South Downs Way – Itinerary:
England’s South Downs Way Walk is a 164 km route that takes walkers across farmlands, through the woods, over chalk cliffs and along pleasant river valleys. A wonderful walking holiday for those yearning for gentle, yet impressive scenery.
The walk can be done in 9 days, but we recommend to add another day at Alfriston or Winchester. In planning an itinerary, some of the considerations in determining the distance for each day should include the type of terrain, the accommodation, weather, time of year and how fit one is.
The following is an outline of the 9-day walk itinerary that we chose. We decided on this itinerary because of the reasonable distances and the available accommodation.
Begin at: Eastbourne, England.
How to get there: London’s Victoria to Eastbourne – train takes 90 minutes.
Day 1: Eastbourne to Alfriston (17.5 km)
Walk up to Beachy Head cliffs, Then up and down over the “Seven Sisters” chalk cliffs, when the scenery changes at Cuckmere Haven. Here the Cuckmere river meanders down to the sea. Walk up the valley and across hillside footpaths to Littlington with its attractive tea shops before walking to Alfriston.
Day 2: Alfriston to Kingston (19 km)
Up onto the high Downs reaching a high point on this section at Firle Beacon. Across farmland to the River Ouse near Rodmell. A little further on is the Frog firle YH. Rodmell village has a pub and the “Monk’s House, where Virginia Woolf used to live. A little futher to Kingston.
Day 3: Kingston to Clayton (13 km)
The trail climbs above the historic town of Lewes. This section is the highest part of the Downs. We pass over the highest point on the route at Ditchling Beacon 248 m. Eventually, passing lark filled skies, the white “Jack and Jill“ Clayton windmills greet us on our descent down to Clayton.
Day 4: Clayton to Bramber (13.5 km)
The route ascends and descends via the “Devil’s Dyke” – said to be the world’s largest chalk dry valley. We then walk on through the parish of Upper Beeding to drop down to the Ardur River Valley. Another stretch of The Downs with great views down to the villages below and ancient features such as tumuli burial mounds and cross dykes are seen.
Day 5: Bramber to Amberley (21 km)
There’s a steep climb up to the fascinating Chanctonbury Ring – a Bronze Age hill fort settlement. The path then drops steeply and then climbs once again for the leg above the town of Storrington, where beautiful Downland trails or a minor road from Chantry Post, can be used to make a pub diversion to this town. The trail continues over fields and through sections of forest to reach and descend to the attractive village of Amberley.
Day 6: Amberley to Cocking (18.5 km)
You could also climb up to a point from where it is about 1/4 mile off route to the highest point on the South Downs at Crown Tegleaze at 253 m. The path continues across the Downs, soon entering a dark and muddy woodland before descending to Cocking Hill, and then into Cocking village.
Day 7: Cocking to Buriton (17.5 km)
Walking along woodland trails. Features such as the Devil’s Jumps tumuli; a group of large ancient burial hillocks. There is also Beacon Hill, an Iron Age Hill fort that you can pass over on the trail. Next, the village of Harting with its impressive looking coppered church spire and then Buriton, another attractive village, with a series of ponds.
Day 8: Buriton to Exton (21 km)
Through Queen Elizabeth Country Park with a café. Next, up Butser Hill with its Bronze Age field patterns. Over The Downs into vast farmland and wooded countryside, and a steep climb up to “Old Winchester Hill,” a National Nature Reserve and Iron Age Fortress from where the Isle of Wight can be seen on a clear day. To the Meon Valley villages, first of which is Exton.
Day 9: Exton to Winchester (19 km) – your destination!
We walk past the other Meon Valley villages - Corhampton and Meonstoke and over fields until we see Winchester in the distance.
How to get back from Winchester: Take a train from Winchester to London’s Waterloo (1 hr).
Starting from Eastbourne, you get an early chance to walk across the famous chalk cliffs (Seven Sisters). Then up through the rolling downs, past villages and towns. You finish at ancient Winchester, full of sites to visit (including Winchester Cathedral) and an easy place to get back to London from.