Discover the South Downs
Published: Monday 10th Mar 2014
Written by: The Original Cottages Team
A national park that stretches across Hampshire and Sussex, the South Downs is a glorious green escape for lovers of the outdoors. Into Sussex, visitors will encounter rolling hills, dramatic white seaside cliffs, towns and village bursting with character and ancient landmarks. Here’s a few ideas for your visit:
The South Downs Way
The South Downs Way stretches for 100 miles across the South Down and while some use their holiday to walk its entire length, most visit a small section to enjoy as a day out. The chalky path is used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike and is mostly on the high ridge of the downs affording a majestic panorama across the Sussex weald in one direction and down to the sea on the other. If you are walking make use of the regular bus service to get you back to your car.
There are plenty of places to access the South Downs Way – try Devils Dyke just outside Brighton where the land falls away dramatically and take a testing walk down to the village of Fulking to the Shepherd and Dog pub which has a great garden and good food. The path also intersects Chanctonbury Ring near Washington where walkers climb to find great views and an impressive circle of beech trees planted on the site of an Iron Age fort. At Wilmington, a giant ‘Long Man’ figure has been etched into the chalk hillside.
Towns and villages
There are a host of enchanting towns and villages to be discovered within the South Downs. You can easily spend a day in Lewes which has an 11th century castle, the oldest outdoor swimming pool in the country and a network of little alleys and lanes. Likewise, the market town of Arundel boasts a majestic medieval castle and a popular wetland wildlife centre. As for villages, Petworth is notable for its stately home and wonderful park full of deer to wander in while picturesque Alfriston has some interesting shops and pubs and some beautiful walks in its environs.
Out and about
The South Downs are made for people who want to get out and get active. There are plenty of places to hire bikes and if the South Downs Way is too much, a flatter South Downs link following the old train line from Shoreham through to Steyning is worth a try. Adventurous types can take courses in paragliding and hang gliding at the many centres located in the area while packing a kite is recommended for those who want to keep their feet on the ground but still take advantage of the thermals. Music lovers might want to check whether any events are planned at the world famous Glyndebourne opera house during their stay. Horse-racing fans should head for Goodwood - one of the most beautiful settings for a racecourse anywhere in England.
Meet the Seven Sisters
Perhaps the most spectacular part of the South Downs is the Seven Sisters Country Park. The Seven Sisters refer to the striking chalky cliffs that you encounter on the 10 miles from Cuckmere Haven to Eastbourne. The walk takes you up onto the vertigo-inducing tops of cliffs and then at several points – such as Birling Gap - down to the rocky undercliff beaches. The last cliff before Eastbourne is the notorious Beachy Head where walkers can reward themselves with a drink at one of several pubs dotted along the way.