Category: South Downs Way

South Downs Way Accommodation Guide

The South Downs Way is renowned for its splendid walking, cultural experiences, and ease of access. Walking the entire route you’ll be treated to beautiful views and charming villages, but…

The South Downs Way is renowned for its splendid walking, cultural experiences, and ease of access. Walking the entire route you’ll be treated to beautiful views and charming villages, but you’ll also get to the experience some of the warmest hospitality in all of England.

Accommodation options on the South Downs Way include everything from campgrounds to B&Bs to luxurious hotels. For every budget and preference there is almost always an excellent accommodation option on this National Trail.

We’ve put together this South Downs Way Accommodation Guide to help you understand your options and get the most out of your South Downs Way Adventure.

Let’s get started.

In This South Downs Way Accommodation Guide

Should I reserve my South Downs Way accommodation in advance?

This largely depends on when you plan on walking the South Downs Way, but during the peak season it is a resounding yes! That means that from approximately mid-March through the end of September you’ll be best served by booking your accommodation in advance for the South Downs Way.

This is true even for those bringing a tent along and camping on their walk as many of the campgrounds are quite popular in the summer months.

When booking for peak season, the earlier the better. If possible, try to reserve the most in-demand accommodation 3-4 months in advance, if possible. If you’re more of a last-minute person, don’t despair. Even calling a few days ahead while you’re on the trail could really pay off.

Guest house on the south Downs Way

Advance bookings are recommended on the South Downs Way.

 

South Downs Way Accommodation Cost

One of the great things about the South Downs Way is the variety of itinerary options. Given that the walk passes through many villages, towns, and farming communities, it is possible to find a place to lay your head almost anywhere along the walk.

Just as you can customize your itinerary to suit your needs, you can also choose your accommodation to suit your personal budget.

Prices can vary greatly from place to place, and expect accommodation costs to increase the closer you get to the coast. However, generally speaking, here’s what you can expect to pay for accommodation along the South Downs Way:

  • B&B/Guesthouse/Hotel: £75+ (per person/per night)
  • Bunkhouse/Hostel: £40 (per person/per night)
  • Camping: £15 (per person/per night)

In our accommodation directory, we’ve provided our recommendations for high-end, mid-range, and budget options at all of the common stopping points along the South Downs Way. We’ve defined those categories as follows:

  • High-End: £85+ (per person/per night)
  • Mid-Range: £50-85 (per person/per night)
  • Budget:<£50 (per person/per night)

NOTE: Camping accommodation is not included in this post. Check out our detailed Guide to Camping on the South Downs Way for camping options on every stage.

English breakfast

B&Bs on the South Downs Way are sure to offer up a full English breakfast!

 

South Downs Way Accommodation Directory & Map

There are wonderful places to stay along the entire South Downs Way route. In this accommodation directory, we’ll give you key details about all of your options, as well as our top recommendations for every budget.

We’ve organized our list to follow most variations of the classic west to east South Downs Way itinerary. You can also view all of the accommodation providers in this directory on the map below.

Looking for an easy way to access South Down’s Way maps and accommodation information on your phone? Check out the Hiiker app! It’s a valuable tool to have with you on the trail. 

Read the directory in its entirety or jump to a specific stopping point from the list below:

Winchester cathedral

 

Winchester

High-End: The Old Vine

For those looking to start their South Downs Way walk with a bit of luxury, you can’t go wrong with the Old Vine Hotel in Winchester. This centrally located hotel features beautifully appointed guest rooms and excellent service. Don’t forget to check out the on-site restaurant as well.

Mid-Range: The Winchester Hotel

The Winchester Hotel has simple, efficient rooms that provide a good mid-range option in Winchester. While certainly not luxurious, the Winchester Hotel is in a great location and provides good value for the money. The indoor pool and hot tub are perfect for loosening up those muscles before your walk!

Budget: The King Alfred Pub

Tucked away on a quiet corner, the King Alfred Pub in Winchester is the quintessential pub accommodation. This lovely spot features charming rooms set above a lively pub. The staff is incredibly friendly and you’ll enjoy a convivial atmosphere. Highly recommended!

 

Cheriton

Mid-Range: Brick House

The Brick House in Cheriton is a unique place to spend the night on the South Downs Way. The beautiful accommodation shares a building with a bakery school, so be sure to stick around for the included breakfast! This is the most convenient option for those looking to stay in Cheriton.

Budget: The Milburys

You can’t get find a better location than The Milburys Pub, located right on the South Downs Way. There are only two rooms available, but if you’re looking to stop before reaching Exton this is a great option.

 

Exton

High-End: Manor House Exton B&B

Located on the northern edge of the lovely village of Exton, the Manor House B&B offers excellent accommodation at reasonable prices. The Manor House has only two rooms so you’ll enjoy some peace and quiet before enjoying the excellent breakfast the following morning.

Mid-Range: Crossways B&B

The Crossways B&B is a simple, but well run bed and breakfast in the heart of Exton. You’ll have the entire place to yourself and they only feature one room, which can be a great feature for the weary walker.

Budget: Bucks Head Inn

The best bet for budget accommodation in Exton is the Bucks Head Inn, located just south of the main village. This is quintessential pub accommodation with five rooms set above the main pub.

 

East Meon

High-End: Ye Olde George Inn

The Ye Olde George Inn in East Meon offers well appointed rooms above the pub and restaurant. Breakfast is included in the room rate and highly recommended. The Ye Olde George Inn gets great reviews for its friendly staff and comfortable rooms.

Mid-Range: The Long House

The Long House in East Meon is a good fit for those who don’t want the busy atmosphere of pub accommodation. This quiet and tranquil bed and breakfast is known for the owners going above and beyond, even sometimes picking up weary South Downs Way walkers from the trail!

Budget: Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite

Situated just south of East Meon, the Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite offers simple accommodation at reasonable prices. The bed & breakfast features en suite rooms that are small but cozy and set in the beautiful woodlands of South Downs National Park.

 

Buriton

High-End: The Hampshire Hog

The Hampshire Hog is located south of Buriton on the A3. This upscale restaurant and B&B has beautiful rooms that are sure to add a bit of luxury to your South Downs Way walk. The onsite restaurant gets good reviews for its classic pub fare.

Mid-Range: The Village Inn at Buriton

The Village Inn is situated in the heart of Buriton occupying a beautiful white brick building. The rooms were recently redesigned and have a boutique hotel feel while still maintaining their charm. There is an on-site restaurant with an excellent gin selection.

Budget: Copper Beeches

Copper Beeches sits east of Buriton, but just a short walk from the South Downs Way. This farmhouse style B&B features simple rooms and friendly owners. The pastoral setting is what the South Downs are known for!

 

Cocking

High-End: The Blue Bell

This free house is located smack dab in the center of Cocking, making it a convenient option for South Downs Way walkers. You’ll find three B&B rooms available here as well as an on-site restaurant. The rooms are simple, but well designed.

Mid-Range: Hysett House

The Hysett House is a small, family run B&B on the north edge of Cocking. The rooms are basic, but the warm hospitality from the owners is what Hysett House is known for.

Budget: Moonlight Cottage B&B

The Moonlight Cottage B&B features small but functional rooms very close to the main South Downs Way trail. This cozy accommodation is a good value for the money and the helpful owners make it a highly recommended option.

Bignor

High-End: The White Horse Inn

The White Horse Inn offers beautiful rooms a short distance from the South Downs Way in Sutton. This well run establishment has a high-end restaurant and makes a great spot to indulge in a little luxury on your South Downs Way walk.

Mid-Range: Stane House

The Stane House is a classic English B&B located in beautiful countryside just off the South Downs Way. The lovely back garden is a treat on a sunny day and the owner’s bring a warm hospitality only found at English B&Bs!

Budget: Folly Hide

Folly Hide offers some of the most unique accommodation on the South Downs Way. This “tiny house” is a renovated shepherd’s hut set in a beautiful garden. You’ll enjoy privacy while still having modern amenities and getting to experience what life was once like in the South Downs.

 

Amberley

High-End: Amberley Castle

By far the most luxurious accommodation you’ll find on the South Downs Way is the Amberley Castle. A truly unique place to spend the night, the hotel is set within the the Amberley Castle grounds. You’ll pay dearly for a night here, but this could very well be the highlight of your trip!

Mid-Range: Black Horse

For those looking for well run pub accommodation in Amberley look no further than the Black Horse. This excellent establishment has 11 rooms featuring unique furniture and all including breakfast. This is a popular place with the locals as well as travelers making it a great option.

Budget: The Sportsman Inn

The Sportsman Inn sits in a pastoral location just outside of  Amberley. With beautiful views of the countryside this is a great budget accommodation option. Both double and twin rooms are available depending on your needs.

 

Washington

Mid-Range: Holt House

The Holt House is a charming B&B located just off the South Downs Way in the small village of Washington. With only three rooms available it maintains a cozy and communal atmosphere while providing all the necessities. Breakfast is included and room rates are quite reasonable.

 

Upper Beeding/Steyning

High-End: Springwells House

The Springwells House is a boutique bed & breakfast located north of the South Downs Way in Steyning. Featuring six well appointed rooms, this is a lovely option for those looking for a tranquil setting. The beautiful gardens make this a great value for the money.

Mid-Range: The Castle Inn

The Castle Inn is located a short distance off the trail and features a variety of rooms to suit any budget. This B&B style accommodation has a popular restaurant and beautiful back garden. A great option for those looking to stop in Upper Beeding or Steyning.

Budget: YHA Truleigh Hill

Situated immediately off the South Downs Way, the YHA Truleigh Hill is a very popular stop for walkers. Perfect for those who prefer simple accommodation, the YHA Truleigh Hill has both dormitory and private room options. Take advantage of the communal kitchen to prepare your own dinner.

 

Ditchling

High-End: The White Horse

The White Horse Inn in Ditchling is a classic and well-designed guest house near the South Downs Way. This great option includes seven bed & breakfast style rooms as well as a cozy restaurant and bar.

Mid-Range: The Bull

Located right in the center of Ditchling, The Bull is a classic English guest house. One of the oldest structures in the area, The Bull features boutique style rooms set above a well-regarded restaurant. Prices are reasonable, but be sure to book ahead for the summer months.

Budget: Tovey Lodge

The Tovey Lodge is a self-catering cottage located a short distance from the South Downs Way. This is a great option for couples as the cottage features a double bed and plenty of space for relaxing. You’ll enjoy much more privacy here when compared to a traditional hotel.

 

Kingston/Lewes

Mid-Range: Kings Head or Nightingales

You’ll find several good mid-range accommodation options in the Kingston and Lewes area. We outlined your best bets below:

Nightingales:

This simple bed and breakfast is just a short distance from the South Downs Way, making it a great option. The host is friendly and you can enjoy the lovely back garden during your stay.

Kings Head:

Although the Kings Head is located a fair distance from the South Downs Way trail in Lewes, this still makes a good option for walkers. The warm and inviting atmosphere make this a popular stopping point, while weary walkers will appreciate the beautiful soaking tubs in the rooms!

Budget: The Newmarket Inn

The Newmarket Inn is located just a stone’s throw from the South Downs Way adjacent to the busy A27. This is the most convenient option in the Kingston/Lewes area and the new owner gets rave reviews from guests.

 

Alfriston

High-End: Wingrove House

The Wingrove House is one of Alfriston’s best bed & breakfasts. The rooms are well-designed and the restaurant is known for its excellent meals. This is a great place to spend your final night on the South Downs Way!

Mid-Range: Deans Place Hotel

Located just south of Alfriston, Deans Place Hotel is set in a stunningly beautiful country-house. Rooms rate here are quite reasonable and you can take in the pastoral feel of the grounds while still enjoying modern amenities. Highly recommended!

Budget: Ye Olde Smugglers Inne

The Ye Olde Smugglers Inne offers budget friendly pub accommodation in the heart of Alfriston. The friendly staff and convivial atmosphere add to the warmth of the place, while the simple rooms offer great value. This is your best bet if you’re looking to keep you budget in check.

Eastbourne

High-End: The View Hotel

If you couldn’t already tell from the name, The View Hotel in Eastbourne is known for its expansive views. While you won’t experience the same hospitality that comes with rural B&Bs, the View’s staff often goes the extra mile. The perfect place to relax after completing the South Downs Way!

Mid-Range: The Cherry Tree Guest House

The Cherry Tree Guest House features 10 simple rooms set in a beautiful location. The breakfast gets outstanding reviews and is perfect for the hungry SDW walker! This is a great option to rest and relax for a few nights after your walk.

Budget: YHA Eastbourne

The YHA Eastbourne is located on the outskirts of town and is the perfect budget accommodation option in Eastbourne. Choose from dormitory style or private rooms and enjoy the communal atmosphere at this excellent YHA.

The beach in Eastbourne on the South Downs Way

 

What’s Next?

Check out our other great South Downs Way Resources:

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Guide to Camping on the South Downs Way

The South Downs Way is one of England’s most spectacular National Trails. These walks are renowned for their natural beauty, cultural heritage, and historical significance. The South Downs Way fits…

The South Downs Way is one of England’s most spectacular National Trails. These walks are renowned for their natural beauty, cultural heritage, and historical significance. The South Downs Way fits nicely into all three of these categories at it takes walkers through the beautiful South Downs while visiting charming Sussex villages and grand cathedrals along the way.

The route covers 100 miles from its start in the cathedral city of Winchester to its finish on the coast in Eastbourne. Along the way walkers will have plenty of accommodation options to choose from, including many wonderful campgrounds, which are the focus of this resource.

This guide has been designed to be perfect companion for the walker hoping to camp along the South Downs Way.

We’ve included detailed information on campgrounds, camping itineraries, what to pack, and more, in order to help you plan your own South Downs Way camping adventure!

Let’s get started.

Sign post on the South Downs Way

Everything you need to to plan your South Downs Way adventure – all in one place.

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The 40+ page guide contains resources you won’t find anywhere else, including:

  • Stage-by-stage hiking and campground descriptions
  • Detailed maps for every stop
  • Complete 9-day itinerary for campers
  • Custom GPS data for the entire route
  • Detailed instructions on using your phone as a GPS device
  • The ultimate camping packing list
  • A 15-week training plan

We truly believe this is the best guide available for the camping on the South Downs Way.  Pick up your guide below and if your not satisfied for any reason we’ll give you a full refund!

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In this South Downs Way Camping Guide

South Downs Way Must Know

The South Downs Way was established as a National Trail in 1972, although the general route has been in use for thousands of years by Romans, pilgrims, and other precursors to modern England. The walk is one of the most popular National Trails in England, due in part to its close proximity to the major population centers of London, Southampton, and Brighton.

However, those seeking solitude shouldn’t be scared off by that fact, as there is plenty of quiet to be found on the South Downs Way, especially for campers!

The route begins in the cathedral city of Winchester before making its way through the South Downs National Park and the counties Hampshire and Sussex before reaching Eastbourne on the coast. Along the way walkers will enjoy highlights like the Winchester Cathedral, rolling Sussex hills, quaint village of Amberley, and the famous Seven Sisters Cliffs.

South Downs Way overview map

The South Downs Way connects Winchester and Eastbourne. (Click to enlarge).

 

How long is the South Downs Way?

Officially, the South Downs Way is 101 miles or 163 kilometers long from the center to Winchester to Eastbourne.

However, walkers should expect to cover a bit more distance, as many of the campgrounds are located slightly off the main trail. Add in a few side trips to the local pub or to visit a shop and you can plan on walking well over 100 miles.

South Downs Way map

Map of the South Downs Way. (Click to enlarge).

 

In addition to the main route which finishes by heading from Alfriston to the coast before taking the stunning pathway along the Seven Sisters to Eastbourne, there is an alternate inland path for the final stage. This route is primarily used by those cycling the South Downs Way, but does allow for a slightly shorter route for those who are interested.

For more resources on maps for the South Downs Way Check out our South Downs Way | Maps & Routes article here.

How difficult is the South Downs Way?

The South Downs Way is a very approachable walk and is suitable for a variety of fitness levels.

However, while the trail never crosses any soaring mountain passes, you should be prepared for the constant up and down nature of walking in the South Downs. Those rolling hills provide a stunning backdrop for the walk, but they can certainly tire you out!

In addition, anytime you set out on a 100-mile walk you need to be prepared for long days on your feet. Most walkers will adjust after a few days walking, but any preparation you can do in advance will be beneficial.

Walking path in the South Downs

 

For those who plan on camping, a little extra preparation will be especially helpful. Carrying the extra weight necessitated by your camping equipment will certainly make the South Downs Way a bit more challenging. We recommend taking a few walks with your fully loaded backpack prior to heading out as a way to prepare your body and adjust to carrying the weight.

South Downs Way Weather & When to Hike

The southeast of England is known for its generally sunny weather when compared to the rest of the country, making it the perfect destination for walkers. The South Downs are renowned for beautiful summers, while the winter months bring cooler temperatures, more precipitation, and even the occasional snow shower!

For these reasons, we recommend walking the South Downs Way anytime from mid-March through the end of September.

Keep in mind that many of the campsites in this guide close down during the winter, so if you’re planning on camping on the South Downs Way you’ll need to do it outside of the colder months.

Generally speaking, here’s what you can expect in each month of the hiking season:

March/April: Cool temps, moderate rainfall, and sparse crowds make this an attractive month to hike. Be aware of the shorter days, which allow for fewer daylight hours on the trail.

May & June: The weather tends to be a bit milder and more settled than in April and the days are longer, but it’s still pretty quiet on the trail. These are great months to walk the South Downs Way.

July/August: School holidays and warm weather mean that these are the busiest months on the South Downs Way. July and August (August in particular) tend to be wetter than May and June, but you can also get some brilliant sunny days, too.

September: With few crowds, mild temperatures, and relatively less rainfall, September is a wonderful time to be on the trail.

October: The days begin to get shorter, colder, and wetter as you enter October. You may get some incredibly clear and crisp autumn days, but you’ll also need to be prepared for harsh conditions. Many of the campgrounds on the South Downs Way may be closed for the season.

South Downs Way in autumn

Autumn brings cooler weather to the South Downs.

 

South Downs Way Camping

Camping on the South Downs Way is a great way to experience this wonderful trail. You’ll save money on your accommodation costs, enjoy increased flexibility, and in many cases avoid long detours off the track to reach your accommodation.

In addition, many of the campgrounds on the South Downs Way are small, family-run farms which will give you a greater connection to the local area.

We can’t recommend camping on the South Downs Way highly enough!

The sections below will give an overview of all the campgrounds on the South Downs Way as well as provide some information on wild camping. Finally, we’ll provide a detailed stage-by-stage itinerary for camping on the South Downs Way complete with distances, where to camp, and more!

Not interested in camping? Be sure to check out our South Downs Way Accommodation Guide for your other options.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive planning guide for your own trip camping along the South Downs Way, be sure to check out our digital guide below.

The 40+ page guide contains resources you won’t find anywhere else, including:

  • Stage-by-stage hiking and campground descriptions
  • Detailed maps for every stop
  • Complete 9-day itinerary for campers
  • Custom GPS data for the entire route
  • Detailed instructions on using your phone as a GPS device
  • The ultimate camping packing list
  • A 15-week training plan

LEARN MORE

Campground on the South Downs Way

 

Campgrounds on the South Downs Way

The map and list below show all of the campgrounds that are in the general vicinity of the South Downs Way. We’ve done our best to include all of the relevant campgrounds, but if you see any missing let us know!

The list and map are designed to give you a general sense of your options for South Downs Way camping, but we recommend utilizing our full South Downs Way camping itinerary in the following section when planning your own trip.

Campgrounds are listed in the order you’ll reach them when walking the South Downs Way from west to east.

  • Morn Hill Caravan Club Campsite
    • Located just outside of Winchester, this is your best option for camping prior to beginning the walk.
  • Holden Farm Camping
    • This is your best option for the first night.
  • Meon Springs Glamping
    • Not a campground per se, but this glamping set-up is located just off the trail.
  • Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite (Sustainability Centre)
    • Most campers will stay here on their second night.
  • Upper Parsonage Farm Camping
    • Located just off the South Downs Way near Butser Hill, this is a good option if the Wetherdown Lodge is full.
  • Manor Farm Campsite
    • Located right on the trail, Manor Farm is the perfect stopping point on Stage 3.
  • New House Farm Campsite
    • New House Farm is located south of the trail just past Cocking. A good option if Manor Farm can’t accommodate you.
  • Graffham Camping & Caravanning Site
    • Quite a ways from the trail, this campground has limited appeal to South Downs Way walkers.
  • Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite
    • Formerly known as the Gumber Bothy, this National Trust run campsite is highly recommended.
  • Slindon Camping & Caravan Park
    • The Slindon Camping & Caravan Park is quite a distance from the South Downs Way. Only useful for those who prefer to not stay at Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite.
  • Foxleigh Barn & Campsite
    • The Foxleigh Barn has an excellent location near the village of Amberley. However, they have limited capacity to accommodate campers so be sure to inquire ahead of time.
  • High Titten Wild Camping
    • Unfortunately this excellent wild camping spot has been purchased by private owners and is no longer open. We’re keeping it on the list in the hopes that it reopens in the future!
  • Washington Caravan & Camping Park
    • The Washington Caravan & Camping Park, or Wash Camp for short, is a great stopping point just off the South Downs Way. We recommend staying here at the end of Stage 5.
  • YHA Truleigh Hill
    • The YHA Truleigh Hill is located right on the South Downs Way and provides excellent facilities for campers.
  • Saddlescombe Farm Campsite
    • Saddlescombe Farm is a National Trust run campsite that we recommend for the end of Stage 6.
  • Ditchling Camp
    • Ditchling Camp is located short distance north of the South Downs Way.
  • South Downs Farm Campsite
    • The South Downs Farm Campsite will only make sense if Ditchling Camp is full.
  • Stoneywish Camping
    • Stoneywish Camping is quite a ways from the South Downs Way near Ditchling. It will not make sense for many campers to stay here.
  • Blackberry Woods Camping
    • This lovely campground is quite a bit north of the main trail and won’t make sense for most walkers.
  • Hackmans Farm Camping
    • Hackmans Farm is a small operation that is conveniently located just off the South Downs Way. This makes sense for those who don’t plan on walking all the way to Housedean Farm.
  • Housedean Farm Campsite
    • The Housedean Farm Campsite is the most common place to stay at the end of Stage 7.
  • Firle Campsite
    • The Firle Campsite is located north of the South Downs Way prior to reaching Alfriston.
  • Alfriston Camping Park
    • The Alfriston Camping Park is the perfect place to spend your final night before completing the walk to Eastbourne.

Want an easy way to access South Downs Way maps and camping information on your phone? Be sure to check out the Hiiker app! It’s our favorite tool to have on the trail. 

Wild camping on the South Downs Way

Generally speaking, wild camping is not recommended on the South Downs Way. Unlike their Scottish neighbor to the north, England generally prohibits any form of wild camping on private land without permission of the land owner. Since the vast majority of the South Downs Way crosses private property, it does not make for a great wild camping adventure.

However, a quick Google search will reveal several personal accounts of folks doing just that: successfully wild camping along the South Downs Way.

For our guide we’ve chosen to leave out any details on potential wild camping spots to help limit the impacts this type of camping can bring to the trail. If you’re set on attempting to wild camp on the South Downs Way, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Always abide by Leave No Trace principles and show respect for the environment and local communities.
  • Always enquire with the land owner before setting up camp.
  • If permission is granted be sure to set up your tent after sun down and be packed up by sun rise.
  • Do not widely advertise wild camping as this can increase negative impacts on the trail and surrounding communities.

Stage-by-stage Itinerary for Camping on the South Downs Way

The following guide is based on a moderately paced 9-day itinerary. Beginning in Winchester and finishing in Eastbourne, there is camping available every night with the exception of the finish in Eastbourne. Given the number of campgrounds along the South Downs Way, there are plenty of alternative itineraries possible for those looking to spend more or less time on the trail.

Reservations are recommended for all of the campsites along the trail and prices are listed to the best of our knowledge.

Green tent at a campground

 

Looking for a complete resource for camping on the South Downs Way?

Our Guide to Camping on the South Downs Way includes everything you need to plan your perfect trip. From a complete 9-day camping itinerary  to maps created specifically for campers we can help you plan your perfect SDW adventure! Our downloadable Guide to Camping on the South Downs Way is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip. Pick your digital guide below:

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Stage 0: Winchester

Distance & Elevation: N/A
Where to stay:
Morn Hill Caravan Club Campsite
Description:

The South Downs Way officially starts in the center of Winchester. Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds directly in this cathedral city, so you’ll either need to camp a bit outside of town or plan to stay in one of the many hotels available. 

Keep in mind it is not necessary to stay in Winchester the night before starting your trek, given that transportation is relatively quick and easy from the London area and your first day is only 7 miles.

For those who would like to camp near Winchester prior to their South Downs Way walk, we recommend staying at the Morn Hill Caravan Club Campsite. This campground is about an hours walk outside of Winchester, although you may be able to take bus number 64 to the campground rather than walking.

Morn Hill is a large campground that is more geared towards caravanners than walkers, although you will find some nice amenities. These include laundry facilities, WiFi, and hot showers.

Services at Morn Hill Caravan Club Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Laundry
  • WiFi

Price: £7.90 per adult.

Nearby in Winchester

  • Supermarkets
  • Pharmacy
  • Banks/ATMs
  • Post office
  • Outdoor retailer
  • Restaurants/cafes/pubs
  • Train and bus connections
  • Taxi service
Winchester, UK

The South Downs Way begins in Winchester.

 

Stage 1: Winchester to Holden Farm Camping

Distance & Elevation: 7.19 mi // +1,055 ft, -842 ft 
Where to stay: 
Holden Farm Camping
Description:

The first stage of the South Downs Way for campers is relatively easy and a good introduction to the walk. You’ll enjoy walking on some of the undulating hillsides that the South Downs are known for as you cover 7 miles before stopping for the day at Holden Farm Camping.

Holden Farm is a lovely, rural campsite that is geared specifically for walkers and tent campers. You’ll get to choose anywhere in their large field for your pitch, and each comes with a complimentary fire pit for the evening. They also have an excellent shop featuring locally sourced essentials for your trip!

Services at Holden Farm Camping

  • Toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Potable water
  • Communal kitchen
  • Electronics charging
  • Small shop

Price: £15 – £20/adult depending on the time of year.

Map of Stage 1 from Winchester to Holden Farm Camping

Stage 1 – Winchester to Holden Farm Camping.

 

Stage 2: Holden Farm Camping to Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite

Distance & Elevation: 12.43 mi // +1,725 ft, -1,378 ft 
Where to stay: 
Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite
Description:

The second stage of the South Downs Way covers nearly 12.5 miles as walkers wind their way to the Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite. A part of the larger Sustainability Centre, this campground is surrounded by lovely woodland and forest, making for a rejuvenating place to spend the night.

Keep in mind that there are only six pitches at Wetherdown Lodge, so advance bookings are recommended.

Services at Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Solar showers (not always hot!)
  • Wood fired pizza oven
  • Cafe
  • Electronics charging
  • Small shop

Price: £12/person

Should you arrive and find the campsite at the Wetherdown Lodge full, simply continue on to the Upper Parsonage Farm Campsite, described below.

The Upper Parsonage Farm Campsite is located a short distance (.75 miles) from the South Downs Way, just before reaching the top of Butser Hill. This will make your walk on Stage 2 a bit longer, but you’ll be rewarded the next day by getting a head start on the longest stage of the walk!

Services at Upper Parsonage Farm Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Potential for evening meals/breakfast

Price: £10/person

Map of Stage 2 from Holden Farm Camping to Wetherdown Lodge and Campsite

Stage 2 – Holden Farm to Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite

 

Stage 3: Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite to Manor Farm

Distance & Elevation: 17.06 mi // +2,225 ft, -2,523 ft 
Where to stay: 
Manor Farm Campsite
Description:

Stage 3 is a long one! You’ll be covering over 17 miles en route to the Manor Farm campsite, just south of Cocking. Don’t be too intimidated, as the day’s walking is  relatively flat, but you’ll still want to be prepared for a full day’s outing. Your reward for all that walking is a lovely campsite just off the main trail, known as Manor Farm.

This pastoral campground has lovely views and very friendly owners. You’ll have easy access to Cocking for supplies, but we recommend picking up some local delicacies from the on-site farm shop.

Services at Manor Farm Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Farm shop

Price: £10/person

Map of Stage 3 from Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite to Manor Farm

Stage 3 – Wetherdown Lodge & Campsite to Manor Farm

 

Tents at Manor Farm Camping on the South Downs Way

Manor Farm is located just off the South Downs Way and makes an ideal stop for campers.

 

Stage 4: Manor Farm to Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite

Distance & Elevation: 7.78 mi // +1,114 ft, -1,086 ft 
Where to stay: 
Gumber Camping Bar & Campsite
Description:

Stage 4 is a nice reprieve after a long walk on the previous day. You’ll walk just under 8 miles before reaching the Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite, formerly known as the Gumber Bothy. This National Trust run campsite is a rural and simple campground, perfect for those walking the South Downs Way.

You won’t find any cars or caravans at this car-free campsite and you’ll enjoy a communal atmosphere in a beautiful location.

Note: Traditionally this stage has taken walkers all the way to Amberley where a free wild camping spot was available at High Titten. As of 2021, High Titten Campground has been purchased by a private owner and is not currently open for camping. If the situation changes we’ll update this guide. 

Also near Amberley, the Foxleigh Barn Campsite is a potential option. However, they have limited capacity so we recommend stopping at Gumber Bothy instead. 

Services at Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Kitchen & BBQ
  • Drying room

Price: £15/pitch + £12/person for each additional person

Map of Stage 4 from Manor Farm to Gumber Bothy

Stage 4 – Manor Farm to Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite

 

Stage 5: Gumber Camping Barn & Campsite to Washington Caravan Park

Distance & Elevation: 12.8 mi // +1,402 ft, -1,656 ft 
Where to stay: 
Washington Caravan Park & Campsite
Description:

Stage 5 requires campers to walk approximately 1 mile off the main South Downs Way trail to reach your campground at Washington Caravan Park & Campsite. This isn’t too much trouble, and does take you past an excellent pub, but walkers should be prepared for the extra walking.

The Washington Caravan Park & Campsite is a large site with room for up to 80 tents in addition to caravanners. You’ll find plenty of amenities here as well as easy access to the surrounding area.

Services at Washington Caravan & Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Dishwashing area
  • Laundry
  • Food/meals available during peak season
  • WiFi

Price: £8 – £12/pitch + £6/adult. More information here.

Map of Stage 5 from Gumber Campsite to Washington Camping

Stage 5 – Gumber Campsite to Washington Caravan & Camping Park

 

Camping field at Washington Camping Park.

The camping field at Washing Caravan & Camping Park.

 

Stage 6: Washington Caravan Park to Saddlescombe Farm

Distance & Elevation: 12.95 mi // +1,858 ft, -1,616 ft 
Where to stay: 
Saddlescombe Farm
Description:

This is a lovely stage filled with some of the best scenery on offer in the South Downs. You’ll finish at the rustic, yet lovely campsite at Saddlescombe Farm. This is a National Trust run campsite which retains much of its pastoral character by forbidding cars. You won’t find any glitz and glamor here, but this is what camping on the South Downs Way is all about!

If you’d like to break this stage up, we recommend stopping at the well run YHA Truleigh Hill, located a bit past the halfway mark of Stage 6.

Services at Saddlescombe Farm Campsite

  • Toilets
  • BBQ
  • No showers available – this is rustic camping!

Price: £10/pitch + £10/adult.

Map of Stage 6 from Washington Camping Park to Saddlescombe Farm Camping

Stage 6 – Washington Camping Park to Saddlescombe Farm Camping

 

Stage 7: Saddlescombe Farm to Housedean Farm

Distance & Elevation: 9.91 mi // +1,305 ft, -1,554 ft 
Where to stay: 
Housedean Farm
Description:

Stage 7 is a beautiful walk, although you can expect the trail to be a bit more crowded given how close you are to Brighton at this stage of the South Downs Way. Your campground for the night is the beautiful Housedean Farm Campsite, a very well run establishment.

Although just off the busy A27, you’d never know it from the tranquil countryside surrounding the campground.

Services at Housedean Farm Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Washing basins
  • Communal fridge/freezer
  • Charing points

Price: £14/adult

Map of Stage 7 from Saddlescombe Farm Camping to Housedean Farm Camping

Stage 7 – Saddlescombe Farm Camping to Housedean Farm Camping

 

Housdean Farm Campsite

The lovely campsite at Housedean Farm.

 

Stage 8: Housedean Farm to Alfriston Camping Park

Distance & Elevation: 14.45 mi // +2,068 ft, -2,148 ft 
Where to stay: 
Alfriston Camping Park
Description:

You’re getting close to the end!

Stage 8 takes walkers closer to the coast and the completion of the South Downs Way, with an overnight stay at the excellent Alfriston Camping Park. This large campground has good service and a separate field specifically for families. You’ll find the caravanning crowd here, but there is always plenty of space for South Downs Way walkers.

There are plenty of services available nearby in Alfriston.

Services at Alfriston Camping Park

  • Toilets
  • Showers

Price: £10/adult

Map of Stage 8 from Housedean Farm Camping to Alfriston Camping Park

Stage 8 – Housedean Farm Camping to Alfriston Camping Park

 

Stage 9: Alfriston Camping Park to Eastbourne

Distance & Elevation: 11.12 mi // +2,197 ft, -2,101 ft 
Where to stay: 
YHA Eastbourne or other hotel.
Description:

This is it, your final stage of the South Downs Way!

The route saves the best for last with a stunning walk along the Seven Sisters, culminating at Beachy Head. This is a challenging day’s walk, but we’re willing to bet you’ll be too distracted by the beautiful views to care too much.

Unfortunately there are no campgrounds in or near Eastbourne, although we recommend treating yourself to a hotel anyways. For the budget conscious, you can’t go wrong with the YHA Eastbourne.

View from Beachy Head.

Take in the stunning views from Beachy Head on the final stage of the South Downs Way.

 

Map of Stage 9 from Alfriston Camping Park to Eastbourne

Stage 9 – Alfriston Camping Park to Eastbourne

 

What to Pack for Camping on the South Downs Way

Deciding what to pack for the South Downs Way is an important part of having a successful trip. This is especially true for campers, who can expect to be carrying a much heavier rucksack. It’s simple- the heavier your pack, the harder your effort.

As such, we recommend focusing on bringing high-quality, lightweight equipment. With a little planning and strategy, you can keep the weight of your backpack manageable while still ensuring you have everything you need for your trip.

We’ve provided some general packing information for camping on the South Downs Way below, but for more in-depth information be sure to check out our full packing list for the South Downs Way below.

Read our Complete Guide to Packing for the South Downs Way here.

In general, you should be able to get by with a 40L – 60L backpack and the following essentials:

Hiker on the South Downs Way

 

What’s Next?

You’re well on your way to an incredible camping experience on the South Downs Way. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the South Downs Way to learn everything you’ll need to know for your trip!

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South Downs Way Packing List

The South Downs Way is 100 miles (160 km) of pure delight. One of England’s acclaimed National Trails, the South Downs Way meanders past dramatic landforms like the Seven Sisters…

The South Downs Way is 100 miles (160 km) of pure delight. One of England’s acclaimed National Trails, the South Downs Way meanders past dramatic landforms like the Seven Sisters cliffs, Bronze Age ruins, picturesque countryside, seaside vistas, and storybook villages. Although it’s known for being relatively easy and enjoying some of England’s sunniest weather, this is no walk in the park. You’ll need to be prepared for all sorts of weather, and well as some challenging hills and tough underfoot conditions.

However, before you go packing a rucksack bigger than you are, remember the golden rule of backpacking: keep it as light as possible! Carrying minimal weight is one of the best things you can do to ensure you enjoy your South Downs Way trip to the fullest.

So how does one strike that elusive balance between having all of the necessities without feeling like they have a baby elephant on their back? Read on for our best advice and detailed kit lists to learn everything you need (and everything you don’t) to have your best possible South Downs Way Walk!

In this post:

Looking down at the incredible Dyke Valley, South Downs Way
Looking down at the incredible Dyke Valley.

Packing Basics for the South Downs Way

There are so many variables when it comes to packing for the South Downs Way, such as your accommodation type, hiking style, trip length, baggage transfers, time of year, and many more. Every hiker will have a unique kit to best serve their individual needs. Despite all of those factors, there are some universal rules that all hikers should follow when putting together their kit for the South Downs Way.

How Much Should My Pack Weigh?

This isn’t easy to answer, since there are a ton of factors that influence how much is too much for any individual hiker. Some things to think about…

  • How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
  • Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before? 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? 

As a very general rule, campers should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. Those staying indoors should carry no more than 9kg. If having your luggage transferred along the trail, most transfer services will limit you to 20kg, and your daypack shouldn’t exceed 4kg. If you are backpacking for the first time or have a chronic injury, the weight of your pack should be significantly less than these guidelines.

Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for lightening your load:

  1. You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Bring quick-dry items that you can rinse out in the sink or shower.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.
Backpacking backpack
The type of pack you’ll need for the South Downs Way will depend on your individual itinerary.

Choosing a backpack for the South Downs Way

Just like with footwear, a properly fitting backpack is crucial on the South Downs Way. Also similar to your boots, your pack needs to be broken in for optimal comfort. We recommend carrying a weighted pack on your training walks to get used to the extra weight and ensure it fits well.

If you plan on staying in B&B’s along the route, you won’t need a very large rucksack. A 25-liter pack should be enough to hold a few clothing items, food, water, and toiletries.

Those staying in dorms and bunkhouses will most likely need to carry a sleeping bag and towel. A 30-40L pack will be more than enough space for everything you need.

If you plan on camping, you’ll need a larger pack to fit your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and cooking equipment in addition to your basic supplies. A 45-60L pack will be suitable for most campers.

Last but not least, don’t forget to bring a pack cover to protect against rain! Many newer packs come with one built-in.

Read More: South Downs Way Maps and Routes

Coast to Coast Walk hiking boots
Footwear on the South Downs Way comes down to personal preference and fit, but always break in new boots ahead of time!

Footwear on the South Downs Way

One of the most challenging aspects of the South Downs Way is the strain it puts on your feet. The combination of following many miles on old drover roads, plus the rocky chalk landscape conspire to create conditions that will leave your feet feeling sore and tired. Add in some moisture, and you’ve got a real recipe for trouble. While some soreness is inevitable with longs days of walking, blisters, bruising, and extreme discomfort don’t have to be. Therefore, it is imperative that you test out your footwear ahead of time and make sure you break it in!

Hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail running shoes will all work for the South Downs Way, provided that they will work for your unique needs. The most important thing is that they’re adequately broken in and that you’ve tested them on multiple walks to ensure they are comfortable. You’ll likely need to go up half a size to account for thicker socks and/or swollen feet. Some people may prefer the ankle support of traditional hiking boots, while others may seek out the cushion and breathability of trail shoes. Again, it’s all about trying a variety of options and finding the best one for you.

In terms of waterproofing, there are two opposing schools of thought about this. It is inevitable that your feet will get wet at multiple points along your walk, from driving rains, flooded paths, and so on. Many hikers prefer to use sturdy boots with a thick layer of waterproofing to keep the moisture out as much as possible. This is a good strategy, but keep in mind that when these heavier shoes get wet they can take a long time to dry.

Others prefer to use breathable trail shoes. These will get wet right away, but they’ll also be dry again within a couple of hours and allow your feet to get some air in the meantime. It’s totally a matter of personal preference, but it’s a good idea to try a few options out prior to setting off on your South Downs Way journey.

Good socks are also a game-changer on the South Downs Way. We love merino wool socks like these for their comfort, breathability, and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister-prone, consider trying toe sockssock liners, and/or body glide.

If you need more underfoot padding, try using socks with extra cushioning or even some custom insoles.

Red and white Beachy Head Lighthouse, South Downs Way
The iconic Beachy Head Lighthouse is a welcome sight for walkers.

Good Waterproofs

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad rain gear! Even though the South Downs Way passes through one of the driest, sunniest parts of England, let’s face it you’re still in England, and you should expect rain at some point on your trek.

At the very minimum, make sure you have a lightweight rain jacketrain pants, and a pack cover. Some hikers pack their clothing and other items inside trash bags or waterproof packing cubes as an extra precaution. A hat can be nice to keep the rain out of your face. A waterproof carrying case for your map and/or phone isn’t a bad idea either.

Man standing in red rain jacket on the South Downs Way
Good waterproofs will keep you smiling throughout your walk!

Personal Gear

Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for your South Downs Way packing list. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this trek, we’ve left it up to you to determine your own list of additional self-care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc). 

Most Valuable Personal Item: Black Diamond Alpine Flz Trekking Poles

The South Downs Way has the reputation for being one of the “easier” of the U.K.’s National Trails, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it will be a walk in the park. There are a LOT of hills on this route, and the constant up and down can really wreak havoc on knees and hips after awhile. Trekking poles make a huge difference in relieving the impact on your joints, not to mention they also make climbing hills feel much easier. They’re also great for saving ankles and helping with stability on loose, rocky trails (which there are plenty of on the SDW). We love this Black Diamond pair because they are sturdy, lightweight, easily packable, and the cork handles fend off sweat and blisters much better than the other styles.

ItemOur RecommendationWhy We Love It
Multi-ToolBibury 21-in-1 Multi-ToolPerfect for cutting cheese or opening cans when you need some trail-side snacks!
First Aid KitSurviveware Small First Aid KitA good backpacking first aid kit is essential. You hope to never have to use it, but will be glad you have it when you need it. We like the labeled compartments and waterproof case on this one.
Hydration BladderPlatypus Big ZipWay easier than a water bottle! We suggest carrying a 3-liter version.
Small DaypackDeuter Speed Light 20An optional item that is great for walking around town. Deuter makes one that is versatile and good quality.
Pack CoverSea to Summit Ultra-Sil Rain CoverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how hard it can rain on the South Downs Way!
Men’s BackpackOsprey Atmos AG 50While backpacks are a very personal item, we find Osprey to make by far the most comfortable packs on the market. This 50L model will work for minimalist campers or those staying indoors. W
Women’s BackpackOsprey Aura AG 50One of our favorite features of Osprey packs is the ‘anti-gravity’ mesh. So comfortable!
Trekking PolesBlack Diamond Alpine FlzThese can help take the load off your knees and they’re great on steep sections.
Travel TowelEono Microfiber TowelGreat to have in hostels and campsite showers.
Headlamp/ Head torchBlack Diamond StormGreat headtorch with long battery life and adjustable brightness.
Dry BagsEarth Pak 10L or 20LKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour! These are also great for keeping your kit organized and packed efficiently.
Hiking GaitersPeter Storm Ankle GaitersOptional. These will help keep your boots dry when walking on muddy or boggy trails and they’ll keep out stones, dirt, and gravel.
SunscreenWe recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.
Bug SprayBen’s Insect RepellentYou’ll be glad you brought this when the mozzies or midges come out.
Toilet Paper and TrowelThe TentLab Ultralight TrowelAs any hiker will tell you, it’s always better to be prepared and Leave No Trace!
A sunny section of path near Winchester.
A sunny section of path near Winchester.

Miscellaneous Gear

These odds and ends are the unsung heroes of any South Downs Way packing list. From getting your stinky shirt clean to keeping your phone charged, these items help your trek run smoothly. Make sure to use this list in addition to the other categories to complete your South Downs Way kit. 

Most valuable miscellaneous gear: Anker Powercore 10000.

Chances are, you’re getting out on the trail to get a break from the constant demands of screens and technology and that’s wonderful. However, don’t underestimate the importance of having a charged cell phone on the South Downs Way Walk. Your phone can be your navigational device, your camera, your guidebook, and your notepad all in one. Charging opportunities can be unreliable along the route, so a battery backup can be an absolute lifesaver. This one is dependable, relatively small, and can fully charge your phone 1.5-2 times between charges. Check it out here:

ItemOur ReccommendationWhy We Love It
Guide BookCicerone: Walking the South Downs WayWe love Cicerone guides for their informative, yet straightforward advice and Kev Reynold’s is one of the best guidebook authors around.
Ear PlugsMack’s Ear PlugsEssential for a good night’s sleep! We find the silicone ones to stay in place and block out noise best.
Sleeping MaskAlaska BearPerfect to block out light while sleeping in hostels or campgrounds on the South Downs Way.
Travel AdapterLYSEDa All in One USB Travel AdapterIf you’re coming from abroad, this is going to be necessary. This one is super compact and the two USB ports are very handy!
Digital WatchCasio Classic Sport WatchWe recommend a simple digital watch to keep track of hiking times. This one is a great value and nearly indestructible.
CameraSony Alpha 6000Optional, but this compact camera takes beautiful photos and is easy to use.
Battery BackupAnker Powercore 10,000Great for charging electronics when you don’t have access to an outlet.
Biodegradable SoapCoghlan’s Camp SoapPerfect for doing the dishes or washing a few clothing items.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags.We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking. They can be repurposed many times to minimize plastic waste.
Coast to Coast Walk women's packing list

Women’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for over a week in various weather conditions and while doing some serious walking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials for your South Downs Way Walk. Plus, if you’re anything like us, you have no idea how many pairs of socks to bring.

Emily’s most valuable clothing item: Berghaus Deluge Rain Trousers 

English weather is temperamental. You’ll get to experience a wide range of elements (rain, sun, wind, etc), often all in one day! For the times when the weather turns, you’ll want to be able to quickly and effortlessly adapt your clothing to stay dry and comfortable. These Berghaus rain pants are simple, effective, comfortable, and easy to get on and off over boots. Check them out here:

ItemOur RecommendationWhy We Love It
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Give-N-Go SportThese are worth every penny when it comes to staying comfortable on the trail. They are quick-drying and antimicrobial meaning you can just bring a few pairs and wash them in the sink as you go.
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports Bra (1)Under Armour Mid Crossback This is a good example of something breathable and comfortable that you can wear all day.
Long Sleeve Base Layer (1)Smartwool NTS 250 Base LayerA great merino wool base layer for chilly mornings.

Short Sleeve Hiking Shirts (1-2)Icebreaker Tech Lite T-ShirtMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick-drying, and odor resistant.
Leggings or hiking pants (1)Berghaus Amlia Walking TrousersStylish, lightweight, and great to hike in.
Shorts (1)The North Face Aphrodite 2.0These shorts are super versatile and durable! The soft, wide waistband works great underneath a rucksack’s hip belt.
Down JacketRab Microlight AlpineLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain JacketMarmot PreCip Eco JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain PantsBerghaus DelugeFor those heavy English downpours!
Hiking BootsKeen Targhee Mid Height Hiking BootEmily has had these boots for five years and hundreds of muddy, snowy hikes, and they are still going strong!
SunglassesSinner Polarised SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you’re outside all day. And these are stylish too!
Underwire/Standard BraAfter a long day of hiking in a sweaty sports bra this can be a welcome relief to change into.
GlovesSmartwool liner glovesOptional in the summertime, but can be nice to have in tempermental weather.
HatColumbia Bora Bora Booney HatHelps keep both the sun and rain off your face.

Sandals/Camp ShoesCrocs Classic ClogGreat to change into after a long day of walking!
BandanaRobelli BandanaI used this for everything from a towel to extra sun protection.
Coast to Coast Walk Men's Clothing
Another perk of hiking socks-really cool tan lines!

Men’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for eight days in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials.

Ian’s most valuable clothing item: Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks

The conditions on the South Downs Way are such that hikers are at a particularly high risk of getting blisters at some point on their walk. The wet environments, long mileage, and stony paths conspire to create the perfect environment for blisters to sabotage your walk. Fortunately, a good pair of socks can greatly reduce your chance of foot issues. This is one of those times where you really do get what you pay for. We love Darn Tough socks because they keep our feet dry and comfortable in a variety of conditions. They have just the right amount of cushion without being too bulky in boots. Plus, the Merino wool keeps them smelling fresh for days. Check them out here:


ItemOur ReccommendationWhy We Love It
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Boxer BriefHighly recommended! You can bring just 2-3 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Boot Socks In our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long Sleeve Base Layer (1)Icebreaker 200 OasisThis is a very versatile baselayer that works great under an outer layer or on its own.

Short Sleeve Hiking Shirts (1-2)Icebreaker Tech Lite T-ShirtMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick-drying, and odor resistant.
Hiking Pants (1 pair)The North Face Exploration Convertible TrousersThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking Shorts (1 pair)Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo ShortsYou can skip these if you’re using our recommended convertible trousers, but it can be nice to have an extra set of bottoms and these are so packable that you really can’t go wrong!
Down JacketRab Cirrus Flex HoodyLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain JacketMarmot Precip Eco JacketUnlike many lightweight rain jackets. this one will actually keep you dry during long days on the trail.
Rain PantsThe North Face Venture 2 Waterproof Overtrousers Essential for those heavy English downpours!
HatColumbia Bora Bora Booney HatHelps keep both the sun and rain off your face.
Sandals/Camp ShoesCrocs Classic ClogSuper comfortable to change into after walking in boots all day!
Hiking BootsSalomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTXVery comfortable and super waterproof!
SunglassesSinner Thunder Crystal Revo SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you’re in outdoors all day. And these are stylish too!
BandanaRobelli BandanaThis can be used for everything from a towel to extra sun protection.
Tent in the dark while camping on the South Downs Way

Camping Gear

Camping on the South Downs Way is definitely worth carrying the bigger backpack. Campgrounds along the trail are plentiful, convenient, and generally quite comfortable. In fact, camping is the only way to avoid walking several extra miles in detours over the course of your trek! With the right gear and manageable pack size, you are guaranteed to have an amazing experience conquering the South Downs Way with your own tent.

Most valuable camping gear: MSR 2-Person Mess Kit

Many people choose to camp along the South Downs Way because of the tremendous money they can save on their accommodation. The budgetary benefits go beyond your sleeping arrangements, though. Camping allows you to self-cater your meals, saving you from spending tons on overpriced pub food every day. This MSR Kit is super lightweight, easy to pack, and convenient for all of those al fresco dinners and trailside coffee breaks.

ItemOur RecommendationWhy We Love It
TentMSR Hubba Hubba NX Backpacking TentThis is the best designed tent on the market. The genius freestanding rain cover allows you to pack up all of your gear and tent while still being sheltered- perfect for rainy mornings!
Sleeping BagVango Treklite Lightweight Sleeping BagSuper compact, light, and cozy, this bag is a great value. If you’re walking in the summer months, you should only need the Ultra 600 version.
Sleeping PadTherm-a-Rest Ultralight Camping Padf you are a side sleeper this is a must! Even if you’re not, this is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there. The pump sack makes inflating it a breeze, too!
PillowTherm-a-Rest Compressible PillowIf you’re camping more than a few nights you will be glad you packed this!
Stove+FuelMSR Pocket Rocket 2Ian has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it!
Backpacking PotGSI Outdoors Halulite BoilerThis versatile and high-quality pot is the perfect size for anything from boiling water to making porridge.
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR 2-Person Mess KitWe find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.
UtensilHumangear SporkThe only utensil you’ll need!
Person outside a stone cottage

Hostel/Bunkhouse Gear

If you are sticking strictly to hotels, B&B’s, and guesthouses, you shouldn’t need to worry about the items on this list. However, for those staying in communal/dorm-style accommodations, there are some essential items you need to pack. Keep in mind that most hostels provide bedding, but you should check with individual places in advance to be sure. On the other hand, you will be responsible for providing your own towel (although some places will rent you one for an additional fee).

Most valuable item for bunkhouses & hostels: Mac’s Earplugs

Hiking is infinitely less fun when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. There are many wonderful hostels along the South Downs Way, but Olympic-level snorers and other noisy neighbors seem to hang out in all of them. These earplugs do an excellent job of blocking out sleep-sabotaging sounds. We find that they work better, stay in longer, and are more comfortable than those cheap foam earplugs.

ItemOur RecommendationWhy We Love It
EarplusMack’s Silicone EarplugsThe best defense for that snorer next door!
Eye MaskAlaska Bear Silk Sleep MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in dormitories.
Sleep SheetScottish Silkworm Sleeping Bag LinerA nice item to have for nights in bunkhouses and hostels.
Travel TowelSea to Summit Drylite TowelNot all of the bunkhouses along the South Downs Way provide towels, so it’s nice to have a backup.
Sandals/SlippersCrocs Classic ClogLightweight and super comfortable!
Trail sign on the South Downs Way

Conclusion

The South Downs Way is a challenging, yet approachable walk for hikers of all ability levels. The dramatic natural beauty and many places of historical interest will *almost* completely take your mind off your tired feet. The gear choose to pack (and leave behind) will be essential in ensuring that you have everything you need to stay comfortable, prepared, and injury-free without carrying a bigger rucksack than needed. Happy trails!

Also be sure to check out our South Downs Way Maps & Routes post!

For those interested in camping, be sure to read our Guide to Camping on the South Downs Way!

Finally, our South Downs Way Accommodation Guide will help you find the perfect place to stay on the SDW.

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South Downs Way | Maps & Routes

The South Downs Way is one of the UK’s most well known National Trails. This classic walk in the south of England takes walkers from Winchester to Eastbourne over the…

The South Downs Way is one of the UK’s most well known National Trails. This classic walk in the south of England takes walkers from Winchester to Eastbourne over the course of 6 – 10 days. The route takes in pastoral English countryside, quaint villages, and the famous Seven Sisters Cliffs.

The trail is well served by a variety of accommodation options including hostels, bunkhouses, B&Bs, and campgrounds. The post will provide an introduction to the South Downs Way by providing in-depth maps, navigational resources, and more!

Let’s get started.

Pastoral countryside in the South Downs.

The pastoral countryside of the South Downs.

 

In this post

 

Where is the South Downs Way?

The South Downs Way traverses southern England across the South Downs and connects from the cathedral village of Winchester in the west to seaside Eastbourne in the east with much of the route crossing through the South Downs National Park. The route is traditionally walked from west to east finishing at the sea, although it can be walked in the opposite direction as well. Along the route you’ll pass through several lovely villages with friendly locals and beautiful scenery.

The South Downs Way is easy to get to from London and the rest of southeast England with a variety of rail and bus connections available. Southampton in the west is the nearest large city to the start, while Brighton is the nearest large city to the end of the walk in the east.

South Downs Way overview map

The South Downs Way connects Winchester and Eastbourne. (Click to enlarge).

 

Between the beginning and ending points, the South Downs Way provides some of the best walking in southeast England, and indeed all of the country. Highlights of the walk include the stunning cathedral in Winchester, the pastoral Queen Elizabeth Country Park, the quaint village of Amberley, and of course the iconic Seven Sisters.

The route is typically completed in eight days walking, although there are countless opportunities to shorten or extend your walk. It is also possible to camp along the South Downs Way, as there is an excellent network of campgrounds located along the route. Below is the standard route for the South Downs Way:

  • Stage 1: Winchester to Exton
  • Stage 2: Exton to Buriton
  • Stage 3: Buriton to Cocking
  • Stage 4: Cocking to Amberley
  • Stage 5: Amberley to Upper Beeding
  • Stage 6: Upper Beeding to Kingston Near Lewes
  • Stage 7: Kingston Near Lewes to Alfriston
  • Stage 8: Alfriston to Eastbourne

South Downs Way map

Map of the South Downs Way. (Click to enlarge).

 

In addition to the traditional walking route described above there are several options for alternate routes and excursions on the South Downs Way. For those planning to cycle or ride on horseback there are a few mandatory alternate routes in place where the path is restricted for walkers only.

In addition, the final day of the walk from Alfriston to Eastbourne has an alternate inland route that avoids the Seven Sisters trail. Most walkers will want to take the main trail here as the views of simply stunning, but it is always good to know your options!

Below is a list of the alternates/detours along the South Downs Way:

  • 01A – Winchester to Exton – Just past the start of the walk in Winchester there is a short detour off the main trail for equestrian users and cyclists.
  • 01B – Winchester to Exton – Prior to reach the village of Exton, those cycling or riding the route on horseback will have to detour off the main trail. Access to Exton is simple and easy from this slight detour.
  • 05A – Amberley to Upper Beeding – This alternate route provides walkers with access to the town of Washington.
  • 08A – Alfriston to Eastbourne – The route along the Seven Sisters is restricted to walkers only. Those cycling will have to take the inland Bridleway connecting Alfriston and Eastbourne.

The Seven Sisters Cliffs

The Seven Sisters are a highlight for many walkers on the South Downs Way.

 

Read More: South Downs Way Packing List

Interactive South Downs Way map

The interactive South Downs Way map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.

 

How long is the South Downs Way?

Most sources will tell you that the South Downs Way is 160-km or 100 miles long. While this is certainly a very accurate estimate, we measure (via GPS) the South Downs Way to be 162.6 kilometers or 101 miles long from the center of Winchester to Eastbourne.

Of course, this exact measurement has little practical value to the average walker. You will almost certainly end up walking further than the distance provided in this post as many of the accommodation options are located a bit off the track itself. Add in a few side trips to see worthwhile attractions and you should plan on walking well over 100 miles on your own South Downs Way adventure!

However, it is still helpful for trip planning purposes to have a sense of the total length as well as individual segment lengths on the South Downs Way. The two maps below show just that, with the approximate distances for the standard eight stage itinerary shown in both miles and kilometers.

Note that these distances do not include alternates or variants, and should only be used to get a general idea of distance.

South Downs Way map with stage distances in kilometers

Stage distances on the South Downs Way in kilometers. (Click to enlarge).

 

South Downs Way map with stage distances in miles

Stage distances on the South Downs Way in miles. (Click to enlarge).

 

South Downs Way Elevation Profile

Over the course of the South Downs Way 101 miles (or 162 kilometers) the trail has approximately 9,060 feet or 2,760 meters of elevation gain. Averaged across the traditional 8 stages, this equals around 1,100 feet of elevation gain each day. That’s nothing to sneeze at!

Much of this elevation gain is evenly spread out along the undulating route, although there are a few particularly steep sections. The most notable climbs on the South Downs Way are the walk up Rackham Hill just outside of Amberley, the steep walk up Truleigh Hill on stage six, and the steep ascent up Itford Hill on the way to Alfriston.

The high  point of the South Downs Way sits at Buster Hill (270m above sea-level) which you encounter on the second day of the walk, just before reaching Buriton.

The South Downs Way trail

 

The elevation profiles below, displayed in both imperial and metric units, will give you an overview of what each stage of the South Downs Way entails in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 8-stage walk, with the stop name shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the stage. For instance, you can see that the stage from Upper Beeding to Kingston Near Lewes is rather long in distance, while the stage from Kingston Near Lewes to Alfriston has a lot of elevation gain.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the South Downs Way be sure to reference these elevation profiles. They’ll give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine or split up on your walk.

Elevation profile of the South Downs Way

Elevation profile of the South Downs Way in miles and feet. (Click to enlarge).

 

Elevation profile of the South Downs Way in kilometers and meters.

Elevation profile of the South Downs Way in kilometers and meters. (Click to enlarge).

 

Which maps should I carry on the South Downs Way?

As the South Downs Way is a National Trail, walkers can expect the path to be very well sign posted and easy to navigate. However, as with many walks in England, it can be quite easy to get turned around or generally off the correct track.

There are countless trail intersections, bridleways, and footpaths that can be easy to confuse with the South Downs Way. For this reason, we always recommend that walkers bring a few map resources when walking the South Downs Way.

Our preference is generally to rely on GPS maps on our smartphones when out on a multi-day walk, and we can highly recommend this method for most walkers. All you’ll need is a GPX file for the route (available on the National Trails website here) and a GPS app. We like Gaia GPS, although there are many great options available.

In addition to digital navigation methods, we also recommend you bring a paper map or map booklet along. There is simply no replacement for a physical map, afterall you never know when you may find yourself with a dead battery rendering your GPS app useless!

There are several excellent physical maps available for the South Downs Way, outlined below:

The South Downs Way Map Booklet – Cicerone Guides
In our opinion, your best bet will be to pack this excellent resource from Cicerone Guides. Their South Downs Way map booklet contains Ordnance Survey maps for the entire route, neatly organized into a small and portable booklet.

South Downs Way Adventure Atlas
Another convenient and highly recommended option is the South Downs Way Adventure atlas. This map consists of OS Explorer maps for the entire South Downs Way route, but saves you the hassle of assembling all of the Ordnance Survey maps yourself. It is also a bit larger and easier to read when compared to the Cicerone Map Booklet, which many walkers will prefer.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps
Finally, no article on maps for the South Downs Way would be complete without referencing Ordnance Survey maps. These detailed South Downs Way maps provide an excellent level of detail , although you’ll need to carry several maps to cover the entire route:

Alternatively, the Ordnance Survey also offers a package of all seven maps for a significant discount here.

In addition, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Hiiker App Map

In addition to the paper map(s) you choose to carry, we recommend using the Hiiker app to navigate on the trail. The app features downloadable, printable, and interactive maps with tons of helpful information, such as elevation profiles, accommodation, and amenities. This is a great tool to have on your trek.

 

Stage-by-stage maps for the South Downs way

The South Downs Way is traditionally completed in eight stages, with a wide variety of accommodation options available at each point along the walk. The maps below provide a general outline for each of these eight stages and include distance and elevation change.

 

Stage 1: Winchester to Exton

Distance: 20.45 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +482 m / -459 m

Map of Stage 1 of the South Downs Way- Winchester to Exton

Stage 1 – Winchester to Exton

 

Stage 2: Exton to Buriton

Distance: 20.36 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +561 m / -479 m

Map of Stage 2 of the South Downs Way - Exton to Buriton

Stage 2 – Exton to Buriton

 

Stage 3: Buriton to Cocking

Distance: 17.9 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +495 m / -531 m

Map of Stage 3 of the South Downs Way from Buriton to Cocking

Stage 3 – Buriton to Cocking

 

Stage 4: Cocking to Amberley

Distance: 19.65 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +462 m / -516 m

Map of Stage 4 of the South Down Way from Cocking to Amberley

Stage 4 – Cocking to Amberley

 

Stage 5: Amberley to Upper Beeding

Distance: 20.1 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +448 m / -487 m

Map of Stage 5 of the South Downs Way from Amberley to Upper Beeding

Stage 5 – Amberley to Upper Beeding

 

Stage 6: Upper Beeding to Kingston Near Lewes

Distance: 28.29 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +828 m / -671 m

Map of Stage 6 of the South Downs Way from Upper Beeding to Kingston Near Lewes

Stage 6 – Upper Beeding to Kingston Near Lewes

 

Stage 7: Kingston Near Lewes to Alfriston

Distance: 18.76 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +470 m / -627 m

Map of Stage 7 of the South Downs Way from Kingston Near Lewes to Alfriston

Stage 7 – Kingston Near Lewes to Alfriston

 

Stage 8: Alfriston to Eastbourne

Distance: 17.13 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +677 m / -632 m

Map of Stage 8 of the South Downs Way from Alfriston to Eastbourne

Stage 8 – Alfriston to Eastbourne

 

South Downs Way GPS/GPX

If you are interested in getting access to the GPS data for the South Downs Way head on over to the National Trails website here. You’ll find free downloads for the walking route, cycling route, and equestrian route on the South Downs Way. And it is completely free!

Click here to access the free GPS data for the South Downs Way

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Road in South Downs National Park

 

Apps and offline mapping

As mentioned above we highly recommend utilizing offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the South Downs Way. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you may not have) to display the map.

Our How to Navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. Although written for a different hike, this step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device for the South Downs Way.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a simpler way to utilize offline GPS/GPX data, the Hiiker App does all of the work for you. The app allows you to download maps and trail information to your phone so that you can use it without the need for a cell signal or data.

Check out the South Downs Way on the Hiiker App!

 

Have a great South Downs Way adventure!

We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the South Downs Way. Let us know your questions or comments below. Happy trails!

Keep Reading: South Downs Way Packing List

Keep Reading: Guide to Camping on the South Downs Way

Trail sign on the South Downs Way

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