Seven Sisters Country Park is a beautiful East Sussex hotspot. The iconic coastguard cottages, Cuckmere Haven and the clifftop walk to Birling Gap make for an epic day out.
View of Seven Sisters, East Sussex
Updated April 2020
The towering white cliffs, near Brighton, in East Sussex are part of England’s South Downs National Park. The cliffs stretch along the Sussex Heritage coast from Cuckmere Haven to Birling Gap in the Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It’s somewhere every Brit should visit at least once.
The South Downs roll along one side of the cliffs and the English Channel reaches into the horizon on the other. If you love stunning coastal views, meandering rivers and dramatic chalk cliffs then you should spend a day at Seven Sisters Country Park, in East Sussex.
Seven Sisters cliffs looking towards Eastbourne
Seven Sisters Country Park
The Seven Sisters walk from Seaford to Eastbourne is a fabulous day out and takes around seven hours. Fitness levels will need to be good to complete the 21.9 km (13.6 miles) Sussex Heritage Coast hike. However, if you want to see all the best bits without doing all the leg work there’s an easier option…
Spend an active day out at Seven Sisters Country Park. The park is set in a rural valley with trails leading down to the beach and along the cliffs. This post will give you the information you need on how to get there, where to find the best walks and view points with practical tips to get the most out of your day at Seven Sisters Country Park.
How to get to Seven Sisters Country Park
Seven Sisters Country Park is in the village of Exceat near Seaford, East Sussex, BN25 4AD. Below are directions on how to get to Seven Sisters from London, Brighton, Seaford and Eastbourne.
Parking at Seven Sisters Country Park
If you’re driving, park up in the Seven Sisters Car Park just past the bridge in Exceat. You’ll find it south of the A259 next to the Exceat building complex. Parking can be paid for online at Ringo or at the machines on site. The machines take cards and coins but not notes.
Parking for cars cost £3.00 for up to 2 hours or £4.00 for the day. The car park opens at 07:00 hrs all year round. Closure times vary with the seasons and are displayed on site. The car parked is locked overnight.
How to get to Seven Sisters from Brighton and Seaford
The 12, 12a or the 12x buses run from Brighton or Seaford. The 12x is faster than the 12/12a buses which take around an hour. Use the Brighton and Hove Buses website or app to plan your journey. If you download the app, click the hamburger menu > Browse Tickets > Network > Network Saver > 24 Hours.
Tickets cost £5 GBP return for 1 Adult or £8.40 GBP for 2 Adults (“Duo 24 Hour”). The Duo ticket allows up to two people to travel together, on one mobile device, for one day. Tickets can be purchased to use within the networkSAVER area for £8.40.
Two bus stops are located near to the Seven Sisters car park at Exceat. One just before the car park and one just after, next to the South Downs Way footpath. There are also bus stops at Birling Gap and Beachy Head.
Eastbourne and Seaford buses have open-topped, hop-on-hop-off sightseeing buses to Seven Sisters Country Park, Birling Gap and Beachy Head.
How to get to Seven Sisters from London
The train runs from London Victoria to Seaford with a change at Lewes. This will take approximately one hour 40 minutes. If you get the train that changes at Brighton this will add an extra 17 minutes to your journey so check when you buy your ticket.
Seven Sisters Visitor Centre
Start your day at the Seven Sisters Visitor Centre across the road from the car park. Learn about the geology and history of the area and the local wildlife. A map and a list of birds you might spot on your walk is available too. From the Visitor Centre walk down to the coastguard cottages at Seaford Head.
Visitor Centre opening hours: April–September, every day 10am– 4.30pm subject to volunteer availability. Public toilets, including a wheelchair accessible toilet, are on site.
Seven Sisters Map
The Coastguard Cottages at Seaford Head
The walk to the coastguard cottages takes around 25-30 minutes although you’ll probably want to linger. Look out for the wind swept trees en-route. As you walk over the brow of the hill you’ll be rewarded with the iconic view of the Seven Sisters looming up behind the coastguard cottages. On a calm, sunny day the sparkling sea will mesmerise. This view is one of England’s most spectacular.
Seven Sisters Filming Locations
The Seven Sisters cliffs are often used as stand-ins for the not so White Cliffs of Dover some 80 miles away. Because of the lack of development in part of the Sussex coast, the Seven Sisters cliffs have preserved their whiter than white good looks. Regular landslips also expose the pristine white chalk.
You’ve probably seen these views before because the area is often used for filming locations. The coastguard cottages are featured in the film ‘Atonement’. It’s where Robbie and Cecilia dreamed of living after the war. The area is also shown at the beginning of the film ‘Robin Hood Prince of Thieves’. Remember the bit in ‘The Goblet of Fire’ where Harry Potter walks up the hill to find the boots that transport him to the Quidditch World Cup? It was shot at the Seven Sisters cliffs.
From the cottages walk down to the beach at Cuckmere Haven where the river Cuckmere meets the English Channel. The beach stretches out under the Seven Sisters and at low tide you can walk across the river to the base of the cliffs. Rumour has it smugglers used to land their booty here before hauling it up river to the small village of Alfriston.
You’ll get some stunning views of the cliffs from the beach. It’s shingle so it’s hard on the feet if you’re thinking of having a paddle and the English Channel is pretty chilly. At low tide look for crabs and sea anemones in the exposed rockpools.
Wildlife on the Cuckmere River
From the beach walk back up the valley alongside the river towards the car park. Behind the beach is an area of saline lagoons which were created to provide a habitat for wading birds. Depending on the time of year you might see a number of species as you walk.
Oystercatchers, gulls and kingfishers might be seen in early Spring followed by sightsing of swallows, martins and swifts in late spring. In migrating season the wetlands are home to waders, redshanks, ringed plovers and dunlin. Summer might reward with sightings heron, little egret, shelduck, mallard and Canada geese. Keep an eye out for sparrowhawks and hovering kestrels.
You’ll pass the Cuckmere Inn just by the bridge if you’re ready for a drink. Otherwise head back towards the car park where you started and head over the road to the Saltmarsh Cafe. It’s a lovely little cafe with a cosy courtyard. Treat yourself to tea or freshly ground hand-roasted coffee and cake. Guest rooms are also available if you’d like to stay a while.
Friston Forest Walk
From the cafe you could take a walk through Friston Forest before following the path to the South Downs Way and the start of the Seven Sisters Cliffs walk.
Duration: – From Seven Sisters Country Park to the coastguard cottages and back along the river to the visitor centre takes around an hour. Add in extra time for photo stops.
Public toilets, including a wheelchair accessible toilet, are on site at Seven Sisters Country Park visitor centre. Remember to check the opening times.
Kayaking on the Cuckmere River
Kayaking or paddle-boarding is a fabulous way to spend an hour on the Cuckmere and will give you a chance to see some of the birdlife up close. Buzz Active offer kayaking or SUP for individuals, groups, families and children from 6 years. Buzz Active are situated at the car park by the bridge at Seven Sister Country Park.
The Cuckmere River
The next part of our day takes us to the Seven Sisters walk. From Seven Sisters Country Park follow the South Downs Way signs. Before the trail reaches the sea it turns a sharp left and climbs the hill. You’ll likely meet a few sheep en route. Climb upwards and head towards the Seven Sisters cliffs. As you begin to climb the hill take in the wonderful views of the meandering Cuckmere River.
The Cuckmere River
The Seven Sisters Cliff Walk
Haven Brow, the first of the Seven Sisters, meets you at the top of the hill. From here walk east towards Birling Gap. If you’re not used to hill walking you’ll find this the most strenuous part of your day with ascents of 40-50 metres. Frequent stops will allow you to catch your breath along with some insanely spectacular views.
Looking towards Birling Gap and Belle Tout Lighthouse
The cliffs havae no set path along the route so just keep walking making sure to stay away from the edge. As you reach the peak of each brow you’ll meet with an ever-changing view of the stunning landscape. Keep walking until you reach Birling Gap where the Seven Sisters come to an end.
Birling Gap is literally that. A gap in the cliffs. It also marks the end of the Seven Sisters cliff walk.
Birling Gap is run by the National Trust and the clifftop makes a lovely spot for a picnic The visitor centre has a small exhibition where you can learn more about the geology and history of the area. There’s also an outdoor dining area, a cafe, gift shop and public toilets. There’s parking nearby so it’s one of the busier spots on the Sussex Heritage Coast and the bus also stops here.
Birling Gap Beach
The beach is accessed down metal steps and there’s also a viewing platform. Head down to the water’s edge for a close up view of the cliffs from ground level. You’ll appreciate their true scale from the beach below. There are rockpools and more fabulous views of the Sussex Heritage Coastline.
The Tiger Inn, East Dean
The Tiger Inn at the sleepy village of East Dean is perfect if you fancy a pub lunch. It’s a 20 minute walk inland from Birling Gap but worth the extra steps. The sixteenth century pub, which sits by a large green, is a cosy place in winter with low beams and a toasty fire. In summer the tables outside make for lovely al fresco dining. A nearby house sports a blue plaque – it’s where Sherlock Holmes allegedly spent his retirement.
The Tiger Inn
From Birling Gap you could continue walking east to Beachy Head passing Belle Tout and Beachy Head lighthouses. If you’re going to do that I recommend taking a full day’s hike from Seaford to the lovely seaside town of Eastbourne where the Sussex Heritage Coast finishes.
Today we’ll retrace our steps along the cliffs to the Seven Sisters Country Park. The views are slightly different on the return journey but they’re no less spectacular. If you’re done walking you could take the bus back to your start position. The number 12 stops at East Dean village on the A259.
Looking back towards Cuckmere Haven from Birling Gap
Duration: The walk from Seven Sisters Country Park car park to Birling Gap is approximately 4 miles and takes around 1.5 hours each way, To walk to the Tiger Inn takes an additional 20 minutes.
There are public toilets available at Birling Gap and Seven Sisters Country Park visitor centre.
Cliff falls and erosion at Seven Sisters Cliffs
Safety on the cliffs is important. The beautiful rugged coastline is constantly changing due to erosion and the cliffs are retreating by between 0.5 and one metre each year. Cliff falls and landslides can happen at any time and without warning. The cliffs are unstable and undercut in places so make sure you keep a distance of 5 metres between you and the cliff edge. Don’t be that person standing on the edge taking a selfie.
Don’t forget to wear good Hiking Boots/Shoesfor your visit to Seven Sisters Country Park.
What are the names of the Seven Sisters cliffs?
During your walk you may notice that there are actually eight sisters. The eighth bonus cliff was formed due to erosion by the sea.The cliffs run from west to east and are named in the following order. Brow means hill and the troughs between them are valleys.
- Haven Brow
- Short Brow
- Rough Brow
- Brass Point
- Flagstaff Brow
- Flat Hill
- Baily’s Hill
- Went Hill Brow
The best time to visit Seven Sisters Country Park
The Seven Sisters views are beautiful any time of year as long as you pick a clear day. These pictures were taken in July and in November so as long as it’s sunny it doesn’t matter when you go. Avoid windy days.
Tips for hiking the Seven Sisters Cliffs
Wear appropriate gear for the weather conditions. If it’s hot you’ll want to wear layers, take sunscreen, a hat and a water bottle. You might want to take some snacks or a picnic.
In winter take a waterproof jacket, hat and spare socks. Quick-dry convertible hiking trousers work well.
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