> Hillwalk Tours Blog > Hiking in England > The South Downs Way – 6 Perfect Reasons To Visit
POSTED BY March 4, 2020

The South Downs Way is located directly south of London and sees walkers journeying a total of 160 kms (100 miles) when undertaking the entire route. Our tours there are sure to appeal to walkers of all backgrounds, interests and experience levels. It truly has something to offer everyone and is accessible to walkers of all abilities and fitness levels.

Not only that, but as it takes in some of the most picturesque countryside and coastline of England. Head on over to our information page for the South Downs Way where you can find a variety of self-guided tour hiking options. Whether you want to go for a few nights or many, at a faster pace or a more relaxed one, there are variants to suit all of your individual needs and desires. Feel free to get in touch!

Continue reading below to find out more about the new South Downs Way hiking trail in England. We’ve highlighted our top 6 reasons why it’s the perfect trail to tick off your list this summer.

It’s the only trail in England situated entirely inside a National Park

Yes, many of our walking trails throughout Europe pass through some of the world’s most beautiful national parks. Some of them are even predominantly inside such enclaves of wilderness and natural beauty. But the South Downs Way in the Southeast of England is contained entirely within the South Downs National Park.

This large tract of land was recently designated as England’s newest national park thanks to its unique downland environment as well as its wildlife, nature and cultural heritage. The park offers spectacular views and meadows brimming with wildflowers throughout the spring and summer months. As it’s contained within the boundaries of the new national park, you’ll be able to truly escape from the hustle and bustle of urban and suburban life back home. Instead you’ll have the best of both worlds. You’ll stay in carefully selected bed and breakfasts in welcoming villages while having nature literally right on your doorstep each morning.

It’s suitable for all experience levels

Unlike other hiking and hillwalking routes, the South Downs Way does not hamper the more relaxed walker among us with soaring peaks, craggy ridge lines and precarious escarpments. Instead, the South Downs Way gradually meanders and undulates across the Southeast of England, starting inland and eventually reaching the sea at its conclusion. The highest point is a mere 250 metres (just over 800 feet), so you’ll never end up absolutely smoked from trudging up and down steep mountainsides. However you still achieve one of the main things hikers and hillwalkers desire – stunning views. Yes, that’s right, despite the elevation achieved throughout, the nature of the downland environment means that you’ll have exceptional views throughout, and especially when you emerge onto England’s coastline at the very end of your walking trip.

The term ‘downland’ describes an area of open chalk hills, most commonly referring to the chalk countryside of southern England. The word ‘down’ actually means hill, deriving from the Old English word ‘dun,’ which is not to be confused with the word for fort from Scottish and Irish Gaelic. The South Downs Way is also very straightforward to follow, meaning you don’t need to be an expert navigator or highly experienced hiker and mountaineer to find your way along to its conclusion. What’s more, there are plenty of rest stops along the way to take it at a pace which is as fast or as relaxed as you desire. All in all, it’s a perfect hillwalking route for first-timers and beginners, but can be undertaken in a more challenging format for those with more practice. And whether you go fast or slow, the views and idyllic nature can be equally appreciated by everyone.

It’s one of our most accessible trails

The trail starts at the city of Winchester, just over an hour from central London. Who knew such a hidden gem was right on the doorstep of all those Londoners out there? As such, even if you’re on a quick Euro trip, a short stopover or business conference in London, there’s always time to spend a few nights along the South Downs Way before popping back into the bustling metropolis. Even when you finish up on the coast, you’re just down the road from Brighton from where it’s only two hours back into Old London Town. It’s proximity to places like Southampton and Brighton also make it the perfect jumping off point for a greater tour of southern England. The perfect hiking route to combine with your trip to England in more ways than one.

It’s Quintessentially English

Throughout your walk along the South Downs Way, the most common theme is surely just how truly ‘English’ it all looks and feels. While the big towns and cities have all changed over the decades and – let’s face it – all become a carbon copy of each other with their bland high streets and boxy housing estates and apartments, there’s something special about the towns and villages along the South Downs Way. You’ll actually walk past – and maybe even stay in – quaint little thatched cottages and cosy houses harking back to years gone by. In villages like Amberley and Alfriston, traditional English pubs will welcome you inside for a lager, the locals will move at a slower pace than in the frenetic cities further north, and time will seemingly stand still in general after you’ve settled in over a few days. What’s more, your walk finishes at the Victorian era seaside town of Eastbourne, overlooking the English Channel.

The History…

Speaking of the Victorian town of Eastbourne, located at your finishing point, it’s the city at your start point that dates back much further. The city of Winchester contains more than 2,000 years of history and tradition thanks to its incredible cathedral and iron age hill forts at Old Winchester Hill and Chanctonbury Ring. Nearby Cheesefoot Head (an unattractive name, I know) is famous as the location at which Eisenhower addressed the Allied troops right before the D-Day landings of World War 2.

South Downs Way

… and those Cliffs too though!

Yes, there’s a lot of history, culture and tradition to experience and explore, but let’s not forget the real highlight of any hike in nature – the views! And it’s definitely the end of your journey that will astound even the most seasoned walker as you emerge and descend onto the stunning English Channel coast. Here you’ll find the majestic white chalk cliffs of the Seven sisters, a real sight to behold as you finish up along the equally spectacular Beachy Head.

So there you have it – 6 perfect reasons why hiking the South Downs Way is the perfect trail for you this summer.