South Downs National Park

Why Visit the South Downs National Park?

The South Downs is the newest of the UK’s 15 national parks. Made up of chalky headland, rolling green hills, ancient forestry and charming villages, it’s a gem of a park.

With plenty to offer from walking to cycling, stargazing and cultural events, it’s the ideal place for a holiday, long or short. Despite being a new national park, its chalky lowlands, ancient forest and rolling green hills have been celebrated and admired by residents and visitors for thousands of years.


South Downs: Fast Facts

  • The South Downs comprise 1600km2 of space. That’s about the same size as Greater London
  • The South Downs has more walking trails than any other National Park in the UK
  • The South Downs Way is the only National Trail which is located wholly in a National Park
  • It is the newest addition to the list of the UK’s 15 National Parks, having gained status in 2009
  • The South Downs are mostly made up of chalky hills, the chalk of which was deposited in the Cretaceous Period
  • This part of the UK enjoys some of the driest weather in the country, making it an ideal holiday spot for any time of year. Located along the centre of the south coast, the park incorporates much of Sussex and Hampshire


South Downs National Park green hills
South Downs National Park

Popular South Downs Activities

This huge, wide-open space offers plenty of excellent outdoor activities. Being partly located along a coastline, the park incorporates the seaside resorts of Eastbourne and Brighton & Hove. Beach activities include swimming, thanks to the warm temperatures of the water in summer months, as well as surfing.

Walking is a popular pastime in the South Downs and a range of walking tours can be found here. Thanks to the open landscape of much of the Downs, it’s a pleasant place to walk with breath-taking views that span for miles around.

Girl hiking in National Park England

There are 3300km of walking routes in total. The 100 miles South Down Way is a popular place to start. Geocaching is a family favourite as you can hunt for plenty of well hidden (and not so well hidden) caches in every corner of the park.

Nordic walking has also seen a huge rise in popularity, and those new to it or simply looking for people to walk with, they can join a guided walking group or social walking group and often rent the necessary poles from the organiser.

Cycling of course is also hugely popular, thanks to the lack of the steep peaks and waterways found in the UK’s other parks. In fact it’s the only National Park which can be fully explored on bike. There are numerous dedicated bike trails plus the chance to hire bikes at a number of locations, which are listed here.

Horse-riding is very popular in the South Downs which boasts 1200km of dedicated bridleways. There are number of stables and riding schools dotted around the park for beginners or those without their own horse. Always remember that the South Downs are 85% farmland and caution should always be taken when riding a horse near grazing pastures.

Best pubs in the South Downs

Seven Sisters Chalk Cliffs near Eastbourne
Seven Sisters Chalk Cliffs

No trip to the South Downs is complete without visiting one of the many fine pubs in the area.

When it comes to drinking the English Tiger Inn on the Seven Sisters Chalk Hills offers views like none other, whilst the Cricketers in Duncton has real cricketing history and is ideal for fans of Wisden who bought the pub back in the 19th century.


For a number of reasons the South Downs is an excellent place for stargazing. A lack of big cities, and plenty of wide-open spaces have helped make the park a new addition onto the world’s list of International Dark Sky Reserves.

There are plenty of organised star gazing events, although anyone with a book of constellations or a smartphone app can have a go. A compass, a torch, a blanket and some food and water are always worth taking along too.

Cultural Events

outdoor summer music concert

The South Downs play host to many excellent cultural events, namely the Glyndebourne Opera Festival in August, one of the most well-known and biggest in the UK. The Brighton Festival in May is a huge celebration of contemporary performance art including circus, dance and drama as well as plenty of family friendly and literary events. This catch-all festival is known for its dedication to emerging and ground-breaking talent.

For those of a more classical persuasion, the Winchester Festival, which runs during the second week of July, celebrates established names in classical music, history and literature.