Devil's Dyke histories and mysteries walk

Devil's Dyke, South Downs, West Sussex, BN1 8YJ

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Devil's Dyke: dug by the Devil, or carved by glaciers? © Graham Wellfare

Devil's Dyke: dug by the Devil, or carved by glaciers?

Britain's first cable car took passengers across the valley at Devil's Dyke © National Trust

Britain's first cable car took passengers across the valley at Devil's Dyke

The wooden well-house containing the wheel that was turned by a donkey © National Trust/ Graham Welfare

The wooden well-house containing the wheel that was turned by a donkey

The railway turned out to be a Victorian folly, lasting only 10 years © National Trust

The railway turned out to be a Victorian folly, lasting only 10 years

Route overview

Explore ancient chalk downland and the deepest dry valley in the country.

Discover where the Devil and his wife are said to be buried and watch kestrels soar above you.

Visit an ancient farmstead with over 1,000 years of history and experience stunning views over the Sussex countryside.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Devil's Dyke histories and mysteries walk map, West Sussex
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Devil's Dyke car park, grid ref: TQ258110

  1. From the car park at the pub, go back towards the big Devil's Dyke pub sign and onwards past the bus turning circle. Follow the path alongside the road. On your left is a gate with a sign on a post. Look at the banks on either side of the road - these are the remains of the ramparts of the Iron Age hill fort.

    Show/HideDevil's Dyke

    Devil's Dyke is the longest, widest and deepest dry chalk valley in the country. Legend has it that the Devil dug the valley to drown the parishioners of the Weald. Scientists, however, believe it was formed in the last Ice Age. Delve into the dyke to really appreciate its grandeur (direction 1).

    Devil's Dyke: dug by the Devil, or carved by glaciers? © Graham Wellfare
  2. Head straight down into the valley for 55yd (50m or 1 min), then make a sharp hairpin bend right and go through a gate which leads into the deep valley. (From here, look up to your right on the side of the valley and you can see the concrete footings of the Great Cableway.) Walk to the bottom of the valley, follow it as it curves left and you can see the Devil's Graves ahead (two humps in the ground). Continue round to the left until you reach a fence across your route.

    Show/HideThe Great Cableway and Devil's Graves

    When descending into Devil's Dyke, look out for the concrete footings of two pylons on the top of the slopes to the left and right. These originally supported Britain's first cable car, which was built here in 1894. The ride took Victorian day-trippers across the 328yd (300m) wide valley and was a great attraction in its day. The Devil and his wife are said to be buried at the bottom of the Dyke. Legend has it that if you run backwards seven times around these humps, whilst holding your breath, the Devil will appear.

    Britain's first cable car took passengers across the valley at Devil's Dyke © National Trust
  3. Go through the small bridle gate in the right-hand end of the fence, continue along the bridle path for 130yd (120m or 3 mins) and turn sharply right up a steep footpath which leads to a stile.

  4. Go over the stile and follow the path up the incline which then takes you along the edge of a field, with telegraph poles in it. Head up the tarmac track and through the gate at the top.

  5. Cross the road and go into Saddlescombe Farm, past the pond on your right. The Hiker's Rest tearoom is in the courtyard after the first barn on your left. After tea you can visit the Donkey Wheel (one of only four in the county). Go left out of the tearooms with the barn on your right and the cottages ahead on the left. At the end cottage there is a stile on your right leading to the small, square black wooden-clad building with a steeply-pitched slate roof.

    Show/HideSaddlescombe Farm and Donkey Wheel

    A hidden hamlet in the South Downs, the farm has over 1,000 years of stories to tell and was once home to the Knights Templar. Take in the atmosphere with a visit to the Hiker's Rest tea-rooms. The Saddlescombe Donkey Wheel is a wooden well-house containing a large, broad wheel. For centuries the wheel was turned by a donkey or pony, raising drinking water from 150ft (45.5m) below the Downs.

    The wooden well-house containing the wheel that was turned by a donkey © National Trust/ Graham Welfare
  6. Return to the tearoom and continue on the second-half of this figure-of-eight walk. This time the walk takes you up through woods which lead to fabulous views. Retrace your steps out of the farm, back across the road and back through the gate at the top of the tarmac track.

  7. Turn left immediately, walk past the trough and then turn right above the fence and ditch. Walk beside the ditch for 55yd (50m or 2 mins). Go straight over the field, coming away from the ditch. You will be able to see a view of the Dyke Valley that you walked earlier. At the top of the slope you reach a stile.

  8. Go over the stile and turn immediately right down a very steep bank. If the weather is wet this can get muddy, you can avoid this by continuing along the path then do a hairpin bend turning right and going down into the valley. You can see the bridle gate you went through earlier.

  9. This time take the stile at the left-hand end of the fence and climb the steps up through the wood. Follow the path to a crossroads.

  10. You will see six steps across the path, go up these and follow the path through the woods until you reach a kissing gate.

  11. Go through this gate, up a steep incline which has 63 steps. It is worth it. Halfway up, have a look through the bushes to your right - the view is amazing. You can see the village of Poynings below. Take care following the narrow path up and across the escarpment. The views continue to be stunning, with Fulking village in the distance. If you are lucky you can spot birds and hang-gliders soaring above you. If you look carefully at the ground, there is a wide gulley crossing this path - this used to be the site of the funicular (steep grade) railway. Continue up this path until you reach another kissing gate above you on your left.

    Show/HideFunicular railway

    The remains of the Victorian funicular railway station (pictured here in 1898) can be seen towards the end of the walk. This masterpiece of engineering took visitors to the village of Poynings.

    The railway turned out to be a Victorian folly, lasting only 10 years © National Trust
  12. This is the last gate on the walk; you can either head straight back to the pub car park, or follow the fence left to see the remains of the funicular railway station. Have a pub drink, enjoy the view outside and take a look at the stone lookout with a map of the whole area and a telescope nearby. In the car park there is a National Trust information board with ideas for other great walks and things to do in the area (directions 11 and 12).

End: Devil's Dyke car park, grid ref: TQ258110

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles (5km)
  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • OS Map: Landranger 198, Explorer 122
  • Terrain:

    Allow about 2.5 hours for this 3 mile (4.8km) figure-of-eight walk including a visit to the Hiker's Rest tea-rooms at Saddlescombe Farm. This is a challenging walk with some fairly steep ascents and descents. Some people may find the escarpment path a bit exposed but the views are spectacular. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on leads, as livestock in surroundings fields. No dog bins so please take dog litter home.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: Footpaths from Brighton 5 miles (8km), Fulking and Poynings both 1 mile (1.6km) or use the South Downs Way

    By bike: Cyclepath from Hove off sustrans National Cycle Network route 20 plus others including the South Downs Way

    By bus: Service 77 from Brighton daily in high summer, weekends and bank holidays for rest of the year. See Brighton and Hove travel information for details

    By train: Brighton station is 7 miles (11.2km) from Devil's Dyke, catch the 77 bus outside

    By car: 2 miles (3.2km) north of A27 Brighton bypass. Nearest postcode BN1 8YJ

  • Facilities:

    • Hiker's Rest tea-room in the courtyard at Saddlescombe Farm

  • Contact us