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Rich chalk grasslands, ancient woodland and clifftop views

South Downs Way

South Downs Way National Trail - The Trails Shop
South Downs Way National Trail - The Trails Shop
South Downs Way National Trail - The Trails Shop
Beachy Head - South Downs Way National Trail - The Trails Shop
Mountain biking on the South Downs Way National Trail
Old Winchester Hill South Downs Way National Trail
South Downs Way National Trail - The Trail Shop
Beachy Head Lighthouse South Downs-Way The Trails Shop

What is the South Downs Way?

The 100 miles (160 Km) long South Downs Way National Trail follows the old routes and droveways along the chalk escarpment and ridges of the South Downs between the ancient city of Winchester to the seaside resort of Eastbourne. The route provides the visitor with the opportunity "to get away from it all" without having to travel too far in this busy part of England.


The South Downs Way runs entirely within the South Downs National Park. Running along a chalk ridge means that the Trail drains and dries out quickly making it good year round and the elevated position ensures you are rewarded by breathtaking views across the English Channel and Isle of Wight to the south and over the wooded Weald of Sussex and heathland ridges to the north.


Whether you’re walking, on a mountain bike or on horse back the South Downs Way passes through a varied landscape of protected habitats including internationally important chalk rivers, internationally rare species rich chalk grasslands and beautiful ancient woodland.


From Winchester you'll head in to the gently rolling Hampshire countryside. You'll pass through pretty villages such as Chilcomb, Exton and Meonstoke and enjoy several natural reserves including Beacon Hill and Old Winchester Hill.


History lovers will be spoilt for choice - make sure you leave time to explore the Iron Age hill fort at Old Winchester Hill, the Bronze Age burial mounds near Treyford known as the Devil's Jumps, the mosaic floors at Bignor Roman Villa and Amberley Museum.


There are many breathtaking viewpoints along the trail - take in the stunning views from Beacon Hill, Butser Hill (the highest point along the South Downs Way) and of course the amazing view from the cliffs between Cuckmere Haven and Beachy Head.

How long does it take to complete the South Downs Way end to end?

Most people take 8 or 9 days to walk the whole 100 miles (160km) at 12 – 15 miles (25km) a day. It’s worth considering if you are walking that the villages where accommodation is are at the foot of the hill so you’ll have to walk down in the evening and up in the morning. To cycle the South Downs Way takes 2 or 3 days if you are used to off road cycling. It is possible to do it in a day but that’s an extreme challenge! There’s about 12,600ft (3800m) of climb as well as the 100 miles (160km) of distance.  

How hard is the South Downs Way?

Anyone who is reasonably fit can walk the South Downs Way – if you can comfortably walk 12 miles (20km) in a day you shouldn’t have a problem. You’ll enjoy it more if you do a few long day walks beforehand to get fitter.

You should be used to off road cycling before you commit yourself to the South Downs Way – doing it in anything less than 3 days will require quite a high degree of fitness. The South Downs Way is much more of a challenge for horse riders because of the road crossings and logistics of accommodation for horses.  

Which direction should I walk the South Downs Way in?

You can do it in either direction, and of course you don’t have to do the whole Trail in one go anyway. There are guidebooks describing the trail in both directions (the Aurum book is written east to west, the Trailblazer and Rucksack Readers guides are west to east and the Cicerone book includes both directions).

The mountain-biking guide by Cicerone describes the trail in three sections from Winchester to Eastbourne. 

The Trail Officer’s personal recommendation is to start in the west at Winchester and head east, ending at Eastbourne. There are two reasons for this; one is that the wind will be behind you rather than in your face. More importantly whilst the Hampshire countryside is very attractive, the white chalk cliffs at Beachy Head are spectacular!

Who can enjoy the South Downs Way National Trail?


The National Trail has been developed for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. In some places the walkers route takes a slightly different line to the bridleway route. 

The South Downs Way is open to mountain bikers and horse riders for the full 100 miles from Eastbourne to Winchester. Please be aware that there are sections where footpath and bridleway routes are separate, cyclists and horses must stick to the bridleway. This is most notable between Alfriston and Eastbourne at the eastern end of the Trail. The coastal route over the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head is a footpath only and can not be ridden. Cyclists and Horse-riders must use the Bridleway route past the ‘Long Man of Wilmington’ and through Jevington to Eastbourne. Winchester isn’t an ideal starting point for equestrians – if you are planning to ride the whole Trail it is advises to start or finish at Chilcomb village instead. This avoids the city centre and M3 bridge crossing. Chilcomb is a small village and is best suited as a setting down and picking up point only. 

Taking your dog on the South Downs Way

Your dog is welcome on South Downs Way but as in countryside setting, must be under close control. Please remember that the South Downs is a farmed landscape and livestock are common. Cows with calves are very protective and can be aggressive towards dogs. Try to avoid walking close to cows with calves, if you encounter any aggression release your dog, do not try to pick it up.  

What is the best time of year to walk on the South Downs Way?

The South Downs Way can be enjoyed at any time of the year. However it does get busier during school holidays and on weekends between May and September you should expect to come across larger organized events.

Can I buy South Downs Way merchandise?

We sell a range of South Downs Way merchandise including sew on badges, enamel badges, mugs and other merchandise. 

Can I buy a South Downs Way National Trail completion certificate?

Yes, our personalised South Downs Way certificate is a great momento for anyone that has completed the National Trail 

Guidebooks for the South Downs Way

South Downs Way South Downs Way loading
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Walking the South Downs Way Walking the South Downs Way loading
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South Downs Way: Winchester to Eastbourne - Trailblazer South Downs Way: Winchester to Eastbourne - Trailblazer loading
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Mountain Biking on the South Downs Mountain Biking on the South Downs loading
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South Downs Way South Downs Way loading
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Walking the South Downs Way map booklet Walking the South Downs Way map booklet loading
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Maps for the South Downs Way

South Downs Way A-Z Adventure Atlas South Downs Way A-Z Adventure Atlas loading
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South Downs Way Harvey map South Downs Way Harvey map loading
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South Downs Way Zigzag map - Ditchling Beacon to Eastbourne South Downs Way Zigzag map - Ditchling Beacon to Eastbourne loading
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South Downs Way Zigzag map - Winchester to Buriton South Downs Way Zigzag map - Winchester to Buriton loading
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South Downs Way Merchandise

National Trail sew-on woven badge National Trail sew-on woven badge loading
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National Trail Mug National Trail Mug loading
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National Trail Completion Certificate National Trail Completion Certificate loading
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South Down Way enamel badge South Down Way enamel badge loading
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South Downs Way 'contours' T-Shirt South Downs Way 'contours' T-Shirt loading
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Personalised National Trail Sign Personalised National Trail Sign loading
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South Downs Way Pin / Lapel Badge South Downs Way Pin / Lapel Badge loading
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National Trail souvenir signs National Trail souvenir signs loading
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Vintage South Downs Way signed print Vintage South Downs Way signed print loading
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Vintage travel greeting cards Vintage travel greeting cards loading
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South Downs Way map tote bag South Downs Way map tote bag loading
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Mini National Trail Fingerpost Mini National Trail Fingerpost loading
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Trail Tealight Holder Trail Tealight Holder loading
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Vintage travel signed prints Vintage travel signed prints loading
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National Trails boot jack National Trails boot jack loading
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Whan That Aprille Whan That Aprille loading
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South Downs Way Harvey SplashMap South Downs Way Harvey SplashMap loading
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Map of the South Downs Way

What are National Trails?

National Trails offer some of the best long-distance walking, riding and cycling experiences in England and Wales, officially supported by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales. All of the National Trails are within easy reach of buses, trains and the services of nearby towns and villages. In fact nowhere in England or Wales is more than 50 miles / 80km from a National Trail. Each National Trail has dedicated staff, often working with local volunteers, to look after the physical condition of the Trail, keeping paths, gates, stiles and signs in the best condition.

Which trails are National Trails?

The National Trails are: 
  • Cleveland Way
  • Cotswold Way
  • England Coast Path
  • Glyndwr’s Way
  • Hadrian’s Wall Path
  • Norfolk Coast Path and Peddars Way
  • North Downs Way
  • Offa’s Dyke Path
  • Pembrokeshire Coast Path
  • Pennine Bridleway
  • Pennine Way
  • The Ridgeway
  • South Downs Way
  • South West Coast Path
  • Thames Path
  • Yorkshire Wolds Way 

The Coast to Coast is not currently a National Trail but will become one in the next couple of years.

Are there National Trails in Scotland?

In Scotland long-distance routes are called Scotland's Great Trails. There are 29 routes, at least 25 miles in length providing over 1,900 miles of well managed paths from the Borders to the Highlands. Each is distinctively waymarked, largely off road and has a range of visitor services and are are suitable for multi-day outings as well as day trips.


Scotland's Great Trails are:


  • Annandale Way
  • Arran Coastal Way
  • Ayrshire Coastal Path
  • Berwickshire Coastal Path
  • Borders Abbeys Way
  • Cateran Trail
  • Clyde Walkway
  • Cross Borders Drove Road
  • Dava Way
  • Fife Coastal Path
  • Formartine and Buchan Way
  • Forth & Clyde/Union Canal Towpath
  • Great Glen Canoe Trail
  • Great Glen Way
  • Great Trossachs Path
  • John Muir Way
  • Kintyre Way
  • Loch Lomond & Cowal Way
  • Moray Coast Trail
  • Mull of Galloway Trail
  • River Ayr Way
  • Rob Roy Way
  • Romans and Reivers Route
  • Southern Upland Way
  • Speyside Way
  • St Cuthbert’s Way
  • Three Lochs Way
  • West Highland Way
  • West Island Way