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Hiking the South Downs

Hiking the South Downs
Hiking the South Downs
Hiking the South Downs
Hiking the South Downs

Stretching from Winchester to Eastbourne, the South Downs Way is 160km long, clearly signposted, and offers the opportunity to see some beautiful unspoilt countryside without having to travel too far from major cities or access points. Popular with walkers, cyclists and horse riders, it is an easily accessible route, ideal for either long hikes or short walks.

If you are planning to hike the length of the South Downs, you will need to plan carefully. It is important to have the right clothing and footwear for the time of year, and it is an extremely good idea to pre-book accommodation en-route. You should also make sure that you have sufficient food, water, and other essentials with you. A map would be useful, but the route is well signposted.

A reasonably fit person should be able to walk the whole length of the South Downs Way in 6-9 days. You will need to walk a little extra each day off the trail to reach your accommodation, so allow for a few km extra each day when you are planning your trip.

Planning the trip

Once you’ve worked out how long you think you’ll take to walk the South Downs Way, you need to decide when to go. The best months are May, June and September. The weather is usually reasonable, with the caveat that British weather can be unpredictable, and it isn’t too busy.

There are number of leaflets and books available to download for free, or to order – It is definitely worth reading some of the guides before you start your trip.

Accommodation should be pre-booked, especially during the school holidays and at weekends. There is a variety of accommodation types available, including hotels, B&Bs and campsites.

If you do not want to plan everything yourself there are a number of companies who offer walking holidays which include the South Downs. These would typically include accommodation, breakfast, and occasionally other meals. They would also transport any luggage between hotels. This can be a great alternative if you are on your own and would like to walk with other people.

What to see

From the historic city of Winchester to the chalk cliffs of Beachy Head, passing through downland and past quaint villages, this route is a haven for wildlife, both animal and plant life. It is worth getting a trail guide so you know what to look for.

If you want to spend time walking in unspoilt countryside, and see some of the best open countryside that England has to offer, then taking time out from a busy life to walk the South Downs Way is definitely worthwhile.

Jane is a travel writer and blogger. She also writes about small businesses and personal finance covering everything from credit cards to umbrella companies .