The Seven Sisters Cliffs are an iconic stretch of coastline in southern England where glistening white cliffs drop into the azure ocean. Here is our guide for capturing the best viewpoints and the best walk.
The steep chalk cliffs that undulate along the Seven Sisters Country Park in the South Downs are one of the most iconic places to visit in England.
And for good reason. Pristine white cliffs wedged between rolling rural farmland on one side and the English Channel on the other, form one of the most scenic coastal views in the country, rivalling even the Jurassic Coast. With a blanket of green grass on top, the glow of the sea below, and the luminance of the cliffs blazing in front, the light at Seven Sisters is spellbinding. Even a moody English day can’t dampen the lustre of this popular place.
Many of the views can be seen after a quick stroll from the car. However, one of the best ways to take in the splendour of the area is by walking the Seven Sisters cliffs. The most popular route is the Seaford to Eastbourne walk. However, we have an alternate route that collects the best views of these stunning cliffs and finishes in a lovely rural village. Here you can have a well-deserved beer in a cosy atmospheric pub while flicking your images from one of the best outdoor activities in the UK.
Our guide to seeing the best of the Seven Sisters Country Park includes public transport options, the best viewpoints, and where to stay if you decide to turn this coastal excursion into your next weekend getaway in the UK.
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BEST VIEWPOINTS AT THE SEVEN SISTERS CLIFFS
The Seven Sisters Country Park is one of the most scenic coastal regions in the south downs of England. But, even an iconic area like this one has a few standouts. Here are some of the highlights along with the best way to see them.
01. THE SEVEN SISTERS
The Seven Sisters Cliffs is the name given to the undulating row of chalk cliffs that stretch from Cuckmere Haven to Birling Gap. This is the most dramatic and picturesque section, and a beautiful spot to enjoy the scenery.
Take your time soaking up the spectacle of waves of white cliffs topped with a carpet of lush green grass that undulates over each of the 7 cliffs.
Getting there — The easiest way to see the Seven Sisters and one of the best vantage points is at Birling Gap. Park at the free National Trust car park Birling Gap and wander along the tops or down to the pebble beach. There’s a cafe and toilets at the car park.
02. COASTGUARD COTTAGES AT CUCKMERE HAVEN
Overlooking the Cuckmere River, the Coastguard cottages provide the perfect foreground for photographing the Seven Sisters cliffs. From just above the cottages on the path, the cliffs are perfectly compressed into a breath-taking scene.
Just below the cottages, the Seven Sisters beach provides a great spot to explore the cliffs up close. However, don’t get too close. As the cliffs retreat around 30 centimetres each year, large chunks are prone to falling off.
Getting there — The nearest car park to the Coastguard Cottages is South Hill Barn Car Park which is marked on our map below. From the carpark, it’s a 20-minute walk to the mouth of the river where the cottages are located.
03. BEACHY HEAD LIGHTHOUSE
The Beachy Head lighthouse, with its bold red and white livery cuts a striking scene against the azure water of the English Channel and the bright cliff faces.
The best vantage point is on approach from the walk from Seaford (see below for details). Alternatively, continue further along the path and get views back to it from the area adjacent to the RAF Memorial. It’s one of the iconic images on the walk.
Getting there — The most accessible car park to view the lighthouse is Shooter Bottom Car Park, which is marked on our map below. It’s a 5-minute walk to the cliffs above the lighthouse from the car park.
04. BELLE TOUT LIGHTHOUSE
The Belle Tout Lighthouse was built in 1832 but was heavily damaged during the war. After a refurbishment in the 1950s it was purchased by the BBC who used it in several television programmes and, later the James Bond movie The Living Daylights. A Channel 5 programme tracked its current conversion into a luxury bed and breakfast.
Getting there — It’s possible to stay in the Belle Tout Lighthouse in one of the nautical-inspired rooms, or you can view it along the Seven Sisters walk. However, if you are collecting the sights by car, the closest car park to the Belle Tout Lighthouse is the Birling Gap car park.
05. TIGER INN PUB AT EAST DEAN
A great way to end the day is at the Tiger Inn Pub in East Dean, the village where Sherlock Holmes decided to retire.
Between Birling Gap and Beachy Head, a trail leaves the coastal path and heads into the village, It’s a lovely stroll past rolling green rural countryside with the English Channel framing the scene. In East Dean, the Tiger Inn has a large grassy beer garden which makes the perfect end-point if you do the walk explained below.
Getting there – If you’re not doing the walk, park at the East Dean Village Car Park and just enjoy this charming local village. Try a beer from the local Beachy Head Brewery at the pub, or have lunch at the Hiker’s Rest cafe. Public toilets are available.
SEVEN SISTERS CLIFFS WALK – OUR RECOMMENDED ROUTE
A lot of the Seven Sisters highlights can be seen on a day tour from London, or by taking short walks from the car. But our favourite way to explore the area is to walk the length of the cliffs. There are a number of routes, but one of the most popular is from Seaford to Eastbourne.
While this provides an excellent way to collect the Seven Sisters Cliffs, there’s a slightly better route that still includes the scenic coastline but takes a diversion into a charming local village.
The views are better heading from west to east. Therefore, in order to collect the highlights of the Seven Sisters Country Park, we recommend starting at the Esplanade in Seaford.
SEVEN SISTERS CLIFFS WALK OVERVIEW
An excellent walk undulating over towering chalk cliffs
Seaford to Eastbourne 21.5km; Seaford to East Dean 17.7km
350 metres (+/-)
Medium – nothing challenging but long
START – SEAFORD ESPLANADE
From the esplanade in Seaford, follow the well-marked path that climbs around 50 meters to the summit of the glistening chalk facades. From this point, the Seven Sisters trail joins the South Downs National Park. Continue along the coastline passing the perfectly positioned golf course.
CONTINUE TO CUCKMERE HAVEN COTTAGES
Follow the undulating path over the cliff tops towards the coastguard cottages at Cuckmere Haven. After enjoying this photogenic spot, drop down to the Seven Sisters beach at the Cuckmere River just behind the cottages. Explore the tidal rock pools and examine the chalk cliffs from below – but don’t get too close in case of falling debris.
CROSSING THE CUCKMERE RIVER
To continue along the cliffs you need to cross the Cuckmere River which cuts through the beach. At low tide, the river can be crossed either by wading barefoot over the shallow stream, or by using a pair of parallel logs laying across the mouth.
At high tide, walk up the river to the Cuckmere Inn, cross over a bridge and then head back down the other side to the beach. It shaves 40 minutes from the walk if you can cross the river at the beach rather than detour upstream.
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CUCKMERE TO BEACHY HEAD LIGHTHOUSE
On the other side of the river, climb back up to the South Downs Way Trail and count the Seven Sisters as the trail rises and falls over undulating grassy banks.
There is a National Trust café in Birling Gap with public toilets and a small beach where you can take a swim.
From Birling Gap, continue up past the Belle Tout Lighthouse and drop down the other side until views of the red and white Beachy Head lighthouse appear. Continue on to Beachy Head to collect some photographs of this iconic sight. Once you’ve taken in the red and white spectacle of the lighthouse, you have two options.
OPTION 1 – FINISH AT EAST DEAN (RECOMMENDED)
After walking up to the lighthouse, return the way you came for a short distance and take the path inland to the village of East Dean (see map below).
This shorter route ambles through sheep-strewn fields and ends in the charming village where you can stop for a pint at the Tiger Inn. Although it leaves the coast, it’s a lovely part of the walk; much nicer than continuing into Eastbourne (next option).
OPTION 2 – FINISH AT EASTBOURNE
Alternatively, from the Beachy Head Lighthouse, continue along the coastal path until you drop into Eastbourne.
This is the option that most people take, however, after Beachy Head the views start to get less good. This part of the walk also involves a tedious slog through the outer suburbs of Eastbourne to the bus stop at the modern shopping centre.
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RETURNING FROM THE WALK
As this is not a circular walk, you’ll need to get public transport back to your car or to continue home. Here’s how to return from the walk.
IF YOU FINISH AT EAST DEAN
If you end the Seven Sisters cliff walk at East Dean (which we highly recommend) there is a regular bus which stops on the main road just a short walk from the Tiger Inn pub. The 12, 12A or 12X buses stop roughly every 20 minutes and can get you to Eastbourne, Brighton or back to Seaford.
IF YOU FINISH AT EASTBOURNE
If you end at Eastbourne, you can get a train back to London from Eastbourne Train Station. There is a direct train to London Victoria which takes 1 hour and 30 minutes. Alternatively, catch the 12, 12A or 12X bus back to Seaford or Brighton.
All the bus stops are marked on our map below.
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MAP / THE BEST SEVEN SISTERS ROUTE
The Seven Sisters Country Park walk follows the coast, so there is no tricky navigation to follow. However, we do recommend a slightly different route to the one taken by most people. Therefore, our map might come in handy if you decide to take our diversion to the village of East Dean. To do this, follow the route marked in purple.
Our South Downs map covers the bus stops, where to grab some food or drink along the way, plus the start and finishing points.
HOW TO GET TO THE SEVEN SISTERS COUNTRY PARK
The Seven Sisters Cliffs walk starts from Seaford Esplanade, which is 12 miles from Brighton on the South Downs in England. With great transport links in the area, the walk can easily be completed as a day trip from Brighton or London.
Seaford is a 2 – 2.5-hour drive from London and around 30 minutes’ drive from Brighton. Parking is available at the Seaford Esplanade; exactly where we start this walk. The car park is open 24 hours a day and it’s free of charge for up to 12 hours.
The 12, 12X and 12A buses run between Brighton and Eastbourne stopping off at Seaford, with regular services throughout the day. To catch the bus to the start of the walk, get off at the Seaford Library stop (marked on the map above). From here is a 10-minute walk down to the esplanade where we start the hike.
To get to the Seven Sisters Cliffs from London, catch the train from London Victoria to Seaford Station which has one change in either Lewes or Brighton. The train takes around 1 hour 20 minutes, however, some services are slower, so check the times before you book. It’s a 10-minute walk from the train station to the Esplanade car park.
Alternatively, catch the train from London to Brighton, which has more services, then catch the 12, 12X or 12A bus to Seaford.
BY ORGANISED TOUR
If you would like to visit on an organised day trip from London to the South Downs, we recommend this tour, which includes the train trip from London to Brighton. It collects some great sights in the area via minibus and includes a short, easy stroll along some of the best viewpoints.
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WHERE TO FUEL UP ON THE SEVEN SISTERS WALK
The best thing about enjoying the Seven Sisters cliffs on this walk is being outdoors in such a beautiful part of England. We recommend packing a picnic and having lunch on the grassy hills overlooking the sea. But, if you need a stop along the way, or at the end, here’s what is on offer.
If you’re undertaking the walk at high tide and not able to cross the Cuckmere River, you’ll need to walk up past the Cuckmere Inn to go around it. They have a nice deck overlooking the river which is the perfect place for a beer. We didn’t eat here but it looked like standard pub grub.
BIRLING GAP CAFE
The National Trust café at Birling Gap has quite possibly the worst coffee we have ever tasted. However, their cakes were fine enough if you need a bit of a sugar hit and the toilets could come at a convenient time.
In the village of East Dean where we finish the Seven Sisters cliff walk, there are two options for refuelling while you flick through the plethora of photos you probably took on the walk. The Tiger Inn is a classic pub with a wide selection of ales and a fantastic beer garden. The Hiker’s Rest café does coffee, cakes, sandwiches and quiches.
BEACHY HEAD INN
Located just opposite the lighthouse, but tucked below the cliff top, the Beachy Head Inn has a huge menu of standard pub food with not much on offer for vegetarians. It’s not our type of place but it’s well located if you need a pitstop.
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WHERE TO STAY AT SEVEN SISTERS CLIFFS
The Seven Sisters walk can easily be done on a day trip from London or Brighton on public transport. However, there are more appealing ways to wind down after the walk than commuting home. With some great locations maximising the coast or the lovely rural setting just inland, turn your Seven Sisters adventure into a weekend.
SEVEN SISTERS COUNTRY PARK
Have an authentic rural sleep right where you finish the walk at the Tiger Inn in East Dean. Enjoy a hearty breakfast, friendly hosts and an excellent country location.
Enjoy the charming village of Alfriston from the beautiful setting of Wingrove House with comfy beds, jazzy bathrooms and riverside location.
Book a luxury staycation in this small 16th-century farmhouse with stylish suits, relaxing spaces and quality food inspired by the forest and the ocean.
ALFRISTON – RATHFINNY ESTATE
Treat yourself to the perfect country stay on the edge of a 600-acre wine estate. Flint Barns are full of character and perfectly located close to several walks.
WHEN TO DO THE SEVEN SISTERS WALK
If the sun is out and the wind is not blowing a gale, any time of year is great to do the Seven Sisters walk. It’s a straightforward walk that can be done in most weather depending on your tolerance for getting wet.
May to Mid-July is optimal walking season in the UK when temperatures start to rise before the summer crowds descend. During this time, the days are long, flowers will be punctuating the rolling green grass hills and lambs will be dotted across the fields.
If you want to swim, the water will be slightly warmer in August and September.
MORE BRITAIN READING
We’ve spent a lot of time exploring Britain, from rain-soaked outings in the Lake District to strolling historic centres. Here are some more of our guides from our home country including popular iconic sights and lesser-known hidden gems.
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