Top Tips Visiting South Downs NP
Why travel to South Downs National Park ?
There are a multitude of great reasons why you should travel to the outstanding South Downs National Park in Sussex UK. It is a destination not be missed, with lush rolling hills, fantastic vistas of the southern coastline and over the beautiful surrounding countryside that’s dotted with pretty villages just waiting to be discovered.
This protected area stretches over 70 miles from the iconic Seven Sisters cliffs in East Sussex, past the expansive West Sussex Weald and onto the ancient woodlands and pastures of Eastern Hampshire. The UK boasts 15 splendid National Parks and the South Downs tops the list as the number one most visited, receiving over 39 million visitors each year.
Here are a few of our recommendations for visiting this awesome National Park and top tips for making the most of your time while in the area.
With easy access, an hour by train from London Victoria or a short bus ride from the main towns such as Brighton and Eastbourne, there is nothing to stop you from exploring the delights of the newest British National Park.
Follow the Stunning South Downs Way National Trail
Immerse yourself in the beautiful countryside of the South Downs and walk along the South Downs Way that stretches for over 100 miles, from Eastbourne to Winchester. It is also suitable for horse riders and cyclists, and is clearly waymarked along its entirety.
This historical trail dates back to over 6,000 years to the Mesolithic Age, when travellers would have preferred the higher, safer chalk ridge rather than the surrounding wooded weald area lower down.
The complete route can take about a week to complete, depending on your fitness, or choose a section for an enjoyable days hiking. Follow the path along the meandering River Adur and pass beauty spots like Devil’s Dyke that commands dramatic views across the patchwork of fields and meadows that stretch for miles across the Sussex Weald.
There are plenty of characterful country pubs and Bed and Breakfast establishments peppered along the way for refreshments and a good nights stay. Ditchling Beacon, a prehistoric hill fort, also offers stunning views to the north and south to the sea. From here, it is a short walk to the well known Jack and Jill 19th century windmills, both now fully restored working corn-mills.
See the World Famous Seven Sisters and Glorious East Sussex Coastline
The distinctive white chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters lie at the easternmost end of the National Park and are visible from miles away along the coast. This is a conservation area, known as the Seven Sisters Country Park, and is home to some of the most dramatic coastline in the United Kingdom.
A stroll along the cliff tops of Beachy Head is not for the faint hearted and will certainly blow the cobwebs away. Follow the path up to the Belle Tout lighthouse which stands proud on the 530 feet cliff top and offers unrivalled views of the South Downs and out over the English Channel.
The coastline is backed by open grassland and the winding River Cuckmere where canoeing and bird watching are popular pursuits along this unspoilt valley teeming with wildflowers and wildlife. The Seven Sisters Sheep Centre is great fun for all the family where depending on the time of year, you can watch sheep shearing and help feed the new born lambs.
The South Downs are Steeped in History
There are Iron Age forts, such as Cissbury Ring and Chanctonbury Ring, where Celtic tribes excavated flint mines to stately homes and castles.
Arundel Castle, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Norfolk, is situated high on a hill in West Sussex. It is an impressive medieval castle, restored and remodelled with delightful grounds, gardens and boating lake.
For grandeur visit the vast 17th century mansion Petworth House that is set in a Capability Brown landscaped deer park. A mecca for world class artists such as Turner, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Van Dyck and Blake, their paintings are displayed throughout the House.
Take time to look round historic properties like Rudyard Kipling’s 17th century Bateman’s home in Burwash, or Anne of Cleves 15th century house in Lewes, a pretty timber-framed cottage given to Anne after her divorce from Henry VIII.
Discover Hidden Villages and Bustling Market Towns
One of the delights of the South Downs National Park is discovering some of the many small picturesque villages scattered along the South Downs. 18th century Alfriston is a great example, situated in the east of the Park, it is now a peaceful village with white washed cottages, narrow winding lanes and a quintessential village green.
The ancient village of Ditchling is similarly picturesque, it is a great starting place for walks along the South Downs and is well known for its country pubs and welcoming tea rooms. Amberley, Bramber and Bosham are also pretty, picture-postcard villages full of quaint craft and antique shops.
The South Downs is home to some unique market towns such as Lewes, Midhurst and Peterfield where medieval streets and old English churches abound and where culture and history come alive with year round events and festivals, museums and art galleries to visit. Bursting with things to do, these vibrant towns are full of boutiques, bookshops, restaurants, cafes and pubs offering the best local fare.