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.

Dirt roads and grandiose landscapes: a road trip around Salta (Argentina)

 I always said that you can go almost anywhere by bus in South America. That’s true. But sometimes that the journey which matters and not so much the destination. This post is not about how to get to Cafayate (from Salta you can hop on a bus which drives on the RN68). This article is about taking the dirt roads, going into exploration mode and letting the real fun starts.
Amazing landscapes, dirty roads and at end wine… what else? For the ones who want to take the time to enjoy the landscapes changing km after km,  here is a 2 to 3 days road trip. Rent a car and get lost in the spectacular colours, canyons and rocks of the National Park Los Cardones and of the Sierra de Carahuasi. Adventure starts where good roads end.

 

road trip Salta Cafayate

On this kind of road trip, the co-pilote should not only know how to read a map, but also how to use a camera!

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Hiking Mount Snowdon, a welsh microadventure

It was spontaneous. We decided to go just a few days before, and to leave on the Friday, just after work, direction: Snowdonia National Park in Wales.

Overcrowded camping? Grey sky? Busy trail? Who cares! The majesty of the scenery, the fresh air of the outdoors and the smell of the mountains was just what we needed for the week-end break, far from from London life. Sometimes it is just about getting out there in the wild… and enjoying a good beer at the end of the day :-).

Made it to the mountains... Happy!

Made it to the mountains… Happy!

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Cycling the Tour de Yorkshire

So on a Friday after work, we put the bikes in the car and headed north for a week-end that will make our muscles burn. Since we decided to relocate to the UK we have been planning to go on week-end adventure to discover our new home country. After reading about the Tour de Yorkshire in Alastair Humphrey ‘s  book “Microadventures” we knew that this was the prefect combo of exploration and training for our big biking challenge, a month later.
cycling_yorkshire

On two wheels, around Yorkshire!

Yorkshire’s area got a tourist boost when Tour de France crossed it in 2014, and we decided to roughly cycle the same route as the peloton did. The countryside is lovely, there is not much traffic and the roads are in good condition. Fun ahead! We will start and end in the small town of Harrogate.

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Hiking around El Chalten (Argentina) – a 3 day trek by Fitz Roy

After 22 hours of bus, on a straight road in the middle of flat and boring steppes land, we saw its silhouette in the distance: the famous Fitz Roy chain. Slowly, the silhouette becomes sharper and bigger, until revealing a fantastic mountain range like created from shark tooth, surrounded by a beautiful grey laguna and several glaciers. We arrived to the promised land of El Chalten, self-proclaimed capital of trekking of Argentina.

El Chalten_Fitz Roy

The dream starts at the end of a 22h bus ride.

El Chalten offers plenty of hiking possibilities: you can easily take day hikes but why not going for a mini trek for a more immersive Patagonia experience?

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Kungsleden, a 7 days trek above the Arctic circle

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Kungsleden, “the royal trail”, it’s a 450km trail running into the swedish mountains of Lappland, above the Arctic circle. Thousands of hikers come every year in summer to complete a portion  (or all!) of one of the most beautiful treks on the planet and enjoy full wilderness – not even phone connection! The first part of the trail, between Abisko to Nikkaluokta is a rewarding 5-7 days trek.

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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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A guide to prepare your visit to the falls of Iguazu

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You can hear them from far, way before you can get a glimpse of them. A constant throb, deafening. More than 1.700 m3/second.  More than 270 falls spread over 2.700m (almost 2 miles) in a semi circular shape. Iguazu Falls are a gigantic nature wonder. At the border of Brazil and Argentina, the falls have everything to get on every traveller’s bucket list. Here are my tips to get the best out of your visit to the cataracts.

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