Kent & Sussex Shoreline Walk 1

Walk 1 – Birling Gap to Cuckmere Haven, Sussex

Birling Gap in East Sussex, sits in a pretty dip just over half a mile west of the famous Belle Tout lighthouse on the Seven Sisters.

Owned by the National Trust, there is parking here (free for NT members) and public toilets plus the Birling Gap Hotel, a great place to end a day on the Downs. And of course, a row of houses perched perilously near the retreating cliff edge.

More importantly, Birling Gap is home to a set of sturdy wooden steps which lead down to the shore, opening up a world of adventures.

Seven Sisters

Taking advantage of the balmy November weather, I decided to make the most the low tide and walk west from Birling Gap along the beach to the pretty Cuckmere Haven. The return will be more strenuous over cliff tops that make up part of the Seven Sisters.

Crunching along the large pebble strewn beach, the Sisters rise menacingly above even in the glorious sunshine. Chalk 'streams' from the cliff base like icing on cake.

Further on, caves appear which are accessible but I don't linger as rock falls are always just a loud crack away. Nearer to the Cuckmere Haven is a delightful chalk arch. I wonder how long it will last before the sea reclaims it.

Pretty houses

The tide, which only recedes 20 to 30 metres, reveals an old shipwreck (metal) which is accessible with great care over slippery boulders. Continuous wave battering has shaped some of the iron into small balls which will make a garden oddity.

It's less than three miles along the shore, but it takes me several hours before I reach the Haven, with its meandering river and pretty houses on the opposite shore.

Starting my ascent along the gentle rolling Sisters, the wind picks up and my fleece emerges from my sack. The late afternoon sunshine bathes the Downs, making the return a joy.

On this walk…

  • NOTE: Check the tide times first before attempting this walk
    Tide timetables are available from fishing tackle shops and other outlets
  • Keep away from the base of the cliffs to avoid rockfalls
  • The beach is littered with large, slippery, boulders making the going tough in places
  • Avoid the cliff edge on the return, the edges are very unstable
  • OS Explorer map 123 Eastbourne & Beachy Head