About the South Downs Way

country
England
length
160 km(99 mi)
Type of trail
Long-distance
difficulty

Difficulty is highly personal. Be aware of the weather conditions as bad weather turns easier trails in difficult trails especially in the mountains.

Moderate
accommodation

Lodging means a mix of hotels, hostels or AirBnB’s.

Camping, Lodging
Elevation gain
2760 m(9055 ft)
terrain
Countryside, Coastal, Forest, Hills
remoteness
Some of the time
Show more

The South Downs Way is a trail that makes its way through the landscapes of Southern England. Stretching across 100 miles of countryside, this iconic long-distance trail is a quintessential English hiking experience, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts from around the world who want to taste a bit of the English countryside.

Profile picture Tiina Gollum

Tiina Golub

Tiina has been running, hiking, and describing trails for over a decade. She grew up in the Baltics, which instilled her with love for forest trails, wild swimming, and foraging. Outside of her day job as a product designer, she regularly competes in endurance running races and enjoys exploring the UK and European trails on foot. You can follow Tiina on Instagram @tiinagolub.

View profile

The Trail

One of the great things about the South Downs Way is how easy it is to get to. The path is clearly marked, making it simple to follow and stress-free. Whether you’re a hardcore hiker or just looking for a weekend getaway, this trail can be good for everyone.

Starting in Winchester, the South Downs Way winds through the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park, ending at the white cliffs of Eastbourne.

The landscape is a mix of rolling hills, open meadows, and old woodlands. The trail takes you through cute villages and town markets, which are great chances to learn about the local culture. Every season offers something different, from the wildflowers of spring to the golden colors of autumn, making each hike special. You can return again and again and always see something new!

The trail runs through areas packed with historical spots like Iron Age hillforts, Roman roads, and medieval churches, each with its own story. It begins at Winchester Cathedral, a stunning piece of medieval architecture that sets the tone for the journey.

Even though itโ€™s easy to get there from London via public transport, the South Downs Way still feels peaceful and remote. The countryside is a (almost always) welcomed escape from the hustle and bustle, giving you a chance to reconnect with nature and enjoy being on your feet and out of your head.

Stages

The South Downs Way is usually divided into 9 stages, with the option to camp or stay in lodging along the way. The stages are quite varied, as they can be anywhere from 11 kilometers to 34 kilometers, so plan ahead wisely!

Stages of the South Downs Way

Stage 1:

Winchester City โ€“ Old Winchester Hill, 25.9 km | 15.5 mi

Stage 2:

Old Winchester Hill โ€“ Buriton, 19.3 km | 12 mi

Stage 3:

Buriton โ€“ Cocking Hill, 16.1 km | 10 mi

Stage 4:

Cocking Hill โ€“ Amberley, 19.3 km | 12 mi

Stage 5:

Amberley โ€“ River Adur, 20.9 km, 13 mi

Stage 6:

River Adur โ€“ River Ouse, 33.8 km | 21 mi

Stage 7:

River Ouse โ€“ River Cuckmere & Alfriston, 11.3 km | 7 mi

Stage 8:

Alfriston โ€“ Eastbourne via Seven Sisters, 16.9 km | 10.5 mi

Stage 9:

(Alternative route) Alfriston โ€“ Eastbourne via Jevington, 13.7 km | 8.5 mi

Accommodations

The South Downs Way offers hikers a range of accommodation options catering to different tastes and budgets. Along the trail, you’ll find a mix of charming B&Bs, traditional inns, campsites, and hotels. The B&Bs along the South Downs Way are often run by locals. They offer comfortable rooms and a hearty breakfast, which is always welcomed after a long day on trail.

If you’re looking for a more traditional English experience, the inns and pubs scattered along the trail may be your best bet. They have comfortable rooms and are also more likely to offer local cuisine and the history of the town.

There are also some campsites along the way if you choose to spend your time as immersed in the outdoors as possible!

You can find a list of recommended places to stay along the South Downs Way on the National Trails website.

Best time of the year

You can hike the South Downs Way all year round. You’ll need to prepare differently depending on the season, as the path can get quite slick and muddy in the autumn, but you’ll always have the chance to see something new whenever you go.

 

Safety & Gear

The South Downs Way is one of the most popular and accessible trails in England, but even so, you need to prepare a few things!

Familiarize yourself with the South Downs Way route, and plan your itinerary and accommodation in advance.

Check the weather forecast before setting out, as conditions along the trail can change rapidly, and be prepared for rain, wind, or sun. Dress in layers and carry waterproofs, as the English weather can be unpredictable. Ensure your hiking boots are comfortable and suitable for varied terrain, especially if hiking in late autumn to early spring, when the trails often get muddy.

Pack a map, compass, or GPS device to navigate the trail confidently. Bring a fully charged mobile phone for emergencies to stay connected, and save emergency contact numbers for the area.

Always stay on marked paths to avoid getting lost or damaging fragile ecosystems.

Good to know

There are enough water points in villages and towns along the way, so no need to carry more than the daily supply.

Be warned that due to its accessibility and proximity to London, this is a popular trail that can get busy, especially during peak season. If you’re looking for a quieter trail, you may want to consider the Coleridge Way or the Dales Way.

Route
Point to point
Highest point
Butser Hill, 270m (886 feet)

Guidebooks

South Downs Way guidebook by Cicerone

Guidebook South Downs Way

View guidebook

Want to submit a trail or make this page more complete?

Comments

Be the first one to comment on this trail!

Reply to this trail

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reply to this trail

Log in to comment on this trail
Always read the disclaimer

Terms of Use: important to all visitors on this website. We strive to publish high quality content and information on this website. However itโ€™s always possible that weโ€™re missing out on some crucial information. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps) were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. Therefore, hiking-trails.com and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals hiking or following this route. Should you choose to hike this trail, this is always at your own risk. Check out our guidelines for safety hiking and Leave No Trace principles at the hiking 101 page.

Download GPX

Join the community!

Login or create a FREE account ๐Ÿ˜Š

With an account you can:

Download GPX files

Pin trails to your wishlist

Mark trails as hiked by you

Rate hiking trails

Comment on trails, blogs and gear reviews

Happy trails!
Login

Don't have an account yet? Register here