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near Eastbourne, England (United Kingdom)
This beautiful hike begins at the start of the South Downs trail at the edge of Eastbourne, and takes you along beautiful chalk cliffs to the mouth of the Cuckmere River within the Seven Sisters Country Park park and then to the visitor center where you can take back a bus to Eastbourne or to Beachy Head. Part of this trail is only accessible at low-tide: check a tide table if you want to visit the lighthouse at Beachy Head, and walk between 2 hours before and 2-3 hours after low-tide. If you do not go down to the light house the walk is about 3.5 km shorter. Along this walk you will see magnificent chalk cliffs, light houses, pebble beaches, wetlands, and excellent views across seascapes and countryside.
The walk starts at the edge of Eastbourne, where the South Downs trail starts. There is a kiosk here, some parking spaces, and a bus stop. You do not follow the South Downs trail here, but you stay closer to the coast. Directly after Whitebread Hole, a large lawn, you go left on a trail which takes you down to Cow Gap (see waypoint). There are stairs here which take you down below the cliff to the sea-side, which consists largely of rocks here. Please check a tide table, because at high-tide you may become trapped between the sea and the cliffs if you venture too far from the stairs. You then continue below the cliffs towards the west, and after you have turned a corner you get to a sandy stretch called ‘Falling Sands’ (see waypoint) with a magnificent view of the Beachy Head lighthouse in the background. From here, there is no path and you cross the sands, and clamber between rocks until you get to the light house (see waypoint). Beware of sharp rocks, and mud at some places. On this stretch, I observed a peregrine falcon eating a pigeon, and a few raven on the cliffs. If the tide is low you can get to the lighthouse base and climb it to a platform at about 5 meters high. After your visit to the lighthouse you go back the way you came until just before Cow Gap where you can take a small trail (see waypoint) up the cliffs back to the coastal path. Here you climb a steep path to the highest point of the trail at about 160 meters above Beachy Head lighthouse. There is a monument to airmen of the RAF who flew from Beachy Head. From here you follow the coast with magnificent views of the lighthouse down below, the chalk cliffs, the rolling countryside, and the Belle Tout lighthouse in the distance. You walk to this lighthouse (see waypoint) which is out of service, and then continue to Birling Gap (see waypoint). There is a restaurant here, and another stair case which takes you down from the cliff edge to the pebble beach, so you get another chance at looking at the chalk cliffs from below. From Birling gap you continue west towards the Seven Sisters Country Park. Again, the views are breathtaking. About 3.8 km from Birling Gap you come to the Cliff End (see waypoint), where the hill steeply comes down to the estuary of the Cuckmere river. To avoid the steep scramble down you take a small detour to the pebble beach, and then continue to the river mouth (see waypoint). From here you take the Park Trail (see the website of the park www.sevensisters.org.uk for more information) through the wetlands to the visitor center which is besides the A259 road. Here you can take a bus back to Eastbourne (line 12) station or Pier, where you can walk back to the starting point or take another bus (line 33). In weekends and in summer you can better take back (the less frequent) line 13 which follows the tourist trail, first to Birling Gap, and then on to Belle Tout and Beachy Head car park. From there you can walk back down 2.2 km to the starting point along the South Downs trail (which I did). Alternatively, you can of course walk back the entire route.
There is catering at the start, as well as at Birling Gap, and at the Seven Sisters Country Park visitor center. This trail is not suited for small children, and people having fear of heights, as during much of the route you walk close by steep cliffs without fences to protect you from falling off.
At low-tide you can get to the base of the lighthouse and walk up to the platform at about 5 meters. Watch the tides before you venture here from Cow Gap as you may become trapped between sea and cliffs (plan your walk here between 2 hours before and 2-3 hours after low-tide according to this website: http://www.riverocean.org.uk/ocean/webwalks/Beachy%20Head.html). There is no real path getting you here from Cow Gap: you have to find your way between the rocks, the pools, and the mud.
See also this website for more information: http://www.beachyheadlighthouse.co.uk
If you have climbed to the viewpoint at the 160 meter cliff top, you have a magnificent view of the lighthouse at the bottom of the cliff.
The Belle Tout lighthouse is now out-of-operation and private property. The views of the lighthouse with the cliffs are magnificent.
At the Cliff End, the hills sharply go down to the Cuckmere River estuary. There are several small trails down the steep hillside, but it is better to take the detour (according the many warning signs).
Here the Cuckmere River flows into the sea. At the east side there is a large pebble beach.
There is some sort of beach here (but there are too many rocks to swim). You have a beautiful view of the cliffs and the lighthouse. I saw a peregrine falcon here on the way back snacking on a pigeon (see one of the photos).
Watch the tides before you venture here from Cow Gap as you may become trapped between sea and cliffs (plan your walk here between 2 hours before and 2-3 hours after low-tide according to this website: http://www.riverocean.org.uk/ocean/webwalks/Beachy%20Head.html).
The estuary of the Cuckmere river consists of the river itself, old river meanders, lagoons and salt marshes. See http://www.sevensisters.org.uk/ for more information.
At the visitor center there is also a bar-restaurant. The bus stop is directly outside the visitor center. See http://www.sevensisters.org.uk/ for more information.
This small trail (not on the OS map) takes you from the sea-side up the cliff. It is steep at the end and also passes through some shrubs. Alternatively, you can go back to Cow Gap. I saw a fox here.
I misplaced this waypoint, it should be 160 meters further northeast.
These stairs take you down to the pebble beach at Birling Gap (there is no path down from the cliffs).
Here there are stairs to take you down to the sea below the cliffs.
Watch the tides before you venture away from Cow Gap as you may become trapped between sea and cliffs (plan your walk here between 2 hours before and 2-3 hours after low-tide according to this website: http://www.riverocean.org.uk/ocean/webwalks/Beachy%20Head.html). The place is also nice for fossil hunting: see e.g. http://www.discoveringfossils.co.uk/beachy_head_fossils.htm