Planning your South Downs Way walk

Published 29 June 2010. Last updated 6 November 2023

Stone sign for Birling Gap and the South Downs Way

Cutting across the south of England, the South Downs Way is a lovely route to walk on. I say walk on it – actually the South Downs Way was the first National Bridleway and as such is perfectly suited for cyclists and horse riders as well.

Whatever way you travel on it (and to be honest, I’m assuming you’ll be walking it) the South Downs Way is a lovely walk, with great scenery and lots to see.

In This Guide

  1. What is the walk like?
  2. The route
  3. Planning an itinerary
  4. Finding and booking accommodation
  5. Getting to/from the South Downs Way
  6. Guide Books and Maps
  7. And finally, and any questions

What is the walk like?

The South Downs Way goes along the grassy and chalky South Downs in the South of England. This is a particularly beautiful area, and almost all of the route sits in the South Downs National Park.

Most days include walking up to a ridge and then enjoying the relatively flat walk for a few hours whilst you enjoy the view. Because most of the neighbouring area is lower down that the ridge, you usually get fine views. That’s not to say there’s not some challenges – the final stretch along the Seven Sisters is pretty hard work because it breaks that rule. However in the main, it’s pretty simple walking. But simple walking with a huge reward. In the early stages this includes looking out to the Isle of Wight, and the sea is a constant companion throughout the journey, even if you’re not very close to it.

The fact it’s a bridleway has certain benefits too in that the paths are generally wide and there’s no styles, just gates. Paths are generally in a good condition, and usually mud free.

Accommodation is plentiful and the trail has excellent transport links and pubs. The South Downs Way is ideal for those wanting to give long distance walking a try, and for the London based hiker who wants to tackle it in two-day long sections. It can be walked any time of the year, but is especially beautiful in the spring and autumn.

If you’d like to know more, you can read about my own journey.

The route

You can see the route of the South Downs Way using the map above. Using the controls you can scroll around, zoom in and explore the route. Note that this map is a guide only, and should not be used for navigation.

You can also download the GPX file of the route.

Note that the South Downs Way is a bridleway, and at times there are different routes for cyclists and house riders to take – most noticeably the last few miles between Cuckmere Haven and Eastbourne which is completely different. As this website is focussed on travelling by foot, we have not shown these variations.

Planning an itinerary

A key decision is whether you’re going to go East to West or West to East. Most guidebooks and signs suggest that the South Downs Way starts at Eastbourne and goes to Winchester but frankly I think that’s the wrong way round. Why start at the sea and end at a cathedral in a city? It just seems bonkers. Far better to start in a city and end marching along the cliffs of the south coast. With that in mind, the itinerary guide below runs West to East. Obviously if you’d rather go away from the coast, just read it upside down.

As there are a lot of villages en-route there’s plenty of ways to cut up your walking however if you want to do roughly similar distances on each day, we think the following eight day itinerary makes the most sense. At the end of each day you’ll find accommodation and a pub, and in some places (marked with a 🚂) there is a railway station too.

8 Day Itinerary
Day From To Distance
Miles Km
1 Winchester 🚂 Exton 1 12 19½
2 Exton 1 Buriton 🚂 2 12½ 20
3 Buriton 🚂 2 Cocking 11 18
4 Cocking Amberley 🚂 12 19
5 Amberley 🚂 Upper Beeding 12¾ 19½
6 Upper Beeding Housedean Farm/A27 3 🚂 15½ 24¾
7 Housedean Farm/A27 3 🚂 Alfriston 12¾ 22
8 Alfriston Eastbourne 🚂 4 10½ 17
  1. Most of the B&B accommodation in nearby Meonstoke, a short way down the very busy A32, however some B&Bs may offer to pick you up.
  2. Nearest station is Petersfield which is about 3 miles off route. Just follow the Hangers Way to take you between Petersfield and Buriton. If you don’t want to walk, Buriton is served by the very infrequent 94 bus run by AMK Minicoaches that runs on weekdays. Alternatively, walk a mile north west towards the B2070 where you can pick up the hourly 37 bus run by Stagecoach, that runs Monday to Saturday
  3. There is little at Housedean Farm besides a main road however there are regular buses to Lewes or you can walk to the town instead by following Jugg’s Road to towards Kingstonridge. Note that this works out as about 19 miles from Upper Beeding. There is a train station at Lewes.
  4. There are two routes between Eastbourne and Alfriston – one for walkers only and the other a bridleway version. The bridleway is 7½ miles long, 12km, but misses out a stunning cliff-side walk along Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters.

When to walk?

Gentle climbs, easy navigation and good quality paths mean that the South Downs Way is ideal for walking all year around. The trail traverses many ridges meaning that shelter is often sparse. This means in summer it can be especially hot due to lack of shade.

Breaking the walk up for several trips

As the South Downs Way has good transport links with lots of railway stations with direct services to London, it’s an easy one to split in to sections and can be easily done in four stages of two day walks. This means you could do the South Downs Way in just four weekends.

It is, of course, possible to do the whole route in one go, and to do so you need about eight days although if you’re prepared for some longer days, it should be possible to do it in six or seven instead.

Finding and booking accommodation

Walkers walk towards the sun on the South Downs Way

There’s a reasonable amount of accommodation in the South Downs area, although mostly small B&Bs. As it’s also a popular destination to visit and for weddings at weekends, booking really is advised. Even walking in the early part of Spring I found a few places were booked up. Don’tt be too worried about staying a few miles off trail if you have to as many B&Bs that are a bit further away offer free pickup and drop off from the trail.

The National Trail website’s South Downs Way Accommodation Guide is your best port of call for accommodation. This is an excellent resource which includes a map so you can see roughly how far places are from the Way. However it should be noted that B&Bs in the area can be expensive.

Accommodation Booking Services and Baggage Transfer

A number of companies will arrange your walk for you. Generally this includes baggage transfer as well. You can find a list of companies who will book accommodation on the official South Downs Way website.

The official website also has a list of companies who provide baggage transfer if you just want that service.

Hostels and bunkhouses

There are several YHA hostels on, or near the South Downs Way, although mostly in the eastern section of the route. There’s also an independent hostel.

  • Sustainability Centre, East Meon – a couple of miles on from Exton and right next to the South Downs Way, The Sustainability Centre. offers hostel-like accommodation.
  • YHA Truleigh Hill, near Upper Beeding – on the South Downs Way itself, and a few miles on from Upper Beeding.
  • YHA South Downs – at Itford Farm, close to Southease railway station and right next to the South Downs Way.
  • YHA Eastbourne – not far from the end.

If you see any references to YHA Telscome, this hostel closed in November 2015. However it was essentially replaced by YHA South Downs which is far more useful for the South Downs Way walker.

If you plan to stay at multiple YHA hostels, it’s well worth considering becoming a member as this will save you some money.


The South Downs Way is also well served for those who wish to camp and there are a several campsites within reasonable distance to the route. The National Trails website includes a search facility for campsites and contact details..

Because much of the South Downs Way goes through cultivated land, it’s not always ideal for wild camping. There is no legal right to wild camp in England unless you get permission from the landowner first.

Getting to/from the South Downs Way

Paraglider in the South Downs, with Truleigh Hill in the background

Running as it does across the South of England, the South Downs Way is extremely well served by public transport. There are a plethora of railway stations en-route, including at each end.

There are stations at Winchester, Petersfield (a few miles off route from Buriton), Amberley, Lewes (a short distance from Housedean Farm), Southease and Eastbourne. With the exception of Southease, each station has regular and frequent direct rail links to either London Waterloo or London Victoria.

More information on train services can be found on the National Rail Enquiries website.

Many of the villages on the South Downs Way are served by local bus services, and there is full South Downs Public Transport Guide available on the National Trail website.

Guide Books and Maps

Cup of tea, some train tickets and a South Downs Way guide book

The South Downs Way is extremely well way marked and amazingly easy to follow. With the exception of Winchester where the way marking is terrible, you could almost do the whole thing without looking at a map. But not quite. Thankfully there are a number of guide books.

South Downs Way National Trail Guideby Paul Millmore

Without doubt, the best guide book is the official South Downs Way National Trails Guide by Paul Millmore. This official guide to the trail is published, along with guides for all the other National Trails and some other long distance walks, by Aurum Press.

It includes Ordnance Survey Maps (1:25,000 Explorer scale) for the whole route and is well written and includes lots of historical and landmark information. It has just one flaw and that’s that it assumes you start at Eastbourne and end at Winchester, which always seems a crazy way to do the walk to me! The latest edition was published in 2016.

Trailblazer South Downs Wayby Jim Manthorpe and Henry Steadman

Trailblazer’s South Downs Way guide was updated in 2018 and contains detailed information of where to stay, eat and drink, so is ideal for anyone planning a walk. There’s also extensive information on public transport along the route, complete with bus numbers and operators. There are detailed hand-drawn maps, although I’d recommend that a proper map is used in conjunction with the book, and ultimately its planning rather than navigation in which the Trailblazer series truly excels.

South Downs Way Adventure Atlasby A-Z

For maps, there are a couple of options options. First is the A-Z Adventure Atlas South Downs Way map book.

The excellent A-Z Adventure Series includes Ordnance Survey mapping for the whole route (at the 1:25,000 Explorer scale), as well as an index to help you find places. The book is a similar size to a map and will fit neatly in a map case, and is a lot easier to fold in wind!

Walking the South Downs Way Map Bookletby Cicerone

Like the A-Z map, Cicerone’s South Downs Way Map Booklet contains 1:25,000 Explorer scale Ordnance Survey mapping for the whole trail.

South Downs Way XT40by A-Z

If you would prefer a traditional map format, Harvey’s South Downs Way XT40 Map covers the whole route. This uses Harvey’s own mapping at the 1:40,000 scale.

Alternatively if you’d like to take Ordnance Survey maps , the map numbers are shown below. Note that in 2015 the Ordnance Survey re-numbered the Explorer maps in the South Downs area. The new numbers all start with OL and are part of the Outdoor Leisure series. The new numbers are given, with the numbers used prior to 2015 shown in brackets.

  • Landranger (1:50,000): 185, 197, 198, 199
  • Explorer (1:25,000): OL3 (was 119), OL8 (was 120), OL10 (was 121), OL11 (was 122), OL25 (was 123), OL32 (was 132), OL33 (was 133)

And finally, and any questions

A tall person stands next to a small sign at Southease

Unusually the South Downs Way features several water taps en-route which provide drinking water. Locations of taps and other places where drinking water is available, are listed in the Drinking Water on the South Downs Way leaflet, on the National Trail website.

If you want to know more about what you may expect to find on your South Downs Way walk, you can read about my own travels elsewhere on this website.

And that’s about it. If you live in the South of England and haven’t been to the South Downs, you don’t know what you’re missing. And if you don’t live in the South and haven’t heard of the South Downs, well you don’t know what you’re missing either.

It may not have the mythology of the Pennine Way; it may not have the fame of the Coast to Coast. In fact it’s all a bit of a hidden gem. The fact is that the South Downs is a wonderful part of the country. Standing on that ridge looking out at the Isle of Wight and the Channel, well it made me feel good to be alive. So go on, get out there. Put your hiking boots on, book your accommodation and get walking!

If you’ve any questions feel free to ask them in the comments box below.



19 August 2010 at 4:15 pm

Have totally loved reading about your trip – I am starting the walk 6th Sept!

Am interested to know where you plan to walk next? You plan to do 4 long distance walks – is a that correct. Which other walks interest you?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

19 August 2010 at 4:27 pm

Funny you should ask! I recently finished doing Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk and I’ve written about it – the first batch of posts will be published over the next two weeks.

Soon I’ll be doing the Dales Way as well and at the end of it, finally finishing off the Pennine Way after we were snowed in near the end earlier in the year.

What happens next is a good question, however if I can get the time I’m quite tempted to try the Southern Upland Way in Scotland. Maybe camping it too! We’ll see. Much depends if I get redeployment at work when my job moves to Salford, or whether I get made redundant!


19 August 2010 at 5:06 pm

Yeh – first time I have written on a blog – or what ever you call these conversations and I get a reply! Heh so this is modern technology!

Came by your writing by chance, loved it, makes me want to go home, get my get my rucksack on and start walking………might get a few odd looks in the supermarket though….

Will look forward to reading the Wainwrights Coast to Coast posts – assuming I can find this site again!! Hopefully doing the walk next year, Did the Ridgeway last year – easy walk but still had the wow factor! But then don’t they all!!!

Good luck with the job!


12 January 2012 at 7:23 pm

Firstly, thank you so much for this info – for us novices it’s great to get the ‘real’ story! We are a middle aged couple of friends who want to walk the SDW in March or April and have absolutely NO IDEA on how to go about it – is there anybody in the same situation as us and we could all link up?

Clare and Simon

29 January 2012 at 8:26 pm

We are complete novices too and are planning walking SDW in March/April 2012. Check out our blog spot at We are walking in aid of The Anaphylaxis Campaign – more detail on blog. Have a look and get in touch if you want to hook up.


31 March 2012 at 5:55 pm

Good Work! If you can think of other must stay B&Bs, please email me. We want to walk it in 6 days, as we like 30+ kms/day, but we also want to book ourselves and find the best food/bed combination — have gone with Contours in the past but they have been up and down in terms of quality.



3 April 2012 at 2:10 pm

I really enjoyed reading the story of your trip, and some excellent advice too! Having the good fortune of living in Eastbourne, I have to agree that the downs are a real treasure.

Can’t help mentioning that I was just thinking how good you must be at navigating, until I read this on your planning a trip page: ‘Standing on that ridge looking out at the Isle of Man…’ Either you’ve got some truly excellent binoculars or your were spectacularly lost :-)

Anyway, continue to enjoy the walking!

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

3 April 2012 at 2:24 pm

Whoops! All these years and no one has spotted that. My geography clearly was not in a good state when I wrote this page!

You’ll be glad to know that I’ve now amended it. It is, of course, the Isle of Jersey we’re talking about…

Oh hang on…


6 April 2012 at 3:29 pm

Hello! I just wanted to write in and say thank you. I was at a loose end, with Easter looming, until I read this! Now I’m booked into a couple of B&B’s, starting tomorrow, doing Lewes – Eastbourne. Never attempted something like this, but your blog was so inspiring, I couldn’t resist giving it a go. Cheers!

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

8 April 2012 at 8:03 am

I hope you enjoyed it! Lewes to Eastbourne is, without doubt, my favourite section of the South Downs Way. Some fantastic ridge walking following by a triumphant traverse over the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. Fantastic!

Makes me feel very dull for having spent Easter weekend decorating my living room. Still, the new bookshelves look great in the alcove…


7 May 2012 at 2:27 pm

Just at the very early planning stages of hopefully completing the whole of the South Downs Way next year to raise money for two charities. Finding your site very helpful, what would you say is the minimum amount of days it could be done in? I’ve previously done 18 mile days of South West Coast Path with some huge ups and downs (Golden Cap for instance), so happy to do lots in one day!

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

7 May 2012 at 10:57 pm

Hi Rosanne. The walking on the South Downs Way is pretty easy – far easier than much of the South West Coast Path is (well from what little I’ve done of it anyway.) I’m not the fastest walker in the world, nor was I trying to go quickly, but I was doing 2.5-3 miles an hour for most of it. 18 mile days on that one are more than do-able.

If you can find accommodation, then doing it in five days is certainly possible. Six is certainly achievable.


13 May 2012 at 10:37 pm

Thank you. We were hoping to manage it in 4 days! Campsites not that evenly spaced it seems and current planning leaves us with 28 miles to do on day 4, not ideal!

Zygot Hurcules Stephenson

14 October 2012 at 10:08 pm

Hi mr Andrew, I’m planning to walk the SDW there and back again in one sitting with a couple of days off at Eastbourne but there is no way I can afford b&b every night, it’s too expensive and not hardcore enough for me so I’d like to know if I’d get much hassle from other people if I’m seen wild camping close to the path? Will local dog walkers shake their stick at me, frowning and tutting? I’m sure most farmers won’t be pleased if seen on their land but how stealthy do I need to be on non farmland close to the path? Any ideas? It’s little details like this that will help me choose the right shelter. Thanks.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

15 October 2012 at 9:15 am

Difficult question.

The National Trail website does have a downloadable leaflet on camping which mentions that wild camping can be problematic, and my hunch is that it’s a reasonably fair assessment.

Part of the problem is that there’s a lot of farmland in the area and whilst the route does go through some woodland, it can often be sparse. There is some woodland which is reasonably secluded, however it can be quite spread out at times. I was never there early or late enough to see any campers with a tent up so it’s hard to know what the local dog walkers would think – I only ever saw campers who were walking.

The leaflet they’ve put together is at and handily also offers a list of all campsites near the route which may also be helpful.

Andrew Miller

20 May 2013 at 4:12 pm

Hi. I am thinking of walking the SDW non stop for a Cancer Charity as my sister has just been diagnosed with the illness and the prognosis is not good. However is it possible, which is the best way to walk lt, has it been done before and what training do I need to get fit enough?
Many Thanks

Excellent Blog.

Andrew Miler

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

21 May 2013 at 1:57 pm

If you’re going to do any walk non-stop, the South Downs Way is a good one to do. It’s easy to navigate and doesn’t have that many climbs. I know runners have done the route non-stop – one guy did it in about 32 hours. But walking will obviously take you longer. You could be looking at three days.

I’ve never done anything like that myself so I’m not sure I can provide the best advice, but on fitness the South Downs Way is not a hugely taxing trail – it’s got a few up and downs but a lot of flat. So on fitness I’d concentrate on building up your ability to walk long distances rather than hill climbing – 15, 20, 25 miles, that kind of thing.

I reckon you’d be best doing it Eastbourne to Winchester. This means you get the Seven Sisters and the cliffs at Beachy Head done at the start as they can be quite hard work so best start them at the beginning. It’s not that there aren’t some hills at the western sections, just that they’re more spaced out so you have time to recover. In contrast the Seven Sisters section gives you a lot of up and down very rapidly.

Hope that helps

Andrew Miller

22 May 2013 at 1:19 pm


Many thanks for the information, I will let you know the result when I’ve walked it, hopefully!

Andrew Miller

chris hathaway

1 July 2013 at 9:24 pm

As a middle aged smoker I have recently begun challenging myself ( and raising some charity cash) a local hospice hosts a 13 mile walk in sussex which I have completed a couple of times, last month I climbed Snowdon in aid of a Prostate cancer charity, and next year Ben Nevis has been suggested, but I live in crawley West Sussex and have frequently been tempted by SDW, so this year I will do it, I plan on booking 10 days off work pack my rucksack and kiss my Misses goodbye, you are right, the South Downs are stupendously beautiful and I now have the bit between my teeth, planning to walk in Sept/Oct, so if anybody got tips or advise ref camping or anything elso I will gladly take it and use it.
Thanks for the inspiration


2 January 2014 at 3:30 pm

Hi, we have only 2 days to enjoy the SDW and are looking at the 2 most varied stretches in terms of landscape, nature, variation between open valleys and forest trails.

We are experienced walkers, and looking at roughly 12 miles per day and to sleep in a local BB without the need to transfer to another town to find a BB.

Could you help in advising the 2 best days perhaps?

Thanks so much for your help and congratulations with your clear website!


Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

2 January 2014 at 4:03 pm

Hi Frank – that’s a very difficult question. I’d have to say Housedean Farm (near Lewes) to Eastbourne.

The first day to Alriston is classic South Downs Way – grassy downsland, great views and the odd village church. If you walk from Lewes rather than get the bus, you’ll also enjoy windmills and some great views.

Then the second day offers even more. At the start of the day you can take an optional short detour to see the The Long Man of Wilmington which is near Alfriston. On the main route, there’s river walking, a giant chalk horse, woodlands and then you get to Cuckmere Haven where the river meets the sea. From there-on, it’s stunning coastal walking all the way to Eastbourne. And at the end you can have chips at the pier!

If you haven’t seen them already, you can see my photos of the whole thing to give you an idea.


3 January 2014 at 9:25 am


that looks great, I´ll let you know what we´ll do, but your suggested route looks, on the map + photo´s at least, very interesting.

Thanks for your quick reply,



16 March 2014 at 12:59 pm

This is a great little site – thanks. Just to echo your previous post I was inspired to try the one day stretch from Alfriston to Eastbourne last week after reading this, and to see if physically I was up to doing more walking in general. It was a great day out, and even though those Seven Sisters were a real challenge they weren’t too much. I would encourage anyone who is based in London and wants a fantastic day out or mini adventure to give it a go – or any part of the SDW for that matter. It’s really easy to get the train there and back and you won’t regret it. I’m going to do the rest of the SDW now. Thanks again


10 April 2014 at 7:49 pm


I did the South Downs way a couple of years ago from Brighton to Eastbourne. I challenged myself (including a mate joining me on one leg) to walk it over four days. First day was tricky including blisters and big heat wave. The two middle days were shorter (one being a complete washout) and then the last day was about 32 miles! It was a great experience and fully recommended. I think the highlight was around Harting to Amberly leg. QE country park and all that area is enjoyable. The seven sisters was tough but probably as it was near the end of the walk and my legs were running on empty! I’m planning the do the walk the other way this summer, and also camp instead of stay in BnBs like last time. Enjoy!

Fredrik Undén

1 May 2014 at 9:50 am

I liked reading your description about this trail. Now I am feeling tempted to try this in the beginning of july. I live in Stockholm area, Sweden so it needs a bit of planning to get there. I think I have just 7 days for the whole trip; from my home and back. Do you have any suggestions about my travelplans, any particular part that you would recommend and so on.
It looks wery nice and I hope to be able to go for a walk.


1 May 2014 at 12:54 pm

hi Andrew,

my friends walked the 2 days as you suggested and they loved it ! Thanks again for your perfect advice!

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

2 May 2014 at 12:48 pm

Hi Fredrik – I’m assuming you’d be looking at five days walking. If so, I’d suggest picking up the trail at Buriton and walking to Eastbourne. You’d need to compress the itinerary a little but you’d be looking at around 15 miles a day. There should be enough villages and accommodation near the route that it should be okay. Alternatively, you could get the bus to Cocking and walk shorter distances.

Either way, this gives you the best of the South Downs Way for my money. The section from Winchester is nice and well worth doing, however the eastern side is better!

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

2 May 2014 at 12:48 pm

Frank – glad you enjoyed it!

Fredrik Undén

2 May 2014 at 3:20 pm

Thank you Andrew. That information helps a good deal. Nice of you to respond so fast.
Either that five-day walk in july or the whole trail in august; thats my altenatives. I guess it’s rather easy access from London by train,.
Thnks again for helping out!

Laurie Ross

8 June 2014 at 2:15 pm

Hi Andrew – thanks for all this information. I just downloaded your Coast to Coast trail book so will enjoy reading that. I have been to the UK numerous times and next year I plan to come over for a few months in the Spring/Summer. On my list of “to do’s: : the South Downs Way, the Thames Path and the Cotswold Way (my family roots are in the Cotswolds) I do love Sussex and walked the Seven Sisters last year with a friend – my second time. So guess I’ve done the worst so can deal with anything the South Downs Way throws at me!!! Last year when I was over I walked the Great Glen Way with a small group. These paths will be the first I’ve walked on my own and I tend to get lost in a paper bag so that’s my only fear! Anyway no questions really – just wanted to thank you for sharing all this information with us.


30 June 2014 at 8:13 am

Hi there, I’m planning on doing Cocking to Graffham and then Graffham to Sutton with my 9 year old over 2 days – I don’t know if you have experience of walking with children, but do you think this is feasible? I think it is about 6 miles and then 8 miles which sounds do-able to me (I know I can do it, but we are townies so my son isn’t so used to long walks!). Any advice greatly appreciated.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

30 June 2014 at 8:23 am

Hi Sophie – my only experience of walking with a child is walking with my toddler. So not the most helpful of experiences. I can tell you though that my partner walked the whole of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path – 186 miles long – with her mum, aged nine. So based on that I’d never underestimate a nine year old!

But distance wise, I think that’s doable. Just take your time, factor in various rest breaks if you need them and have a good time!


21 April 2015 at 2:40 pm

Great article – very inspiring. Thank you. My good friend and I are planning to walk & talk the SDW across four days on two separate weekends. Some people mention they have done this but don’t say how they felt afterwards. Most people recommend six to eight days, but 25m/day should really be doable. Do you (or any of your readers) have any thoughts. Are we being over-ambitious doing the SDW in four days (Winchester to Eastbourne because of course, it’s downhil!!)


22 April 2015 at 6:18 am

Hi. Maybe a to simple question but, what is preferable to wear when walking South Downs Way; hikingboots or shoes
I intend to walk the whole way this june.
And do you have any suggestions of guide book/map.


22 April 2015 at 8:49 am

ive walked it in 4 days from Winchester to Eastbourne but I was staying in bnbs. The problem was splitting the days equally and ended up doing 28 miles, 19 m, 19m then final day something like 35 m so really was suffering at the end.

I have also gone from Lewes to QE country park over 3 days but camping the two nights. That was probably more difficult because of carrying all the kit.

Good luck!


22 April 2015 at 10:06 am

The national trail guide South Downs way by Paul millmore was very good and contains OS maps etc and good descriptions.

In summer I’d recommended either very lightweight boots or walking trainers.

Raymond Fraser

6 June 2015 at 6:46 pm

I’d appreciate your feedback on the following plan:

Winchester to East Meon (15.5 miles)
East Meon to Cocking (19 miles)
Cocking to Steyning (24 miles)
Steyning to Kingston (17.5 miles)
Kingston to Eastbourne (19 miles)

My email has an underscore between raymond and fraser however, this isn’t being permitted.


9 June 2015 at 5:54 pm

Hi Raymond – I’ve done my first three days and that was: Winchester to East Meon; East Meon to Cocking and Cocking to Washington. I stopped at B&Bs along the way. It’s certainly very doable (I did it) – but it will feel like you have worked. You won’t be leaving yourself long to dwell on the really lovely things you will see, smell and hear along the route either. Cyclists flit by and I feel sorry for them – it’s not about “getting there” on the South Downs Way – it’s about the journey!

The third day is walking on quite rocky paths – it feels a bit like you’re walking on cobbles for many miles. So take stout, well worn in boots. Don’t believe people who say light footwear is OK. Once you’re at Steyning the last two days should be a doddle but your third day will be hard graft.

One thing I have learned – be very picky about the B&B location (if you’re using them). I didn’t chose carefully and added probably 5 miles (2.5 each way) on average to my days. Not smart when those extra miles just feel like wasted steps!

Will be finishing the SDW at end of June (couldn’t get a whole week off to do it in one go). Can’t wait.

Not sure if these links to Flickr are allowed – you might want to see a few pictures from my first three days to whet your appetite:

Day 1 –
Day 2 –
Day 3 –


24 August 2015 at 8:52 pm

Hi Andy,

I have really enjoyed reading your South Downs Way guide and photos. My friend and I walked Winchester to Amberley over four days, well three and a half, in June. It was gorgeous. We are going to finish the walk at the beginning of October, Amberley to Eastbourne. Can you recommend accommodation on the way, close to the route? We are comfortable walking 12 to14 miles a day. but are happy to do less if it’s all uphill!



2 August 2016 at 8:57 am

Hi. Love the website!

I’m going to be in Alfriston in early October for a few days. I was interested in walking down to Seven Sisters and seeing the Long Man of Wilmington. Do you know if it’s possible walk a circular route from Alfriston to the Long Man and then to Seven Sisters and back again within the same day?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

2 August 2016 at 9:31 am

Hello Greg – it’s possible to create a walk although it might be a long day. Between Alfriston and Eastbourne the South Downs Way splits into two. One route is the footpath going along Seven Sisters and Cuckmere Haven. The other route is the Bridleway that goes via the Long Man. You can follow the Bridleway up to the Long Man, then go through Frinton Forest heading towards Birling Gap, then return to Alfriston on the South Downs Way via Seven Sisters.

No idea on the miles but it would probably be doable in a day.


2 August 2016 at 11:00 am

Thanks for the quick reply Andrew. If we’re up early enough and the weather is good, I might give it a go!.


6 August 2016 at 10:08 pm

Hello Andrew,

I’m trying to decide between walking the NDW or the SDW. My sister and I will be visiting from the US and after hiking in the Cotswolds for a week we will head to the Southeast for a final week. We love gardens, majestic trees and ancient forests, farms, historic sites, stately mansions, castles and British culture in general. My original idea was to weave together a route with stops at places like Igtham Mote, Knole House, Hever and Leed’s Castle, Chartwell, Penshurst, and Sissinghurst but ended up feeling overwhelmed by the logistics. Next I decided upon the NDW but after reading your wonderful website I’m worried that maybe that will be too urban and too close to highways. We would like to cover about 10 to 15 miles a day with 20 being the maximum. Any advise you could spare would be so appreciated!! Thanks so much! Susan from Seattle


13 August 2016 at 11:14 am

Thank you for this wondeful article! I am about to embark on my first long-distance solo walk and thought this would be a great walk to start with. This article has got me feeling very excited to get started. Thank you so much!


11 September 2016 at 9:41 am

Hi Andrew,
Myself and my walking buddy are considering SDW for 3 to 5 days walking later this month (sept). We usually do coastal routes (Pembrokeshire, SW coast) but fancy a change.
Any advice/opinion on the best chunk of the SDW?
( best for us equals great scenery without too many roads, reasonable accommodation, and of course a pint at the end of the day )

Nigel Elliott

29 November 2016 at 6:32 pm

Hi Andrew,
I am planning to walk the SDW next year june 2017. We my best buddy Yogi my rescued Border Terrier. Do you think it is possible with a small dog? I am planning to camp and B&B where possible. Any tips on where to stay my dog would be greatly appreciated.
Many thanks in advance Nige

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

29 November 2016 at 9:29 pm

Hello Nigel – I’d say it’s possible to walk with a small dog if they’re happy walking. Help on dog friendly accommodation however is not something I can give any real advice on I’m afraid.

jackie mcall

9 December 2016 at 1:29 pm

Hi just wanted to thank you for this site. I made great use of your North Downs Way and Ridgeway guides when walking them in the last couple of years and now come to you as first port of call when planning a walk. Aiming to do S Downs Way, September 2017. Thank you for the excellent job you do.


20 April 2017 at 3:41 pm

Really enjoy your website! The information is really helpful. Quick question, as I’m not from the UK and am not really familiar with the climate. Would mid June be a good time for the route? Or would it be too hot by then? I’m a Canadian so our June weather tends to be on the colder side, but I do know you start your spring much earlier than we do!

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

20 April 2017 at 8:52 pm

Hello Thalia – June should be a good time. The hottest months are usually July and August. June is a bit cooler. Usually.


7 October 2017 at 10:15 pm

Would early November 2017 be too harsh for the trip?

That’s the earliest I can get the time off.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

9 October 2017 at 8:09 pm

Duncan – you should be fine to walk it in November. It may not be the best weather, but you should get some lovely autumnal walking. I’ve walked many a time in the south east at that time of the year.

Aurora Nordic

4 November 2017 at 2:14 pm

Is it easy to pick up the necessary maps in the uk (London) once I get there? It will be expensive to buy them on Amazon and get them shipped here in time for our departure.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

6 November 2017 at 9:23 am

Hello Aurora – London has many big bookshops with good map sections. Stanfords in Covent Garden is a specialist map and travel book seller, so would be a good bet.


13 March 2018 at 2:11 pm


Thank you all. I happened to be planning my first visit to SDW and visited this link. Great reviews, guides and experiences.
I am looking to spend 1/2 day after reaching followed by 2 full days and then 1/2 day before leaving. I will be travelling from London. I want to station myself at one base as this is my first of its kind. I am ok to take different routes each day and cover some miles and retreat back to my base.
Is it possible to cover some beautiful portions of the park this way?
Where should I station myself? Winchester, Lewes or Eastbourne. Or would you suggest anyplace else.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

13 March 2018 at 4:10 pm

Tanu – if you want to use public transport to get to and from each day of walking, it’s worth having a look at the South Downs Way public transport map to get an idea how to split things up. The answer is, it’s not easy as there aren’t many buses that run parallel – and close – to the route. If you’re happy with taxis, you can base yourself anywhere. I’d suggest Lewes or Eastbourne myself.


26 July 2018 at 3:35 pm

Hi There, thanks for your comprehensive website. I don’t suppose you have any additional intel in relation to the statement ‘Many local pubs and farms also offer camping.’?

I have used all my google powers in an attempt to identify pubs along the way which offer camping but am not getting any results.

Regards, Waz

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

26 July 2018 at 10:18 pm

Hello Waz.

This guide was first published in 2010 and some of the wording on it actually dates back to that point. That’s a long time. It may be that some pubs in 2018 will allow people to camp in their beer gardens and things like that. But the evidence that that is true is not easy to find. As such I’ve changed the wording.

The best place to find information about camping options is the official South Downs Way website’s accommodation guide.

The South Downs Way is very well served by campsites.


8 August 2018 at 7:33 pm

Hello Andrew — thanks for the great site!

I’m considering walking the South Downs Way in January and am wondering if that’s a bad idea. I don’t mind the cold (or the rain), and I spent many days walking the North York Moors in exactly those conditions last year. What I’m wondering, I guess, is how much less appealing the landscape would be that time of year? (And would it be roughly the same in mid-March?) The only other time of the year I can get enough time off is June/July, but I fear that it could be hotter than I’d like in mid-summer.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

13 August 2018 at 11:38 am

Hello Fred. I walked the South Downs Way mostly in February and March and found it to be a lovely place. I also once walked part of it in heavy fog! Personally I reckon it’s a great walk whatever the weather.

Michael Ross

18 August 2018 at 1:19 pm

Me & my friend started this journey last Sunday (12/08/2018), Winchester to Buriton! Next leg tomorrow (Sunday, 19/08/2018) & every weekend!

Buriton – Amberley
Amberley – Ditchling (Bank Holiday Monday 27th August 2018)
Ditchling – Eastbourne (Sunday 2nd September 2018)

Already plannning the North Downs Way!


1 December 2018 at 10:16 am

Hi Michael, I can’t seem to get your map download link to work. Is there another way to get the map?


10 January 2019 at 1:04 pm

Thanks for your post, very useful.
I am just wondering, how much was needed to complete this hike?
I am talking, accommodation, food, coffee stops, etc.
Can you please let me know.
Cheers x

Michael Ross

14 March 2019 at 4:28 pm

Completed the first leg of the North Downs Way last Sat (9/3), 24 miles from Farnham to Westhumble!

Different to the South Downs (Sandy not chalk, easier on the feet!)

Finishing in the dark was interesting!


2 May 2019 at 11:11 am

I am new to this and am hoping to start a short walk from Amberley on Bank Holiday Monday. Just easing myself in at first with an ambition to complete the entire South Downs Way walk in the summer. Does anyone know of any good walking groups to join? Are there any apps that I can download to help with navigation?
Many thanks, Sarah

Martyn Leadley

11 September 2019 at 2:48 pm

Greetings Andrew – appreciate your work in putting together a very useful set of info on the website, which has been of great value in planning our walk. We’re 2 sections in, having started in Winchester a few weeks back, and will be doing section 3 (Buriton to Cocking) tomorrow, 12th Sept. Here’s what we’ve learned that might be useful to others:
1. Scenic downland views there may well be, but so far and 25 miles in (apart from one or two marked viewpoints) these are hidden from your eyes due to hedgerows, tree-lines etc. I note comments that things improve from Cocking onwards – hope they’re right.
2. Public transport options are (again, so far) limited. Example: S1, Winchester to Exton (15 miles) leaves you with a further 2+ mile walk to West Meon to get a bus back to Winchester. For our 3rd leg, a combination of 3 buses would be required at the end, with messy timings. Whilst we’d prefer not to have to take 2 cars, it seems the only practicable option. If bus options improve as we tackle further sections, great, but I don’t hold out too much hope.
3. Our first section, Winchester to Exton, coincided with the ‘Boomtown Music Festival’. Picture a fenced off town, diameter approx 1.5 miles, ringed with solid metal sheets about 12 ft high, with lengthy deviations to go around. Views, none, obviously. If we’d known of the festival, we’d have changed our date for the walk. Others may care to check ahead for future years and factor this in .. well, out really :-)
4. Water and weather: we’ve not managed to find any of the alleged water points so far, so if tackling the walk in summer, I’d recommend at least 1L per person on the lengthier sections.
Hope these points are of use – on with the walk !


15 January 2020 at 9:54 am

Coming in August 2020 from Switzerland to do the south down , Winchester to Eastbourne, still planning the whole thing, feel like a fish out of water, so any help and advice would be great!

Sandy Montanana

3 August 2020 at 7:36 pm

Hi, I would like to do Amberley to Eastbourne in 3 days, camping. I have my first stop in Poynings (Saddlescombe) but need somewhere before Lewes. Any suggestions – probably about 30 kms from Saddlescombe. Then the last push to Eastbourne.
Many thanks!

Ramblers coffee

29 July 2021 at 11:39 am

Hi there,

I have recently opened up a coffee van on the South Downs way. I am situated at Streat Bostal, just a short walk from Ditchling Beacon.

I am unsure if you ever recommend places to stop off for refreshment breaks, but I have such a large number of people doing the trail stop and be so releved to have found us, I thought it was worth sharing with you.

Kind regards,


7 October 2021 at 11:21 pm

Thanks to everyone who has commented on here – I admit to reading them all, as it gave me a wide range of views and was fab for my planning. However, I found that despite not being very fit, the route was manageable in four and a half days –

1. Winchester to the Sustainabilty Centre, East Meon (17 miles)
2. Sustainability Centre to Littleton Farm, Duncton (22 miles)
3. Duncton to Bramber (21 miles)
4. Bramber to Alfriston (29 miles)
5. Alfriston to Eastbourne (12 miles)

I managed to stay in accomodation on the trail everywhere except at Duncton (which has a handy bus to Chichester). Definitely worth staying on trail where you can. I only booked my stays the night before so I could plan for the weather (I stopped at Bramber due to a late afternoon rain storm, rather than it being too late). Prices varied from £70 to £100 a night for accomodation, but worth noting that the more I paid, the worse the accomodation seemed to be. It was very annoying.

I agree with the idea that good footwear is a must, but I did most the trail in hiking sandles without trouble (the wet day saw me pull out my gortex trainers!). The idea of heavy walking boots on those steep hills does not sound fun!

The water points do exist, but most did not look tasty, if you get my drift. I carried two litres a day though and did not need refills.

I would like to flag the amazing Church of the Transfiguration at Pycombe near Brighton. It’s on the trail and open all day with a free toilet and the offer of drinks in exchange for a donation and it has an indoor kitchen tap. A truly wonderful facility.

I’m surprised a discussion of ‘most difficult hill’ has not come up. I’d like to moot Old Winchester Hill as a contender. Possibly because it was near the start, but I found it harder than any other. After four days of SDW, seven sisters did not feel too bad!


29 January 2023 at 6:34 pm

Myself and my friends are looking to walk the south downs way in 4 days total in April this year – camping 2 nights and staying in a b&b on the third, averaging 26 miles per day.

Any advice and recommendation would be fantastic. We tried it last year (2022) but didn’t plan appropriately and unfortunately none of us made it to the finish line – recommended walking boots / rucksacks would be fantastic!

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