Danish Danial Bin Anuar

A Hike Along The White Coastal Cliffs of The South Downs

On one of those rare occasions when the weather wasn’t as cloudy or rainy as it usually is, we decided to go on a hike on the south coast of England. We boarded a train bound for Eastbourne, where we would start our hike. Our hike covered places such as the Beachy Head Cliffs, the Birling Gap, the Seven Sisters Cliffs, Cuckmere Haven, and finally, ending in Seaford. The hike lasted for 6 and a half hours over 20 kilometres, but that was largely because we took our time and we gave ourselves some time to rest at various points along the way.

Eastbourne, the town where we decided to start our hike, is very accessible with frequent trains calling here from London or Gatwick Airport (about less than an hour from Gatwick). You can also choose to start your hike from Seaford, which is roughly an hour away from Brighton on Bus 12X. We chose to start at Eastbourne because we could start our hike right away once we arrived. Additionally, most of the points of interests are accessible on 12X as well, however, points such as Beachy Head is only accessible on 13X, which only works on Weekends and Public Holidays.

Eastbourne Train Station

Eastbourne is pretty much a cute, scenic coastal town. It’s what I like to call a mini-Brighton. There are tons of Victorian-era buildings and a nice boardwalk that extends out from the beach. Well, we didn’t choose to spend time here since we were more into the hiking bit. Essentially, for this hiking trail, all we had to do was follow the coastline and follow the signposts that directed us along the south coast trail.

Eastbourne Beach

At the start of South Downs Way, we start to get a taste of the first of many inclines that we were going to face on our hike. At the top of the first hill at the end of Eastbourne beach, we had a nice bird’s eye view of the town.

View of Eastbourne

After a steep incline which needed at least 2 breaks, we arrived at our first checkpoint, the Beachy Head Cliffs. This was where we finally got to see clearly the huge pristine-white limestone cliffs that lined the coast. They were beautiful especially as they contrasted with the light blue waters of the English channel. Here, there was the Beachy Head lighthouse standing pretty much on its own away from the coastline. Well, according to some people, this was one of the best photographed lighthouses in the country, and I can understand why.

The Beachy Head Lighthouse

Our hike to the next stop wasn’t particularly too difficult. Along the way, there were families having their picnics, and couples walking their dogs. Surprisingly, there were also children playing and running around close to the cliff’s edge. Along the way we passed by Belle Tout lighthouse, and a huge fragrant yellow flower field which greeted us to the view of the Seven Sisters Cliffs in the distance.

Belle Tout Lighthouse
Field of Flowers

We finally arrived at Birling Gap where we got a sweeping view of the Seven Sister’s Cliff from atop a hill. At low tide, there is also a beach that we could access to get up close to the cliffs themselves. There was a café and a visitor centre as well. Here, we took our first long rest as we appreciated the scenery and enjoy a little bit of the sea breeze.

Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters Cliffs

Next was the challenging bit of the hike. This was when we walked along the Seven Sisters Cliffs themselves. We were there wondering why they were called the Seven Sisters Cliffs and we eventually figured (the hard way) that there were 7 hilltops along this stretch of cliffs. The inclines and declines were all of varying degrees of steepness with some requiring us to be careful of where we were setting our foot on. There were also rabbit burrow holes that we had to be careful of as well.

Hiking along the Seven Sisters Cliffs

After conquering the seven hilltops along the Seven Sisters Cliffs, we descended along an extremely steep decline (that gave us matching white butts) that lead us to Cuckmere Haven which was a very tranquil beach with nice views of both the ocean and the cliffs. We spent some time here to rest as we just stared at the waves crashing against the shore.

Cuckmere Haven

In between where we were and our final point-of-interest, there was a crossing at the mouth of Cuckmere River that would show up only on lower tides. However, at that time, the tide wasn’t low enough so we had to go the long way round to get to Seaford Head. Along the way, we cut across a cow and sheep field along the Cuckmere River to get to the other side.

Eventually, we arrived at Seaford Head, where we got another vantage point of the Seven Sisters Cliffs. We took another rest on one of the benches there and we almost fell asleep as the sea breeze kissed our faces and we succumbed to the hypnotic sounds of the waves. We picked a really nice spot that had a view which looked like something out of a postcard with the coastguard cottages in the foreground and the cliffs in the background.

The Seven Sisters Cliffs with Coastguard Cottages in the Foreground
The Seven Sisters Cliffs from a different vantage point

Afterward, we walked to the nearest bus stop in Seaford and boarded the 12X bus back to Eastbourne. Overall, this was a pretty nice scenic hike especially if you’re thinking of doing an outdoor activity on the south coast of England!


3 responses to “A Hike Along The White Coastal Cliffs of The South Downs”

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