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Visiting Fairlight Cliffs

A pile of rocks is shown on the beach at Fairlight Cliffs in Sussex.
Rock fall on the beach at Fairlight Cliffs | © National Trust/Andrew Dyer

Fairlight Cliffs, in East Sussex, is part of the 163-mile Saxon Shore Way footpath. Formed 140 million years ago, the cliffs tell of a time when the area was covered by a large lake and dinosaurs hunted along its shore. The fascinating geology makes it a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with rare wildlife and archaeological features to see.

How to get to Fairlight Cliffs

The nearest car park is located at Pett Level Road, Cliff End, TN35 4HF. A bus service from Hastings train station also stops nearby.

Things to see at Fairlight Cliffs

Haddock’s Fault

As you walk along the clifftop you will see evidence of a recent slump. This marks the location of the Haddock’s Fault, which was formed about 35 million years ago when the African continent collided with Europe, forming the Alps and uplifting south-east England.

Since this event the rocks on the south west have started returning to their original position, creating a visible slip plane.

Footprints in time

Although there is no access to the beach from the footpath, it can be reached from the village of Cliff End. Search long and hard and you may find the footprints of an iguanodon, a plant eating dinosaur that could weigh over 3.5 tonnes.

Crocodile bones can also be discovered along with outlines of the plants that once grew here. Further along the beach at Cliff End you can also see the preserved remains of woodland that thrived here 5,000 years ago.

Check tide times

Before accessing the beach from Cliff End please make sure you check the tide times to avoid being put at risk.

Bees and birds

With a diverse mix of habitats including stunted oak woodland, grassland and thorny scrub, the clifftop offers sanctuary for several important species.

Birds including redstart, peregrines and fulmars can spotted. Invertebrates also flourish. Look closely and you may spot the rare weevil Larinus planus or the mining bee Dasypoda hirtipes.

Our work at Fairlight Cliffs

This area is looked after by a team of rangers and volunteers based in nearby Winchelsea. The footpath is regularly cut during the summer, ensuring plenty of scrub is still left as shelter for the birds. The clifftop grassland is mown and the cuttings removed to keep the nutrient levels low and allow wild flowers to flourish.

The cliffs are eroding and we occasionally have to move fence lines inland to allow walkers to continue safely enjoying the views of the English Channel and surrounding landscape.

Octavia Hill (1838 - 1912) (after John Singer Sargent) by Reginald Grenville Eves, RA (London 1876 ¿ Middleton in Teesdale 1941)
Octavia Hill | © National Trust Images/John Hammond

In memory of an artist

Fairlight Cliffs was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1945 by Mrs Bertha Eves in memory of Reginald Grenville Eves, a distinguished Royal Academy Artist. He was noted for his portraits of eminent figures such as Sir Ernest Shackleton, King George VI and one of the founders of the National Trust, Octavia Hill.

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