Home » Your guide to the Seven Sisters walk – Seaford to Eastbourne

Your guide to the Seven Sisters walk – Seaford to Eastbourne

by zoe tehrani

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). However, there are a few options to shorten it which I will tell you about later in the post.

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….actually, a very long walk.

The seven sisters chalk white cliffs.
A view of the Seven Sisters white cliffs on the hike from Seaford to Eastbourne.It is a misty day. The sea is blue and Belle Tout lighthouse silhouette is visible in the distance on the cliff top.
The beauties

Why is it called the Seven Sisters?

Each sister represents a hill, although technically there is an eighth one, and either side of the Sisters you will be walking over a few extra hills. Basically, it’s a very hilly walk, technically a hike. Although, the scenery is so draw dropping, that you hardly notice all the hills. Actually, you definitely notice, but somehow the beauty takes the edge off.

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.

8 red and white stripped deckchairs on the shingle beach at Seaford. There are two men sitting on the chairs looking out to the blue sea.
Not the cliffs, but I thought this looked cute.

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. 

The green cliff top landscape at the start off the seven sisters walk from Seaford to Eastbourne
As you make your way up
A hill top view over the town of Seaford, on the walk to Eastbourne. It meets a strip of beach and then the blue ocean and blue sky.
Looking back over Seaford, and a bit of golf course.

Next, you will walk past a golf course (walking past golf courses seems to be the standard for any great walk in England), before getting your first glimpse of the magnificent Seven Sisters cliffs. 

A view of the seven sisters cliffs on the walk from Seaford to Eastbourne. Walking along the grass trail. There is a bench on the left and some people ahead in the distance.
There they are 🙂
A wooden sign saying cliff edge with an image of someone falling off the cliff, on the seven sisters walk. The seven sisters cliffs are visible in the distance.
A view of the seven sisters cliffs on the walk from Seaford to Eastbourne. There are 3 people standing near the edge taking a photo. The sea and sky are blue.
Nearly there.

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. 

Cuckmere Haven

2.7 miles in

Entering Cuckmere Valley on the seven sisters cliffs walk. The cliffs are visible in the distance, there is a small house on the right of the grass path. The House is surrounded by bushes.

Cuckmere Haven is a valley where the South Downs meets the sea. This is where the Seven Sisters cliffs start. But first off, you need to navigate the Cuckmere River. At low tide, it is possible to walk straight to the cliffs start. If you catch it right, you won’t get wet. Otherwise, you can walk through the low river.

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.

Cows grazing in a field in the Cuckmere Valley. The sky is blue.
Looking into the Cuckmere Valley. Here are some cows.

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 shingle beach with a white cliff in the distance on the walk from Seaford to Eastbourne.
If you don’t walk inland, you must walk on the shingle of death

A few fun facts….

Fun fact: Cuckmere Haven has been used as a filming location for a number of shows and movies inducing Robin Hood and Atonement. 

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. 

A view over the Cuckmere Valley. The ground is a mix of green and orange and the sky is blue.
Looking down into the valley
A hill top view of a stretch of beach and white cliffs in the distance. There are a few people on the beach. The sky and sea are blue.
Looking slight left
Four boats way in the distance in the sea.
Looking even more left at the boats.
A view of the Seven Sisters hike trail on the green grass clifftop. The sea to the left is blue.
Looking back as you continue along the Seven Sister hike trail.

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.

Birling Gap

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 centre, cafe, beach access, toilets and…..a car park and transport links. Yes, as such this is the most busy section of the Seven Sisters walk. I’m not saying that as a bad thing, if you want to escape the crowds, just continue walking past, along the cliffs. Most people arriving at Birling Gap will hang around in the area or the cliffs either side. 

A view down over Birling Gap. The white cliffs next to a beach, with the visitors centre on the right. There are lots of people on the hill and on the beach.
Don’t worry. Most of the walk isn’t this busy.

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.

-Check out the Birling Gap
Friston Forest circular walk-

This might be the end of the Seven Sisters, but its not the end of the walk…..

A view looking back on the Seven Sisters Cliffs hike. The clifftop landscape is green grass, with white cliffs views in the distance where they meet the blue sea.
More back views as you leave Birling Gap

Belle Tout lighthouse

The Belle Tout lighthouse has had an interesting life. It was built in the early 1800’s, however, its location meant that it was frequently covered by the clifftop fog. So it wasn’t very good at doing its job of warning passing ships. As such, it was decommissioned in the early 1900’s. It then became a family home and tea house, was almost destroyed during WWII, then got bought by the BBC as a filming location. 

A view of the green clifftop landscape with Belle Tout lighthouse in the distance on the Seven Sisters hike.
Looking back at the lighthouse

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.

Beachy Head

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.

The red and white stripped Beachy Head lighthouse in the middle of the frame, in the blue sea. To the left is the green grass clifftop hill. There are a few people walking up the hill.

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 colour, then a black stripe was added, then finally the red stripes to make it more visible in daylight to passing ships. 

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…

A view of the green grass clifftop landscape meeting the blue sea on the walk from Seaford to Eastbourne. There are a few people visible on the trail.
Looking back from Beachy Head, standing on the final hill.
A field with a group of many cows grazing on the Seven Sisters cliffs walk from Seaford to Eastbourne.
Looking left at the cows.

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.

A green grass trail with pink flowers on the right side, bushes in the distance and a backdrop of the blue sea and blue sky.
A view looking down over Eastbourne on the walk from Seaford. There is a long road separating the main town and houses from the sea.
Eastbourne

From now on, it’s pretty much downhill till you exit the National Parkland into Eastbourne town. I must warn you, from here it is about 3miles walk to actually reach the station, but if you stick to the coast you get some wonderful views back towards the cliffs. 

Logistics for the walk from Seaford to Eastbourne along the Seven Sisters Cliffs

Start: Seaford

Finish: Eastbourne

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, you can get a direct train back to London Victoria. You should buy a return ticket to Eastbourne. This will cover your return journey and your outward journey as far as Lewes. You need to buy a separate single ticket from Lewes to Seaford (you can buy this prior to your trip, no need to get it from Lewes).  Journey time is about 1.5 hours.

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 much hill walking then it will be slightly more challenging. 

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 next secrtion). Take plenty of water and snacks. WEAR SUNSCREEN, and reapply.  The worst burns I ever got were on this walk (a few times back). It wasn’t particularly sunny, in fact, it was an overcast day. And I WAS wearing sunscreen (reluctantly though, it was only because the people I was with insisted on it). My mistake was that I didn’t use a high factor (I refused) and I didn’t reapply.  Hiking boots are not essential, but I do recommend at least wearing shoes with good grip. The first sister you walk up is quite steep and slippage could happen if you aren’t careful. 

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

So, I’m going to be honest, when I first visited the cliffs I didn’t realise how dangerous it was to go close to the edge. I’m talking specifically about cliff erosion. I definitely got way to close thinking the only danger was me losing my footing, not the fact that the cliffs could crumble under me. There are lots of signs warning you not to go too close to the edge but I figured that was more to prevent user error. 

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. 

  1. First off you have the shingle beach at Seaford. 
  2. Your second option is at Cuckmere Haven, also a shingle beach. 
  3. Next, you can get in at Birling Gap. More shingle.
  4. 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 more white cliff goodness, then I recommend heading east towards Dover. You could walk from Folkestone to Dover, or from Dover to Deal, both featuring white cliffs and hill walking. 

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.

Other walks

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.

Pin it for later: Seven Sisters Cliffs walk guide

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28 comments

Bunny September 6, 2019 - 12:55 pm

I LOVE your blogs

Reply
zoe September 6, 2019 - 1:57 pm

Thank you mother. lol

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Felix corzo August 2, 2020 - 2:12 pm

Hi. I’m from Colombia. How a pleasant description of the cliffs walk.

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zoe tehrani August 6, 2020 - 4:48 am

Thank you for your kind words 🙂

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Emma Groves August 9, 2020 - 8:15 am

Your site and walk breakdowns are fantastic. Thank you! I recently did the seven sisters and tried to do research online first. The messaging out there was contradictory (7 hours?!) and incomplete. So I was terrified the night before that it would be too much for me. I actually found your site after the walk but it was 100% accurate, covered every concern, consideration and query, and would have been so so useful to have in advance- especially for expectation setting and preparedness. I’m now going to try all your other walks because I know how reliable and user friendly your advice is. You’re amazing

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zoe tehrani August 10, 2020 - 4:35 am

oh wow. When I read this I might have cried a little. I’m so glad that my info is able to help, that’s just what I wanted from my website….I do hope though, that my other walks meet expectations haha. I haven’t posted anything new in a while, but I have a whole bunch coming.
Thank you again for such a lovely comment. It really made my day!

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Anonymous August 22, 2020 - 4:10 pm

Hey Zoe, thank you for this lovely post which was super helpful on our experience yesterday 🙂 this walk took 7 hours for me and my husband because we took a detour in Cuckmere (the tide was high), the weather was very windy but we took many photos&videos and enjoyed the scenery. Can’t wait to try other walks you shared. Many thanks!

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zoe tehrani August 25, 2020 - 6:40 am

Thank you for your lovely message! I am so glad you enjoyed the walk and that I could help. Yes I agree, the scenery is lovely there, I keep going back. I hope my other walks will also be as helpful for you!

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Joanna Rossi August 29, 2020 - 7:03 pm

I have just returned after a day trip from London to walk the Seven Sisters cliffs. I used this post as my guide and it was perfection!

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zoe tehrani September 4, 2020 - 5:24 am

Oh, I’m so happy the guide was helpful to you! Thank you for your lovely comment 🙂

Reply
Kaja August 30, 2020 - 8:36 am

Thank you for this blog post – very informative and helpful! I also really like the photos you have taken – beautiful tones and colours.

Best
Kaja

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zoe tehrani September 4, 2020 - 5:26 am

Ahhh, thank you so much 🙂 : ) 🙂

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Silvio April 27, 2021 - 8:57 pm

Hello dear,

You are so generous.
Taking the time to help others. Super human you are. Xxx

Reply
zoe tehrani May 6, 2021 - 9:50 am

Oh Silvio, that is such a lovely sweet thing for you to say. Thank you 🙂

Reply
Claire May 29, 2021 - 12:37 pm

This was incredibly helpful. The beautiful pictures are inspirational and the practical details make it easy.
Thank you!

Reply
zoe tehrani June 1, 2021 - 4:06 pm

Oh I’m so glad you found it useful Claire! Thank you for your comment 🙂

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Joti Kaur June 4, 2021 - 4:22 pm

This was such an incredibly helpful blog post! A friend and i did the SS walk last weekend and we literally followed this post step by step to make the most of our experience! thank you for putting in the effort to write such a detailed account of how to walk this trail, super valuable for any first timers!

Reply
zoe tehrani June 5, 2021 - 7:34 am

Hi Joti, thank you so much for your lovely comment. Im so glad you found it helpful!!! This makes me really happy to hear 🙂

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caroline bayley July 19, 2021 - 9:51 pm

A very in depth blog. Thank you i will definitely be doing this walk next week. I hope I can get some stunning g photos like you have.

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zoe tehrani August 1, 2021 - 8:34 am

oooh, you have probably done it already. Hope you had fun…I’m sure you got some great photos!

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Laura August 2, 2021 - 4:57 pm

Thank you so much for your blog post. There were so many helpful details and it really made me feel so much more confident about doing this walk on my own. I think your blog describes the hike beautifully (and accurately!). I had a fantastic time doing this walk today and hope to do it again in the future. Thank you!

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zoe tehrani August 9, 2021 - 12:05 pm

Hi Laura, this really makes me so happy that I was able to help 🙂 Im glad you had a good time doing it!

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Hayley August 5, 2021 - 12:12 pm

Hi Zoe, with the help and inspiration of your website, I did the Seven Sisters walk yesterday and loved it! What an amazing walk. I’m from London and always travel abroad so this trip opened my eyes to how beautiful the UK is. Your blogs are fantastic, both the words and images. Keep up the great work and I look forward to doing some of the other walks you’ve blogged about.
Thanks
Hayley

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zoe tehrani August 9, 2021 - 12:03 pm

Hi Hayley, im so glad you enjoyed it! I used to be the same, only going abroad to explore and travel, ignoring England. It was through doing these hikes that I saw how amazing our country is 🙂

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Lauren Doyle August 16, 2021 - 10:11 am

Hi Zoe, tackled the Seven Sisters hike yesterday and found your blog so helpful. Beautiful walk, finished off with a G&T at Eastbourne Pier. I would be interested to know which of your trails you would recommend next – similar in length etc.
Thanks for the great blog 😀

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zoe tehrani August 20, 2021 - 1:06 pm

Hi Lauren, Im glad I could help! Well, it depends on where you are based and how far you wish to travel. If sticking to the south east, I would recommend the Folkestone/Dover hike. It’s a bit shorter, but has great coastline views. More inland, I would recommend then Ivinghoe Beacon hike. It’s in the Chilterns, has great views, and the walk along the ridgeway towards the chalk white lion is particularly breathtaking. It’s a longer hike too. Definitely the the Devils Dyke hike. It’s also a long one, quite hilly with amazing views.
If you can travel further afield then I would recommend heading to Dorset. The walk along the coastline between Lulworth cove and weymouth is quite similar to the seven sisters with those amazing white cliffs. Its very hilly too. I haven’t written about this one, Its the first hike I ever did in England way before I started this website. Im dying to go back and do it so I can put accurate details on the website. You should find info if you google it though. Im about to publish a walk from Kimmeridge in Dorset, I would recommend this one 100%. Mostly coastline, challenging hills and the best views. Hope this helps!

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Nitin Gaur January 23, 2022 - 7:01 pm

Thanks for this, simply an amazing post and made my life so much easier, and everything U said resonated with me at every point of my trip. THANK YOU for making my day speacial! loved the hike.

Reply
zoe tehrani January 24, 2022 - 8:10 am

This makes me so happy to hear Nitin, its really made my day that you felt this way 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thank YOU for enjoying my post

Reply

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