Bounding up to Belle Tout

Birling Gap, East Dean, near Eastbourne, BN20 0AB

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
A view towards Crangon Cottages (old coastguard residences) Birling Gap © NTPL/National Trust/ John Miller

A view towards Crangon Cottages (old coastguard residences) Birling Gap

Belle Tout lighthouse © NTPL/Alexandra Bosly/National Trust

Belle Tout lighthouse

Birling Gap © NTPL/Alexandra Bosly/National Trust

Birling Gap

Route overview

Take a wander up Lookout Hill to Mad Jack Fuller's folly and enjoy some breathtaking sea and downland views.

Route details

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

Bounding up to Belle Tout walking trail map 2013
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Birling Gap car by the Coastguard Station, grid ref: TV 55459 96042

  1. Walk up the steps behind the Coastguard Cottages and head straight up onto the downs.

    Show/HideOn the look-out

    For centuries, customs officers have kept a vigil along these cliffs, whilst smugglers lurked on the beaches below. There have been cottages here since the 1820s to house the families of the coastguards who worked from Birling Gap. Notice the mossy patch and bricks on the cliff top, the site of a lookout tower which was demolished in 1991.

    A view towards Crangon Cottages (old coastguard residences) Birling Gap © NTPL/National Trust/ John Miller
  2. At the top, head towards the lighthouse either along the clifftop path or through the scrub.

  3. Follow the path to the left of the lighthouse. Continue to follow the old access track down the hill. This will afford wonderful views towards Beachy Head and the candy-striped lighthouse. At the bottom of the path turn left to head back towards Birling Gap.

    Show/HideLighthouse on the move

    The lighthouse, Belle Tout, was moved inland in March 1999 to escape the receding coastline. It was originally built in the 1820s by a local character known as 'Mad' Jack Fuller, but became a private home after being superseded by the Beachy Head lighthouse. In January 1999, a 45m deep landslide occurred at Beachy Head, the largest recorded in the 20th century.

    Belle Tout lighthouse © NTPL/Alexandra Bosly/National Trust
  4. Continue walking along the track around the base of the hill This will take you through a delicate small dappled woodland known as the Horseshoe Plantation, much loved by dragonflies and migrating birds.

  5. Continue along the track and this will take you back to the car park from where you started.

    Show/HideAncient settlements

    As you leave the Horseshoe Plantation look up to your left and you can see a mound running parallel to the path. This is the remains of an ancient rampart which would have once encircled the entire hill. Birling Gap itself is named after the Baerelingas, a group of Anglo Saxons who settled here in 489AD.

    Birling Gap © NTPL/Alexandra Bosly/National Trust

End: Birling Gap car by the Coastguard Station, grid ref: TV 55459 96042

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 2 miles (3.2km)
  • Time: 1 hour
  • OS Map: Explorer 123
  • Terrain:

    Some slopes, steps and uneven terrain. There is a fairly steep hill to walk up to reach the top of the coastal downland. Well-behaved dogs on leads are always welcome. At certain times of year there will be stock grazing so electric fences with access gates may be found across the route.

  • How to get here:

    By train: Eastbourne station  5.5 miles; Seaford station 6.5 miles

    By road: 5 miles west of Eastbourne and 6 miles east of Seaford. Birling Gap car park is sign-posted from A259 at East Dean, between Seaford and Eastbourne. Crowlink car park, near East Dean, is accessed from A259 using the lane between Friston Pond and Church, opposite the sign to Jevington.  Parking: at Birling Gap (pay and display), £2 for half day, £4 for whole day

    On foot: On South Downs Way between Exeat and Eastbourne. Birling Gap is accessible by foot and forms part of the Seven Sisters route. Footpaths from East Dean across Crowlink down to Birling Gap Walk on grass verge or path along Gilberts Drive/ Birling Gap Road – follow brown tourist signs from East Dean

    By bus: For Birling Gap: 13X bus. Runs hourly Eastbourne Terminus Road to Brighton via Birling Gap, Sundays and bank holidays all year. Weekends from Easter to September. Daily from June to September. For Crowlink: 12A and 12B bus or 13X, Brighton to Eastbourne (via Seaford). See Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company for timetables

    By bike: Network of bridle paths with cycle stands available at Birling Gap. Went Way bridleway from East Dean to Birling Gap

  • Facilities:

    • Toilet block in main car park at Birling Gap
    • The shop is stocked with local and seasonal items, perfect for treats and gifts
    • Drinking water available outside the toilet block at Birling Gap
    • Baby changing facilities available
    • Birling Gap café is located beside the car park; all food is locally sourced
    • Toilet block in main car park at Birling Gap, one accessible toilet using a RADAR key; adapted WC
    • Accessible parking

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