Looking back to Birling Gap

Eastbourne to East Dean walk

23-Jun-15 • Saturdaywalker on Flickr

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Leaving the sea behind

Just beyond Birling Gap, Eastbourne to East Dean walk

23-Jun-15 • Saturdaywalker on Flickr

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04-Jul-10 • Sarah Heenan on Flickr

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04-Jul-10 • Sarah Heenan on Flickr

book3 swcwalks july4th2010eastbournetoeastdean walk60


04-Jul-10 • Sarah Heenan on Flickr

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04-Jul-10 • Sarah Heenan on Flickr

book3 swcwalks july4th2010eastbournetoeastdean walk60

July 12, 2015: Eastbourne to East Dean

12-Jul-15 • nick.hider on Flickr

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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)

OS Map

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.

Walk options

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 currently go at 16 and 46 past from Victoria station. The 9.46 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 9.16. 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) number 12/12A 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. 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.

On the circular walk to Eastbourne, Grove Road, near the station, also has some cafes and there are some pubs by the station.

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By Train

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Start BN21 3QJ Map Directions

Finish East Dean, East Sussex Map Directions


National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234



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Walk Directions  

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