Southease to Rottingdean or Brighton walk

The flat, open Ouse valley to Rodmell and Kingston, then an open chalk ridge to Rottingdean and Brighton.


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Option Post # Weather
Sat, 09-Jul-22 Southease to Rottingdean, or Southease Circular - with a possible sea swim 20 hot sun
Sat, 04-Jan-20 c Saturday Walk - Lewes to Southease or Brighton (via Rottingdean) 19 overcast to lunch then sunny
Sun, 10-Jun-18 c Sunday Walk - South Downs and swimming
Sat, 23-Sep-17 Southease to Rottingdean - Along the Ouse, then across the downs to the sea 25 high cloud cleared to sun
Sat, 15-Aug-15 Saturday Second Walk - Riverside, downland, seaside (swim?) 15 sun and cloud then grey and windy
Wed, 03-Sep-14 Southease to Rottingdean
Sat, 05-Apr-14 Southease to Rottingdean 15
Sat, 30-Jun-12 a Southease to Brighton
Sun, 15-Jan-12 Southease to Rottingdean
Sat, 05-Feb-11 Southease to Rottingdean
Sun, 06-Dec-09 b Southease to Rottingdean or Brighton
Wed, 02-Sep-09 Southease to Rottingdean or Brighton
Sun, 21-Jun-09 Southease to Rottingdean or Brighton
Sat, 16-May-09 Southease to Rottingdean or Brighton
Length: - 15.3km (9.5 miles) from Southease to Rottingdean
- variable up to 23.2km (14.4 miles) if you walk into Brighton
- 23.7km (14.7 miles) for a circular walk back to Southease. T=swc.65
9.54 train from Victoria (10.01 Clapham Junction, 10.10 East Croydon) to Lewes, arriving 10.56, changing there - be quick!! - to the 11.00 to Southease, arriving 11.07
It is a summer Saturday and if the weather is fine, trains to Lewes might be busy: leave extra time to buy your ticket, and try to get off the middle of the train at Lewes to get across the footbridge to platform 3 to make the connection.

Buy a day return to Southease, which is valid for return from Brighton also if necessary
For walk directions click here, for GPX click here, for a map of the route click here.
It is four years since this walk had a summer outing. It starts at lovely remote Southease station and follows the River Ouse initially, before cutting inland to Rodmell. A very early lunch is possible here at the Abergavenny Arms, but otherwise the route carries on over fields to Kingston, just outside Lewes, where hopefully the Juggs Inn will be able to accommodate us (it is always popular but has not failed us before).
There is then a steep - but very scenic - climb up onto the downs, and walk over their lonely middle to Rottingdean, 9.5 miles into the walk, where you have lots of tea options. Rottingdean beach is a pleasant place for a sea swim.
After this, you can either
- take very regular buses into Brighton
- walk part or all of the distance into Brighton (cutting short the walk using buses as appropriate)
- or walk back over the downs to Southease - a nice tranquil end to the day and beautiful in the evening light. The Abergaveny Arms in Rodmell (just off the walk route) is a possible drinks stop towards the end of this option.
Trains back are at 05 past the hour (until late in the evening) from Southease, while from Brighton they are at 09 and 39 past to Victoria and 12, 25, 42 and 55 past to London Bridge (and points north on Thameslink).
  • 08-Jul-22

    Planning to come & will definitely swim


  • 09-Jul-22

    Gorgeous walk, thank you Walker. Great to see some old faces

  • 10-Jul-22

    20 on this walk, braving a very crowded train to the coast. Despite this arriving at Lewes two minutes late, everyone (I think) made the connection to the Southease train. The skies were thickly clouded at this point, but soon cleared on arrival, and it was basically, as forecast, a day of hot sun .

    After the river section in the morning the route went across a lot of arable fields, but these were bordered by interesting wildflowers on which butterflies (especially newly-emerged summer generation whites) were visible in abundance.

    10 of us, accompanied in due course by 5 picknickers, had no trouble getting shady outside tables for lunch at the Juggs. This was being run on Biblical principles - ie the last to order got their food first. Thus, despite being told there would be a 45 minute wait, my food turned up in ten minutes, while earlier orderers waited half an hour or more, no doubt to the benefit of their immortal souls.

    After lunch, we passed the profuse hollyhocks in Kingston village and made the steep climb up onto the downs. I got behind here, contemplating butterflies and downland flowers, and this got worse on the top of the downs where a kilometre or more of arable set-aside was awash with flowering knapweed, thistle and musk mallow, all fretted with whites and peacocks and walls (the last three being butterflies).

    Consequently I lost touch with most of the group till Rottingdean and even there I only had partial accounts. Some may or may not have gone to the Grange for tea, and three others to the Trellis Tea Rooms. Five or so certainly got the bus in to Brighton, but did any walk?

    What I can say with certainty is that ten of us swam in the sea, which was a delicious temperature - really delightful. Two swam 200 metres from the shore around the furthest buoy, with glorious views of the surrounding coast on the return leg to the shore.

    Afterwards a gaggle of us went to the White Horse for tea, wine and cider, where there was debate about how to round off the day. The initially not-much favoured option of completing the circular walk to Southease eventually garnered a surprising five votes, and off we set for a lovely walk over the downs in golden light.

    We got to Southease at 7.40pm, in time for a can of beer at the YHA (whose cafe is open for drinks at least till 8pm, it seems), and then got the 8.05pm train, stopping in Lewes to get takeaway pizza, and consuming this with other “supplies” on the not-too-busy 8.57pm train to London.

Length: 20.0 km (12.4 mi) [19.4 km if finishing in Brighton]
Ascent/Descent: 424/428m [365/363m if finishing in Brighton]
Net Walking Time: ca. 5 hours, Toughness: 5 out of 10
Take the 09.16 Littlehampton and Eastbourne train from Victoria (CJ 09.23, EC 09.33), arrives Lewes 10.25. The train splits at Haywards Heath, you have to be in the rear part of it.
Thameslink-ites: take the 09.15 Brighton train from LBG and change at Haywards Heath (09.59/10.07).
Return trains from Southease: xx.05 (84 mins, chg at Lewes). Buy a Southease return (or a Brighton return for the Brighton ending).
Alternative Start of this walk from Lewes to avoid the low-lying fields in the Ouse Valley. Two South Downs Ascents if finishing in Southease, only one if following the coast to Brighton.
Return trains are only hourly and the café in Southease closes early, but there is a pub just off route in Rodwell…
Lunch: The Plough Inn (11.2 km/6.9 mi, food all day), The Coach House or The White Horse Hotel (both 11.6 km/7.2 mi), all in Rottingdean.
Tea: Café at the YHA South Downs (open to 16.00) or – a little off route – The Abergavenny Arms in Rodmell (open all day).
For walk directions, map, height profile, some photos and gpx/kml files click here. T=swc.65.c
  • 26-Dec-19

    I may have got this wrong, and apologies if I have, but, according to National Rail Enquiries, the 09:16 Littlehampton train from Victoria does not call at Lewes.

    However, the 09:46 train from Victoria to Ore and Littlehampton (dividing at Haywards Heath) does call at Lewes at 10:53, connecting with the 10:59 to Southease.

  • 26-Dec-19

    Well indeed, it's not the Littlehampton part of the Littlehampton & Eastbourne train that goes via Lewes, but the Eastbourne part. 9.16, be there or be square... (splits at Haywards Heath)

  • 26-Dec-19

    I stand corrected! I should have known better.

  • 04-Jan-20

    17 off the train, 1 outside the gates, 1 later overtaking us after having missed the posted train, i.e. 19 overcast to lunch then sunny

    A well-timed posting of this walk, seeing that we had little mud, far views (even while it was still overcast) and glorious sunshine after lunch. The route as walked had not been posted before I have been assured by the walk's author, so it must be said that it works expremely well, especially in winter time with early darkness (the Southease finishers got to the station at 15.35, meaning there was enough time to frequent the cafe at the YHA Hostel before the 16.05 train (although only 3 took up that option).

    Fine views on the usual westerly route out of Lewes via Kingston and then from the Downs (with a cooling breeze from the side), and on the descent into Rottingdean. 5 pub-lunched at The Plough Inn (by the village pond and church) and were joined by some picnickers. The others had strode on and apparently had tea at the cafe in Saltdean (minus the 3 that walked on to Brighton). Further fantastic views on the ascent out of Saltdean and then from the ridge.

    There we bumped into a (no doubt up to no good Fox-) Hunt, followed by a handful of masked hunt saboteurs, with police and a couple of ambulances visible away to the left.

    Most chose the road route down into the valley, only about a handful the valley route.

Chris L
Chris L
Lewes to Brighton via Rottingdean
Length: 19.2km (12 miles) Toughness: 4/10

09:46 Polegate train from Victoria (Clapham Junction 09:53, East Croydon 10:03) arriving at Lewes at 10:49.
Or 09:40 Brighton train from London Bridge changing at East Croydon (arr 09:54, dep10:03) arriving at Lewes at 10:49.

Return trains from Brighton are at xx:27 and xx:57 to Victoria, and at xx:08 and xx:42 to London Bridge. Buy a day return to Lewes, which is valid for the return from Brighton.

This popular South Downs walk offers magnificent views across the plains of the River Ouse before crossing the remoter, less-frequented, heart of the downs to Rottingdean, where potential lunch places abound. You could finish the walk there, after just 7 miles, and catch a bus into Brighton, or continue on an attractive esplanade along the base of the cliffs as far as Brighton Pier. As you arrive on Brighton beach at Black Rock, just past the marina, don’t be surprised to see large numbers of naked cyclists, since this is the finishing point of the Brighton Naked Bike Ride, part of a worldwide annual cycling protest against oil dependency and car culture.

There will be ample opportunities for a lunchtime or afternoon swim, but the tide will be out, so if swimming at Rottingdean, watch out for sharp rocks beneath the surface and stay in line with the ramp.

This walk originated as a separate walk but has now been subsumed into the Southease to Brighton via Rottingdean walk with its multiple options and variations.
You will need to download the walk directions and start at para 125. Or you may prefer the more straightforward original walk directions, though these are no longer updated. The Southease start is not practicable today due to engineering works.

  • Anonymous

    Attractive esplanade?

SWC walk 65 - Southease to Rottingdean (or Southease Circular)
Length: 15.5km (9.6 miles), with extensions of up to 24.3km (15.1 miles)
Toughness: 4 out of 10 - one steep climb, basically

9.17 train from Victoria (9.23 Clapham Junction, 9.33 East Croydon) to Lewes, arriving 10.24, changing there (be quick) for the 10.28 to Southease, arriving 10.35.

Buy a day return to Southease. This is valid for return from Brighton.

For walk directions click here. For GPS file click here.

Autumn is officially here, but you can cock a snook at it it with this summery walk, which ends up at the sea. The route starts at remote Southease station and goes along the lovely banks of the River Ouse to Rodmell, then from there across fields to Kingston, near Lewes, where the Juggs is a popular pub but one that we usually manage to squeeze into.

Don't overdo it on the desserts, though, because almost immediately after lunch you have the only real exertion of the day, a steep but glorious climb up onto the downs. You then cross the heart of them to Rottingdean, where there are so many tea options you will be sorry you only have one stomach.

In theory a sea swim is then possible, but the sea seems to have got cold early this year....

To finish the walk at Rottingdean (the 15.5km/9.6 mile version of the walk), you take one of many buses into Brighton. Trains back from Brighton are too frequent to need listing.

An ALTERNATIVE ENDING (about the same length as the main walk - 14.5km/9 miles) splits off from the main route after the post-lunch climb up onto the downs and takes you down the South Downs Way to Southease to make a circular walk. Tea options here are the Abergavenny Arms in Rodmell and the YHA Cafe at Southease (but the latter closes at 4pm). Trains back from Southease are at 36 past till 19.36, then 20.39 (last train), changing at Lewes.


- Walking along the seafront promenade into Brighton, a pretty walk under cliffs for at least half the way, then through the marina, adding 7.5km (4.7 miles) if you walk all the way to Brighton station, though you can shorten this at almost any point by taking the bus. This makes a total walk of 23km (14.3 miles).

- Walk back to Southease over the downs after tea. As far as I know this 24.3km (15.1 mile) version of the walk has never been done, so you could be the first. Allow a couple of hours to cover the 8.8km (5.5 miles) from Rottingdean to Southease (ie leave by 5.30pm at the latest because it will be dark at 7.30pm). See Alternative Ending above for trains back from Southease. T=3.65

  • 24-Sep-17

    It is always a gamble picking a walk to post. The afternoon of this one can be bleak on a grey day, crossing featureless downs. But when the sun shines (as it did today) it is a glorious promenade across the heights, with the sun glittering off the sea ahead and sharp views to Newhaven, Seaford, Cuckmere Haven and - yes - even Belle Tout lighthouse as a speck on the horizon.

    The day started less auspiciously. I left my Network Card at home and so had to pay full fare, and the 9.17 train was delayed for 45 minutes between Gatwick and Hayward’s Heath by a signal failure (I always love the unintended dual meaning in that phrase) at Balcombe. So we got to Southease an hour late. But had the posted train been the 10.17, Lord knows when we would have got there, as we left a chaos of cancelled trains in our wake.

    Because of the delays, the 18 walkers at the start swelled to 25 or so as others who had eg come from Brighton materialised. We still got to the lunch pub at a reasonable time and it was not over busy. There were the usual warnings about meals maybe taking a while to cook but they nearly all arrived quickly. As we ate high cloud cleared to sun .

    Some SWC types complain about “too many options” but on this walk all were appreciated. Two did the short walk to Southease to have time to visit Virginia Woolf’s house. The rest of the group went to Rottingdean but a good number - five or more? - then elected to do the long circuit back to Southease (I would love to know how they got on). Among those that remained there was some talk of sea swimming, but instead we tarried in the garden tea room of the library, enjoying the sun, and by the time we got to the beach the sun was low and the heat (and the moment) had gone. We had a nice walk along the cliff bottom promenade instead, two catching a bus just before the marina, three of us going to Kemp Town for tapas. Two of us the finished the walk to Brighton station for the 9.28 train, so all posted options got done.

    All in all a lovely summer day out - except it is now autumn. Boo hoo.

  • 24-Sep-17

    4 plus one well-behaved dog did the long Southease circular walk and met the 2 who had visited Virginia Woolf's house at Southease station in time to catch the 18.36 train. The walk through Telscombe and on the South Downs Way was glorious in the evening sunshine. We passed fields of corn, ripening pumpkins and yet more apples for the taking. The walk directions were clear apart from point 7 where the faintness of the grassy path caused one walker to delay enabling another to catch up.

    Sadly the cafe in Lewes station was closed but a machine taking only old pound coins provided some necessary refreshment.

    A great day out in good company.

T=3.65 SWC Walk 65 - Southease to Rottingdean
Length: 14.5km (9 miles) - with longer options: see ** below
Toughness: 4 out of 10: one steep climb, basically

9.16 train from Victoria (9.22 Clapham Junction, 9.32 East Croydon), changing at Lewes (be quick! arrive 10.28, depart 10.34), for Southease, arriving 10.34.

Buy a day return to Southease, which will be valid for return from Brighton.

For walk directions click here.

This walk combines familiar elements - the lovely start along the River Ouse at Southease, a walk over the downs to Rottingdean - but combines them with a gentle walk across fields late morning and lunch at the very pleasant Juggs Inn in Kingston (pleasant and also popular, which is why I have chosen an earlier train). Don't overdo the puddings at lunch, however, because just after it you have the only real exertion of the day - a steep, but very exhilarating and scenic, climb up onto the crest of the South Downs. There is then a relatively easy walk across the lonely heart of the downs to the sea at Rottingdean, which has oodles of tea options.

Rottingdean also provides a reliable low tide sea swimming spot, which is another reason for picking this walk today, as low tide is at 6.45pm. The central beach at Rottingdean (the one with the strange jetty-like structure sticking out on its right-hand side) is the only one on this stretch of coast that has decent depths of water in such conditions. (If you do swim out, look out for an underwater reef about 100 metres out on which one can stand in mid ocean - an odd feeling).

Regular coastal buses (every few mins) go from Rottingdean to Brighton pier and station. If you decide to get off at the pier, note that there are directions from there to the station on the penultimate page of the walk directions. The beach by the pier is another possible swimming spot, but watch your bags here.

Trains back from Brighton are very frequent. The fast Victoria service is at 19 and 49 till 22.19 and there are direct London Bridge services at 28 and 56 past to 18.56: outside these times you can connect at East Croydon. Thameslink services (30 and 57 past) are slow stopping services.

** For a longer walk:

- Walk some or all of the cliff bottom path from Rottingdean into Brighton. Ovingdean, about 1km along, is one possible target: it has a very nice tea kiosk (china mugs and home made cakes) and then steps up to the road. Or stay on the promenade another 1.5km to the start of Brighton Marina and then take the ramp up the cliffs there. In both cases there is a handy bus stop once you get on the cliff. Walking all the way from Rottingdean to Brighton station adds 7.2km (4.5 miles) to the walk.

- Walk back to Southease after tea in Rottingdean. Ignore the Southease Circular directions in the text here, but instead see the Alternative ending at Southease directions on the last page of this document. This takes you back over the downs (the afternoon of the Lewes to Saltdean walk in reverse) and adds 8.9km (5.5 miles) to the walk length, making a total walk of 23.4km (14.5 miles). Trains from Southease are at 36 past, with the last train at 19.36, so make sure you time this walk correctly. If you arrive a bit early for the train, the reception of the YHA just beyond the station might serve you a cup of tea. Only very fast walkers will have time to divert to the Abergavenny Arms for a drink.

  • 17-Aug-15

    15 on this walk, sun and cloud then grey and windy . There were signal problems on the way down so we missed our connection at Lewes. Most of us decided to walk south along the river to connect up with the specified walk route: one waited 50 minutes for the next Southease train and still got to lunch not much later than us, one noted fast walker took a short cut to lunch….

    A lovely sunny morning out on the flatlands, a pleasant lunch at the Juggs, and then the steep but very scenic climb up onto the downs (one of the best downs ascents we do, in my opinion). After that the clouds built up and it was really rather windy and autumnal. Despite this, four brave souls still plunged into grey seas with metre high waves for a sea swim at Rottingdean while a well-muffled lifeguard looked impassively on, and pronounced themselves well satisfied.

    Two of us carried on along the promenade into Brighton and were rewarded with clearing skies, the wind dropping, and a very nice sunset swim near the pier