July is really spoiling us this year with absolutely great weather: Mediterranean temperatures, breezy and no sign of clouds. This is the perfect combination to plan a weekend full of outdoor activities. We decided to go hiking in South Downs National Park because of the incredible scenery there: high cliffs, rocky beaches, picturesque villages, river valleys and green pastures.
On Saturday morning, we jumped on a train to Eastbourne. There are two trains leaving every hour from London Victoria or London Bridge, but here’s a small tip: if you buy a Network Railcard for £30 and valid for a year, you can get 30% discount on all train fares for journeys in the south of the UK. The best part is that up to 4 people can travel with one Network Railcard.
From Eastbourne to Beachy Head
On arriving in Eastbourne, we walked towards the seaside and took the South Downs Way. The hike led us to Beachy Head which offers one of the most amazing coastlines we’ve ever seen. Beachy Head is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising to 162 metres (531 ft) above sea level. From above you can see people engaging in different water sports: paddling, canoeing, and sailing.
By the time the sun was high in the sky we’d reached Birling Gap, the best place to enjoy a swim and have lunch at the tea room near the beach.
From Beachy Head to East Dean
The next destination on our hike plan was East Dean. The hike takes about 40 minutes, but once there, you can see why this village is on any East Sussex tourist’s route. There are a lot of buildings of historic interest and each Saturday during the local market you can enjoy live music in the village square.
From East Dean to Friston Forest
At the North corner of the town square you’ll find a small path that leads to Friston Forest. Walking through the forest is the best way to avoid the high temperatures of the afternoon sun. If you decide to go mountain biking, there’s no need to actually look for a mountain. There are a lot of mountain biking and cycling paths in Friston Forest.
From Friston Forest to Seven Sisters Country Park
We walked until we got to Seven Sisters Country Park and again took the South Downs Way in a meandering Cuckmere river valley. This was the best part of our hike and the view from the top of the cliff is very impressive. People come here from all over the world to enjoy this beautiful scenery and go bird watching, cycling and canoeing.
Our hike was about 19 km (12 miles) long, but if you want to engage in family friendly activities, there are shorter trails and bus stops along the way that take you back to Eastbourne. If you travel by car, there are many parking places on Beachy Head Road, Birling Gap Road and another one near Seven Sisters Country Park.