The South Downs Way
The South Downs Way runs through the heart of the South Downs National Park, stretching some 100 miles from historic Winchester to the coastal resort of Eastbourne. This is some of the finest, most unspoilt countryside that England has to offer, yet itís less than an hour from London.
When the first settlers arrived in this area around 6,000 years ago, they and their descendants understandably preferred the drier, safer hills to the swampy Weald below. This accounts for the long, clearly marked tracks over the South Downs, which were used by generations of settlers, including Bronze Age traders and Romans.
Nowadays, the comparatively flat landscape of the Hampshire & Sussex Weald is somewhat more welcoming than it was and the well maintained and clearly signposted South Downs Way is ideal for walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike. There is good access to all parts of the route and thereís plenty of accommodation and places to stop for lunch. Although there are some steep climbs, itís realistically achievable for anyone with a decent level of fitness.
On days of clear visibility the walk across the chalk downlands of Sussex and Hampshire brings spectacular rewards - you can gaze across the English Channel and inland across the endless patchwork of fields, forests and villages of the Weald. You should also allow time for detours as there is a great deal to see close to the route, including numerous sites of historical interest, not to mention some outstanding pubs.
The trail takes you through a wonderfully varied landscape of woodland, chalk downs, arable farmland, meandering rivers, ancient forts and castles and picture postcard, traditional english villages. You can choose to walk, cycle or ride a small part of the way or if you are up for a challenge you can take on the whole route. Our walking and cycling itineraries will help you plan the perfect trip. They will help you decide how far to walk or cycle each day, where to stay, where to eat and drink, what there is to see and do along the way and much more.
The South Downs Way is Britainís oldest long distance bridleway and you canít help but feel the sense of history around you. Youíll either start or end in the historic city of Winchester, once the Capital of England. Take some time to wonder through the ancient splendour of this beautiful city, particularly the awe inspiring cathedral. The path will also take you past the historic towns of Arundel and Lewes with their imposing castles visible from the way.
You can walk or cycle the South Downs Way in either direction and both have their plus points. On balance, weíd recommend walking east from Winchester to Eastbourne. The prevailing wind is more likely to be at your back and the finale of the spectactular Seven Sisters and Beachy Head is hard to beat!