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|A walk from Eastbourne Railway Station to Exceat via Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters.||Location map|
This walk takes you up onto Beachy Head, down to Birling Gap via the Belle Tout Lighthouse, over the Seven Sisters to Cuckmere Haven and along the Cuckmere Valley to Exceat where you should catch a bus back to Eastbourne. It is along what must be some of the finest coastal scenery we have seen in this country. The sea, the South Downs and the white chalk cliffs provide some really stunning and beautiful views on a sunny day. It is a walk that should not be missed.
The walk is about 9 miles from the station and can be completed in about 5 hours of actual walking not including stops on the way such as for lunch - allow at least 6 and a half hours in all including the bus journey back because there are lots of places along the route where you may want to spend a little time or make a small diversion. During the summer months, April - September inclusive, you could cut your walk short at Beachy Head (2.5 miles) or Birling Gap (5 miles) by getting the bus back to Eastbourne from either of those locations. Outside of those months the bus does NOT follow that route but uses a route further inland.
If you aren't travelling by train or you are staying in Eastbourne then you could, of course, start from anywhere in Eastbourne with the aid of a street plan and join the walk route at any point along the seafront.
The only part of this walk that is flat is in the town and a short stretch along the Cuckmere Valley at the end. The rest is either up or down and some of the slopes are quite steep although, apart from the first part in the town and the last small stretch along the Cuckmere Valley which is a concrete path, it is all on grass.
The numbers in square brackets like this  refer to a picture on a separate page which will open in a new window. Open the picture page
The walk - distances given for each section are approximate.
1. Eastbourne to Beachy Head (2.5 miles) This Map shows Eastbourne Station and the start of the Downs in the lower left corner. This Street Plan should enable you to navigate from the station to King Edwards Parade on the sea front.
From the station you can choose any suitable route through to the sea front. A suggested route would be to go down Gildredge Road opposite the station (A259), turn right into Furness Road then left into College Road. Turn left into Carlisle Road for a short distance, right into Wilmington Gardens then cross Compton Road into Willmington Square emerging on to King Edwards Parade with The Big Sleep Hotel on the corner.
After arriving on the sea front turn right (west), cross the road to the seaward side and walk along by this road, as it climbs gently, for just over a mile and when the road bends sharp right don't follow the road but continue straight on to the open Downs on the public footpath . You can see the seafront road and the downs beyond in this view.
Although there are many public footpaths in this area the whole area is open access and you can walk where you like. Continue straight ahead in the same direction as the road. The path climbs more steeply here and eventually divides. This is a large scale map of the start of the footpath.
Which way you take now is up to you. If you look at the large scale map (link above) you will see a feature called 'Whitbread Hole'. This is a combe or valley with its open end on the cliffs and the paths that are marked across that consequently go down hill fairly steeply and uphill the other side . You can go that way if you choose but we took the easy way around the head of the combe and didn't lose any height. If you follow the path marked on the map as the 'South Downs Way' that should take you around the landward side of the wood and around the head of the combe. You can't really get lost up here as long as you don't cross the road. If you do find yourself at the road turn left and walk on the grass with the road on your right.
Further on you will see a building on the right by the road which is the Beachy Head pub together with the visitor centre and car park. This is Beachy Head.
You are now on a headland which is why you will have sea behind you and sea in front of you beyond the visitor centre  with the Belle Tout Lighthouse visible in the distance which, at some later stage, you will be walking past. There is also a good view of Eastbourne to the south and if you find a suitable point at the cliff edge you can see the Beachy Head Lighthouse hundreds of feet below. .
2. Beachy Head to Birling Gap (2.5 miles)
Make your way towards the edge of the cliff but take care because although a few sections of cliff are fenced most of it isn't and it's a very long way down!. All you need to do now is to follow the cliff edge.
The ground along this section of the walk does undulate somewhat and some of it is relatively steep but none of it difficult . As all you are doing on this section is following the cliff edge there are no directions required until you get to the Belle Tout Lighthouse.
When you reach the uphill stretch with the lighthouse at the top you will need to plan to pass the lighthouse on its landward side as, because of cliff falls, the path has been diverted to the right. You would be well advised to stay away from the cliff edge as you climb this slope .
Once you pass the lighthouse you will see the buildings at Birling Gap below you so follow the downhill slope to the car park . You can get refreshments here as there is a tearoom and a pub. There are also public toilets. There are steps here down to the beach and a good view of the Seven Sisters and Seaford Head can be had from the top of the steps.
3. Birling Gap to Exceat ( 3.5 miles )
When you are ready to leave Birling Gap go to the toilets building and on the right hand end, facing away from the sea, there is a short path to an unsurfaced road which runs straight uphill, to your left, with a few houses on the side. Go up this track to the top end and pass through the stile back onto open grassland. You are now on the first of the Seven Sisters. Go straight on in the same direction as the track with the cliff edge somewhere to your left. You will soon reach the top of the first 'Sister' and you will be able to see Birling Gap behind and below you with the Belle Tout Lighthouse in the distance.
You now have another six of these undulations to traverse with amazing views both ahead of you and behind. Don't forget to stop and look behind you each time you reach the top of a rise. The last of the Sisters, Haven Brow, is the highest and steepest of them all. When you arrive at the top of Haven Brow keep walking parallel to the sea until you see Cuckmere Haven beach  and a fence in front of you. You should also be able to see Exceat, your final destination, along the Cuckmere Valley to your right at the end of the visible stretch of river 
You now have two choices - the steep way or the not so steep way.
1. Go over the fence via the style and go down the steep path to a point very near to Cuckmere Haven Beach then turn inland with the Cuckmere River on your left until you reach a concrete path, there will be a branch to your right which you should ignore and you should go straight ahead. Skip the next paragraph (2) which is the alternative route.
2. There should be a stile visible in the fence however don't cross over the fence but turn right, away from the sea, and parallel to the fence. You should find yourself on a path running gently downhill alongside the fence. Follow this path to the bottom of the slope going down a few steps just before you reach the flat bottom of the Cuckmere Valley. You should be able to see a concrete path going to your right which you should ignore and a concrete path going straight ahead which you should follow.
The concrete path will take you all the way to the main road at Exceat. Look to your left and some way down on the far side of the road you should be able to see a bus stop where you can catch your bus back to Eastbourne. Go straight across the road with care, because the traffic moves fast along this stretch, and enter the Exceat visitor centre grounds. There is a nice teashop here where you can get some refreshment if you want. Go downhill roughly parallel with the main road and come out of the other entrance at the bottom. You will find yourself very near the bus stop.
The bus will stop near the railway station in Eastbourne or, if you have time, you could go as far as the pier for a look round but you will, of course, have to walk back to the station or take another short bus ride afterwards.You could, if you wish, extend your walk from Exceat to Seaford along the cliffs. We haven't done that section (yet) so you are on your own from Exceat onwards. The buses that stop at Exceat start from Seaford so you should have no problems getting back to Eastbourne.
During the summer months the last bus back to Eastbourne doesn't leave from Exceat until around midnight and buses run every 10 minutes until about 6:00 PM after which they run every 30 minutes until 9:00 PM when the interval is hourly. The buses are much less frequent in the winter months October - March and the last bus leaves Exceat much earlier in the day.
Map of the area
You could purchase a copy of the Ordnance Survey Map 'South Downs Way: Newhaven to Eastbourne' (Explorer 123) at a scale of 1:25000 (2.5 inches to the mile). This map shows all the features mentioned above together with the paths and would also have the advantage of enabling you to deviate from the above walk without becoming lost (assuming that you can actually read a map). The map measures approximately 4 feet by 3 feet but is folded in such a way as to enable you to look at small parts of it without unfolding the whole sheet which makes it easier to use on a windy day.
There are three places that I know of where refreshments are available. They are the pub on Beachy Head, the tearoom or pub at Birling Gap and the tearoom or pub at Exceat. You could, of course, carry your own with you if you want.
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