South Downs Cycling

Cycling the South Downs Way

The South Downs Way is an ancient long distance footpath and makes up one of Britain's "National Trails" These 13 long distance paths are a world class group of outstanding Walking Routes that also provide excellent Cycling and Horse Riding opportunities, they are gold standard for public access. The South Downs Way runs for about 100 Miles / 160 KM from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex, passing through the centre of the South Downs National Park.

The path passes through areas of world famous scenery in an area rich with Historic and Cultural sites of interest. At the Eastern end the South Downs Way takes you through the beautiful coastal valley of Cuckmere and over the well known and very picturesque Seven Sisters and Beachy Head Cliffs. Other well-known Landmarks covered by the path include: Devils Dyke, Butser Hill, Meon Valley, Chanctonbury Ring and the Long Man of Wilmington. The South Downs Way offers a classic English experience of rolling hills, patchwork fields, misty vales and Ancient Woodland. The footpath is also dotted with pretty villages and passes close to towns of great historic interest such as Alfriston, Lewes, Petersfield and Arundel. The start and end-points of the South Downs Way are well worth a visit in their own right with the city of Winchester being the first capital city of England and Eastbourne being a very traditional English seaside town with it's Victorian Architecture & Promenades.

Following the old Droveways along the chalk escarpment and ridges of the South Downs. The undulating route provides a wonderful trip for long distance cyclists and walkers. Today Cycling the length of the South Downs Way has become a popular challenge for cyclists of all levels and ages. It can be done in one day by seriously fit endurance cyclists or 5/6 days for a family going at child speed. Assuming you are used to off road cycling then 2 / 3 days is the average riding time.

The various parts of the path have been used for recreational cycling for decades and have slowly been combined to create the path as it is today. By 1963, the Ridgeway track was formally recognised as the South Downs Way; at first only about 70 miles long, it was extended to Winchester in 1981. The continuing efforts to make the South Downs Way an unbroken bridleway from Winchester to Eastbourne begin to pay off; although there are still temporary sections in place, the full 100-mile-plus route takes shape in 2002. For more information about the History and Geography of the South Downs Way have a look at the Wikipedia entry and the English National Trails website

Start and End points (West to East) Start = King Alfred Statue, Winchester Lat/Lon: 51.06123 -1.30912 Grid Ref: SU 48513 29327
End = SDW Signboard, Eastbourne Lat/Lon: 50.76151 0.26432 Grid Ref: TV 59792 98213

South Downs Way on Google Maps

View South Downs Way - Cycling Route in a larger map

South Downs and South Downs Way Maps and Guides

These Ordnance Survey Maps cover the South Downs National Park: OS Explorer: 120,122, 123,132,133
and the OS Landranger: 185,197,198,199

For a more thorough list of recommended traditional printed maps and guidebooks - both cycling specific and general use covering the South Downs and the South Downs Way Please Click Here to go to our dedicated guides and maps page.

Local Off Road and South Downs Way Cycling Tips

Terrain, Climate, Livestock

The South Downs is mostly Chalk, wet Chalk can be suprisingly slippy but its not as "heavy" to get through as Clay Mud or Peat Soil. Around Worthing it's more of Chalk and Flint combination, turning to Chalk and Gravel by Arundel and well drained Gravel at Chichester. On the inland side of the Downs it's Chalky turning to Clay as you head Northwards. The Flint and Flint Seams can be a puncture hazard.

If doing South Downs Way for the first time we would get a guide book - maps aren't detailed enough. Remember to follow the Cycling Route not the Walking Route!

There are not many Pubs / food places on the South Downs Way itself you may have to drop down off the track to a Village or Town.

It can be windy on the South Downs ridge, try and go with the wind - check the forecast and take suitable clothing. The prevailing wind for the South Downs region is SW or South Westerly.

There are lot of farm animals, Horse Riders, Stables, dogs and people in the National Park, cycle accordingly. Follow the Countryside Code - which is available to read and download from Natural England

South Downs Way Digital Mapping - Online Resources - Official Leaflets and Guides

The digital mapping data of the South Downs Way cycling route is here in GPX + MMO format. For GPS data conversion try GPS Babel

A. Beggs' site - has a wealth of useful information about cycling the South Downs Way, including detailed breakdowns of all the sections with descriptions and photos
This is a good unofficial website with lots of local paths and detailed guides
The Annual South Downs Way walk (June)
Suzi Lamb has written a nice travel blog piece about cycling the South Downs Way at

Various organisations produce Official Guides and Maps (in dowloadable PDF format) for the South Downs and South Downs Way - We have collected these together below - again some of these are cycling specific and some are more general visitor information.

Official English National Trails: South Downs Way Drinking Water Guide pdf download South Downs Way Drinking Water Guide

Official South Downs Way Mountain Bike Guide leaflet from English National Trails. Download it here (PDF) South Downs Way Biking Guide

The official South Downs and South Downs Way information leaflets on a variety of subjects can be downloaded here SDW free PDFs

The Official South Downs Way Camping and Hostels Guide Leaflet - pdf download South Downs Way Camping and Hostels

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Page Links Checked Oct 2015