The trip to Beachy Head and back is between 3 and 4 hours depending on tides. There is a great deal to see on the trip – spectacular downlands and white cliffs, historic monuments, busy port and diverse marine life. Of course the well known Beachy Head Lighthouse at the end.
The South Downs
The South Downs is chalk ridge that runs all the way from Hampshire and through Sussex. Brighton Marina sits under the cliffs just to the east of Brighton. This marks the start of where the South Downs meets the sea. The trip will take you along the line where the sea has cut straight across this chalk ridge exposing the sediments.
Brighton Marina to Newhaven
The first part of the trip from the Marina to Newhaven is the built section. Firstly the landmark buildings of Roedean School and Blind Veterans (St Dunstans) can be seen, before reaching the settlement of Rottingdean with its famous windmill. Saltdean follows with the famous art deco Lido and Butlins holiday hotel now the Grand Ocean apartments.
At Peacehaven you will cross the Greenwich Meridian from West to East. A monument marks the spot which now is about 130m out of place when the UK changed from the Ordanance Survey datum to the World Geodetic System.
Lastly as you approach the port of Newhaven the Fort can be seen overlooking the harbour entrance.
Newhaven to Seven Sisters
Newhaven is a busy port with the ferry service to Dieppe and home to the offices of the Rampion Windfarm. The port is the mouth of the river Ouse that leads up to Lewes where the ships went in the days of sail.
The river opens out into Seaford Bay. Seaford boasts the Martello Tower and popular beach. At the far end of the bay is Splash point where the chalk cliffs begin again. The chalk cliffs continue to the next river which is the Cuckmere which meanders through the valley. The saltmarsh here is home to many wading birds.
The Seven Sisters
The Seven Sisters are part of the South Downs National Park. This area is often used in films in place of the Dover cliffs as they are unspoilt by modern structures. There are eight peaks. These peaks and troughs are named West to East:
- Haven Brow
- Short Bottom
- Short Brow
- Limekiln Bottom
- Rough Brow
- Rough Bottom
- Brass Point
- Gap Bottom
- Flagstaff Point (continuing into Flagstaff Brow)
- Flagstaff Bottom
- Flat Hill
- Flathill Bottom
- Baily’s Hill
- Michel Dean
- Went Hill Brow
Birling Gap to Beachy Head
Birling gap is next where the coast road momentarily comes south to the sea. A cafe is here and a popular spot for visitors, but is suffering from erosion and the buildings are slowly falling into the sea.
The last stretch of the trip has the Belle-Tout lighthouse which is now converted to a dwelling. Then onto Beachy Head where the lighthouse sits below the highest of the chalk peaks, which has become a notorious suicide location.
After the lighthouse and headland is Pevensey Bay and Eastbourne. But at this point we return to Brighton.