Sussex coastal walk - Beachy Head
PUBLISHED: 09:59 23 December 2014 | UPDATED: 10:57 05 October 2017
Stave off the Christmas pounds on this beautiful coastal walk
At 162 metres (531 ft), Beachy Head is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain. From the top, on a clear day you can see the headlands of Selsey Bill to the west and Dungeness to the east. The chalk here formed 100 million years ago and the dramatic cliffs were cut at the end of the last Ice Age when sea levels rose, forming the English Channel. Beachy Head is not part of the famous Seven Sisters cliffs, which begin further west at Birling Gap and run along to Cuckmere Haven.
The bottom of all these gorgeous white cliffs is constantly eroded by the waves, causing slabs of chalk to suddenly give way above; large landslides are rare – the last being a large protrusion known as the Devil’s Chimney, which was close to the Beachy Head lighthouse and gave way in 2001 after a winter of heavy rain. In case it happens again, please stay well away from the cliff edges. This is a popular filming spot, featuring in the legendary last scene of Quadrophenia and used as the site of the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Sadly the height of Beachy Head has made it a notorious suicide spot. Be warned that members of the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team and the Samaritans patrol the cliff tops on the lookout for people in trouble, so if you do this walk alone you might be approached by a kind face wanting to check on your well-being.
For a pub lunch: Head to The Eight Bells (01323 484442; www.theeightbellsjevington.co.uk; BN26 5QB), which is 5½ miles away in Jevington village. The pub has wonderful views of the South Downs and serves tasty, traditional food, plus a veggie option. Drive back inland and turn left onto the B2103, then left onto the A259. After about 1½ miles take the turn right to Jevington.
Good to know
• Distance: 1½-2 hours to walk
• Terrain: Mainly grassy paths (which can be muddy) with a lot of up and down.
• Where to park: In the long roadside car park north of the main Beachy Head car park.
1 - From the car park, cross the road, taking the wide grassy path that heads north-east.
2 - At the signpost, go right, walking along a wide grassy path that soon heads downhill between scrub. At the next signpost, maintain direction towards the sea.
3 - At this signpost take the narrow grassy path right, which leads past a bench and then downhill towards rugby pitches. Ignore the route joining from the left and continue upon this path, which curves around the bottom of the hill.
4 - Take the wide grassy path left, walking with the rugby pitches on your right.
5 - Turn right and walk alongside the sea. If you have dogs, please put them on leads because this path runs very close to the cliff edges in places. Where the path divides after the end of the rugby pitches maintain direction straight ahead, walking towards a bench and then down steps.
6 - Where the way divides take the right-hand path – don’t head left down to the sea. At the bench, continue straight on uphill.
7 - At the short, white-marked post veer slightly right, walking up the very steep grassy path. Do not walk straight on as the cliffs fall away.
8 - At the top, head left towards fencing and the WWII plaque. Please have all dogs on leads on the cliff tops! Follow the tarmac path around the cliff tops, heading west. The walk now becomes as long as you want it to be: I suggest walking about a mile and then turning back.
9 - You can either retrace your steps aside the sea or walk slightly inland through scrub.
10 - After the WWII plaque on your right, head straight on at the signpost with a yellow arrow, leaving the tarmac path and walking along a gritty narrow path. This leads past a bench and then into scrub, curving around the side of the hill. Ignore the two lots of steps and maintain direction.
11 - Eventually you will pass through a section of trees and reach a signpost with a yellow South Downs Way arrow. Head left here to another signpost with a yellow arrow; continue this way past a bench, through a small section of scrub and then cut left upslope, back to the car.