Eastbourne to East Dean walk
Coastal walk via Eastbourne's promenade, Beachy Head and the 7 Sisters, then inland over the downs to East Dean. Return by bus.
Eastbourne to East Dean: 11.5 km (7.1 miles)
a) Eastbourne to Exceat: 14.8km (9.2 miles)
b) Eastbourne to East Dean via Flagstaff Point: 13.5km (8.4 miles)
c) Eastbourne Circular: 17.9km (11.1 miles)
Landranger 199, Explorer OL25 (formerly 123)
|Toughness||5 out of 10: one very steep climb onto Beachy Head: three short climbs in the afternoon|
You start this walk along Eastbourne’s pleasant seafront, and then follow the coast into a hidden valley (with fine downland flowers and butterflies in summer), from where it is a steep climb up onto Beachy Head for lunch. The next stretch is one of the great classic coastal walks, a rolling descent along chalk cliffs down to Birling Gap for tea. From there, you have 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.
a) 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 5.6km (3.5 miles), from Birling Gap, making a total walk of 14.8km (9.2 miles). The way to Exceat is never in doubt: after Haven Brow, the last and highest sister, you veer right at the signpost to follow the well waymarked South Downs Way to the road and Exceat Vistor Centre, where there is the Saltmarsh tea room and 400 metres further down the road the Cuckmere Inn. From either place 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).
b) 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. 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 4.3km (2.7 miles) from Birling Gap, making a total walk of 13.5km (8.4 miles).
c) You can also make this a circular walk by carrying on from East Dean back to Eastbourne, adding 6.4km (4 miles) to the walk, to make a total walk of 17.9km (11.1 miles). This route is not as scenic as coastal parts of the walk but is a pleasant enough walk initially along a quiet downland valley and then over the ridge and down into Eastbourne. It has the virtue of introducing little-visited territory at the heart of the downs, but does involve a mile on Eastbourne streets at the end. It is possible to cut out this last section (but also quite a nice descent into Eastbourne) by taking a bus half way (3.2km/2 miles) into the extension.
Trains to Eastbourne take 1.5 hours and go from Victoria station. Get the train nearest to 9.45am to get 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 train nearest to 9.15. Buy a day return to Eastbourne.
To get back from East Dean catch the frequent (as often as every ten minutes and operating well into the evening) 12/12A/12X bus to Eastbourne, which takes 15 minutes. For more details, see the end of the walk directions. There is also a 13X bus, which serves Birling Gap and Beachy Head. This operates twice an hour from mid June to mid September on Sundays only: on Mondays to Saturdays in this period it operates three times a day, with a bus from Birling Gap to Eastbourne currently at 5.18pm and one to Seaford at 6.24pm. For the rest of the year (mid September to mid June), this three times a day service operates on Sundays only. See www.buses.co.uk for details.
|Lunch and tea||
The Beachy Head pub, 5.4km (3.3 miles) into the walk, 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. It is all day, every day. If it is too busy, it is not that much of a stretch to carry on to Birling Gap.
Birling Gap’s National Trust Tea Room, 9.3km (5.7 miles) into the walk, has a lovely sea front location and has always been popular. It is open till 5pm March to October, 4pm in winter.
In East Dean, the Tiger Inn has been a favourite with walkers for generations, and was revamped in 2012.
Next to the Tiger Inn is the Hiker’s Rest tea room, which is open till 4pm weekdays, 4.30pm weekends in winter (but closed early January), and 4.30pm weekdays, 5pm weekends in summer.
For fish and chips, the Qualisea restaurant is recommended. See paragraph 28 of the walk directions for how to get to this.
On the circular walk to Eastbourne, Grove Road, near the station, also has some cafes and there are some pubs by the station.
|Swimming in the sea||
Eastbourne is a great place to swim in summer, with a long beach of shingle with good depth at high tide, descending to flat sand at low tide. The Beachy Head end of the beach is more unspoilt and less frequented, but at the town end of the beach, the pier and the white houses of the seafront make a nice backdrop, and there are also lifeguards here in summer. At low tide, it seems to be possible to wade out into deeper water at the pier end of the beach, but at the Beachy Head end an area of rocks and rock pools, bounded by an offshore reef, makes swimming impossible.
Birling Gap has sharp underwater rocks (the remains of eroded cliffs), which make swimming very tricky in the lower half of the tide (though the section just seaward of the steps is relatively free of rocks). However, when the tide is higher there is no problem at all, unless the sea is choppy, when it can break abruptly onto the shingle. At very low tide you can cross the rocks to sand beyond, and swim from there. Whatever state of the tide you swim, you get a fabulous panorama of the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
|Copyright||© Saturday Walkers Club. All Rights Reserved. No commercial use. No copying. No derivatives. Free with attribution for one time non-commercial use only. www.walkingclub.org.uk/site/license.shtml|
Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk