Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays


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Poppy field on the South Downs Way
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Highlights

  • Winchester with its attractive Cathedral
  • The Viewpoints of Beacon and Butser Hills
  • Wild Flowers and butterflies that dominate the trail
  • Devils Dyke - a stunning beauty spot carved by glaciers into a deep valley
  • Magnificent chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head

The South Downs Way stretches 100 miles from the historic city of Winchester to the coastal chalk hills on the South Coast. Located within an hour from the country’s capital city, this National Trail is the perfect escape from often hectic city life. Walk amongst vibrant yellow fields of corn, follow picturesque chalk cliffs and admire traditional thatched cottages with colourful English Gardens on this walk in Southern England.

The walk starts in the historic city of Winchester, once the Capital of England, where the cathedral dominates the skyline and draws many visitors. Rolling hills dominate the West section of the walk as you pass through traditional villages with friendly country Inns. Mixed woodland walking, and views as far as the Isle of Wight can be seen from Butser Hill, the highest section of the trail. As you head down to the coast the scenery changes with grasslands full of wild flowers and after the climb up Devils Dyke you reach Alfriston with its huge selection of historic pubs. The final section of the walk sees the magnificent chalk cliffs of Seven Sisters and Beachy Head before dropping down to the seaside town of Eastbourne.

This is a general stage by stage guide. For all the available day by day itineraries, please see the options on the right.


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 - 14.5 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. Next, you come to Buster Hill, 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.


Buriton to Cocking - 11 miles

Now you are the 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 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 - 13.5 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 before arriving in the pretty village of Amberley.


Amberley to Upper Beeding - 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 a 30-minute diversion to the north and worthwhile 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.


Upper Beeding to Lewes Area - 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.


Lewes to Alfriston - 13.5 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 descend slowly to the picture postcard village of Alfriston with its Tudor Beam cottages, village green, pubs and tea rooms.


Alfriston to Eastbourne - 12.5 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 of 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.


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. 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.

Accommodation

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 walkers may need to venture a mile or so off the trail as the availability of quality accommodation can become scarce.


Single Rooms

If you require single rooms we would be happy to accommodate you although there is a single room supplement payable.


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.


Meals

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.



 

 




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.


 

 

 

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.


Grade

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.


Navigation

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.


Baggage Transfers

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.


Solo Walkers

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.


Travel Insurance

It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and emergency evacuation and hospital care.


Walking Direction

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.


General Information

The distances and ascent/ descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and pants), sun hat, sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer, and a day pack.


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/

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/

Included

  • 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

Excluded

  • Lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks
  • Entrance fees (where applicable)
  • Travel Insurance
  • Transport should you need to skip a stage

Extras

  • Additional nights
  • Solo walker supplement

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.

How do the baggage transfers work?

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.

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.

 


Excellent adventure

5

This was a great experience, lots of exercise in a heat wave but the SDW is lovely and very photogenic with only a few challenging parts that make reaching the destinations even more rewarding. There seem to be signs at every decision point so between the signs and the excellent guidebook there is little risk of getting lost. The luggage transport was critical - I would not want to walk that far with a heavy backpack although I saw others who did. The food was surprisingly good at local pubs and the B&B proprietors were very friendly and helpful and all offered tasty and filling breakfasts.

Barb the senior citizen

Philadelphia

true

A superb challenge and such wonderful views

5

This was the 5th time I have booked a long distance walk with Macs Adventure and it is without doubt my favourite one. From start to finish everything was perfect - booking, communication, accommodation, baggage handling - and the sun shone every day without a drop of rain! Other than the Saturday when 300 runners took part in the South Downs Way ultra-marathon I was very surprised about how few people I met on this walk other than locals - this was a bonus for me as I enjoy the peace and solitude when I am out in the countryside. Those walkers that I did meet were very friendly and most encouraging. I am lucky enough to have travelled to many of the world's most beautiful places but I had no idea that the South Downs way was equally beautiful in its own way. I cannot recommend this trip highly enough - 10 out of 10 in every aspect.

Don

North East England

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Walking the South Downs Way

5

Visiting a part of England I had never visited before and enjoying walking on chalk - fantastically well sign-posted; dry underfoot; big wide path; great places to spend the night; skylarks; and white cliffs and sunshine to end the walk.

Cat the walker

Dumfries

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Away from modern life in comfort!

5

We really enjoyed the whole experience, good weather, good food, good company, excellent walking. The best thing was leaving most of modern life behind. The few roads we encountered felt intrusive and noisy. The birdsong was incredible. Many thanks for all your help. 😊

Lou

Lancaster

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Could this still be in the South of England!?

5

Great scenery, easy to moderate walking. Can't believe it's the South Coast of England.

Tim?

West Yorks

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Very well organised trip.

5

We had a great time. We really challenged ourselves to do something different and were rewarded with beautiful days of walking with stunning views and sight of loads of unusual wildlife. Each days walk longer as you have to get too and from where you are staying. The accommodations were all of a very good level so well chosen by Macs. The info sheet from them was out of date on a few places, this is despite local hosts updating them! We would definitely consider something similar again.

Tilley hat wearer.

Devon

true

Great to be outdoors in beautiful scenery everyday

4

Besides the humidity, poor signage especially at the start of trail was the worst thing about the walk. I was not the only one that got lost. 360 degree views for @ 60% of the hike and beautiful scenery 95% of the time was my favorite besides a hot bath, good food and a beer at the end of the day. The food was really good!

Val

California

true

Another great walking holiday!!

5

We decided to walk the South Downs way in 6 days, however didn't anticipate that we would be doing it in the heatwave we experienced this year! However, that made the walk feel more of an achievement when we got to the end!! As ever, Macs organised a great itinerary with great accommodation along the way. The scenery on this walk was spectacular, you could see for miles and the highlight was walking along the seven sisters and beachy head! Just breathtaking!

Simon & Clare

Cumbria

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Very well waymarked and lovely views throughout

4

Excellent choice for a solo hiker like myself. The best waymarked hike I have done yet which made it virtually worry free. The accommodations were all very good and the hosts all very nice indeed--my particular favorites were the Gifford House hotel in Winchester, 2 Farm Cottages in Amberley, Riverdale House in Alfriston and Pelham House, with its easy location in Lewes High Street, very nice room, and lovely breakfast outside on the terrace. The only change I would make is to the night in Lewes. Once you leave the Way there are no signs to help with the very long extra walk into the town. The last sign says 3 miles to town (see Map 34, page 144 of guide book) but it took me (and several other hikers I met on the way who also complained) more than an hour and a half to find the way over fields, around farms, through unmarked woods, and across and down several roads. I had to ask directions several times. Then, because of the long and tiring extra hiking, when I finally reached Lewes, everything had closed so no time to explore the castle, Anne of Cleve's home, etc. Pelham House was very nice, but my (admittedly fine room) was up in the attic and I had to carry my case up a lot of stairs including a narrow twisty metal staircase up to the top. There were three male employees in the reception area, but no one offered to help me with my bag either coming or leaving. The next morning I took a taxi from the hotel to the Newmarket Inn (see Map 35, page 151)--the Way goes right by the side of the Inn. If I did this hike again, which I may well do because the scenery throughout was so splendid, I would walk on to the Newmarket Inn instead of leaving the Way as shown on page 144, then call for a taxi to take me into Lewes and then back out again to the Inn the next morning. That would have given me much more time to explore the sights of Lewes. The taxi ride was £8. I think you should describe this as an option.

Wendy

Bloomington, Indiana, USA

true

A scenic walk with very good accommodation/

5

This hike took us through quintessentially English countryside, and the accommodation was of an extremely high standard. Highly recommended!

Eskside Mary

Scotland

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South Downs Way

4.4 25

95.8

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