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A view from above the beach at Birling Gap, East Sussex
Coastguard cottages at Birling Gap, Seven Sisters | © National Trust Images / John Miller

Birling Gap walk from the Tiger Inn

This circular walk allows you to enjoy views over the downs and the East Sussex coast. By following old drovers' and smuggling routes to the sea from this small downland village you may also feel a sense of the landscape's long history.

Total steps: 14

Total steps: 14

Start point

The Tiger Inn, East Dean, grid ref: TV557978

Step 1

From the Tiger Inn walk straight across the green opposite the pub, on to the small road and turn right. To your right on the flint wall of a house you will see a blue plaque, reading: 'Sherlock Holmes retired here 1903–1917'. Follow the road as it goes round to the right. After only a few yards take a left up the small track towards a field. Here you pass a National Trust sign for Farrer Hall on your left. This former scout hut was used as a school classroom during the Second World War.

Step 2

Go through the gate and follow the footpath straight up through the field (named Hobbes Eares). Near the top of this field is a short steep section but after this the terrain is pretty flat and dry. From the vantage point of this hill you get a great view of East Dean. Belle Tout Lighthouse is in the distance to the east and you'll have different views towards this landmark for most of the walk. You may see several interesting breeds of sheep from the Seven Sisters Sheep Centre as this is one of their grazing areas. In summer, it's covered in downland flowers such as yellow rattle.

Step 3

At the top you reach Friston church. Go through the kissing gate leading into the churchyard. Walk straight along the path through the churchyard to the gate with an arch over it. This is called a tapsel gate and has an interesting opening mechanism. The village pond is in front of you and to your right is the A259 coast road, leading to many other interesting local walks to Friston, Jevington and Willingdon. Turn left up the tarmac lane between three houses along the narrow road.

Step 4

You'll soon come to the welcome sign for National Trust Crowlink car park. Go through the walkers' gate to the left of the cattle grid. Follow the fence line on your left, with the water trough on your right.

Step 5

Follow the fence line and, as it turns right, you'll be facing south towards the sea – you may even be able to smell it. Be aware of rabbit holes on this section. Keep following the fence line and you'll spot the red barn roof and then a line of windswept trees as you pass several gates on your left. As you reach the corner of the field you're now quite near the sea on Baileys Hill, the second of the Seven Sisters.

Step 6

Go through the kissing gate in front of you, with thorny gorse bushes around it, then go left downhill to the east. You'll spot Belle Tout Lighthouse on the hill in the distance in front of you. Walk downhill past the gorse – near the bottom of the valley look back to your right where the monument is overlooking the sea. Carry on east, up the next hill, called Went Hill. It's rather steep but take this opportunity for a breather as you look for flowers such as the purple violets in spring, pink common century in summer and lilac field scabious in late summer/autumn.

Step 7

The brow of the next hill is Went Hill. Keep going east and take the right path to join the South Downs Way, which runs parallel to the cliff. Take care not to go near to the cliff edge. Belle Tout Lighthouse is still in the distance in front of you and, as you keep walking, Birling Gap hamlet will come into view in the valley. You'll shortly reach a gate with a signpost and map of Crowlink, showing you in more detail the land you have walked over.

Step 8

At the next gate, take the right-hand path downhill under cover of some pine trees and the private road down to Birling Gap. At the bottom of the track to your right are steps leading to the café and bar, where you can take a well-earned rest and have a cup of tea and cake. Take some time to go to the top of the steps by the beach at Birling Gap for a fantastic view of the Seven Sisters.

Step 9

The return journey is shorter and will give you more views to the east over towards Belle Tout Lighthouse, with the beautiful rolling downland and traditional sheep grazing in the foreground. Start by going back up the private road but, instead of taking the gate on the left, go straight up to the top of the track past the last house (Seven Sisters Cottage) to another gate through Crowlink.

Step 10

Following the hedgerow on your right, go through the next gate ahead of you and continue straight ahead along the track until you come to the red barn you saw earlier. Go straight on past the red barn, keeping the barn on your right. Don't take the track leading left to the derelict stone barn. Instead follow on to the field boundary edge with trees until you spot a waymark post with a number of different coloured arrows on it. At the bottom is a pink arrow. Take this path.

Step 11

Take the small path on your right leading down through some trees, you'll have a view of the village below. The path is quite steep and can be slippery with leaves so take care. If you're in a group you'll have to walk in single file for some of the way.

Step 12

After going through the trees go through the gate and bear right downhill along the path until you reach the next gate. You'll see a clay-tiled roof and other houses. Follow the flint wall through the final large metal field gate which leads on to a small road.

Step 13

Beware of traffic as you walk down the lane and bear left to return to East Dean village. You'll pass a house on your left which has a plaque to commemorate children evacuated from cities in the Second World War.

Step 14

You should now see the Tiger Inn again, where you started your walk.

End point

The Tiger Inn, East Dean, grid ref: TV557978

Trail map

Map route for Birling Gap walk from the Tiger Inn
Map route for Birling Gap walk from the Tiger Inn | © Crown copyright and database rights 2013 Ordnance Survey

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East Dean, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN20 0AB

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