South Downs Way Guided Trail

The South Downs Way Guided Trail

Duration: 11 nights
Type: Guided Trails
Walking Grade: 3
from £1,599pp

The South Downs Way provides a challenging route of 100 miles between Winchester, the Saxon capital of England and Eastbourne, the Edwardian leisure resort. It follows the crest of the South Downs escarpment reaching the high point at Butser Hill and culminating in the exhilarating switchback of the Seven Sisters leading to Beachy Head and Eastbourne. Sections have been trading routes as far back at the Bronze Age. There is much of interest along the way.

Holiday Highlights

  • Follow the crest of the South Downs, with panoramic views over the coast and the Weald
  • Gaze over the expanse of Devil’s Dyke and discover Iron Age forts
  • Spend a day walking along the 'roller-coaster' Seven Sisters cliffs to Beachy Head
  • Feel a sense of achievement at having walked the entire South Downs Way

What’s included

  • High quality en-suite accommodation in our country house
  • Full board from dinner upon arrival to breakfast on departure day
  • The services of an HF Holidays' walks leader
  • All transport on walking days

Trip Notes

Trip notes are detailed, downloadable PDF’s for each holiday, please click the button below to find the right trip notes for your departure date.

103 miles with 9-13 miles and up to 1,900 feet of ascent in a day.

You're welcome to check in from 4pm onwards.

Enjoy a complimentary Afternoon Tea on arrival.

We commence our journey at the Mill House, the official starting point of the SDW in Winchester, initially following the River Itchen before leaving the city and crossing fields to Chilcomb village. Sadly, there is insufficient time to explore Winchester. Leaving Chilcomb, we ascend our first summit, Telegraph Hill, from where there are good views to Winchester and over the natural amphitheatre below Cheesefoot Head. As the views begin to open up to the south, we meander across rolling countryside of mixed woodlands and arable lands passing Mill Barrows and the lost medieval village of Lomer. Nearing Beacon Hill, we gain a view over the Meon valley, before descending to the village of Exton. 

12½ miles (20.5km) with 1,170 feet (360m) of ascent and 1,100 feet (330m) of descent.

From the village of Exton, we cross the River Meon and continue east to ascend Old Winchester Hill, a national nature reserve topped by an Iron Age fort and a Bronze Age cemetery. The strategic importance of this site is self-evident and the views are inspiring. We descend over open rolling downland with superb views, then on to Wether Down. From here the Downs begin as a ridge, stretching to the coast at Eastbourne and pierced by river valleys and roads. We now begin to experience the chalk ridge landscape of the Downs as we approach Butser Hill (883ft: 270m), the highest point on the South Downs and formerly the starting point of the SDW. It is well-regarded for its butterfly populations, including the Chalkhill Blue. Having admired the views, we descend to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park for refreshment. 

11 miles (17½km) with 1,370 feet (420m) of ascent and 1,120 feet (340m) of descent.

Continuing eastwards, we see more forested landscape on the gentler southern slopes of the Downs. At Hundred Acres we cross over the county border from Hampshire into Sussex and continue along Forty Acre Lane to Harting Downs. Our next ascent takes us around (our second) Beacon Hill, the site of an Iron Age fort, and onto Pen Hill. We soon pass the Devil’s Jumps, a curious group of large tumuli. Some pleasant downland ridge walking rounds off our day as we traverse Cocking Down to our pickup point on the A286. 

13 miles (21km) with 1,830 feet (560m) of ascent and 1,930 feet (590m) of descent.

At the start of the day we ascend back onto the ridge and passing Heyshott Down archaeological site, a group of Bronze Age burial mounds, we enter the woodlands of Charlton Forest. We continue to Graffham Down before passing to the north of the highest point of the Sussex Downs, Crown Tegleaze (830ft: 253m), covered by woodland. Further east, having crossed the A285, we ascend Bignor Hill (736ft: 225m). The nearby Roman Villa, a large excavated Roman house with extensive, coloured mosaics and Roman road (Stane Street) are evidence of Roman occupation. The road was constructed in 50 AD to connect London to the port at Chichester (Naviomagus) whose cathedral can be seen to the south-west. We now descend from the Downs to the floodplain of the tidal River Arun which we cross to reach Amberley and refreshment. 

11½ miles (18.5km) with 1,250 feet (380m) of ascent and 1,570 feet (480m) of descent.

Starting with a relatively steep ascent back onto the ridge of the Downs, we reach the summit of Rackham Hill with views over the flood plain of Amberley Wild Brooks, site of an RSPB reserve. Beyond here we experience undulating, ridge-top walking with fine views. Descending to cross the A24 (London to Worthing) by footbridge into Washington village, we ascend back to the ridge to reach Chanctonbury Ring, a site famous for both the Iron Age fort and its clump of beech trees. The site offers a panoramic view, including to Cissbury Ring, just a few miles to the south. We progress over a mixed landscape of arable and pasture lands with wooded slopes below. The tops of the Downs themselves are on the whole bare and give a feeling of isolation. Passing Steyning Bowl and, for a short distance joining the Monarch’s Way, we make our way to the River Adur and our pick up just south of Upper Beeding. 

14½ miles (23.5km) with 1,570 feet (480m) of ascent and 1,600 feet (490m) of descent.

We first have a gradual ascent to reach the ridge top near Truleigh Hill (706ft: 216m) and continue to the spectacular, and popular, landmark of Devil's Dyke, a Victorian leisure centre. Through a mixed arable landscape, we descend to cross another busy route through the Downs (A23 London to Brighton) to reach Pyecombe church with its unusual Tapsell gate. Ascending back on to the ridge through Pyecombe golf course, we can make a short detour to reach the Clayton Windmills (Jack & Jill), before heading on to another famous landmark, Ditchling Beacon (811ft: 248m): the third highest point on the South Downs.

10 miles (16.5km) with 1,860 feet (570m) of ascent and 1,140 feet (350m) of descent.

A day without any scheduled walks, providing the opportunity to relax, explore the local area independently or enjoy Abingworth Hall’s facilities: heated outdoor swimming pool, putting green and croquet lawn. Discover more about Abingworth Hall and the local area for ideas on how to enjoy your free day.

We continue along the ridge of the Downs until, just before the summit of Blackcap, our route turns south across open downland and descending to cross the A27 Lewes road. A gradual ascent, partly along Juggs Road (an ancient route), takes us back on to the Downs. At White Way, another old route into Lewes, we pass from the western to the eastern hemisphere as we cross the Greenwich Meridian. Descending into the Ouse valley, we pass through the village of Southease. Rodmell, once the home of Virginia Woolf, is just up the valley. Much of this area became famous having been frequented by the artists and writers of the unconventional bohemian ‘Bloomsbury Group’ in the early part of the last century. After crossing the River Ouse, we reach our destination for the day. 

12 miles (19.5km) with 1,040 feet (320m) of ascent and 1,750 feet (530m) of descent.

Starting from the Ouse valley, we ascend Itford Hill, but the effort is rewarded by several miles of open ridge-top walking with accompanying views. Firle Beacon (710ft: 217m) provides one of the finest panoramic views from the Downs. We next follow a chalk track that used to be a sheep drove road, and descend into Alfriston. The Old Clergy House is one of the first buildings to have been owned by the National Trust. After crossing the River Cuckmere, we turn south, following the valley seawards, meandering past Litlington and West Dean to reach Exceat and its tea rooms for refreshment. 

10 miles (16km) with 1,310 feet (400m) of ascent and 1,310 feet (400m) of descent.

From Exceat, we gradually ascend the Downs beside the classic meanders of the River Cuckmere to reach the first of the Seven Sisters. Our cliff top route takes us along the switchback of the ‘bottoms’ and ‘brows’ of this popular section of the South Downs Way to reach Birling Gap – the site of continuous and dramatic coastal erosion, and the NT café. Continuing along the cliff top path, we pass the old lighthouse at Belle Tout to reach Beachy Head. The cliffs here are 530ft (160m) high and tower over the famous ‘candy stick’ Beachy Head lighthouse on the rocks below.

A gentle descent takes us to the outskirts of Eastbourne and the end of our journey. Following our promenade to the pier, we can deservedly reward ourselves with celebratory refreshment. 9 miles (14.5km) with 1,550 feet (470m) of ascent and 1,550 feet (470m) of descent.

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before making your way home.

South Downs Way Map

Abingworth Hall

Tucked away in the village of Thakeham at the foot of the South Downs, Abingworth Hall has stood in one form another since the 13th century. Gutted by fire, it was rebuilt in 1910 in its current distinctive style. As well as 27 en-suite rooms the house has all the ingredients you need for the perfect country house stay: three comfortable lounges with squishy sofas to kick back in, the largest of which opens onto an attractive conservatory and bar in which to dally, great food and super-comfy rooms to retire to. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to walking here; go for a lazy amble around the wildlife rich chalk Downlands to discover a colourful tapestry of historic villages, thatched cottages, pastoral landscapes and vibrant market towns. Highlights of your stay might include the Seven Sisters, the Glorious Goodwood estate, the Devil’s Dyke and Chanctonbury Ring, as well as Arundel and the National Trust property at Petworth. Take your pick.



Tea & coffee-making facilities, TV, Hairdryer, Toiletries, Wi-Fi

Stay in one of the Hall’s smartly presented rooms, which make use of every nook-and-cranny in the interesting architecture of this characterful house. With 27 bedrooms, Abingworth Hall has plenty of space and there’s a range of Classic and Premium Rooms to choose from. Clean and bright, with accent colours to offset the simple palette, the rooms are airy and light. Premium Rooms might have a feature wall or strong print wallpaper as well as pretty tiles in the ensuite bathroom.

All ‘Classic' rooms are ensuite and furnished to a high standard. There are also several ‘Premium' Rooms that are either larger or have a desirable view, a more luxurious mattress and larger television – upgrade your stay for just an extra £15-25 per person per night. You can choose a specific room for an extra £30 per room, subject to availability. Upgrade supplements still apply.


Free Wi-Fi, boot room and drying room, extensive garden, outdoor swimming pool, multi-purpose activity room, three lounges, library and board games to borrow

After a day strolling on the South Downs, come back to the house and its specially tailored walkers’ facilities. Relax in the large gardens and sit by the pretty pond, turn your hand to croquet or practice on the putting green. Ease through a couple of lengths of the heated outdoor pool if you’ve still got energy to burn. Hole up in the light-filled conservatory with pretty views of the gardens or retire to the Drawing Room with its wood-panelled walls, log burner, library of books to browse and comfy seats to sink in to; there’s a telescope for you to scour the night sky too. In the evening, take your seat in the bar or join fellow guests in the large ballroom for the evening activity.

Food & Drink

As at all our country houses, holidays are full board, from afternoon tea served as a welcome treat through that evening’s meal to a hearty breakfast on the day of departure. Food at Abingworth Hall is varied with a strong emphasis on the use of seasonal British produce. Our experienced chefs create each dish using only the freshest ingredients and, when in season, use home grown herbs and vegetables taken from our own gardens to give a true taste of the local area.


For accessibility and assistance information, please contact our expert team on 020 3974 8865 or view the accessibility information online for Abingworth Hall


Getting to Abingworth Hall

Find out more about this location including travel details and room types.

More Information

Essential Information

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong type of clothing!” goes the adage. Come prepared for all eventualities and you’ll walk in comfort as well as safety. Britain’s famous for its changeable weather, so here’s our advice on what to wear and bring.


  • Waterproof walking boots providing ankle support and good grip.
  • A waterproof jacket and over-trousers
  • Gloves and a warm hat (it can be chilly at any time of the year)
  • Rucksack
  • Water bottle (at least 1 litre capacity)
  • A small torch (everywhere in winter, year round in mountains)
  • Sun hat and sunscreen
    Denim jeans and waterproof capes are not suitable on any walks.


  • Several layers of clothing, which can be added or removed
  • Specialist walking socks to avoid blisters.
  • A first aid kit inc plasters– your leader’s first aid kit doesn’t contain any medication
  • Sit mat (insulated pad to sit on when you stop for a break)

You might also want

  • Walking poles, particularly useful for descents.
  • Insect repellent
  • Flask for hot drinks
  • Rigid lunch box
  • Gaiters
  • Blister kit (eg Compeed) just in case
  • Waterproof rucksack liner

Guest Reviews

All holidays are subject to availability. Prices are subject to change.
Prices based on two people sharing. Supplements may apply.
Non-member fee: £30 per person.

Holiday Prices

Date (Start - End) Nights Itinerary Price Status Trip Notes Book
20 Jun - 01 Jul 2022
11 Guided Trail £1,599 Trip Notes Book Now
05 Sep - 16 Sep 2022
11 Guided Trail £1,599 Trip Notes Book Now
11 nights
Guided Trails
Walking Grade:

11 nights from £1,599pp

...or call 020 3974 8865

For group bookings of 10+ people click here

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