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How to Walk from East Dean to Birling Gap East Sussex

How to Walk from East Dean to Birling Gap East Sussex

East Dean is a quaint village in East Sussex, and everything I love about the UK can be clumped together during the circular walk from East Dean to the Birling Gap.

A historic pub, lush countryside and stunning vistas across the South Downs to the Sussex coast. Oh, and not forgetting the beach for a swim!

East Sussex has so many fantastic things to do and see and enjoyable walks to conquer, probably the best known being the Seven Sisters Cliffs Walk from Birling Gap to Eastbourne route. This takes you along the cliffs past Beachy Head and down to the coastal town of Eastbourne.

However, the circular route from East Dean is less demanding and can be completed by most moderate-fitness walkers. This is also a dog-friendly walk.

The route takes roughly 1 hour 30 minutes and is approx 5km long.

You could start at East Dean and continue to Eastbourne if you want a longer walk. You could then walk back, making it an 18km circular journey.

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How to Get to East Dean and the Start of the Walk

Arriving by Car: Parking in East Dean can be found near the Tiger Inn BN20 0DA.

By Bus: Number 12 from Eastbourne will take you to East Dean.

By Train: London Victoria to Eastbourne takes approx 1hr 30 mins, and then take the Number 12 bus or a taxi the rest of the way.

How to Walk from East Dean to Birling Gap

East Dean Village

The Tiger Inn dates back to the 16th century and is the starting point for walking to Birling Gap. It is a popular pub for walkers, hikers and cyclists due to its proximity to the South Downs Way and shorter local walks like the one in this post.

East Dean has a village green, a few shops, and the Tiger Inn, which offers food, great beer and newly renovated rooms for passing visitors.

Tigers Inn

Sherlock Holmes Cottage

On the village green also stands Sherlock Holmes Cottage. This is meant to be the fictional detective’s retirement home. The blue plaque on the front of the cottage reads Consultant Detective and Bee Keeper retired here 1903-1917.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle grew up not far from East Dean, which is why it is thought he retired Sherlock Holmes here. The cottage is not as famous as Holmes’ main residence, 221B Baker Street, a famous tourist haunt in London; however, this cottage in sleepy East Dean is still fun to see.

Pass Sherlock Holmes’ cottage, keeping it on your right, and follow the road bearing to the right. A few yards later, bear left and take the small track up towards the field. If you get stuck, there will always be other walkers heading in the right direction, so follow them!

Go through the gate following the footpath straight up through Hobbes Eares field. This field often has sheep grazing, so if walking with a dog, put it on a lead.

Once at the peak, you can see the original Beachy Head lighthouse, Belle Tout, in the distance.

It is now run as a bed and breakfast, replaced in 1902 by the iconic red and white striped lighthouse synonymous with Beachy Head.

St Mary’s Church Friston 

Once at the top of the field, you will come to St Mary’s Church in Friston. Walk through the churchyard to the gate with an arch over it and go through it. At this point, turn left up a tarmac lane between three houses along the narrow road.

If you want to divert from the original walk, you can also find interesting local trails to Friston, Jevington and Willingdon villages.

We are staying on the East Dean to Birling Gap walking route for this article.

East Dean Church

Head for the fields with sea views

You’ll soon come to a sign for the National Trust Crowlink car park. Go through the gate to the left of the cattle grid. Follow the fence line on your left, with the water trough on your right.

Keep walking along the fence line, and don’t worry about not seeing a way out of the field; it is well hidden!

As you pass several gates on your left, you’ll soon spot a red barn roof near windswept-looking trees.

Head for the corner of the field, and you will see a kissing gate surrounded by gorse bushes (flowering yellow in the summer), which you need to go through.

Up and down the hills of the Surrey Downs

Once through the gate, continue left downhill until you reach the next hill, which is quite steep. When you have reached the brow of Went Hill, keep going east and take the right path to join the South Downs Way.

This pathway runs parallel to the cliff, and as long as you still have Belle Tout lighthouse in the distance, you are heading in the correct direction!

Sussex Downs
East Sussex Downs

You’ll shortly reach a gate with a signpost and map of Crowlink, showing you the land you have walked over in more detail. At this point, Birling Gap is within spitting distance.

Birling Gap Tea Rooms

At the next gate, take the right-hand path downhill on the private road to Birling Gap.

You will have spectacular views of the Eastbourne coastline from here, and at the bottom of the track is the Birling Gap cafe, run by the National Trust. You will be able to get a cup of tea and a nice slice of cake from here and most importantly pay a visit to the toilets!

Tea Rooms

Spend some time on Birling Gap Beach

Take some time to go to the top of the steps by the beach at Birling Gap for a fantastic view of the Seven Sisters.

Or, if you are brave, maybe you fancy dipping a toe into the English Channel or even swimming after your walk.

Birling Gap
Birling Gap 2


Walking from East Dean to the Birling Gap is a lovely way to spend time outdoors. It is a mix of flat and hilly terrain but nothing too strenuous.

After chilling in the cafe or on the beach, you can stroll along the Seven Sisters Cliffs, leading to Beachy Head and the seaside town of Eastbourne.

If your legs have had enough, you could pick up the number 12 bus back to East Dean on your return journey. Or, if you still have plenty of energy, retrace your steps back to the Tigers Inn in East Dean.

Pin for Future Travel to East Sussex

You may also be interested in these posts:

Discover Hidden Hindhead on the Devil’s Punch Bowl Walk in the Surrey Hills

Discover the Best of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve on the Easy Circular Walk or Cycle

Herstmonceux Castle and Gardens: A Great British Day Out in East Sussex