South Downs visitor and tourist information

South Downs, West Sussex

Visit South Downs

The South Downs National Park runs 100 miles along the southern border in south-east England, and falls in several English counties: Hampshire, West Sussex, East Sussex and Surrey. The Park was officially created in 2010 with the goal of protecting and preserving the special environment of the South Downs region.

Apart from Beachy Head at the far east of the Park, the coast itself does not form part of the National Park - hence important conurbations such as Brighton, Worthing, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis and Portsmouth are all outside the southern border of the designated region. Likewise Winchester (which represents the most westerly point) and Eastbourne (the eastern end) also fall outside the National Park.

Far from being uninhabited however, more than 100,000 people live within the boundary of the park, and several towns and a lot of villages do fall within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park itself including Petersfield, Liss, Midhurst, Petworth, Arundel and Lewes. The proximity of so many large towns nearby, and with London only about one hour away, ensures the region is very well visited.

Visitor centres

Visitor centres for the National Park are found at Beachy Head (East Sussex), the Seven Sisters Country Park (East Sussex) and to the west in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park (Hampshire). One of these should be your first port of call if you wish to make the most of your trip to the South Downs.

Villages in South Downs National Park

Apart from the scenery it is the villages, castles, gardens, stately homes and parks that attract many who visit the region.

A whistle-stop list of some of the most popular villages, moving broadly west to east, might include: Corhampton and Wickham near Winchester, Petersfield, East Meon, Buriton, Hambledon, Rowlands Castle, Midhurst, Easebourne, Fernhurst, Chilgrove, Compton, Singleton (near the Goodwood estate), Petworth, Amberley, Bury, Fittleworth, Arundel, Burpham, Felpham, Slindon, Steyning, Findon, Bramber, Washington, Clayton, Ditchling, Bishopstone, Firle, Rodmell, Southease, Alfriston...

Outdoors in the South Downs National Park

As with all the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty in England, much the best way to explore is to get active! Walking or cycling, horse-riding perhaps, and for the more fearless there are opportunities to hang-glide in the region. Whichever you choose, there is so more opportunity to absorb all there is to enjoy if you leave your car behind.

The park is very diverse in character, with the dramatic cliffs around Beach Heady giving way to the chalk hills and landscapes of the Downs and the gentler landscapes in the western section of the Weald region.

The natural environment also varies considerably, with ancient forests and farming regions, open areas of heathland and also some regions of wetland. This great diversity make the region very important for the variety of flora and fauna that can be found here.

There are numerous marked and recommended trails in the South Downs National Park, whether you are on foot, horse or bike. If you have the time to spare one very popular way to discover all the region has to offer is to follow the South Downs Way. On foot or on mountain bike, covered over several days...or several years...each section of the 100 mile long trail has something new and interesting to offer the visitor.

There are also numerous attractions, family activity centres and country parks to discover so you can be sure there is something for all the family.

Map of South Downs and places nearby

South Downs places to visit