About the Trail
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. 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 undulating route provides a wonderful trip for long distance riders as well as walkers. It also provides interesting day trips and short breaks.
Exploring the Trail
Anyone who is reasonably fit can walk the South Downs Way – if you can comfortably walk say 12 miles (20km) in a day you shouldn’t have a problem.
The National Trail is very well way-marked so following the route is easy. But it is always a good idea to take a guidebook or map.
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 organised events.
What is special about the Trail?
The South Downs Way is tranquil island in the busy South East running entirely within the new South Downs National Park. You can feel a million miles from the hustle and bustle of modern life, but only be a few minutes from civilisation.
Running along a chalk ridge means that the Trail drains and dries out quickly making it good year round. 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 and heathland ridges to the north.
Whether you’re walking, on a mountain bike or on horseback 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. The Trail passes through or passes by 5 National Nature Reserves and dozens of Sites of Special Scientific Interest where you can enjoy stunning wildlife at close hand.
Overseas visitors can arrive by ferry to Newhaven or Portsmouth.
Gatwick Airport is within easy reach of the Trail with a direct train taking only one hour between Gatwick Airport Station and Eastbourne.
A direct train links Winchester and Southampton Airport Station taking only 24 minutes.
For rail information visit the National Rail website. For journey planning and public transport information visit Traveline.
The Trail is well served by the rail network. Long distance walkers can get back to the start by train between Eastbourne and Winchester and there are intermediate stations at Petersfield, Amberley, Hassocks and Lewes that are helpful if you’re doing the walk in stages.
For detailed rail information please see www.nationalrail.co.uk or www.thetrainline.com.
For detailed rail information please see www.nationalrail.co.uk or www.traveline.info
There are many local bus services linking towns and villages to the Trail. You can find up-to-date information at www.traveline.info
The Discovery ticket is a an all-inclusive cost-effective way to enjoy unlimited bus travel across the National Park and south of England. To find out more visit the South Downs National Park Authority website.
We encourage you to come and visit the South Downs by public transport, however, if you do decide to drive then road connections are good. Car Parks are often small in the South Downs, with farm machinery sometimes passing through especially during harvest, so please park considerately. Long term parking is harder to come by so if you are planning to leave your vehicle in Eastbourne or Winchester we recommend contacting the relevant local authority for advice on the best and safest options.
This National Trail passes through the very best landscapes – places you may want to explore for several days at a time. From cosy country inns to characterful cottages, we’ve got your accommodation near the South Downs Way covered.
Download and print a list of accommodation for each section of the Trail.