Hastings to Winchelsea: The best day hike near London?

Hastings to Winchelsea is an absolutely beautiful walk and one that I’ve been lucky enough to do – three times – in glorious sunshine. Well, the first time we continued on to Rye, but on this, my second time, the pub in Winchelsea proved too much of a temptation.

Catching the train from Charring Cross in central London, we arrived in Hastings at around 11am. As with many towns, the area around the station is not the most attractive. But as you wind your way down towards the sea and through the pedestrianised streets of the old town, it starts to get very pretty. So pretty in fact, that my friend and I were tempted to sack off the walk and join the locals in a lunchtime drink and seafood platter.

Hastings Old Town
Hastings Old Town

But this time it wasn’t to be; we had some miles to cover before sun set.

So, up towards Firehills we headed, climbing the sharp incline up to the cliffs. The view is glorious from the get go and you’re able to look far out across the English Channel and along the coastline.

The first few miles wind along the cliff edge and through a pretty forested area with bluebells and other wild flowers. For those brave (or un-British) enough to give it a go, there is a nudist beach along the way, at about mile three. The first time I did this route my friend and I saw a man, naked except for his boots, t shirt and a backpack, hiking down towards the beach.

The coastal views continue to be completely marvelous for the next three or four miles.

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At about mile 5 you can take a small detour to the Coastguards Cafe. Here you can get lunch, cakes and even beer. Louise and I got a delicious pale ale and some crisps and sat in the shade for a little while.

The next stretch of the walk sees you head down to sea level, past some absolutely beautiful houses along the way #jel. After a little while you pass a cute little church and arrive at a surprising quiet beach, where we stopped for a little while and considered having a swim.

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From here you cut inland and across some fields, following what I think was a canal for a few more miles, and getting steadily further away from the coastline.

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From here it’s a wander along some country lanes and pass some fields that had gorgeous little lambs in it – so cute! And so yummy (sorry, lambs). The road takes you under an ancient looking archway, before you arrive in beautiful Winchelsea.

Winchelsea is a seriously picturesque little village with an absolutely beautiful church in the middle of it, which is home to Spike Milligan’s grave.

We’d planned to stop just for a drink, but the walled garden, Pinot Grigio and fish and chips was too tempting. We spent a brilliant couple of hours at the pub, and having started on the wine whilst probably a little dehydrated, headed back to Hastings feeling rather merry.

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Fish and chips

We hopped on the train and did our best not to fall asleep on the way back. Central London on a Saturday night felt like a shock to the system after such a relaxing day. We decided that next time we’d stay over in Hastings.

About the hike

  • Around 9 miles.
  • Sussex, England
  • Fairly challenging especially the first five miles.
  • Takes around 6 hours excluding stops at cafe etc.
  • Food and water – plenty of options in Hastings, The Coastguard Cafe at c. 5 miles and The New Inn in Winchelsea. No potable water en route that I could see.
  • Travel to Hastings from Stratford, London Bridge or Charring Cross (Stratford involves a change at Ashford and a more expensive ‘high speed’ ticket).
  • Return options include:
    • Buying an open return to Hastings, then getting a bus (£6.20) back from Winchelsea (usually one an hour) or taxi (c. £12). Plan ahead a little for both. You can also get a train from Winchelsea to Hastings (around one an hour).
    • High speed return train from Winchelsea, changing at Ashford.

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