Walking the Sussex Heritage Coast

Dramatic white cliffs of the Sussex Heritage Coast

I’ve been living in London for 6 years now but I’ve never really taken the time to explore the surrounding area. So, I decided to make a start and investigate what the great South East has to offer. S. and I made plans to hike along the Sussex Heritage Coast. To be honest, I’d never heard of this little gem until a couple a of weeks ago when I stumbled across it on google maps! We’re following this map which I found on the South Downs website:

beachy-head-to-birling-gap-map

The trains from Victoria to Eastbourne run every 20 minutes or so and take about 1 hour 35 mins to reach Eastbourne. From there we took the No. 12 bus for 10 mins and got off at Eastbourne Downs Golf Club, point 1 on the map.

We got off bus and walked straight into a thick, wet mist - not a promising start! Although, I must admit the mist did give the place a certain windswept, rugged charm.

grassy path near East Dean road and Warren Hill

We struggled to find our bearings at first and got a little lost in the mist. But after 20 mins or so the mist started to clear and we got our first glimpse of the spectacular views.

south-downs-way-near-the-sea

view-of-the-english-channel

sea-views-from-the-sussex-coast

I’d recommend following the sign posts marking out the South Downs Way to avoid getting lost. There are many crisscrossing paths and some paths lead back towards Eastbourne city.

sussex-heritage-coast-south-downs-way

sussex-heritage-coast-south-downs-way

The path was virtually deserted ad we didn’t see a soul until we reached Beachy Head. The Countryside Centre has a nearby pub and a couple of ice-cream vans near the car park if you need to refuel.

beachy-head-countryside-centre

Here, we got a close-up view of the breathtaking, white chalk cliffs. We were so high up it felt like I could reach out and touch the clouds!

white-chalk-cliffs

people-sitting at the-edge-of-the-white-chalk-cliffs

Beachy Head is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising to 162 metres (531 ft) above sea level. Its height has also made it one of the most notorious suicide spots in the world. The suicide rate is surpassed only by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Aokigahara Woods in Japan.

sea-views-from-the-south-downs-way

beachy-head-lighthouse-in-the-sea

We walked along the cliff edge and over the undulating grassy hills towards Belle Tout lighthouse. You can just make it out on the edge of the cliff in the photo below. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos closer to the lighthouse!

belle-tout-lighthouse

Past the lighthouse is the Birling Gap, a nice spot for sea swimming. The beach is overlooked by the vistor center and restaurant. We stopped here for some tea and cake before continuing on to East Dean Village.

birling-gap-beach

The path to East Dean Village took us through Birling Farm: private farmland, with lots of slightly scary sheep.

birling-farm

birling-farm-sheep

birling-farm-sheep

The path from the farm to the village is to the right of the red tin-roofed barn and a little hard to find if you didn’t know it was there. We spent a good 15 minutes wandering among the sheep trying to find it!

DSC01839.jpg birling-farm-path-to-east-dean

We ended our hike at East Dean Village, taking the No. 12 bus back to Eastbourne Station. The enitire walk from point 1 to 10 on the South Downs map took us a little over 5 hours, including time to dip our feet in the sea and have some tea and cake at the restaurant.

DSC01839.jpg east-dean-village

We’re definitely planning to go back to explore the nearby river Cuckmere and Friston Forest!