Devils Dyke Hike

Devils Dyke South DownsAfter settling in to our new housesit we were ready for a big day out and a bit of a challenge. The imposing South Downs lie just to the north of Brighton and Hove and one of the most famous spots is called Devil’s Dyke. Located right on the top of the Downs with unimpeded views north almost to London and south to the English Channel. A circular walk seemed a perfect idea.

The South Downs National Park

The South Downs run from Beachy Head in East Sussex to the Itchen Valley in Hampshire covering an area of around 260 square miles and stretching for 67 miles with the National Park being the newest in the country. They are only called the South Downs to differentiate them from another range of hills about 40 miles away which unsurprisingly are named the North Downs.

From the top of the Downs you can see the counties of Kent, London, Surrey, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex. Not bad eh? Can’t imagine there are many places in England where you could see 7 different counties. Any ideas?


Our route

With our current ‘home’ being an urban stay in the middle of Hove we had a walk of 2 miles through suburbia to the base of the Downs. The A27 dual carriageway seems to be a sort if urban-divide between the city of Brighton and other towns and the National Park so as soon as we crossed the footbridge we were suddenly in the middle of the countryside.

Our plan was to walk straight up the western side of Devils Dyke road and then come back via the Sussex Border Path and Saddlescombe Farm. Seemed a good idea to do a circular route.

Devils Dyke South Downs

Devils Dyke South Downs

Apart from a couple of dogwalkers and some golfers on a nearby course the walk up was unbelievably quiet. Patchy sunshine and a light wind made it perfect hiking conditions as we climbed the three mile path right to the top of the downs. I think most people drive up Devils Dyke Road and just park in the National Trust car park at the top for a short wander but by the time we arrived we’d already completed 5 miles.

Devils Dyke South Downs

Devils Dyke South Downs

Devils Dyke South Downs


Devil’s Dyke

The Devil’s Dyke is actually a one hundred metre deep V-shaped chalk valley that was caused by river erosion over thousands of years and has been a bit of a tourist attraction since Victorian times. Iron Age settlers lived and farmed here over 2,000 years ago and you can still see remains of the hill fort as you wander around the hill.

The myth goes that the devil was digging a huge trench in order to flood local towns when he stubbed his toe on a large rock. In temper he kicked the rock over the hills towards the sea and abandoned his dastardly flood plans. The rock ended up in Hove where it was named the Goldstone and remains to this day in Hove Park (Its “Hove, actually”).

Devils Dyke South Downs

Devils Dyke South Downs

After a picnic break on the grass enjoying the amazing views and watching a group of Asian tourists posing for countless selfies, we headed off to explore. There are remains of two incredible Victorian tourism experiences to see;

  1. The Funicular Railway – A narrow-gauge funicular railway ran from the village of Poynings right to the top (Dyke Railway).
  2. The Bicycle Railway – A very strange attraction that allowed visitors to sit on one of the newly-invented bicycles as it went around a fixed track. All part of the Victorian funfair that sprung up at the top in the late 1800s (Victorian funfair).
  3. Britains first Cable Car – As part of the Victorian fairground and the brainchild of James Henry Hubbard, the first ever aerial cable car in Britain was installed here in 1894 (Devil’s Dyke aerial cableway).

Devils Dyke South Downs

Devils Dyke South Downs

We headed for the self-guided walks though and decided to walk the impressively-named Chasm Explorer route that dropped right down in to the dyke and lead all the way through to Saddlescombe. Incredible views from the top and the bottom of the chasm and hardly any other walkers. Where on earth did everyone go when they got out of their cars at the top? Lunch in the pub maybe?

Devils Dyke South Downs

Two thirds of the way through the dyke we came across a couple of bumps in the path. Apparently these were the Devil’s Graves. He and his wife are said to be buried here and the rumours say that if you run around them backwards seven times then he will re-appear! Of course he will.

Devils Dyke South Downs


Saddlescombe Farm

Halfway around the Chasm Explorer we left the Devil’s Dyke National Trust site and crossed into another NT property at Saddlescombe Farm and Newtimber Hill. Although we’d researched the footpaths and bridleways we had no idea about this other place. Apparently it’s over 1000 years old and was once owned by the Knights Templar. So as we skirted the farm and car park we nosed around and looked out to see if it was worth visiting at another time. Jo was particularly taken with the Wildflour Cafe coffee shop and cute little outdoor space so it looks like we may be back.

Sussex Border Path

From Saddlescombe the South Downs Trail heads east but we turned south on the little-known Sussex Border Path. This is one of those Long Distance Walking routes and although it does actually run around the perimeter of both West and East Sussex there is a central spur that dives off south into Brighton down the county boundary.

Devils Dyke South Downs

So we picked this up just past Saddlescombe and followed it across the top of the hills all the way down to the edge of the city, once again enclosed within the A27. A beautiful quiet rural walk that doesn’t appear to be at all well known. Just us and a few friendly cows to keep us company.

Devils Dyke South Downs


Devil’s Dyke Hike

It was certainly a day to remember with hours of walking through quiet untouched countryside with added historical sites halfway, just the sort of walk we really enjoy. The only downside was the final hour walking back through the suburban landscape into Hove. After the fresh air and amazing views of Devil’s Dyke it was a complete counterpoint to the whole experience.

From start to finish we completed a 14 mile hike up and back down the incredible South Downs. Legs aching a bit on our return but with a real determination to return and do it all again in a couple of weeks time.

Devils Dyke South Downs

24/07/2020


39 comments

    • It was a brilliant hike with so many different parts that made it even more interesting. We’re thinking of trying it in reverse in a couple of weeks if the weather holds out. Long walk but so good.

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  1. What a wonderful walk and so lovely to have most of it to yourselves. I couldn’t believe it when you said there was a group of Asian tourists. It’s mind blowing that anyone would think international travel is a good idea right now. While you’re in that area and, if you can manage it on a day when it’s not busy, I’d recommend visiting the South Downs and Weald Open Air Museum. It’s wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brilliant to have such a quiet walk in such wonderful countryside. The tourists were incredible as always and we enjoyed watching them posing and jumping and pouting for 40 minutes before they left having looked at nothing! The museum sounds great but we don;t have a car so could be tricky getting there, will do some investigating.

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  2. Fantastic hike for sure! Lovely to be able to just wander on the downs and see so many different vantage points! Did you follow a map there? Just wondering because I tried to do the Skyline Walk in Bath and couldn’t complete it because I lost where the trail went 😦

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  3. I’ve walked Devil’s Dyke too – I’m not much for walking, but the name and the back story won me over. I also seem to recall that though there were a lot of people hanging around the top, very few of them actually do the walk; where they end up is a mystery to me too! 14 miles is a lot though, walking the Dyke alone was more than enough for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Devil’s Dyke is such a good walk but you’re so right about the majority of people not venturing far from their own cars. They seem to do 20 minutes wandering around before looking for something to eat.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s a long time since I visited the South Downs (when we lived in Hampshire) – it’s lovely isn’t it? Devil’s Dyke looks like a great walk – I’d like to check it out at some point when we’re down that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Devil’s Dyke was a great walk but the whole South Downs are absolutely brilliant for hiking and exploring. So much to see and so many footpaths.

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  5. This looks like a brilliant walk and with so few people out and about how could you not enjoy it? I liked the history and the countryside looks amazing. Thanks for your comprehensive and interesting write up of a great hike.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 14 miles!!! Good effort guys. That’s a right old schlep. Well worth it though from the pics. Must be brilliant having all that open space to yourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another interesting blast from the past read for me thanks Jon. We spent many a happy day at DD when growing up. Probably didn’t appreciate it as much at the time, as I do now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beautiful spot with amazing views but you;re so right about not appreciating things when you are younger. Same for everyone I guess. We certainly appreciated how great it was though.

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    • It was a long old hike but the weather was great and the company even better so we had the best day out. Easy to find lovely places fairly closeby down here.

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