Sussex walk around Crowlink and Birling Gap

PUBLISHED: 14:53 12 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:08 13 March 2018

The Belle Tout lighthouse, above Birling Gap and the chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters coastline © National Trust Images/Leo Mason

The Belle Tout lighthouse, above Birling Gap and the chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters coastline © National Trust Images/Leo Mason

©NationalTrustImages/Leo Mason

Enjoy sea air and views of the white cliffs on this romantic coastal circular

Crowlink and Birling Gap

This tranquil stretch of coastline is part of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, which stretch from Cuckmere Haven to Birling Gap. It is an important wildlife habitat: look out for birds such as linnets, goldfinches, redstarts and rock pipits and enjoy marine wildlife in the rock pools beneath the Birling Gap cliffs. During the warmer months, the chalk grassland around Crowlink is abloom with wild flowers that attract butterflies. The area has an interesting history: the hill at Belle Tout (where there is now a lighthouse) was the site of a Late Neolithic enclosed community; the remains of an Anglo-African woman who lived in southern England during the Roman era – around AD 245 – were found near East Dean; and Crowlink Gap was used by smugglers in the Middle Ages. During World War II, Gayles Farm (visible between stages 3 and 4 of the walk) became RAF Friston – 1,000 people worked at the base, which had an airfield and a fleet of Hurricanes and Spitfires.

Where to refuel

The National Trust clifftop café at Birling Gap, at the start and end of the walk, is open daily (10am to 5pm) and serves sandwiches and cakes. For a pub lunch, head to The Tiger Inn in East Dean, a 16th century pub which offers a tasty menu of hearty dishes, including gluten-free and vegetarian options. Find it by making a detour at stage 5 of the walk – go through the gate, across the field, and then follow the path downhill into the village. Dogs are welcome at both places.



• Location: Birling Gap, near Eastbourne, East Sussex

• Distance: three miles – one-and-a-half to two hours to walk

• Terrain: lots of up and down; grass paths which can be muddy

• Where to park: In the National Trust car park at Birling Gap 


The walk

1. From the National Trust car park, head west on the wide track that leads behind the toilets, and then runs gradually upslope between houses.

2. At the signpost head left, following the South Downs Way along a narrow path. Go through the gate and walk along the clifftops for just under a mile.

3. At the Sarsen Stone monument, head right through the metal gate. A grassy path leads inland between gorse bushes, and eventually through another gate.

4. Before reaching the lane and the car park, head right across the grass towards a gate.

5. Don’t go through the gate (unless you are detouring to the pub), but walk along the field edge (alongside fencing on your left), past a stile, to another gate.

6. Head through the gate, at the edge of woodland. The path leads through trees and runs alongside woods on your left. Head towards the barn. Eventually, the path leads downhill towards Birling Gap and the sea.

7. Go through the gate, past a house. At the signpost maintain direction, retracing your steps back to the car.



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