A walk of superb sea views and and rolling downland clifftops, with the initial section covering the high Downs on the edge of Eastbourne. It’s then westwards towards Beachy Head, 500 feet above the sea, and onwards to Belle Tout lighthouse high up on the clifftop.
Belle Tout was built in 1832 but decommissioned in 1902 when the new Beachy Head lighthouse was built at the base of the cliffs. During World War II, Belle Tout was damaged when Canadian troops used it as target practice. In 1999, due to continuing erosion threatening the future of the building the lighthouse was moved 17 metres (56 feet) back from the edge of the cliff.
From the lighthouse, it’s down to Birling Gap, a small settlement crumbling into the sea, but you should be able to visit the National Trust cafe as long as the sea has not made any further inroads!
From Birling Gap, it’s inland towards East Dean, where you can stop off at the picturesque Tiger Inn or the Hikers Rest Tea Room, situated on the traffic-free village green, where you can get a bus or walk back to the start.
Tiger Inn at East Dean, National Trust cafe at Birling Gap
The short 3 mile circular walk starts from The Tiger Inn at East Dean in East Sussex, a wonderfully situated pub on a traffic-free village green. On this walk, you still walk down to the coast but after a short coastal stretch you turn back inland (avoiding the challenge of walking the Seven Sisters but getting the view). Great downland and coastal views.
What remains of the small settlement at Birling Gap is crumbling into the sea but you should be able to visit the cafe as long as the sea has not made any further inroads!
The last of the Coastguard Cottages, Birling Gap
The alternative walk is longer with some short steep ascents along the coast as you tackle the start of the Seven Sisters.
pubs at East Dean and Exceat Bridge, cafes at Birling Gap and Exceat
Having walked this route recently, this is one of the most challenging walks in Sussex, but it well worth it thanks to the wonderful coastal views. It also passes through Friston Forest and the perfectly preserved downland hamlet of West Dean. The Tiger Inn at East Dean is a wonderfully situated pub on the traffic-free village green.
The walk can be walked in either direction. The prevailing winds are south westerley, along the coast from west to east. If it’s a cold windy day and this is the case, you might do best walking down the Cuckmere Valley first to the coast, and then onto Birling Gap and back through the Forest. Look out for the wind effect on hill-top hawthorn bushes and trees.