A week-end of hiking on the South Downs Way (UK)

I have always liked long distance trails. I like the idea of going from A to B by the simple power of your legs. The idea of hiking part of the South Downs Way came as I was looking for ideas of activities with mum, who was visited me for a few days. But I didn’t want to spend hours in transportation. I wanted an epic week-end adventure just a stone thrown from London, mixing sea and countryside. I had heard about the Seven Sisters hike so I decided we should tackle the last part of this national trail. We went up steep climbs, avoided cows, had fun on bales of hay, embraced Sussex views and ended up with our toes in the English channel – all under beautiful summer skies.

The north panorama from Firle Beacon, highest point of the hike

The South Downs Way

The South Downs way is a 100 miles trail crossing the protected area of the South Downs National Park. Officially you should start from Eastbourne all the way up to Winchester cathedral but honestly, who cares?

I was surprised  by the diversity of the landscapes of this section of the South Downs way we explored: rural, a 200m high plateau out of nowhere offering views from all around but also a forest, walking along rivers and ending up at the sea. I enjoyed being able to point at where we started and to follow the path from the distance. It is amazing how far you can go if you just keep walking.

There are as many ways to hike the South Downs Way as they are people: you can go wild camping and carry all your food for the trip, you can cycle, you can stay in comfy B&B, and you can break it down in small or big chunks. Carrying a simple map (a must) allows you to know where you are and to identify towns in the distance which is always fun ; the path is clearly marked, so you don’t need great navigation skills.

A marathon of hiking in two days

Difficulty: medium – no technicality but our second day was a long one. See alternatives if you want something a bit less demanding

Distance: 43km / 27 miles

Start and end: Lewes to Eastbourne, both accessible by train from London (hourly).

 

Day 1: Lewes – Southease, 12km

Day 1: Lewes to Southease

We left from London just before 16.00 and arrived in Lewes by 17.00. We quickly forgot about the packed commuter train and crossed the town. The road we walked went from two lanes to one, became more narrow, turned into a small path and finally, it opened into a big field and we met with the trail. Windmills, cows, sheep and field – London seemed so far.

After almost 3 hours of hiking, we arrived at the  YHA in Southease where we spent the night. It is a comfortable, modern and client hostel ; a twin room costs 70 GBP, breakfast 6.20GPB, and you also can buy dinner or a packed lunch. Self catering kitchen is also available. (If you are on a budget, these is also a campsite in Eastbourne).

Day 2: Southease – Eastbourne, 31km

Day 2: Southease to Eastbourne

On day two we left the hostel by 9am and continued our hike to the highest point of the weekend. We then descended to the cute and buzzing village of Alfriston, before turning south until we reached the coast. While on Friday we met many local going for an evening walk or jog, on Saturday the crowds got bigger and bigger as we were getting closer to the coast. The Seven Sister walk is a really day hike and though we were far from having the path from ourselves it didn’t really bother us. And then, Eastbourne was in sight!

Eastbourne was much more charming that I expected: the victorian sea town is protected in a nice bay, the pier is airy, with lots of space to sit and enjoy the scenery and there are plenty of places to eat out.

The next day we caught the direct train back to London (hourly, 18 GBP, 1h30), it was fun to look through the window to catch a glimpse of the area we walked, it looked so different.

 

Hiking alternatives on the South Downs Way

I would not change much if I would do it again. It is always fun to start your adventure right after work on a Friday and to arrive walking at the first accommodation and it was fun to challenge ourselves to walk a longer distance on the second day.

  • If you have one more day: You can walk back from Eastbourne to Alfriston via the cycling way or spend the day on the seaside sailing, kayaking etc
  • If you want shorter distances: Take the train to Southease, walk the 10km until Alfriston and tackle the last part of the trail on the second day.
  • If you have 2 full days of hiking, consider balancing the distances by breaking it down as follow: Lewes – Alfriston (22km), Alfriston – Eastbourne (20km)

NB: There are no train connection to Alfriston, only buses.

The Seven Sisters walk

Make it happen

Traveling light

We travelled light, with a 25L backpack each, carrying just food and water for the day, a change of clothes and enough toiletries to make ourselves presentable. We didn’t go dirt cheap but we didn’t go all in, the goal was to find a balance that will allow us to enjoy the week-end comfortably without breaking the bank.

On the first day we carried some light food to cook at the YHA. On day two, we had a big breakfast at the YHA,  bought a sandwich at the deli in Alfriston and ended the trip with a celebration dinner at an indian restaurant in Eastbourne (Indian restaurant Tuk-Tuk on Terminus road – absolutely delicious).

Useful links

  • The National trail website is a mine of information to plan your trip. The website include places to stay and tips on where to buy food or get water but also a route calculator function that is really handy!
  • Thanks to Rambling Man for the inspiration of his blog, he took over the all trail over several week-end.
  • Southern railway website for timetables and booking tickets online if you want (or just buy at the station).

Check more week-end adventures in England.

One week itinerary on the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera)

The French riviera is probably known mostly around the world for its glamour, beauty and amazing coast line. For me, a girl from the north of France, used to grey skies and dark seas, The Cote d’Azur (Azur coast) name could not be more suitable for this place. It doesn’t matter if you are strolling by the expensive yachts in Monaco or just found the perfect local picnic spot on the rocks, wherever you go, the deep tones of the sea and the blue skies are an amazing background for your explorations.
 In this 7 days itinerary, I am sharing my favorite places in this area. Are you ready for a week of blue sea, luxury, picturesque villages and the fresh air of the sea?

A week where you will always keep nuances of blue in sight!

One week to explore French Riviera

Day 1: A day in pretty Nice

Day 2: Charming Provence village – Saint Paul de Vence

Day 3: A spectacular walk by the Antibes’s Cape

Day 4: An active day exploring the Esterel Massif

Day 5: A day in Cannes

Day 6: Iles de Lerins – Sainte Marguerite

Day 7: Frejus or Monaco

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A week-end in Kungshamn, on the West Coast of Sweden

Kungshamn at dusk, Sweden.

Kungshamn at dusk, west coast of Sweden.

Driving 6h across the country on a Thursday evening after several stressful weeks is not exactly what I had in mind when I talked about “spending a relaxing midsummer week-end”.

But going out of town to enjoy life in the family stuga (cottage) is what you are supposed to do for midsummer when you live in Sweden. With no family cottage to crash in, we ended up renting one on the other side of the country (“the right side of Sweden” according to the ones who live there). “It has better worth it!” I mubbled as I packed my bags, annoyed. What I will realise during the week-end is that the great thing about Kungshamn, is that you don’t have to do so much over there.  And just for this reason, it was worth the long drive.

Kungshamn, small town of the west coast is the perfect place to be off for a few days and reconnect with your senses. Here are 5 simple pleasures to experience during a week-end in Kungshamn, Smögen or pretty much anywhere on the Swedish west Coast.

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On the roads of Chilean Tierra del Fuego (Porvenir and around)

There is nothing to see there“. “Yes, it’s precisely what we want to see“. “?” He could not get it, why should we spend 2 days on a small town where there is nothing to do? But for us, it seemed like the only way to truly discover it. Tierra del Fuego. The name inspires hectares of emptiness as far as the eye can see. Wind and desolation. After reading about the small town of Porvenir in our Lonely Planet, we were determined on exploring the place. We didn’t regret it. Adventure starts where good roads ends.

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5 reasons why Ilha Grande (Brazil) feels like a little paradise

“If you want to relax, come to Ilha Grande. If you want to be active, come to Ilha Grande”. Just a few hours from Rio de Janerio, the brazilian island Ilha Grande has seduced locals for decades. Many international travelers now also head off to the lovely island to relax after a few days in bursting Rio de Janeiro. Hikers or beach lovers, all meet at the end of the afternoon by the beach to sip a few caipirinhas.

No cars

Just listen. Did you hear the silence? Maintenance trucks aside, there are no motorized vehicule on the island. Locals like tourists go around by foot, by bike or by boat, highly contributing to the laid back atmosphere of the island.

Chances are you will fall in love with the island even before you leave the boat

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Around Ilha Catharina (Florianopolis) by scooter

So far on our trip we have not been so lucky with the weather when we were on the coast. Florianopolis and Ilha Catharina followed the tradition: we woke up with the sound of the rain and under grey clouds. It was easy to indulge ourselves in not doing much the all day… But this was our unique full day on the island before continuing South!

So we decided to rent a scooter.

Me on the scooter, just pretending (I don't have a moto license)

Me on the scooter, just pretending (I don’t have a moto license)

 

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Travel in time in the charming Brazilian town of Parati

It’s one of these small town where time seems to have stop 100 years back. Parati (pronounce “Paratchi“) is a photogenic postcard town on the coast of Brazil, enjoyable under blue sky as under rain – when photographers get creative with the facades’ reflections in the water pools. The historic center, UNESCO protected, enchants local and international tourists with its aligned white houses with colorful accents.

Add to this the proximity of dozen of beautiful beaches and lands and an ideal location between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and you get the perfect stop over or weekenders’ destination.

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A dream vacation in the Galapagos for $150 a day, all included

bartholome_galapagos

The day tour to Bartholome is not cheap, but you will get the best views of the Galapagos

Galapagos: a remote archipelago of the Pacific Ocean, 1000km from Ecuador, home of fearless blue footed boobies, playfull baby sea lions, giant tortoises, funny iguanas and inoffensive sharks. The Galapagos islands are unique. What if you could make the dream come true for $150 a day?

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Snorkelling in Galapagos: because you don´t need to dive to see sharks (or sea turtles)

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“Did you say sharks?”

I never thought I would ever swim with sharks. I recently took my diving open water certificate, but I didn´t really feel at my ease, so I started to accept that I will never see sharks and other sea turtles in wildlife. So when the sales guy from the agency talked about seeing sharks during a snorkelling session in Galapagos, I was suspicious. Was it one of his sales trick?

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Picture of the day: tenderness moment on the Galapagos Islands

This is probably our cutest picture from the Galapagos Islands… Can you stay indifferent to this one? We couldn´t.

New born sea lion cuddling with his mum under the sunset at La Loberia, Isla San Cristobal (Galapagos).

New born sea lion cuddling with his mum under the sunset at La Loberia, Isla San Cristobal (Galapagos).

Did you know? During the 10 first days of the life of her pup, the mum sea lion will nurse her new born baby 24/7 and never leave the shore.