‘Is this really England?? Have I really been lucky enough to see even more of the White Cliffs on the South Coast of England on such a perfect day??’ These were just some of the many thoughts going through my head as I was walking up and down the Seven Sisters Cliffs with the English Channel one side of me sparkling in the sun, the English Countryside the other side of me slowly wilting from the UK heat wave, and in front of me a view of the White Chalk Cliffs that make this coastline so iconic and so beautiful. Yes, I was on another day trip from London by train and this time to the Seven Sisters White Cliffs!
To SEE my Day Trip to the Seven Sisters Cliffs, have a look at my YouTube video here:
Last summer I got the train down to Dover from London and spent a gorgeous day walking along the White Cliffs of Dover (you can read about that day trip here which is really useful and includes train costs and timings). It was such a beautiful day and I had no idea that the English coastline looked that good in real life, so I knew that I had to see more of the cliffs this summer and without much hesitation I knew it had to be the Seven Sisters.
There are a few ways you can see the Seven Sisters, firstly you can drive as there is parking all the way along the coastline and the main road of Beachy Head. You can get a bus from the nearby towns of Eastbourne, Seaford and Brighton. Or you can get the train and walk it which is what I decided to do and although it is quite a tough walk and my legs were a bit jelly like at the end. I’m glad I did it this way.
My day started in London Victoria train station on a Southern Train heading down to Eastbourne which I purchased on The Train Line just the day before for £33.40 for a return ticket.
When booking the ticket I did have a bit of a predicament. I had seen on Google Maps that the peak of the Seven Sisters Cliffs are in Birling Gap which is pretty much half way between Eastbourne and Seaford.
I had read up that people tend to walk from one town to the other to see the cliffs and do the ‘full walk’. However and slightly annoyingly Eastbourne and Seaford are not on the same train line, it’s not like I could buy a return to Seaford and jump off a station early at Eastbourne, I’d have to buy 2 separate single tickets which totalled to a fair bit more than just a return to Eastbourne from London.
I could also see that the footpath along the cliffs seemed closer to the edge from Eastbourne to Birling Gap than it does from Seaford to Birling Gap as it’s more inland (from what I could see on the map) and that’s how I came to the decision of booking a return journey to and from Eastbourne station.
I hope my decision-making process helps you in yours too! I booked this ticket and all of my tickets on The Train Line as I find it really useful when comparing train times, journey lengths and prices like this. Have a look into tickets here:
If you would rather book onto a tour to see the cliffs and more of the South Downs area I really recommend this one. It would be perfect to do out of summer incase the weather isn’t that good as you travel by coach, great if you don’t fancy walking 20km, or would like people to spend the day with other people and have a knowledgable guide!
The train is 1 hr 30 minutes although we were delayed by a few minutes so I ended up arriving in Eastbourne station at 11:30am. I headed straight for the beach which took about 10-15 minutes and I didn’t give Eastbourne town centre much of a look as I had no need to, it has shops and food outlets by the station though so if you need any last minute things or want to pick bits up for lunch you could do that there (in fact that’s a really good idea!).
I arrived at Eastbourne Bandstand by the beach and I was impressed! Of course it helped that it was a gorgeous sunny, summers day however Eastbourne didn’t seem to have that run-down British Seaside feel to it like I thought Margate had, it’s actually nice. It has a really nice promenade with lots of seating and greenery, it’s a stone beach but it has huts along it and it’s pretty big! I turned right when I got to the beach and walked all the way down S.Downs Way right along side the beach until I got to Helen Garden which took 20 minutes.
I wasn’t there for the beach though, I was there to walk and this was just the beginning of my 10km walk to Birling Gap, which was technically just my half way point.
I walked past Helen Gardens and back onto the main road, there are handy signs pointing the direction of the footpaths and Beachy Head so before long I saw a big hill that I knew was only one of many inclines on this walk!
It was pretty steep but straight away it paid off in terms of views, looking back gives an awesome view over Eastbourne town and looking forward gives views over the ocean and the start of the English Countryside, because it was summer there were a few flowers out in bloom and the meadow smelt of my childhood spending my Summer holidays on days out.
Like walking the White Cliffs of Dover, I really liked walking these cliffs because there are many footpaths, too many perhaps as I was unsure which one to take to start with. Do I go right by the cliffs or slightly inland? I decided to go slightly inland and took the path that seemed like the ‘main’ one. The reason being because after looking at my map, the paths that go alongside the cliffs do double back on each other a bit and I think you’ll actually end up walking up and down a lot more by taking this path.
Pretty soon I was reaching Beachy Head Road and realised just how easy it is to drive this way too (although not as rewarding of course), I didn’t have to worry about the sounds of the traffic though as the footpaths are away from the road and I carried on my walk totally in awe of the glistening ocean, the many many peaks of the white cliffs to the side and in front of me, plus the flattening out of the fields meant I could see across the countryside all the way along the coastline the other side of Birling Gap which is where I was heading to, it was really amazing!
It was busy because it was the summer holidays, but by no means annoyingly busy or too busy, people were lying on the grass and having picnic lunches all over the fields or stopping for a breather as some of the hills are quite tough, I won’t lie. Luckily after an incline is a decline or just a flat area to help catch your breath.
Beachy Head Lighthouse is the centre of attention aside from the cliffs in my opinion. I kept seeing it peaking through the cliffs as I was walking towards it and even once I had passed it and looked back I saw it. It just looks really picturesque and I can imagine that even on a cloudy day it would look pretty cool. It’s also a reminder just how high the cliffs are!
I could see another lighthouse in the distance, this time on the cliffs which I thought might be Birling Gap, it occurred to me that the walk wasn’t that bad, however as I got closer I realised it wasn’t, it was Belle Tout Lighthouse with a cafe selling ice creams and a handy sign saying that Birling Gap was a 20 minute walk away.
This part of the walk was really nice though, the field totally opens out and although this section was certainly busier than where I had been walking before, and there was a serious decline and incline, the cliffs are on full show for the whole of this section.
Birling Gap was soon ahead of me and I remembered that I’d seen photos of the beach in Birling Gap. Until now there was no access, or even a beach to access alongside where I was walking. From what I saw Birling Gap is the first beach with safe and easy access between there and Eastbourne.
Birling Gap is set up for visitors, it has a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating (although a fairly limited menu of cakes, sandwiches and jacket potatoes), a visitor centre, toilets and a car park.
I took my sandwich down to the beach and took of my walking shoes to give my feet a breather. It was now 14:15 so the walk from the train station has taken me just under 3 hours. The beach was pretty busy but it’s really nice and I can imagine for a lot of people living on the South Coast, this is their go-to beach and I can see why, it’s another stone beach but the White cliff backdrop is incredible and the sea is safe to swim in.
At this point I was reminded of being along the Great Ocean Road in Australia and the beach that sits underneath the cliffs and alongside the famous Apostles. Why is it that they are so famous and these aren’t? Or maybe these are but because I’m from the UK they don’t seem as famous to me?
Either way, I was so happy that I decided to take a day trip from London to the Seven Sisters Cliffs by train. It was perfect and just what I had wanted and hoped to see. Considering they had a lot to live up to thanks to me also loving the White Cliffs of Dover, they did a good job!
It was now time for me to follow my footsteps up and down back to Eastbourne. Part of me wished that I had booked a train home from Seaford so I could carry on rather than walk back on myself as the coastline in front of me looked just as amazing, however as I said at the start, logistically it was easier and cheaper to get a return train ticket to Eastbourne.
After another 10km walk my legs were a bit jelly like by the time I arrived back in Eastbourne train station at 17:00, my skin was a little on the red side, my hair a mess but my heart was very happy!
I really hope you do this walk and decide to visit the Seven Sisters White Cliffs on a day trip from London, or on a day trip from elsewhere in England, it was amazing!
Important information for your visit
- Book train tickets in advance to get the best price. I recommend The Train Line as it’s my go-to site.
- Birling Gap is a good turnaround point but you can turn around whenever you want, the white cliffs are in full view as soon as you walk up the hill from Eastbourne.
- I left the train station at 11:30, got back at 17:00 and I stopped for 30 minutes for lunch. I do walk pretty fast, especially on my own. Give yourself at least 6 hours to do this walk, it might be more realistic to give yourself 7 hours if you want to walk all the way to Birling Gap and back.
- There are buses and bus stops along the road so you could walk one way and get a bus back into town.
- It can be done all year round, I know my photos are nice and sunny but even on a spring, autumn or winter’s day it would be nice. If you’re worried about the wind, you aren’t always that close to the cliff and can walk on a footpath further away. Ideally, just try not to go on a cloudy or foggy day so you can actually see the cliffs.
- Take some lunch and snacks as there are limited options at Birling Gap Cafe and other cafes that you pass.
- The Birling Gap pub looks like a nice place to stop for lunch or a drink though.
- There are quite a few toilets on the route. Eastbourne station, Helen Garden, Beachy Head main car park and Birling Gap.
- If you would rather book onto a tour to see the cliffs and more of the South Downs area I really recommend this tour. It would be perfect to do out of summer incase the weather isn’t as good as you travel by coach, and perfect if you don’t fancy walking 20km!
If you have questions on something I haven’t covered, let me know in the comments below or by tweeting me @wandering_quinn!
For more Day trip from London ideas have a look at these posts:
To SEE my trip to the Seven Sister Cliffs, have a watch of my YouTube video here: