A friend and I fancied a short walking break over the May bank holiday, so we decided to do the first couple of days of the South Downs Way. This would take us from Eastbourne to Lewis (a slight detour off the SDW), staying in a small village called Alfriston on the Saturday evening.
We set out to Eastbourne on a warm sunny day. The Seven Sisters Park is beautiful at any time, but you really can’t beat it in the sun. Given that it was a bank holiday the route was fairly busy, but not too bad.
I’m always a little surprised by the steepness of the walk up to the cliff top but it’s always well worth it for the views out to sea and along the coast.
The first few miles of the route are just beautiful, and you take in some lovely sights along the way, including the war memorial at Beachy Head and the stripey lighthouse.
About four or five miles in, you reach the National Trust cafe at Burling Gap. This is the perfect place to have a break and Louise and I enjoyed our picnic lunch and a tea from the cafe looking out to sea.
After our lunch break the weather took a bit of a turn, and we spent the rest of the coastal section taking our water proofs on and off, as dramatic rain clouds rolled over our heads and out to sea. It was nothing if not refreshing!
Coming down from the cliff the route then follows the Cuckmere River, heading North towards Alfriston and passing through the tiny village of Littlington.
We decided to stop by and check out the Long Man Brewery, so named after the huge and mysterious outline of a man in the chalk cliffs nearby. It was a cool little place where you can buy and sample the beers. However the sun was back out and, given they had no outdoor seating, we decided to head for one at a nearby pub, The Plough and Harrow.
It was soon time to get to our Air BnB so we headed off on the final mile or so to Alfriston. Along the way we saw two beautiful rainbows. Gotta love a rainbow!
We arrived at our Air BnB where we were greeted by the lovely Liz and her husband. I was surprisingly knackered and it amused me to see that we’d covered more elevation than on some of my days on a recent Lake District trip!
I’d booked us for dinner at an awesome little pub called the Tavern on the Tye. It was tiny, super friendly, and served fantastic fish and chips. Between the walk and some red wine I slept like a baby.
The next day we checked out the village and picked up a freshly made sandwich from a great little deli on the high street. The weather wasn’t so spectacular, but the rain held off and it was so nice to be out in the fresh air.
The route takes you straight up along the Ridgeline, so you get pretty expansive views across the countryside. It was a little exposed and windy though, so we were pretty chilly.
Eventually the walk takes a turn and heads down the ridge in the direction of Lewes. I realised I’d been here before, on the first walk that I did with a full backpack, as part of my John Muir Trail prep, although going the other way. It made me smile thinking how I’d been terrified of getting up the ridge with my backpack – imagine if I’d known what was to come! I tried to get a pic in the same spot that I had one last time, but it didn’t quite work out as I was too busy talking.
Not long after we came across a gorgeous pub and decided that it would be rude not to stop for a drink. We both had a local pale ale and took a seat outside, finishing off the pie that Louise has bought in Alfriston. I’d definitively like to go back to that pub!
From there it was a few short and scenic miles (minus the small road section and crossing!) up onto another ridge and eventually down into Lewes.
There it was time for one more half at an old man’s pub, before getting a little slice of cake and cup of tea for the train from the awesome cafe at the station.
About the hike
- Around 12 miles day one, 10 on day two
- Sussex, England
- I downloaded the route to my phone on a GPS app.
- Moderate – lots of up an downhill on day one and a couple of climbs on day two.
- Around five hours walking (excluding stops) each day.
- Food and water – plenty of options on both days. Book ahead for dinner if you fancy the pub we went to – it’s tiny!
- Travel to Eastbourne from Victoria (£12 single) and return from Lewes (£18 single).
- Plenty of accommodation in Alfriston from Air BnB to BnB’s and a hotel.