South Downs Way

The South Downs Way is a classic mountain bike trail that provides a challenge for riders of all abilities. On this trip you will cycle along a chalk ridge from Winchester through the Hampshire and Sussex South Downs to the white cliffs of Eastbourne.

The difficulty of the terrain varies enormously throughout the year. Care should be taken when planning a trip to ensure distances each day are appropriate for the fitness and experience of the group. We can help plan your cycle ride and provide local support to ensure you have the best possible chance of completing the trail.

If you prefer to walk the trail see our Classic Trails walking holiday for the group support we provide.

Most people cycle from west to east, as the wind is usually behind you. However you can of course start in Eastbourne and finish in Winchester. The wind direction is very important. Cycling into a headwind is exhausting and may prevent you finishing the ride each day.

Winchester to Butser Hill

Shortly after leaving Winchester you climb the first hill on the South Downs Way to Cheesefoot Head with its fine views across the city and south to the coast. The next 6-7 miles are easy cycling to Beacon Hill high above the Meon Valley before you descend to the river and then climb again to the summit of Old Winchester Hill. After Meon Springs there is a stiff climb to Salt Hill and the Sustainability Centre before you reach the top of Butser Hill, the highest point on the South Downs Way.

Bustser Hill to Bignor Hill

The hair-raising ride down the grassy slopes of Butser Hill is followed by a steady climb through Queen Elizabeth Country Park woodland. Above Buriton the trail levels out as you follow the ridge to Harting Down with its fine views to the north. After Harting the South Downs Way threads its way through more woodland before you drop to Cocking and then climb to Graffham Down. The views to the coast from Bignor Hill high above Arundel are magnificent on a clear day.

Bignor Hill to the Adur Valley

Enjoy fine views across the Arun Valley before you hurtle down Bury Hill to Houghton Bridge. It is a long steady climb out of Amberley before the trail levels out as you pass Storrington and then drop to the A24. Another climb follows, to the tree circle at Chanctonbury Ring. Push on across mostly flat terrain to Steyning Bowl and then descend through the pig farm at Annington Hill to the River Adur. Hotels and inns for the night can be found in nearby Steyning and Bramber.

Adur Valley to the Ouse Valley

A big breakfast is needed to tackle the first of many hills today. From the River Adur there is a long ascent to Truleigh Hill before the trail immediately drops and then climbs again to Devil's Dyke. Try to avoid stopping for a beer and instead push on to Pyecombe. Climb again to the windmills above Clayton before traversing the grassy slopes to Ditchling Beacon. More gentle cycling follows as you descend to the A27 outside of Lewes. The climb to the ridge above Kingston can bite but you are rewarded with more fine views.

Ouse Valley to Eastbourne

Enjoy a break at the Southease hostel cafe before tackling the climb to first Beddingham Hill and then Firle Beacon. From here the trail descends to the pretty village of Alfriston. Walkers head to the coast but the cycling route is up and over Windover Hill, you pass the chalk Long Man on the way, to Jevington. One final grinding hill out of Jevington takes you through the golf course to the cliffs at Beachy Head high above Eastbourne. Enjoy a beer in the pub or drop down to Eastbourne seafront for a much deserved ice cream.

We have carefully designed three itineraries for groups cycling the whole trail from Winchester to Eastbourne. The distances shown are a guide only and depend on the accommodation you choose each night. Large groups may need to use hotels and inns in towns nearby, Chichester, Arundel and Brighton for example. We can provide transport for the group and bikes between the trail and your accommodation.

Old Winchester Hill sunset, Hampshire, England

Two Days Cycling

Cycling the South Downs Way in two days is tough and requires very good weather conditions during the trip and in the days leading up to it. The second day is slightly shorter but the hills are longer. Plan to be on the bike for 10-12 hours each day.

Day 1 - Winchester to Storrington - 51 miles / 82 kms
Day 2 - Storrington to Eastbourne - 45.5 miles / 73 kms

South Downs Way, West Sussex, England

Three Days Cycling

Cycling the trail in three days is an enjoyable challenge and gives you time in the evening to enjoy a meal and a few drinks. There are overnight stops in the West Sussex Downs and Lewes. The shorter final day gives time for the return transfer back to Winchester.

Day 1 - Winchester to Cocking/Graffham - 35-38 miles / 56-61 kms
Day 2 - Cocking/Graffham to Lewes - 38-40 miles / 61-64 kms
Day 3 - Lewes to Eastbourne - 25 miles / 40 kms

Long Man of Wilmington, East Sussex, England

Four Days Cycling

With cycling distances each day of just over 25 miles and overnight stops in the market town of Petersfield, Amberley and Lewes this is a very pleasant trip to experience the South Downs.

Day 1 - Winchester to Petersfield - 26 miles / 42 kms
Day 2 - Petersfield to Amberley - 25 miles / 41 kms
Day 3 - Amberley to Lewes - 28 miles / 45 kms
Day 4 - Lewes to Eastbourne - 25 miles / 40 kms

Most people cycle from west to east, as the wind is usually behind you. However you can of course start in Eastbourne and finish in Winchester. The wind direction is very important. Cycling into a headwind is exhausting and may prevent you finishing the ride each day.

We are often asked the following questions and hope that you will find the answers useful. Please don't hesitate to contact us for more advice or specific questions about the walk.

Most people cycle from west to east as the prevailing wind is usually - but not always - from behind and the views from the cliff tops at Beachy Head are a lovely end to your holiday. However you can of course start in Eastbourne and finish in Winchester.

The wind direction is very important. Cycling into a headwind is exhausting and may prevent you finishing the ride each day.

The south east of England has warmer temperatures throughout the year compared to all other areas of the UK. Perhaps the best time to visit is in spring and autumn. In April and May the meadows are awash with colour and in October and November the trees are very beautiful. There will be less competition for accommodation at these times too.

Spring, the months of March through to May, is generally a calm, cool and dry season. However, as the sun rises higher in the sky and the days grow longer, temperatures can rise relatively high but then tend to drop off again at night.

Summer, from June to August, is the warmest season and when there is least rainfall. Autumn lasts from September through to November. The season is notorious for being unsettled.

During the winter months of December, January and February the weather is generally cool, wet and windy. On a crisp clear winter morning the views can be terrific. However the days are much shorter.

English South Downs Annual Daylight Hours          English South Downs Annual Rainfall          English South Downs Annual Daytime Temperatures

Daylight Hours





The South Downs Way is very well signposted and the landscape is full of features so you are unlikely to use your compass.

The Harvey Map of the South Downs Way covers the whole trail on one convenient sheet. It's at a scale of 1:40000. It shows the trail very clearly but it does not cover a large area either side of the path. This means that you can miss many of the villages, places of interest and pubs that are just off the trail. It is also not much use should you become lost.

Ordnance Survey maps are very good but unfortunately you have to purchase lots of them to cover the whole South Downs Way. Landranger Maps are to a scale of 1:50000:

      Landranger 185 - Winchester and Basingstoke
      Landranger 197 - Chichester & the South Downs
      Landranger 198 - Brighton & Lewes
      Landranger 199 - Eastbourne & Hastings

We like the South Downs Way Adventure Series book of maps which shows the route on Ordnance Survey Explorer map tiles (1:25000).

As cyclists cover the distance quite quickly a guidebook is not needed really, especially since so much information is available on the web. If you do want to take a book with you we recommend the South Downs Way Trailblazer guidebook. Although written for walkers it is still useful for cyclists.

There are several taps along the South Downs Way to refill water bottles. These are shown on the Harvey Map.

It's worth taking purification tablets with you as the taps are usually on farms.

Most people will cycle the trail in 2-4 days - 3 days makes for a pleasant trip.

There are no official records for the fastest times the South Downs Way has been cycled. Completing the 100 miles in a single day is a fantastic achievement and only possible when conditions are perfect.

The very strongest of riders will cover the distance in less than 12 hours. Fit and confident cyclists can ride the trail in 2 days but it is gruelling - expect to be in the saddle for at least 10 hours each day. When we meet people at the end, they all say without exception that the ride was much harder than they had anticiapted.

Conditions make an enormous difference - a muddy trail makes the going really tough. During wet periods we are often called out at the end of the day to collect exhausted cyclists and their muddy bikes because they have either ran out of energy or daylight (or both) and are unable to reach their accommodation. If you would like to know the conditions before travelling down feel free to give us a call.

Organised events: during the summer there are several large events organised, endurance runs and charity walks for example. When planning your trip it is best to avoid the events as large groups on the path tend to hold you up.

Timings: if you are attempting to ride the South Downs Way over 2 days or less you need to be strict with time keeping as regular stops can add hours to each day. The larger the group the more frequent and longer the stops become. Use a stop watch to limit breaks. For example, stop every hour on the hour for no more than 5 minutes.

Breakfast: for cyclists riding against the clock, check with you accommodation provider the times of breakfast as a late start can prevent you finishing the ride.

Spare gear: there are few bicycle shops near the trail so take spares with you during the day and pay for your bags, spare tyres, repair tools and even a spare bike to be moved by us. Having the parts and equipment on hand may be the difference between finishing the trail or not.

Punctures: the flinty sections around the Hampshire / Sussex border often cause punctures although they can of course occur anywhere along the uneven bridleway. Consider using gel in your tyres and / or lining the tyres with puncture resistant tape. Better still, use the expensive puncture resistant tyres.

Travel light: cycle with as little extra weight on you as possible. The trail is really not suitable for cycling with panniers so either carry a tiny backpack or use a small handlebar bag or saddlebag that hug the bike's frame.

Off-road distances: cycling off-road in the South Downs is a challenge. In dry conditions the effort required to cover a distance is similar to double that on road. For example, cycling 25 miles along the South Downs Way is similar to riding 50 miles on road. In wet conditions it is closer to three or four times more strenuous.

Whether you are a local club arranging an annual event, a group of friends looking for a short break or holiday adventure or a family meeting up we can help with the organisation of your event.

We offer large discounts for group bookings, please contact us for prices.

Please contact us to discuss your trip. We will provide any local information and advice you need. We will then email you an itinerary and quote for you to consider. When you are ready to book, we ask for a deposit payment of £20 per person if the services you are booking do not include accommodation and £100 per person if we are booking your rooms.

The deposit payment will then secure a minibus, trailer and bikes (if cycle hire is ordered) for the dates of your trip.

A schedule and statement describing your trip and the services we will provide will then be emailed to you as a PDF document for you to review.

If we are booking your rooms, four weeks before your trip starts we ask for the balance to be paid. We then pay the accommodation providers in advance of your visit.

If we are not arranging your accommodation the balance can be paid in advance or in cash when you meet the driver on the first day.

During your trip please contact us on our 24 hour support number if you need help or advice. We are based locally so are close by should you need assistance.

Many cycling groups like to arrange their own accommodation so we have listed some of the better hotels and inns with links to TripAdvisor where you can read customer reviews and check prices and availability.

When booking accommodation ask if there is secure storage for your bikes and the time breakfast is served in the morning. All should be able to provide packed lunches. For those starting late or cycling long distances, check when evening meals end. If you plan to arrive mid afternoon check inns are open as many close between 3 and 6 pm.

If you prefer, we can reserve rooms for you. We charge the price of the rooms plus a fee of £15 per person per night to cover our admin and insurance costs. A deposit of £100 per person is paid when you book with us. The balance is then due 4 weeks before your trip begins.

There is plenty of choice in Winchester for all budgets although prices tend to fluctuate throughout the year and rooms can be in short supply during public holidays. Some hotels allow you to leave your car in their car park during your trip.

Petersfield at approx. 26 miles from Winchester is 2.5 miles off the trail, follow the Shipwrights Way cycle path from Buriton. South Harting is at the bottom of Harting Down, 27 miles from Winchester.

Many cyclists riding over 3 days stop at Cocking, which is 34.5 miles from Winchester. Cocking has a pub and a tiny shop but little else. An easy 2.5 mile ride north along the busy Causeway (A286) takes you to the pleasant market town of Midhurst, which is worth considering if accommodation options in Cocking are limited. If you continue past Cocking there are country pubs with accommodation at Charlton and East Dean.

Amberley in the Arun Valley at 46 miles from Winchester is a pretty village with a shop and two pubs. A little further along the South Downs Way you can descend to Storrington. This is a busy village with several restaurants, pubs and shops. At 51 miles from Winchester it is half way to Eastbourne. The descent and climb back up to the trail is steep but along a quiet, smooth surfaced country lane. Just before you cross the busy A24 you can follow a bridleway south for 2.5 miles to Findon Village.

Steyning is a pretty village at the foot of the hills. There are shops, pubs and restaurants but the accommodation options are limited. In the neighbouring village of Bramber, 60 miles from Winchester, there is the Old Tollgate Best Western Hotel. Further along the trail is Ditchling, which has two pubs, both with rooms. When you reach Ditchling Beacon if you drop off south you can spend the night in Brighton.

The historic town of Lewes is 3 miles off the trail (safe, easy riding along the Lewes to Brighton cycle path beside the A27) but worth the diversion. There are few other accommodation options in the neighbouring villages so most cyclists find themselves in the town for a night. The best hotels are Pelham House and The Shelleys but room prices for both are high - far too high really. The Dorset pub beside the Harveys Brewery is a popular choice and has a garage for bike storage.

Eastbourne has a huge choice of hotels for all budgets so unless there is a large convention in town you should have no problems finding a room. The View Hotel and the Cavendish Hotel are on the sea-front close to the pier and town centre.

With our cycling packages you choose two or more services that you would like us to provide. These include group and bicycle transport, luggage and gear transfers each day, cycle rescue, bicycle hire and an accommodation booking service.

Luggage Transfers

Your bags and cycle gear are moved between hotels, inns and B&Bs leaving you to enjoy each day without a heavy pack or cycle panniers.

Prices depend on the distance you intend to cycle each day and the number of bags transported. There are large discounts for group bookings.

Group Transport

With our minibuses and trailers we can transport your group, luggage and bikes from your home or airport to the start and back to your parked cars, home or airport at the end.

Please note that if you require transport only then you need private vehicle hire (a taxi service), which we are unable to provide unfortunately.

Bicycle Hire

We can deliver quality mountain bikes, helmets, handlebar bags and repair kits to Winchester and collect them from you at the end in Eastbourne.

Please note that the cycle hire service is available when booking at least one other service, bag transfers or group transport for example, read more...

Trail Support

For large groups we can provide full trail support where a driver, minibus and bike trailer follow the group each day providing assistance when needed.

The driver is first aid trained and is able to help with mechanical repairs to your bikes. Tea, coffee and biscuits are provided and your personal gear is stored in the vehicle.

Hotel Reservations

See the Hotels & Inns section for accommodation options, TripAdvisor reviews and to check availability and prices.

If you prefer, we can reserve rooms for you. We charge the price of the rooms plus a fee of £15 pppn to cover our admin and insurance costs. A deposit of £100 per person is paid. The balance is due 4 weeks before your trip begins.

Cycle Rescue

We provide an emergency roadside repair and recovery service. We can also transport you and your bikes to your hotel if weather conditions prevent you completing the ride.

The cost of the service depends on the distances and time involved. Should you run into difficulties please call our 24 hour support line for assistance, read more...

The journey time between Eastbourne and Winchester for a minibus pulling a trailer is approximately 2.5 hours although this varies depending on the time of day. At weekends and on public holidays the journey time can be longer.

If you are parking your car in Winchester, the closest long stay car park to the start of the South Downs Way is Chesil Street. We can meet you at the street level part of the car park to collect your luggage at the start of your trip and drop you back there from Eastbourne at the end.

Tell us about the trip you are planning and the services that you would like us to provide. We will then confirm availability and provide prices. Please note that if you require transport only then you need private vehicle hire (a taxi service), which we are unable to provide unfortunately.

The Trail

  • Distance: 96 miles / 155 kms
  • Ascent: 13,200 feet / 4000 metres
  • Duration: 2-4 days
  • Start point: Winchester
  • End point: Eastbourne



Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, England

The medieval city of Winchester with its magnificant Cathedral

Hampshire Downs, Hampshire, England

The green rolling hills and nature reserves of the Hampshire Downs

Arundel Castle, Arun Valley, Sussex, England

Arundel's imposing castle, cathedral and pretty town centre

Devil's Dyke at sunset, Sussex, England

Devil's Dyke offers stunning panoramas across the Weald and south to the sea.

Cuckmere Valley, Sussex, England

The Cuckmere Valley with its meandering river is a haven for wildlife

Birling Gap, Seven Sisters Country Park, England

The spectacular cliffs of Beachy Head sit high above Eastbourne