There is no shortage of fun things to do in London but every now and again it’s nice to escape the city for the day. Thanks to its location, there are lots of great day trips from London which are less than 2 hours away. One such place is the Seven Sisters Country Park. I’d wanted to do a day trip to the Seven Sisters ever since I saw photos of the dramatic white chalk cliffs.
I finally managed to go in February this year and hiked the 22 km trail over the 7 famous English cliffs from Seaford to Eastbourne. The hike was challenging in places but the scenery was spectacular.
If you haven’t already been, then a day trip to the Seven Sisters should definitely be on your bucket list. In this post you’ll find all the information you need to help you plan your own day trip to the Seven Sisters.
Hiking the Seven Sisters
A stunning coastal hike over the Seven Sisters, starting in Seaford and ending in Eastbourne. Highlights include Cuckmere Haven, Belle Tout Lighthouse, and Beachy Head.
21.9km (13.6 miles)
4 – 7 hours
Moderate to difficult
A day trip to the Seven Sisters
The Seven Sisters are a series of dramatic chalk cliffs which overlook the English Channel. The trail from Seaford to Eastbourne is one of the prettiest coastal walks in England. As the name suggests, there are seven hills (‘sisters’) as well as a few smaller hills on each side of the Sisters.
The views are incredible as you ascend and descend over each hill. It is a long hike and can be demanding in places if you haven’t done a lot of hill walking in the past. The full walk is just over 13 miles long; however, there are a few shorter walks you can do instead. I’ve listed these options out later in the article along with places to stop and eat.
You’ll find all the information you need to help you plan your own day trip to the Seven Sisters at the end of this article. This includes how to get there, safety information, and a map of the route.
Seaford to Cuckmere Haven
The walk begins in Seaford, a small seaside town with a pebbly beach and a long promenade lined with colourful huts. Walking from Seaford to Eastbourne is the more popular direction as the views are better and it is quicker to reach the cliffs.
From the station, head to the seafront and walk along the promenade until you reach the grassy mounds of the cliffs. Over the next 22 km you’ll climb up and down the ‘Sisters’. The views from the cliffs are spectacular; the lush green countryside is on your left and the blue waters of the English Channel are on your right.
After about 45 minutes, you’ll reach Cuckmere Haven Beach. The path descends down to the beach and on the way you’ll pass the iconic Coastguard Cottages. The backdrop of the dramatic white chalk cliffs has made this one of the most photographed views in the UK.
The cottages were built in the 1820s for the coastguards who were stationed there to stop smugglers. They have been featured in several films, including Atonement with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. This is where their characters dreamed of living after the war and is where they filmed the final scene.
Cuckmere Haven to Birling Gap
At low tide you may be able to walk across the shallower parts on the beach to the cliffs on the other side. However, you will most likely have to walk inland through the grasslands to The Cuckmere Inn. It is a bit of a diversion but it is a lovely walk along the meandering river and the oxbow lakes.
Cross over the bridge and walk back down the other side of the river towards the grassy cliffs. As you climb up on to the South Downs Way, don’t forget to look back for a beautiful view of Cuckmere Haven.
After about 50 minutes you will reach Birling Gap. Here you’ll find a cafe and the National Trust information centre. A lot of visitors park here and do a shorter version of the walk so you will find it is a busy stretch. As you climb back up the cliffs you may see some wild ponies grazing on the grass if you are lucky.
Cuckmere Haven to Beachy Head
After one final big climb you’ll reach the Belle Tout Lighthouse. The lighthouse has a fascinating history; it was decommissioned in 1902 and bought by the BBC in 1986 for a mini TV series before being featured in the James Bond film, The Living Daylights.
In 1996 the lighthouse became a family home but in 1999 the whole lighthouse had to be moved away from the cliff edge due to the threat of erosion. Today the lighthouse has been converted into a unique B&B and offers guests incredible views of the landscape.
Continue walking and you will see the second lighthouse in front of you at the bottom of the cliffs. With its red and white stripes, Beachy Head Lighthouse looks like it has jumped straight out of a children’s book. It is a great spot to stop and rest and take some lovely photos of the lighthouse against the backdrop of the white cliffs.
Beachy Head to Eastbourne
There is a car park at Beachy Head so a lot of people will head back to their cars after seeing the lighthouse and you’ll find the final stretch to Eastbourne is very quiet, apart from people walking in the opposite direction.
After walking for almost 5 hours, this final section can be quite hard. It is a steep walk downhill to Eastbourne and when you get down to the promenade it is still a 25 minute walk to the train station. I remember feeling like I would never reach the station as my legs were so tired! Once you get there find a nice little pub and have a drink and a bite to eat before heading back to London – you will definitely be ready for some food after the long hike!
Planning a day trip to the Seven Sisters
How to get to the Seven Sisters from London
Located less than 2 hours from London, the Seven Sisters Country Park is easily accessible by public transport. As the walk starts in Seaford and finishes in Eastbourne I would recommend booking a single ticket to Seaford and another single ticket back from Eastbourne – unless you want to walk another 22 km back to Seaford!
London to Seaford: Trains run twice an hour from London Bridge to Lewes where you will need to change for Seaford. It takes just over 1 hour 30 minutes in total. You can also take the train from London Blackfriars to Brighton and change there for Seaford. This is a slightly longer route (2 hours 18 minutes) but may be easier depending on where you live.
Eastbourne to London: After a long hike you’ll be pleased to know that you can catch a direct train back to London Bridge! Trains run twice an hour and the journey only takes 1 hour 30 minutes.
I book all of my train tickets on The Train Line as it’s easy to compare train times, journey lengths and prices for trips like this. You can look into tickets and check if there are any planned engineering works on their website.
From Brighton, you can catch the #12/ 12A/ 12X bus to Seaford. They run every 10 minutes Monday to Saturday (every 15 minutes on Sunday) during the day.
The #13X bus also runs the same route but detours along the coastal road and stops at Birling Gap and Beachy Head. For more information on these buses, see Brighton & Hove Buses or call 01273 886200.
Here is a map of the full route from Seaford to Eastbourne, including the detour to The Cuckmere Inn which you may have to walk along if the tide is in.
I’ve also marked The Cuckmere Inn and the National Trust Cafe at Birling Gap on the map. These are great places to stop for something to eat and to use the facilities before continuing on the hike.
To save this map, click on the star on the right hand side of the title. This will save the map to “Your Places” in the Google Maps.
Shorter Hike Options
If you don’t want to walk the full 13 miles but still want to do a day trip to the Seven Sisters, there are a few alternative routes using the local buses.
Seaford to Exceat (6.2km / 3.9 miles)
This shorter hike still provides beautiful view of the Seven Sisters without walking over them. When you reach Cuckmere Haven, head towards The Cuckmere Inn and get the bus back to Seaford or to Eastbourne.
Seaford to Birling Gap (12.7km / 7.9 miles)
If the #13X bus is operating, you can walk over the Seven Sisters and finish the hike at Birling Gap. Enjoy a cup of tea and some lunch here before getting the bus back to Seaford or to Eastbourne.
Seaford to East Dean (15km / 9.3 miles)
If you want to go to Birling Gap but the #13X bus is not running, you can opt for this route instead. It is a bit longer as you have to walk inland from Birling Gap to East Dean. Here you can get the #12 bus service to Eastbourne or back to Seaford.
Exceat to Beachy Head (10.4km / 6.4 miles)
When the #13X bus is running, this is a great alternative which allows you to walk along the prettiest stretch of the Seven Sisters. Get the bus from Seaford to Exceat and walk to Beachy Head. You can then take the #13X from Beachy Head back to Seaford or to Eastbourne.
Hiking the Seven Sisters is a long hike and it is demanding in places so make sure you are fully prepared before you set off:
- There is a lot of uphill and downhill walking. Some sections are quite steep and can be slippery. Make sure you are wearing comfortable trainers or hiking boots with good grip.
- Check the weather before you go and dress appropriately. Layer up and take a light coat as you will probably get hot along the way but the winds can make it quite chilly on the top of the cliffs.
- Take some sunscreen as even on cloudy days you can catch the sun. It is a long hike so it is best to be prepared for all kinds of weather.
- Take lots of water and snacks. There are places to buy food along the way but they are few and far between so it is better to go prepared.
Please be very careful near the cliff edges as there have been many rock falls due to erosion. Some parts have been cordoned off for safety so respect the signs and don’t get too close to the edge.
The Seven Sisters Country Park is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt parts of the English coast and the cliffs are one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks. I hope this post inspires you to plan your own day trip to the Seven Sisters.
If you’re looking for more inspiration on places to visit in the UK, I’ve written about my five favourite destinations for a weekend away in the UK, with suggestions on what to do and where to stay.
The Jurassic Coast is another stunning area for hiking. The stretch from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door is particularly beautiful. If you’re interested in this short walk, I’ve written an article about the best photography spots between Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.
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LOVE FROM STEPH