Dreaming of undertaking one of the UK’s greatest treks? Then, look no further than the South Downs Way.
This 100 mile off-road trail is just one of 15 National Trails in England and Wales. Stretching from the ancient cathedral city of Winchester through to the white chalky cliffs of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head at Eastbourne, it’s home to some of the greatest views and scenery in the country.
While you can just walk segments of the trail, if you’re looking to tackle the entire 100-mile stretch, you’ll need to allow eight to nine days (travelling 12 to 15 miles a day) and for that you'll need some accommodation. Read on for some brilliant places to stay along the Way.
Do I need to pre-book accommodation along the South Downs Way?
Although, you’ll find in peace and solitude during your trek, The South Downs Way attracts plenty of visitors so we highly recommend booking accommodation before you visit. Accommodation during the busy summer months can get snapped up, making forward planning essential.
Where can I get a map of the South Downs Way?
You’ll find maps and other useful information at the South Downs Visitor Centre, located in Midhurst - the heart of the South Downs National Park. If you’re visiting in person, you’ll find a wealth of attractions close by including Cowdray ruins, Cowdray Farm Shop and Café, Fitzcanes Café and the historic Spread Eagle Hotel and Spa. You can also download all the maps from the website.
Can I cycle or horse-ride along the South Downs Way?
As well as being a National Trail, the South Downs Way is also a bridleway (the first bridleway National Trail in England, in fact), meaning that it’s perfect for cyclists and those on horseback too. You can complete the whole trail on bike or horse.
Find out more about horse-riding along the South Downs Way at the South Downs Visitor Centre.
How much does accommodation cost along the South Downs Way?
Below, we’ve split the Sussex section of the South Downs Way into four segments: Midhurst, Cocking, Bignor and Amberley.
For each segment you’ll find the best accommodation for getting back to nature (i.e. budget-friendly camping accommodation) and the best accommodation for creature comforts (i.e. indoor safe havens where you can unwind from a strenuous day in the great outdoors).
All the accommodation we’ve hand-selected is either on or close to the trail.
The Best Accommodation along the Midhurst segment of the South Downs Way
Back to Nature: Wild Combe Camping, Elsted
Lying 3 miles off the South Downs Way (45 minute walk or 20 minute cycle), this campsite is the furthest we’ve selected off the trail. But for those who really do want to get back to nature, it’s well worth the extra exertion.
Located in a quiet corner of the sleepy village of Elsted, you’ll find Wild Combe Camping. With spacious pitches, incredible views, portable toilets, bucket showers and two private reservoirs to swim in, there’s no need for electricity or running water at this site. If you’re in need of a drink or bite to eat, head to the local gem of a pub, The Three Horseshoes, just six-minutes by foot from the site.
While the site is wild by name and wild by nature, you may be pleased to know the 4G is great here. No need to miss out on documenting your adventures along the way.
Creature Comforts: Park House Hotel and Spa, Bepton
You’ll find quite the opposite at Park House Hotel and Spa, where more really is…more! Located just a short hop from the South Downs Way in the village of Bepton, you can put your tired feet up in the elegant rooms, each of which have been individually designed in a country house style.
If you have the energy to step outside the bedroom, choose between sitting beside the roaring fire in the drawing room, sampling seasonal ingredients from Sussex makers and artisans in the restaurant, or making full use of the extensive facilities at the award-winning spa. You’ll also find golf and grass tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools and a croquet lawn on offer, while the historic market town of Midhurst is a 45 minute walk from the hotel - if your feet are up to it, of course.
The Best Accommodation along the Cocking segment of the South Downs Way
Back to Nature: Woodfire Camping, Graffham
With a track leading directly from the South Downs Way to Woodfire Camping - the country’s first ever gastro campsite - you won’t have far to go to unwind.
Here, you’ll find stunning views of the South Downs accompanied with hot showers, campfires and - you guessed it - great food. Woodfire prides itself on its freshly prepared local food cooked over the fire, which can be enjoyed communally whilst taking in the fantastic views.
As if you’re not already a happy camper, there are four local pubs within walking distance of Woodfire Camping; The Foresters Arms, The Cricketers, White Horse at Graffham and The Three Moles. All four pubs have beer gardens as well as great food, your only challenge will be getting back on track.
Creature Comforts: The Blue Bell B&B, Cocking
Being owned by the local community, this welcoming free house offers a truly authentic experience. What’s more, it’s located just below the South Downs Way meaning you can get the miles under your belt as soon as you spring out of bed in the morning.
You’ll have breakfast included with your stay and packed lunches can be arranged, ideal for those heading out early. You can also take full advantage of the café, restaurant and bar service, all day snacks and full lunch and dinner menus on offer throughout the day.
If you’re tired feet are up for an explore, take a short walk to Flint Barn Café for yet more great food. Or if you’re keen to tick off more pubs, The Greyhound, The Unicorn Inn and The Royal Oak are all within a 40-minute walk and are home to scenic beer gardens and great food.
The Best Accommodation along the Bignor segment of the South Downs Way
Back to Nature: Bignor Farms Camping, Bignor
Possibly one of the most unique locations where you could pitch a tent, Bignor Farms Camping is located in grounds of Bignor Roman Villa, famous for its world-class mosaic floors.
Just a 40 minute walk or 20 minute cycle from the South Downs Way, this pop-up campsite is only open during the summer, and gives you the chance to get back to basics with no electricity, a laid-back vibe and some of the best views in Sussex.
While you’ll be in a secluded location, you’ll find a tearoom onsite at Bignor Roman Villa or you can take the 25 minute walk to The White Horse Inn, or the 40 minute walk to The Squire and Horse in neighbouring villages.
If you’re on a bike, it’s a 40 minute cycle to the historic market town of Petworth, where you’ll find a host of attractions and eateries including Newlands House Gallery, E.Street Bar & Grill, and The Hungry Guest artisan food shop and café.
Best for Creature Comforts: Stane House B&B, Bignor
If getting back to basics isn’t really your thing, Stane House B&B in Bignor should tick all your boxes.
Relax your tired legs in the beautiful en-suite bedrooms with enviable views over the countryside, or muster up the energy to explore the one-acre English country-style garden attached to the house. When you’re ready to get going, the B&B is located at the foot of the South Downs, meaning you won’t have far to walk to get back on track.
As with Bignor Farm Camping, you’ll find some great pubs within a 40 minute walk. If you want to put your evening to good use, take a seven minute taxi ride from the B&B to Bignor Hill Car Park for some of the best views of the night sky in the UK. The South Downs National Park is one of just 19 Dark Sky Reserves in the world and Bignor Hill being one of the darkest locations in the South Downs.
The Best Accommodation Along the Amberley Segment of the South Downs Way
Back to Nature: Foxleigh Barn, Amberley
For the final campsite along the Sussex stretch of the South Downs Way we’ve chosen Foxleigh Barn campsite, located across the road from the trail.
This small, quiet campsite is perfect for tired walkers who don’t want to extend their day by trekking to their accommodation. On site, you’ll find hot showers, washing and washing-up areas, as well as a shelter with dining tables, chairs and basic cooking facilities for those who want to eat on-site. No doubt you’ll have plenty of stories to share of your days trekking with the others around the table.
If you’d rather venture out, great food in a scenic setting can be found at The Bridge Inn, just an eight-minute walk from the site, or enjoy the friendly welcome at the George & Dragon pub, a 20 minute stroll from Foxleigh. While in Amberley, you’re also on the doorstep of the popular and idiosyncratic Amberley Museum, should you wish to take a break from trekking for the day.
Best for Creature Comforts: Amberley Castle, Amberley
A detour of just 10-minutes by foot from the South Downs Way will take you to the 900-year-old castle, which is enclosed by a 60-foot-high curtain wall and portcullis that remain open. Inside this enchanting hotel you’ll find luxurious bedrooms, outstanding cuisine and acres of garden to explore.
If you're too tired to make use of the of the tennis courts, 18-hole putting green and croquet lawn on offer. Why not relax by the fireside or find shelter under a tree in the company of hotel's resident peacock.
The highly-rated Amberley Black Horse is just a 10-minute walk from the castle, serving great food in a beer garden with incredible views.
Find more about walking and trekking in Sussex here.
Or, find more great accommodation in Sussex here.