11.3 km (7 miles)
Landranger 199, Explorer 123
5 out of 10.
The bulk of this walk reverses the end of the Seaford to Eastbourne walk from Time Out Country Walk Book 2. This brings you along Eastbourne’s pleasant seafront, and up onto Beachy Head for lunch, and then down to Birling Gap for tea. After Birling Gap there is a gentle climb inland, with fine sea and downland views, to the village of East Dean, where there are further refreshment options, and frequent buses back to Eastbourne.
The walk is not quite a reverse of the book route, however, as if you follow its suggestions, it takes a slightly different route along the seafront promenade out of Eastbourne, and uses the lower clifftop route to Beachy Head, which may be unfamiliar to walkers. This route stays close to the sea along the foot of the downs (with wonderful wild flowers in late June and July), and then at the last minute makes a very steep beeline up the hill (with exhilarating backward views) to arrive directly at the Beachy Head pub.
The obvious way to extend this walk is to carry on from Birling Gap along the coast over the Seven Sisters to Exceat, a strenuous but very scenic 5.8km (3.5 miles), from Birling Gap, making a total walk of 14.8km (9.1 miles). The way to Exceat is never in doubt: after Haven Brow, the last and highest sister, you veer left on the well waymarked South Downs Way to the road and Exceat Vistor Centre. From here you can get the 12 or 12A bus to Seaford or to Eastbourne (From Exceat, Seaford is nearer and your Eastbourne train ticket will usually be accepted on trains out of Seaford).
A shorter version of the above is to go over the first three Sisters to Flastaff Point, marked by a Sarsen stone monument, and here turn inland up to East Dean. Directions for this are given at the end of the main text, but it has to be said the route up to East Dean is not quite as scenic as the direct one from Birling Gap. This route is 3.7km (2.3 miles) from Birling Gap, making a total walk of 7.9 miles
Another idea, which has already been done by some walkers, is to to make a circular walk by carrying on from East Dean back to Eastbourne, adding 6km (3.6 miles) to the walk, to make a total walk of 17.3km (10.6 miles). You need the Explorer map for this, but the suggested route is to follow the track along Ringwood Bottom eastwards from East Dean, then curve south to cross the main road, and follow the curving ridge back into Eastbourne. This deposits you about 1km by urban road from the station.
To be written.
|Saturday Walkers Club||Trains to Eastbourne take 1.5 hours and currently go at 17 and 47 past. The 9.47 gets you to Eastbourne at 11.15, which will get you to the Beachy Head pub in reasonable time, but if you are doing this walk in the summer and fancy a swim before lunch, get the 9.17. Buy a day return to Eastbourne.|
|Lunch||The Beachy Head pub offers a good selection of food, and has both an outside terrace and inside tables with fine views south westwards over the downs and sea. If it is too busy, it is not that much of a stretch to carry on to Birling Gap, which also has a rather dingy pub serving food. Both establishments are open all afternoon, year round.|
Birling Gap’s crumbling tea room (you can’t blame them for not refurbishing it when it might soon fall into the sea) lacks charm, but makes up for it in its lovely sea front location.
East Dean in theory has three tea options. The Tiger Inn has been a favourite with walkers for generations, though as of January 2009 was boarded up due to some kind of dispute about its tenancy agreement. The intention was to reopen it soon, however. Immediately next to it, there is a new tea room called the Hiker’s Rest, which is open till 4.30pm in winter, 5pm in summer: but in January 2009 it was closed for the whole month, reopening February. Lastly, across the green from the Tiger Inn was a new delicatessen which supposedly serves coffee and is open till 5pm Saturday and 4pm Sunday: it was closed over Christmas and New Year in 2008-9, however, so the author was not able to check it out.
For fish and chips, the Qualisea restaurant is recommended. From the Arndale Centre stop on the bus (see the end of the walk directions) carry on along the main shopping street, forking to the right at the end of the Arndale Centre down the pedestrianised section. The Qualisea is on the left at the start of the last stretch of road to the seafront.
Out: (not a train station)
Start: BN21 3QJ
Finish: East Dean, East Sussex
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