The Martello Tower in Seaford is the most westerly of a chain of 103 such fortresses (the other end of the chain being in Aldeburgh, Suffolk) built to protect the South East coast of England against invasion in the early part of the Napoleonic Wars. It contains a museum of local history, open 11am to 1pm and 2.30pm to 4.30pm on Sundays and bank holidays year round, and on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons in summer.
The Seven Sisters is the name for the undulating cliffs between Cuckmere Have and Birling Gap. They are thought to have been formed by glacier meltwater at the end of the last Ice Age: the meltwater carved steep sided valleys, which were then truncated by sea erosion into the cliffs we see today.
The original Seven Sisters are the Pleiades, a group of seven stars which Greek mythology portrayed as sisters. There are in fact now only six Pleiades, one having exploded in antiquity, and from the approach to Cuckmere Haven there seem to be only six humps on the Seven Sisters too (the rise on which Belle Tout lighthouse stands, beyond the brown smudge of Birling Gap visible at this point does not count, as this is not part of the Seven Sisters).
But there are in fact seven: one is hidden from view from this angle. Or are there eight? Careful attention to the walk text will reveal that between Cuckmere Haven and Birling Gap, you pass over eight hills in all – Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flagstaff Point, Flat Hill, Baily’s Hill and Went Hill. So which one is not a real sister?
Belle Tout is a former lighthouse that first entered service in 1828, over 130 years after the need for one was first suggested. It had 30 oil lamps, requiring two gallons of oil per hour. A problem with the lighthouse’s location soon became apparent, however – when the weather was bad, the clifftop tended to be shrouded in mist, so the light could not be seen. The cliff also blocked the view of the light from ships sailing too close to the shore.
As a result, a new lighthouse was built – the one that still stands at the base of Beachy Head to this day. It opened in 1902, and Belle Tout went out of commission. It was a tea room for a while, accidentally damaged by Canadian artillery during World War II, and later restored by the local council.
By the 1990s Belle Tout was a private house and in danger of falling into the sea due to cliff erosion, and so in March 1999 in a feat of engineering that captured national media attention, it was moved back 17 metres away from the cliff using hydraulic jacks. It was then bought by a preservation trust and in March 2010 started a new life as a luxury bed and breakfast, with the lattern room turned into a lounge with 360 degree views.
Birling Gap, is a gap between the sisters (cliffs), now owned by The National Trust. There is a cafe (the tables overlook the sea), visitor center, toilets, and car park, with a metal staircase down the cliff edge to the shingle beach below. There's also a row of terraced houses that are slowly falling into the sea as the cliffs erode.
Cow Gap is a hidden beach, right under Beachy Head itself. Turn right, very steeply downhill just after Beachy Head to access it.