The Seven Sisters cliffs walk, from Seaford to Eastbourne, is probably one of the most well known walks that you can do as a day trip from London, and it’s not hard to see why. I have done this walk countless times and the magnificent white chalk cliff views get me every time. Also, the fact that you can get to the Seven Sisters cliffs from London in about 1.5 hours makes it a perfect outdoorsy day trip. It’s also extremely easy to navigate. In fact, it’s impossible to get lost, and I challenge anyone to do so. The full walk itself is about 13 miles station to station (give or take a bit for detours). H
Where is it?
This walk is within the South Downs National park and forms a part of two trails. The England Coast Path, and the South Downs Way. Basically, you head south from London till you hit the sea.
The most popular way to walk it is from Seaford to Eastbourne, the views are just a little bit better that way (in my opinion). That’s not to say the other direction is bad, it’s just a slightly lower level of amazing. Also, If you start from Seaford, you get to the cliffs pretty quickly. From Eastbourne, you have a bit of a walk
Why is it called the Seven Sisters?
Each sister represents a hill, although technically there is
Why I wanted to go and hike the Seven Sisters again…
I have been wanting to write a blog post about the Seven Sisters cliffs walk for a while, however, I didn’t have many photos to show you its beauty. So, a couple of weeks ago I went and walked it again, just for photography purposes….but also, any excuse to see the cliffs again.
The day I returned to the beautiful coastline was to be the hottest August bank holiday Monday EVER. I was strategic for this walk (maybe for the wrong reasons). I planned it so that for half the walk, the sun would be in front of me, half the walk behind. You know, so I could even out sun exposure (cough, tanning). However, I failed to think about the fact that this would also be the worst photography conditions, the middle of the day and harsh sunlight, the main reason I was actually doing this walk. Oh well. I wasn’t too sad. The walk is good enough that I can forgive that. But man I had some real hard work when it came to editing the photos….I also might have taken some creative liberties with some of the colours in editing.
Anyway, let’s get into the good stuff.
(Full logistical info, ie how to get there, timings, an interactive map aswell as tips and safety information will be at the end. All distances I mentioned will be based on my walk on this day)
The Seven Sisters walk – Seaford to Eastbourne
Once out of Seaford train station, take a right and head to the sea. It’s only a 5min walk. You will pass a supermarket, giving you a chance to get any supplies you may have forgotten. Once you reach the shingle beach take a left, and you will get your first grand white cliffs view. Seaford Head.
Now head towards these cliffs. From here on out you will be walking with the sea to your right for the whole way. I started my tracker once I reached the beach. All distances mentioned from now will reflect that.
Seaford Head will be your first uphill and as you reach the top you get great views back over Seaford.
Next, you will walk past a golf course (walking past golf courses seems to be the standard for any great
Fun fact: The Sisters Sisters cliffs are often used as filming locations as a stand in for the famous white cliffs of Dover as they are free of any modern development.
2.7 miles in
Cuckmere Haven is a valley where the South Downs meets the sea. This is where the Seven Sisters cliffs start. But
When the tide is in, unless you want to get mega wet, you must walk inland along the river till you reach a bridge crossing, then walk back along the river on the other side. It does make for an interesting change in scenery. You will pass fields with grazing cattle and sheep. Even some canoeists in the river. It does, however, add quite a bit to your walking distance (about 2 miles). If you don’t fancy the extra walk, then try and time it so you get here for low tide…..or be prepared to get very wet.
I didn’t check the tide times, so was prepared to have to walk through the river. I had no time for walking inland. Turns out the tide was way out.
A few fun facts….
Fun fact: Cuckmere Haven has been used as a fil
Even more fun fact: At low tight you can see part of a German sailing ship wreck.
Extra fun fact: This area was very popular for smugglers between the 16th and 18th centuries.
You have the option to start or stop your walk from here, via the local village of Exceat where there are bus links. It’s slightly inland, and you can reach it by following that river I talked about.
You can read more about the area on the National Trust website.
The hike up the Seven Sisters begins
As you head up the first sister, it is quite steep and could be slippy if your shoes don’t have good grip. At the top, take a look back for a great view back over the beach and the Cuckmere Valley. This is also where the trail becomes part of the South Downs Way.
Just a note, the best views of the cliffs are actually either side of them. When you are walking on them, you can’t see them because, well, you are on them. The views are still pretty cool though. A vast green undulating landscape, almost velvet like, with people ahead, so small they look like ants and their silhouettes on the horizon.
5.5 miles in (7.5 if you took the detour at Cuckmere Haven)
Birling Gap is a coastal hamlet marking the end of the sisters. The area is owned by the National Trust and offers a tourist
This is actually a good spot if you would like to have a break and eat or drink at the cafe, or even head to the beach. There are bus stops here, so you have the option to stop the walk here if you like, or even start from here.
If you choose to start the walk on here, you could make it circular…and add in a forest while you are at it.
This might be the end of the Seven Sisters, but its not the end of the walk…..
Belle Tout lighthouse
The Belle Tout lighthouse has had an interesting life. It was built in the early
Due to the cliff erosion it was in danger of falling into the sea and in 1999 was moved back 17 meters from the cliff edge.
It now has new owners who have converted it into a bed and breakfast…..ok, I need to stay there.
How perfect would that be? Spending the night in a lighthouse. Waking up overlooking the sea and grand white cliffs in morning mistiness. Going for a little sunrise walk along the Seven Sisters before coming back for breakfast. This place is officially on my wishlist.
8 miles in (10 miles with the detour)
Beachy Head is the stuff of poetry…I mean that literally. Poems have been written about it. The area has also featured in film and television including Harry Potter, James Bond and Black Mirror. At 162m above sea level, it is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain.
Fun fact: In the early 1900’s, Eastbourne bought the surrounding land to save it from development….this makes me very happy.
Here you have the cute candy cane coloured Beachy Head lighthouse. Seems rather tiny in comparison to the looming white cliffs. It was built in the early 1900’s to take over lighthouse duties of the Belle Tout lighthouse.
Fun Fact: It wasn’t always red and white stripes. Originally, it was granite
Beachy Head marks the eastern gateway to the South Downs National Park, but also the end of the cliffs walk (or beginning, depending on which way you walk). But you still have a little way to go…
Reaching Eastbourne town
The landscape will now change, featuring a lot more flora and fauna. During summer, the flowers were on show in all their purple and pink glory.
From now on,
Logistics for the walk from Seaford to Eastbourne along the Seven Sisters Cliffs
How to get there: The Seven Sisters cliffs are easily reachable from London. From London Victoria, get a train heading to Seaford. You will have to do one change (usually at Lewes), then from Eastbourne
May I just recommend getting the Trainline app. I buy all my tickets this way. It’s cheaper than buying from the station
Distance: 13ish miles station to station, 11ish miles if you don’t take the detour at Cuckmere Haven.
Options to shorten the walk: You can access the walk (with bus links) between Seaford and Eastbourne via Exceat (Cuckmere Haven), Birling Gap and Beachy Head.
Time: Allow at least 4 hours station to station. Longer if you plan to stop lots and go at a leisurely pace. I’ve been researching online at how long other people walk it in. The majority seem to advise 7 hours lol. Basically, allow a full day for the trip.
Total elevation gain: The highest point is just over 531ft, but with all the ups and downs you will have walked up 15581ft.
Terrain: Grass, trails, shingle. The Seven Sisters is also very hilly, so technically a hike.
Difficulty: Moderate. If you are a regular hiker, then it will be easy for you, If you don’t do
Seven Sisters walk Map
Click on the little box in the corner to follow the trail (note, I stopped the tracker before getting into Eastbourne centre in the second map. You can just follow the signs when there).
Tips for the Seven Sisters Cliffs walk
I advise not walking next to the cliff edge (see
Disclaimer: If you chose not to wear hiking boots, then I will not be held responsible if injury occurs. There. Just need to cover myself. You never know these days.
Safety on the Seven Sisters Cliffs walk
The cliffs are very unstable. Someone pointed out to me, if you look ahead at the cliffs, you can even see cracks in them where they are at risk of crumbling.
Here is video footage of that happening. There have been a number of fatalities, of people falling over the edge.
Also, be careful If you chose to go down to beach level and walk under the cliffs, as you will be at risk of falling rocks.
Don’t be scared though, it’s absolutely fine to walk along the cliffs……Just keep away from the edge.
Swimming along the Seven Sisters cliffs walk
There are a few options if you would like to take a dip in the sea.
- First off you have the shingle beach at Seaford.
- Your second option is at Cuckmere Haven, also a shingle beach.
- Next, you can get in at Birling Gap. More shingle.
- Finally, at Eastbourne, you have a long stretch of, you guessed it, shingle beach.
Yes. A lot of the south coast of England is made up of shingle beach….my least favourite walking terrain.
Other South East Coast cliff walks
If you want to see the Seven Sisters without the massive trek, you could try the Birling Gap to Friston Forest circular walk.
If you want some white cliffs without the hills, then you could walk the section just west of Seaford from Newhaven to Brighton. Or head to North Kent to walk from Margate to Ramsgate. Both of these walks have under cliff paths. The white cliffs are slightly less mighty though.
If you would like more walks in the South Downs, I can help you there. I’m currently (in stages) making my way along the South Downs Way. The section before this one is Southease to Seaford. If you are feeling energetic you could tie them together for one mega walk. Or a bit further back you could try Hassocks to Lewes, and Lewes to Southease. Both featuring the gorgeous rolling hills of the South Downs, village views down below and lots of cows and sheep.