capital of England, Winchester is a charming city full of character and history. The Cathedral remains the largest attraction and at over 900 years old with impressive Gothic architecture it’s easy to see why. Winchester is easily reached by train from London in less than 1h30mins.
Winchester to Exton – 12 Miles
The first stage of the South Downs Way quickly takes you away from the hustle and bustle into the countryside. Chilcomb’s thatched cottages and village green are highlights on this first stage. As you climb Beacon Hill National Nature Reserve you are rewarded with views across the Meon Valley to Old Winchester Hill. The route has recently changed and now bypasses the village of Exton. However, a short half mile walk to the south takes you into the village.
Exton to Queen Elizabeth CP or Buriton – 12/13 miles
Back on the path you quickly ascend Old Winchester Hill where the remains of an impressive Iron Age hill fort can be seen. From here you can see in all directions, explaining the forts strategic military position. Butser Hill follows which is the highest point on the walk with wonderful views across to the Isle of Wight. Shortly after you walk through the woodlands of Queen Elizabeth Country Park. The larger town of Petersfield is around 30 minutes walk off trail.
Queen Elizabeth CP or Buriton to Cocking – 11/12 miles
After walking out of the QE Country Park, you are now on the high ridge and the next few miles are through woodland offering shade and protection. Once past the turn for South Harting you reach Harting Down where the trees thin out and your views open out again. The path ascends Beacon Hill and then through the wooded Monkton Estate. Cocking Down leads you down to Warren BoHom and a short while a^er you see signs that take you off the trail slightly to reach the village of Cocking.
Cocking to Amberley – 11.5 miles
A chalk lane leads you back to the top of the ridgeway, through Heyshott and Graffham Downs nature reserves, then heading down crossing the old Roman road of Stane Street before climbing up Bignor Hill. The trail descends into the Arun Valley and then enters the preHy village of Amberley.
Amberley to Upper Beeding – 15 miles
There is a spell of easy walking today followed by gradual and gentle inclines. The path then climbs steeply to Chanctonbury Ring, an ancient and magical circle of Beech trees. The path descends slowly around the southern edges of the Steyning Bowl valley and into Botolphs. You then cross the river Adur and head into Upper Beeding for the evening.
Upper Beeding to Lewes – 16 miles
Today you’ll need time for sightseeing as you pass many landmarks and beauty spots. The highlight of this section is the glacial valley of Devils Dyke. After Pyecombe you’ll see signs for the Jack and Jill windmills which are famous local landmarks and can be seen for miles around. You will then walk across Ditchling Beacon and down towards Lewes.
Lewes to Alfriston – 14 miles
An easy section that passes Rodmell and Southease and then crosses the River Ouse. Back on the escarpment you have coastal views to the south, down to Cuckmere Haven. At Bostall Hill you begin to descent slowly to the picture postcard village of Alfriston with its Tudor Beam cottages, village green, pubs and tea rooms.
Alfriston to Eastbourne – 11 miles
The last section contains impressive coastal scenery. Saving the best until last, this section takes you through the Cuckmere Valley as the river makes its way to the sea. The Seven Sisters roll away in front of you as you stroll along the cliff tops. The grassy cliff path undulates to Beachy Head—a spectacular chalk cliff with panoramic views in all directions. Slightly further on is the official end to the South Downs Way at Meads Village. Eastbourne is a half hour walk from here or if you are feeling weary, a short bus ride.
Finishing Point – Eastbourne
A traditional British seaside town, Eastbourne has many guest houses, shops and restaurants and very well served transport links to London or back to Winchester. We can add a nights accommodation here in Eastbourne…