The South Downs National Park covers 628 square miles in southern England, and spans over the counties West Sussex, East Sussex and Hampshire. The park is relatively new in comparison to others in the country, being formed in 2011 and more recently it became an International Dark Sky Reserve. The landscape consists of chalk and clay hills, wooded sandstone and sits near to the coast.
The South Downs Way National Trail spans the length of the park making it a popular destination for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. In addition to this there are also 1,200 kilometres of bridleways to explore and plenty of places to hire a bike if you don’t have one and lots of stables offering well organised riding tours if you don’t own your own horse.
Other than walking, riding and cycling, the next most popular activities in the park are hang gliding and paragliding. On warm summer days it is common to see people soaring in the skies above the park and launching from the rolling hills. The sport of gliding actually started here on the Downs in 1909 when the first flight was recorded, so you know it is a perfect place to practise some aerial acrobatics. The shape and location of the Downs creates ideal conditions for catching updrafts and gliding for long periods. There are plenty of clubs, schools and instructors around the park which offer lessons and tandem flights.
For something a little different, there are a couple of places within the park which may be ideal for wild swimming. Or, if the weather isn’t ideal for any of the above activities, the South Downs are well placed for access to surrounding cities and towns which are home to some excellent indoor facilities for rock climbing or dry slope skiing. So the South Downs is a great place to visit with family and friends in search of a little adventure.
Explore the South Downs
Adventures that you can do on your own, with the right knowledge, skills and equipment
BuryBury, Pulborough, RH20 1NS
Cuckmere MeandersSouth Downs Way, Seaford, BN25
Frensham Great PondDockenfield, Farnham, GU10 4HH
Friston ForestExceat, East Sussex, BN25 4AD
LitlingtonLitlington, Polegate, BN26 5RE
MidhurstMidhurst, GU29 9AL
Find local specialists who provide organised adventures in this area, great for those without experience or equipment
Our favourite activities in the South Downs
Enjoy unparalleled aerial views of the UK and experience the feeling of weightlessness as you soar through the clouds amongst the birds.
Experience a bird’s eye view of the UK landscape as you soar across the sky. With many guides offering tandem flight for beginners, the feeling of flight is closer than you might think.
Whether racing downhill, riding a single track or cross-country, there are few better ways to explore the UK countryside than by mountain bike and few better ways to get seriously muddy in the process.
Few things are more tranquil than a downstream paddle in a canoe. With canoe hire available throughout the UK, there’s an opportunity to experience it for yourself wherever you live.
Everyday Adventure stories from the South Downs