These famous white cliffs known as the Seven Sisters, offer great views across the ocean and the incredible landscape around. There’s no better way to explore the area between Seaford and Eastbourne, other than hiking the south Downs National Park. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced hiker, we share with you, our comprehensive guide to hiking the Seven Sisters.
If you are not into hiking, or feel that you are not experienced enough to encounter such a hike, then we share with you a little hack that means you don’t have to walk the distance or break out in a sweat but still get to see the stunning landscape and of course the famous Seven Sisters.
The Seven Sisters are located on the South East of England and forms part of the South Downs National Park. The South Downs Way is a route that covers the Seven Sisters from Eastbourne to Alfriston.
In this post, we will be walking some of the South Downs Way before detouring off onto the Vanguard Way. The Vanguard way is a route that includes Seaford Head to Cuckmere Haven.
Where to start the hike?
We’ve hiked both Seaford to Eastbourne and from Eastbourne to Seaford, both a tiring but rewarding experience, offering incredible views of the Seven Sisters and the surrounding landscape.
This hike in our opinion is one of the best for views and one you really shouldn’t miss out on.
The route in either direction takes on the following points:
Seaford Seafront and beach huts – Seaford Head – Coastguard Cottages – Cuckmere Haven – Cuckmere Inn – Seven Sisters – Birling Gap – Belle Tout Lighthouse – Beachy Head – Eastbourne seafront – Eastbourne Pier.
How long does it take to walk the Seven Sisters?
The Seven Sister Hike from Eastbourne to Seaford or from Seaford to Eastbourne is about 13.6 miles (21.9km) in distance.
The hike should take about 5-7 hours depending on your experience and fitness level.
The Seven Sisters will consist of steep ascends and descends; which are challenging. If you are inexperienced or do not have a good level of fitness, then we would suggest taking on a beginner’s route.
Where should I stay when Hiking the Seven Sisters?
If you’re planning to spend a few days on the coast before heading out onto the Seven Sisters cliff walk, then we would recommend staying in Eastbourne.
There’re some lovely hotels right on the seafront to relax back before you challenge yourself with the hike.
Here are some of our recommendations:
The View Hotel
Located directly along the seafront in Eastbourne, offering great views out over the sea. Ideal location to explore Eastbourne on a weekend trip before heading out over the Seven Sisters cliffs.
It is a little on the expensive side to stay, with room prices from £100.00+ per night.
Food is to a high standard, with a restaurant and bar overlooking the beachfront. On a hot summer’s day, many tourists, looking for a bite to eat or a cooling beer, are found sitting back watching the view from the balcony.
The Cavendish Hotel
Another great hotel along the seafront, at a more affordable price. However, not as glamorous as The View Hotel.
The rooms are to a nice standard, with some rooms overlooking the seafront. A bar and restaurant have great views overlooking the beachfront.
The only negative we found with staying at The Cavendish Hotel, were the dirty window panes. It was clear they hadn’t been cleaned in sometime, which can mask the view of the seafront.
Other than this, our stay was very pleasant, in a great location, with easy access to the Seven Sisters hiking trail.
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How to get to the Seven Sisters?
Getting to Eastbourne or Seaford depending where you choose to start the hike from, is very easy and simple. There’s public transport that makes it easy to get around the area.
If you are arriving by air, the closest airport to Eastbourne and Seaford is London Gatwick. London Gatwick is about 30 miles from London and most travellers will head to the capital to start their holiday.
If you want to cover London at a later point in your itinerary, then take the direct Southern train service from the airport to Eastbourne. The estimated journey time is about 1 hour.
Train services to Seaford, take the Southern services from Gatwick to Lewes, before taking a connecting Southern train to Seaford. For ease, you may find it easier to start the Seven Sisters Hike from Eastbourne and make your way to Seaford.
There is a bus service that connects Eastbourne and Seaford with Brighton and Hastings.
Take bus 12 from Brighton to Eastbourne, which stops in Seaford along the way. It also covers Beachy Head, Seven Sisters and Cuckmere Haven. Tickets start at £4.20 and run every 10 minutes.
If you’re planning a coastal trip, then take bus 99 to Hastings, where you can explore the historic town where the Battle of Hastings took place. Ticket prices start at £5.20 with 3 buses hourly.
Arriving from London? Take the train from London Victoria to Eastbourne. Ticket prices start at £18.70.
You can take a train from London Victoria station to Seaford, but you will need to change at Lewes for Seaford. We would recommend starting the hike in Eastbourne for ease.
Trains from Brighton run a service twice hourly and ticket prices start at £11.10.
Travelling by car, is by far the easiest and most convenient way to visit Eastbourne and Seaford. You don’t have to rely on a timetable to get you from A to B and it could work out to be a cheaper option compared to all the train tickets or bus tickets you’ll have to purchase. Plus, you have the option of visiting more with a road trip around the UK.
Parking in Eastbourne can be a little challenging, especially in the centre of town, it’s also a little expensive. However, we have a few suggestions on free parking.
If you have booked accommodation in Eastbourne, then check with the hotel or accommodation provider for parking. They will either suggest where you could park, or offer you free parking if available. If not, then park a little out of the centre of town at Holywell. This is where you could start the hike as it takes you directly over Beachy Head.
Many of the roads in the Holywell area will be residential, but offer free roadside parking.
If you intend to park in this area, please be courteous of the residence. Don’t Park in front of a driveway and block it, don’t block the road up if it isn’t wide enough for you to park. Whilst this is common sense, it does happen. Sadly, people do park inappropriately, which frustrates residence and passers-by.
In our opinion, the best place to park would be in Seaford. With free 12-hour parking, along the seafront at the start of Seaford Head. If you do park in Seaford and hike to Eastbourne, then you’ll need to catch bus 12 from Eastbourne to Seaford to collect your car.
Where to eat when hiking the Seven Sisters?
In preparation for any hike, you must ensure you eat the correct food to fuel your body. But it isn’t just prior to the hike, you need to eat the right food to fuel you for the entire trek. So, you will need to think about what you will eat during the hike as well.
Our best advice would be to bring your own packed lunch and snacks with you. By packing your own food, you could save some money, rather than purchasing food as you find it.
What sort of food should I pack?
Firstly, you need enough food and snacks for the trip and extra in the event of an emergency.
- Snacks – you’ll need snacks that will provide you with energy such as: nuts, fruit especially bananas, energy bars etc
- Lunch – This is where you’ll need a mixture of protein and carbohydrates. You could pack a sandwich, such as egg sandwich, or tuna sandwich. Pasta would be a great alternative, such as tuna pasta etc.
You really should stay away from sweets, crisps and fast food. These foods, will only slow you down, make you feel lethargic and uncomfortable.
Eating the correct food can only make you feel better and achieve your goals.
If you do decide you don’t want to bring a pack lunch, but instead eat at restaurants and cafes along the way, then there’s a few options available.
On most hikes, facilities can be a bit scarce, so consider this if you are not packing food with you. However, there’s a few places you can stop for food along the way.
Here are some places:
Sub – Station
Located in the centre of Seaford, but serves delicious food, from all day breakfasts, subs and burgers.
We would highly recommend the subs, with a large selection of flavours, all packed up so you can eat later.
Vegetarian and vegan options available, plus they accept card or cash payments.
The staff are so friendly and accommodating, with the food reasonably priced.
If you are looking for somewhere that’s on a budget, serving excellent food, then you must head to the Sub – Station.
The Cuckmere Inn
A popular pub and restaurant located in Cuckmere offers some delicious food.
A small selection of dishes from roasted salmon, beef and red wine lasagne, chicken and mushroom pie, just to name a few. It is a little pricey, but the food is good.
After a long enduring hike, you may wish to sit in the beer garden with a cooling pint in hand, looking back at the views of the Seven Sisters.
Saltmarsh Rooms & Café Just around the corner
Just off East Dean Road, is a good size car park, where you’ll find Saltmarsh Rooms & café Just around the corner.
We have stopped here on a number of occasions for a cup of tea and a piece of cake.
The cake is very good. The café maybe tucked away, but is very popular, so much so, that if you arrive late, then you’ll miss out on the cake.
A little courtyard to the side, allows you to sit back and relax while drinking a nice hot cup of tea and eating a flavourful piece of cake.
Birling Gap Café
This small café offers inside and outside seating. On a nice day, most tourists to Birling Gap will take a rest here on the beaches below the cliff.
The café serves a good variety of dishes from breakfasts, soups, pasties, sandwiches, salads and jacket potato.
Looking for an afternoon snack with your cup of tea, then cakes and bakes are aplenty including a creamed tea. If you haven’t had a creamed tea before, then you really should. It consists of a hot drink such as tea, coffee, hot chocolate etc, with a scone, clotted cream and jam. Yum.
The Beachy Head
Just a little off from Beachy Head, but easy to get too, before getting back on track along the Southdowns’ National Park.
The Beachy Head has some amazing landscape views while you relax back and enjoy the delicious pub food.
There’s inside and outside seating and can get busy on a hot summer’s day.
The food is good and reasonably priced, so much so that you may want to reserve seating so you’re not disappointed when it is busy.
While on the coast, you really can’t miss out on having the best fish and chips you’ll find.
One of the best places to have fish and chips is at Harry Ramsden’s. While it is a little more expensive compared to some you could find in Eastbourne, but is by far the best.
It isn’t as oily as many places we have had in Eastbourne and the restaurant has the option to eat in or take away.
The staff in the restaurant are very friendly, but in our opinion the best way to have fish and chips is by ordering from the takeaway and sitting on the beach as the sun starts to set. Just watch the seagulls, they could attack.
You must have curry sauce and mushy peas with the fish and chips, just yum.
One thing we must add though, fish and chips is not healthy in any way. It is fried food after all. But after a long hike, you may wish to treat yourself to a must have while beside the seaside.
The Victorian Tea Rooms
Afternoon tea, yes please and with a view.
The Victorian Tea Rooms are located on the pier, with the biggest and most beautiful chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It feels like we have just entered a Victorian ball room.
The Tea Rooms, offer different flavoured cakes and sandwiches. But if you are stopping for your afternoon tea, then you should order their scone, jam and clotted cream.
For a pot of tea with a scone, jam and cream should set you back about £5.00. Reservations are not required.
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What to pack for the Seven Sisters walk?
Packing is essential for any hike; it will be your lifesaver.
Hiking the Seven Sister between Eastbourne and Seaford, will take you no longer than 7 hours to complete, so you will only need a day backpack.
But what should you pack in your backpack for your hike over the Seven Sisters? We break it down in our recent post on What to pack for a hike. We include everything for beginners, to day hikes and multi day hikes, including what food to pack with you and more.
Much of the route across the Seven Sisters will be rural, therefore toilet facilities, food and drink, shelter etc will be sparse.
There’s some waypoint that you can stop at for refreshments and toilet breaks, which are found:
There’re public toilets located along the seafront near Seaford Head and throughout town.
The next stop for refreshments, toilet and a rest are near the Saltmarsh Rooms & Café. Public toilets are found next to the café, while refreshments at the café.
Some places such as The Cuckmere Inn facilities will only be available to the patrons of the pub and restaurant. If you do not intend to order food or drink, then you’ll have to use the public toilets.
The next stop isn’t until after the Seven Sisters, so it would be a good idea to use the facilities at Cuckmere before continuing on to Birling Gap.
Birling Gap has a café for food and refreshments, a resting area inside the café or on the beach below the cliffs. Public toilets are available, but can have lengthy queues.
Just up past the Beachy Head Inn are public toilets.
The last stop on your hike over the Seven Sisters is Eastbourne, here you will find plenty of places to eat, drink, relax etc.
Comprehensive guide to hiking the Seven Sisters
Now this is where the fun begins, with hiking the Seven Sisters.
We have hiked both from Seaford to Eastbourne and vice versa. In our opinion, hiking from Eastbourne to Seaford is a little easier, as the ascends up the Seven Sisters is not so steep. And the views are incredible.
As we have done both routes, we have chosen the Seaford to Eastbourne route. As parking in Seaford is easier for those drivers. But if you do decide to take the Eastbourne to Seaford route, all you have to do is follow the route but in reverse.
Seaford to Coastguard Cottages
Start in Seaford. If you have driven to Seaford, then park your vehicle at the free car park (Esplanade Car Park, BN25 1JT) along the Seafront. At this point, check you have everything packed before heading east along the seafront towards Seaford Head.
As you pass the colourful beach huts, stop to take some Instagram images before continuing on to Seaford Head.
Continue east by following the path up the first incline over Seaford Head. This is a steady incline, but once you have reached the summit, take a look back, from where you have come from, to see some lovely views of Seaford and the coastline.
Keep the edge of the cliff on your right and follow the route for about 1.6 miles to Hope of Gap. The highest elevation is 226ft. This is one of the easiest parts of the hike, as the terrain is relatively flat.
Still keep the edge of the cliff on your right and walk about 0.4 miles to Coastguard Cottages.
Please note: Do not get close to the edge of the cliff! It isn’t uncommon for the cliff edge to break away without warning. You do not want to risk your life or other hiker’s lives.
As you appoach Hope of Gap, you’ll soon see the Seven Sisters come into view. You should be able to get some stunning photographs at this point. One of the best and famous photo spots is with the Coastguard Cottages in the foreground and the Seven Sisters in the background.
Coastguard Cottages to Seven Sisters
At this point you have two options. For a shorter route, walk past Coastguard Cottages towards Cuckmere Haven. Make you way across the beach. If you have waterproof shoes, you should be able to make your way across the shallow waters where the Cuckmere River meets the English Channel.
If you do not have waterproof shoes, you’ll need to take them off and wade across the shallow waters.
Alternatively, the longer route will take you the 1.2 miles along the Cuckmere River until you reach the Cuckmere Inn. A flat section with paths that lead to the main road.
Follow the A259 in an easterly direction for about 0.4 miles at which point you’ll come to a public car park. Enter through the gate for the Seven Sisters Country Park. You will now continue along the South Downs Way.
Walk back along the Cuckmere River for about 1.2 miles, with an incline that takes you up to the top of the first of the Seven Sisters cliffs.
This is where it starts to get a little more challenging!
Seven Sisters to Birling Gap
The first incline is steep and a little challenging, reaching a height of 495ft. From here, the terrain changes to continuous descending and ascending climbs for about 2.3 miles to Birling Gap.
As mentioned above, hiking in this direction over the Seven Sisters is more challenging. The ascends over the cliffs are steep but only for a short period of time.
Hiking the Seven Sisters in the opposite direction, will take you down the steep sections, but walk up longer but more staggered ascends.
You’ll want to keep the cliff edge to your right to help you navigate. Or on your left if you’re hiking from Eastbourne to Seaford.
Birling Gap to Belle Tout Lighthouse
This is a good place to stop for a rest and to use the facilities before moving onto Belle Tout Lighthouse.
Take the ascend up to Belle Tout Lighthouse, with an elevation of 194ft and of a distance of 1.2 miles.
Belle Tout Lighthouse to Eastbourne
At the Belle Tout Lighthouse, look back for great views of the Seven Sisters. The Belle Tout Lighthouse is another famous photo opportunity.
You’re now about ¾ of the way through the hike, all you have to do is get over Beachy Head at a height of 381ft. Follow the Beachy Head cliff edge on your right for about 3 miles, before you reach Eastbourne.
You could finish your hike here, alternatively once you have reached The Kiosk at the base of Beachy head, walk along Dukes Dr to King Edwards Parade for about 1.8 miles until you reach Eastbourne Pier to end the hike.
How do you feel after the route?
Tips: Unfortunately, we didn’t find the route well marked out, however we will include a map below of the route, so you can download to help you navigate your hike of the Seven Sisters.
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Want to experience the Seven Sisters without hiking it?
Are you looking for a little cheats way of still experiencing the Seven Sisters without using all that energy hiking? This way does take away that fun of getting out and hiking for a day, but hiking isn’t for everyone, but experiencing the Seven Sisters is still possible.
You will need a vehicle and some change for parking.
In this cheat, we highlight the best spots to park and take in the views across the Seven Sisters.
We will start at driving along Beachy Head Road and stopping at Beachy Head. If you don’t intend to visit the pub, then you will need to park at the pay and display public car park next to the pub.
There is a little bit of walking involved, but to be honest, it really isn’t far and very easy to walk.
Exit the car and walk towards the cliff, but make sure you don’t get too close. Here you will get some great landscape views and ocean views. Spend as long as you wish here, before heading back to the car and continuing on your journey.
Continue down Beachy Head Road in a westerly direction. As you drive, you’ll see some incredible views. If at any point you wish to stop and get out to take in the scenic area, then do so at the appropriate parking spots at the side of the road.
Your next stop is Belle Tout Lighthouse. As you drive down Beachy Head Road, you should see Belle Tout Lighthouse on your left. At the same point close to the lighthouse, you’ll see a small layby. Park up in an available spot. You will need to pay for the parking. Exit the vehicle and walk up towards the lighthouse.
Again, this isn’t too strenuous, but exploring the area is great for those Instagram photographs. Don’t get too close to the edge. If you walk past Belle Tout Lighthouse to the other side, you’ll get some great views of the Seven Sisters.
Spend as long as you wish here, taking images and admiring the scenery, before heading back to the vehicle and continuing down Beachy Head Road in a westerly direction.
At the bottom of the road on your left, will be a large car park. You have arrived at Birling Gap. Pull into the car park and find somewhere available to park. Don’t forget to pay for parking and display the ticket in the windscreen of the vehicle.
Get out here and explore the area. We would recommend heading down to the beach where you can sit with Beachy Head cliffs to your left and the Seven Sisters cliffs to your right. Need refreshments? Then Birling Gap will be an ideal place to stop and have a picnic on the beach, before heading on to your next stop.
Time it right and you could watch the most amazing sun set at Birling Gap.
Return to the vehicle and exit the car park turning left onto Birling Gap Road. Follow the road until you reach a junction in East Dean, turn left at the junction and follow the A259 Friston Road to Exceat.
To find the parking turn right off A259 onto Litlington Road and then turn right again into Friston Car Park. Make sure you pay for the parking and display the ticket in the windscreen of the vehicle.
Make your way out of the car park on foot to the A259. There will be some walking involved, but the terrain is flat and easy. Walk about 1.3 miles along the Cuckmere River until you reach Cuckmere Haven. This is another great place for a lovely picnic along the beach, while admiring the views of the Seven Sisters.
What an exhilarating journey that was. We love getting out into the open-air and what better way to do that than hiking the Seven Sisters. But if you don’t fancy a hiking, you can still experience the highs and lows, the peaks and troughs of the Seven Sisters without breaking into a sweat.
This useful guide to hiking the Seven Sisters will help any beginner or experienced hiker, to get those hiking shoes on, get out onto those cliffs and have a safe hike. With the knowledge that you will get to experience some of the most beautiful landscapes on the south east of England.
It is one area of the UK that we would highly recommend and one not to be missed off when visiting England.
Have you hiked the Seven Sisters before? What was your experience of the hike? What did you spot along the way? Are there any tips you could recommend? Let us know, by leaving a comment below.
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