The Seven Sisters are the result of ancient rivers cutting valleys into the chalk a long time ago. They are located around 80 kilometres south of London on the English Channel coast. The Sisters stretch along the coastline between Seaford and Eastbourne.
The best way to explore this stunning cliff formation is by foot. There are plenty of options and different routes for all levels. This guide will tell you more about a route starting and ending in Seaford with a hike to either Birling Gap (13 km | 3-4 hours) or Eastbourne (23 km | 4-7 hours).
With this guide you will have the option to end the hike after 13 km or else walk all the way to Eastbourne. The good thing is that you only have to buy a return train ticket to Seaford which is much cheaper than getting two separate tickets. You don’t have to worry to not make it to Eastbourne as there are bus stops along the way which can take you back to Seaford. Basically you can decide on the way how far you would like to walk.
From London to Seaford
In London there are different stations with trains departing to Seaford. To find out which one is closest to you & directly book a ticket I recommend using trainline. Enter London as origin station and Seaford as destination station, then choose open return to get on any train going back to the city.
The journey takes between 1-2 hours depending on connection and station. I personally love the train ride as it shows you different views of the city as well as parts of the countryside.
Starting the hike in Seaford
Your destination is Seaford, a small town by the southern coast. From the train station walk towards the beach. Facing the ocean and looking to your left you can see where to go next. The path can definitely not be missed.
Find all milestones and the route in the map below which you can easily download to your phone. The further you walk the less good is the internet reception so I recommend to download the map if possible. It’s not easy to get off the track though and there are probably many other people going the same way.
Milestone 1: Cuckmere Haven
Walk along Seaford beach towards the cliff on the left side – from there just follow the main trail up the hill all the way to Cuckmere Haven. You’re not on one of the Seven Sisters yet but on the way there is a viewpoint from where you can perfectly see all Sisters. Your next milestone can also be seen from here. Birling Gap is located between Sister six and seven.
Your first milestone will be Cuckmere Haven which is where the river Cuckmere meets the English Channel. Walking down the hill towards the pebble beach I felt like I was in Harry Potter. You will probably know which scenes I mean once you see it.
Depending on the tide you can be lucky and cross the river by walking through it. Or you have to take a 4 km detour which will bring you to a bridge where you can cross Cuckmere river and then continue your walk. This part of the journey could be a bit demotivating as you are so close but you just can’t cross the other side when the tide is high without walking the 4 km. When looking towards Cuckmere Haven you basically follow the path leading to the left. After crossing the bridge walk down the path back to the beach.
Milestone 2: Birling Gap
After crossing Cuckmere River it’s time to walk from the beach up to the first Sisters. The hills are steep but it’s so much fun and the views (no matter where you look) are very rewarding. Keep an eye out for shipwrecks, sheep and horses.
Step by step you will come closer to Birling Gap, an enclosed pebble beach set between the Seven Sister cliffs six and seven. Here you can find a cafe, taps to refill your water bottles & toilets. The cafe serves hot food, home made cakes and drinks. Birling Gap is the most rewarding milestone of the whole journey as you can refill your energy reserves and sit down for a bit. At the beach you can also watch surfers catching the waves.
After a well deserved break you have three options:
- Take the bus from Birling Gap back to Seaford.
- Walk another 10-15 minutes up the hill to see the Lighthouse, then walk back and take the bus from Birling Gap to Seaford.
- Continue the journey, pass the lighthouse and walk all the way to Eastbourne.
The bus station at Birling Gap is close to the parking lot on the right side. The bus runs three times a day on Sundays year round, while in the summer months it is hourly at the weekend and three times a day on weekdays. It says “13 X” and ends in Brighton. On the way there it stops in Seaford where you can take the train back to London. The bus can be paid by card and costs around 2-3 pounds. It’s a very enjoyable ride leading through small coastal towns.
If you got a little bit of energy left it’s worth walking up the last Sister and have a look at Belle Tout Lighthouse. It’s a decomissioned lighthouse which is now a unique bed & breakfast.
Milestone 3: Eastbourne (optional)
If you’re full of beans you might want to do the whole hike and walk another 10 km towards the town and seaside resort Eastbourne. On the way, at Beachy Head, there’s another lighthouse in the water. It looks like a typical red and white lighthouse. Along the way you’ll be rewarded with more stunning views. Also at some point you will be able to see Eastbourne which pushes your remaining adrenaline.
For those who made it to Eastbourne: Well done! I think you should spoil yourselves with nice dinner or a treat from one of the shops by the sea. The 13X bus departs in Eastbourne and brings you all the way back to Seaford. The journey takes around 1 hour and leads along the whole path you’ve just walked.
What to bring
As the hike is quite intense and the hills are steep I would recommend to only bring what you really need.
- Comfortable sneakers.
- Wear a top/t-shirt but also bring a jacket as it can become quite chilly when you rest.
- Refillable >1 liter water bottle. You can refill at Birling Gap.
- Snacks & food (warm food available at Birling Gap).
- Plastic bag to collect waste (there are no bins before Birling Gap).
- Depending on weather: Raincoat (too windy for an umbrella), sunscreen, hat, sunglasses.
- For coffee lovers: Bring your own mug if you want to save waste as there are only disposable cups at Birling Gap.
A fully rewarding day
So far I’ve done the Seven Sisters walk twice – once all the way to Eastbourne and once to Birling Gap. I both walked through Cuckmere River and also had to take the detour. Thanks to the bus there is no pressure to finish the whole hike, also the ride is very enjoyable.
With this guide I wanted to give you a longer (to Eastbourne) and shorter (Birling Gap) option to have a rewarding hike along the Seven Sisters. As you only have to book a train to and from Seaford it will also be a bit cheaper and easier to organize. All in all the bus connection between Eastbourne and Seaford is very good so you won’t be stuck on either side.
I love this hike and would recommend it to everyone coming to London or England. The air down there is so different than on the countryside. The sea amazes with many different shades of blue (sunshine provided) and the chalk cliffs are just breathtaking. It’s very beautiful what nature created here.