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 and explore another part of the UK. Thanks to its location, there are lots of great day trips from London which are less than 2 hours away by train. 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 from London.
How to get to the Seven Sisters from London
Less than 2 hours from London, the Seven Sisters Country Park is easily accessible from the city. As the walk starts in Seaford and finishes in Eastbourne I would recommend booking a single to Seaford and another single back from Eastbourne – unless you want to walk another 22 km back to Seaford!
Getting to Seaford: Trains run twice an hour from London Bridge to Lewes where you will need to change for Seaford. It takes 1h35 in total but if you are travelling on a weekend you should check whether there are any planned engineering works as this will make the journey a lot longer. You can also take the train from London Blackfriars to Brighton and change there for Seaford. This is a slightly longer route (2h18) but may be easier depending on where you live.
Getting back from Eastbourne: 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 1h30.
Planning a day trip to the Seven Sisters
- It is a long hike with lots of uphill and downhill walking. Some sections are quite steep and although the grass is soft you will need to wear 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 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.
- Be 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, no matter how tempting it may be.
The Seven Sisters: Hiking from Seaford to Eastbourne
The walk begins in Seaford, a small seaside town with a pebbly beach and a long promenade lined with colourful huts. From the station, head to the seafront and walk along the promenade until you reach the grassy mounds of the cliffs, known as the ‘Sisters’. Over the next 22 km you’ll climb up and down the soft grass cliffs. 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 is where the river meets the English Channel. It meanders through the grasslands out to sea, dividing the beach into two. At low tide you may be able to walk across the shallower parts on the beach to the cliffs on the other side, but 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.
The Cuckmere Inn is a nice place to stop and have a quick drink (and use the toilets!) before continuing the hike. A lot of people actually start the hike from here but they miss the Coastguard Cottages and the stunning views of the beach. 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. It is a very scenic spot and a lot of visitors park here and do a shorter version of the walk so you will find it gets a lot busier on this stretch of the walk. I didn’t spend a lot of time here for that reason. I quickly got something to eat, used the toilets and carried on walking. As you climb back up the cliffs you may see some wild ponies grazing on the grass if you are lucky.
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. Every now and again the birds which nest in the cliffs fly out and circle the lighthouse so don’t miss the opportunity to capture some incredible shots.
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. You can do the walk in reverse from Eastbourne to Seaford but the hills are gentler if you start in Seaford. The views are also more impressive as you head towards Eastbourne so ideally you want to walk towards them rather than having to constantly look back.
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!
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. As I sat on the train back to London looking at my photos, I felt a great sense of achievement and was so pleased that I had finally managed to see the spectacular Seven Sisters. I hope this post inspires you to plan your own day trip to the Seven Sisters.
Love from Steph
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