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.
The following sections are based on the longest 8 Day and 9 Night itinerary.
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 Buriton—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 before arriving at the village of Buriton. The larger town of Petersfield is around 30 minutes walk off -trail and walkers sometimes stay here if Buriton has no available rooms.
Buriton to Cocking—11 miles
Now you are the on 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 Bottom and a short while after 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 enters the Arun Valley and then enters the pretty village of Amberley.
Amberley to Bramber—13 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. Steyning is about a 30 minute diversion to the north and worth while if you need to replenish energy or provisions. A short while further is the 15 minute diversion to Bramber and Upper Beeding, home for the night for many walkers.
Bramber to Kingston—16.5 miles
An early start is best for this section. Mileage is not excessive but there are a number of climbs. 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. Kingston is only a short climb and a detour of 15 minutes off the trail.
Kingston to Alfriston—12 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.
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. If you’ve time there is a loop from the town to the East that takes you on the alternate final stage of the trail that starts at Alfriston.
Our standard itineraries and guidebook describe the walk in an West to East direction. Prevailing winds at your back and a finish at the white cliffs near Eastbourne generally dictate that this is the best direction. If however you wish to walk East to West we can arrange this for you.
Additional Nights and Extensions
Many of our clients choose to add extra nights along the walk to sample more of the wonderful walking and attractions available on this walk. Winchester is a great place for an extra overnight stop before the walk to visit the Cathedral and Amberley and Steyning are both well placed for a mid section break. This can allow extra time to be taken visiting the Castle and Museum and Cathedral at Arundel along the way.
If you wish to reduce the number of nights we can tailor your trip to your requirements.
Tailor Made Holidays
We are always more than happy to tailor our standard itineraries to suit. Just let us know what you would like and we will be happy to arrange tailor made walking holiday.
Itineraries on this walk are graded Moderate as the path is on good surfaces with gentle and gradual gradients, other than a few moderately steep sections. The highest point on the trail is only 245 metres– reached at Butser Hill and again at Ditchling Beacon.
The route is way marked extensively and clearly. Whilst there are opportunities to take trails off the main path it is easy enough to retrace your steps to return to the South Downs Way.
One of the highlights of this tour is the high standard of the accommodation. We specifically choose the Inns, Guesthouses and B&B’s to ensure that you enjoy every minute of your stay.
They all offer a warm welcome to walkers, traditional hospitality and delicious local food. We always try and book your accommodation as close as possible to the line of the trail.
Occasionally, in busy summer months walkers may need to venture a mile or so off the trail as the availability of quality accommodation can become scarce.
If you require single rooms we would be happy to accommodate you although there is a single room supplement payable.
We welcome solo walkers on the South Downs Way although you should of course take extra care in the outdoors when walking solo. A supplement will apply to baggage transfers.
A hearty breakfast is included each morning. Lunch and dinner are not included so you are free to choose from the available options. Most accommodations are more than happy to provide a packed lunch - this can be booked on arrival. Dinner is available either at your accommodation or nearby pubs or restaurants.
Your bags will be transferred from your accommodation as per your itinerary and moved onto your next overnight accommodation. We ask you to limit your luggage to one bag of up to 20kg per person.
5 Clifton Terrace - Winchester
A warm welcome awaits at this family run Georgian B&B. With comfortable rooms and a great breakfast it provides a great start to your walking adventure!
Giffard House - Winchester
A beautifully refurbished 19th century Victorian building, Giffard House is the perfect place to stay if you want a stunning, historical setting and a welcoming experience.
The George and Falcon - Warnford
The Inn provides great, clean and comfortable accommodation for walkers.
Moonlight Cottage - Cocking
A charming B&B where you will be assured of a warm welcome.
Corhampton Lane Farm - Exton
Corhampton Lane Farm is a family run farm and provides great welcoming accommodation.
The Thatched House - Amberley
Mary and Guy provide excellent B&B accommodation in their beautiful house. With wonderful gardens and a relaxed atmosphere, it is the perfect stop.
The Old Bakery - Amberley
The Old Bakery is a charming 18th century cottage with original features and a comfortable and stylish interior.
Downs View - Upper Beeding
Downs View provides en-suite rooms with modern design and a warm welcome to walkers.
Hobbs Cottage - Pyecombe
Hobbs Cottage is a 400 year old flint cottage with a wealth of oak beams situated on the South Downs Way.
Nightingales - Kingston-near-Lewes
Nightingales provides great B&B accommodation in en-suite rooms and is surrounded by beautifully kept gardens.
Riverdale House - Alfriston
Riverdale House is a rare blend of elegant period accommodation and relaxed, laid back atmosphere.
Southcroft - Eastbourne
Southcroft is a friendly, relaxed Edwardian Guest House situated in a quiet residential area of Eastbourne.
Getting to Winchester
By Air—The closest regional airport to Winchester is Southampton. ‘Flybe’ serve most regional UK airports as well as Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and other European airports. Further afield is London Gatwick with most international connections.
By Rail/Bus—Winchester is situated on the South West trains network and is 1hr from London Waterloo station. Buses run regularly from all over the country to Winchester. From London Victoria Coach station there are 5 daily services with ‘National Express’ coaches.
By Car—We don't recommend travel by car due to the environmental impact but if you do need to drive you can park in the long stay car park in Winchester. This needs to be prebooked in advance through the Winchester parking Office—01962 848346.
Getting to/from Eastbourne
By Air—The closest airport to Eastbourne is London Gatwick with most regional UK and international connections. Travel time by car is 1h 30 mins
By Rail/Bus—Eastbourne is approx 1hr 30 by train from central London. Trains depart London Victoria and are very frequent throughout the day.
By Car—Most on street parking in Eastbourne is pay and display and you cant leave your car overnight. There is a car park at Beachy Head which you can buy an annual parking ticket but spaces are limited. Please contact the Parking Info Office on 08456 801129 A good source of reference for travel details is the travel line website: http://traveline.info/
We are often asked the following questions and hope that you will find the answers useful.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more advice or specific questions about the walk.
How fit do I need to be?
The South Downs Way is one of the easiest and most accessible of all the National Trails of Great Britain. That said there will be a number of ascents and descents - most noticeably where the path crosses river valleys. It helps to have done some multi day walking before and regular cardio vascular exercise prior to your holiday will increase your fitness levels and therefore your enjoyment of the walk.
How far in advance do I need to book?
We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as this route is very popular. Given its proximity to London and the more populated areas in the South of England the trail can get busy - especially in the summer montrhs. To ensure you have quality accommodation, on or near to the trail its best to book as soon as you know your available dates.
What personal equipment do I need?
You will need good walking shoes/boots (ideally waterproof), comfortable walking clothes, waterproof jacket and trousers, a daypack and hats/gloves etc. You can download a full equipment list from the downloads page of our website.
When is the best time of year?
This walking holiday can be enjoyed from March to October. Summer can be hot in the South Coast and very busy especially over the school holidays. We would advise walking in the Spring to see the wild flowers that coast the fields you walk through.
Am I able to take my dog?
Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate walkers with dogs as many of the accommodation providers we use do not accept pets.
What happens if I can’t walk a stage?
You can use public transport or local taxis to continue to your next overnight stop. In some cases the baggage transfer service that takes your bags on to your next accommodation may be able to assist. Our office can assist with helpful advice should you need to arrange transport for yourself or anyone in your party.
You can start your walking holiday between March and October, subject to availability. To make a provisional reservation select "Book" for the itinerary you are interested in.
Option prices will be displayed as part of the booking process.
Because every holiday we book is unique availability changes from day to day and our booking process works as follows:
- You provisionally book the tour you are interested in for your preferred dates and pay a 20% deposit online or by phone.
- We confirm availability and book all your accommodation and options and send final confirmation as soon as everything is confirmed (max 5 working days).
- If we are unable to accommodate you on your confirmed dates/tour or an alternative of your choice your deposit is fully refunded.
The international tennis is on in Eastbourne 17 - 22 June 2013 therefore availability is limited.
The 12 - 14 June is full in Winchester due to a military event.
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||10 Days & 9 Nights
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||9 Days & 8 Nights
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||8 Days & 7 Nights
- Bed and breakfast accommodation in ensuite rooms wherever possible
- Door to door baggage transfer.
- A detailed info pack, guidebook and map
- Emergency telephone support from our office in the event of a problem
- Lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks
- Entrance fees (where applicable)
- Travel Insurance
- Transport should you need to skip a stage