Everyone knows about the 'White Cliffs of Dover' but have you heard about the White Cliffs of Beachy Head? Just one county over in East Sussex, lay a chain of impressive white cliffs with drops and views to rival Dover's and best of all they're kind of a local secret so they're not full of tourists!
Join us as we give you a 'locals' tour of the best places to enjoy the White Cliffs of Beachy Head.
Hello East Sussex
Just a county over to the west lies East Sussex. Home to the downs, us and our favourite place for Sunday Strolls. When we set up home here in early 2015, we hadn't heard of Beachy Head either. A quick Google search before leaving left us with some idea that there would be white cliffs to see, but we didn't know all that much about them, or how notable they'd be.
It actually took us a good while to make it up to the cliffs. They are best reached by car, otherwise it is a 20 minute bus ride (on the hour) from Eastbourne station (around 1.5 hours south of London and 35mins east of Brighton). On our first trip, we ended up missing the bus by 10 minutes and instead of waiting 50 minutes for another bus, or forking out for a taxi, we decided to walk to Beachy Head and didn't regret it.
If there is one thing that East Sussex is fabulous at, it is walking trails. If you have time, a walk to Beachy Head from Eastbourne, or even across the Seven Sisters, is an iconic walk, particularly on a crisp spring day.
A little about the area
The cliffs are split up into four distinct areas.
Rising an impressive 162 metres from sea level, Beachy Head is highest chalk sea cliff in Britain. It is a great vantage point to view the Seven Sisters and on a clear day you can almost see all of the way to Cuckmere Haven.
Flanked by green rolling hills and featuring impressive drops to the ocean below, the views will not fail to impress. Most areas are not fenced, but due to the fragile nature of chalk and the regular rock falls, we don't suggest taking 'foot hanging' photos here. Instead, walking along the undulating hills and enjoy the opportunity to look down to the water below from around 1.5 metres in from the cliff face.
Once a notorious spot for fishermen, Beachy Head is also home to the Belle Tout Lighthouse a decommissioned light house that is now one of the areas most unique accommodation options. It is also home to the iconic red and white striped Beachy Head Lighthouse which is situated on the shore below the cliffs and on very low tide days can be accessed by foot.
Most beaches in East Sussex are pebble, but at Birling Gap, when the tide is low, expanses of sand are exposed. Now it isn't an expanse in Australian terms, but for the locals it is a favourite spot to enjoy building sandcastles and a beachside barbecue.
Unlike Beachy Head, Birling Gap has a staircase leading down to the beach so you can explore the cliffs from all angles. At low tide you can walk as far as Beachy Head. Also exposed are small rock pools that you can explore, and if you're game to negotiate the seaweed covered rocks, you can wander out to the waves and go for a splash.
With your back towards beachy head and your head focussed down the coast, you are greeted with spectacular views of the Seven Sisters. We recommend visiting in the afternoon to catch the glow of the warm afternoon sun lighting up the chalky cliffs and turning them a golden shade of umber.
Seven Sisters Park
Just another stop on from Birling Gap lies the Seven Sisters Country Park. If you're keen for a walk, you can walk across the hills all the way from Beachy Head. If you're not so much of a hiker, and wanting to explore Sunday Stroll style, all four spots are an easy drive and you can take a short or a more in-depth wander around at each point without missing out on any of the views.
When driving into the Seven Sisters Park, you will be spoiled with the lush view of the meanders ( a lovely curvy river that lazily meanders its way through the middle of the park). The park consists of 280 hectares of valley, chalk cliffs and meandering river, with a series of paths to walk.
We suggest that you follow the river path towards the mouth of the river and then enjoy the beautiful views of the cliffs. On a clear day, you'll be able to just make out the buildings at Birling Gap. If it's low tide, walk along the beach and enjoy rock pools and stunning vertical views of the cliffs. Being a low lying area it does flood and get boggy in the winter, so make sure to wear your gumboots (welly boots!)
Towards the east, the cliffs taper down to the valley and if you're feeling fit you may like to ascend the path and view the meander below. The park is part of a working farm, so you may spot some sheep grazing on the rolling hills. If you do bring a dog with you, remember to keep them on leash at all times.
If you are keen for a hike, or would like more information on the archaeological and geographical history of the site, the visitors centre across the road is the perfect place to pick a local's brain on the area.
To the west of the valley where the Seven Sisters Park lies, the cliffs rise again to form Cuckmere Haven. Not quite so high as the Seven Sisters, Cuckmere Haven is the most special location because of its name. It truly is a haven! It is a little harder to find, so use this handy map to help you find your way. Cuckmere Haven is favoured by the locals as many tourists don't find their way this far from Beachy Head, so it is lovely and quiet.
As soon as you exit your car at the car park and walk down the hill towards the Seven Sisters, your breath will be taken away. The view is nothing short of postcard pretty and its almost impossible to take a bad photo! If you go in summer, you'll also be able to sneak in some blackberry picking. As the cliffs aren't as high, the walks aren't as steep here, so they're perfect for a casual stroll. You can either walk down the hill towards the Seven Sisters and view the meander from the other side of the river, or walk west towards Seaford and enjoy a relatively flat stroll past the golf course which will lead you to some beautiful views of the Seaford township below.
The Round Up
Unlike the Cliffs of Dover which are heavily built up and protected with vegetation to slow erosion, Beachy Head and the Seven sisters are left to erode naturally and have very few buildings around them. Their natural beauty is left to shine through and they are spectacle in all seasons (hold your hat if you brave them on a windy day!). Our favourite time of day is the afternoon as the sun gives the most beautiful glow. If you are feeling like you've been here before, or are having a little de ja vu, Beachy Head was one of the standard wallpapers on Windows 7, so you may have already been enjoying the view from the comfort of your own home.
Please note that it is free to park at Cuckmere Haven, but most other places have metered parking. Make sure to bring some change with you!
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