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Eastbourne, East Sussex

South Downs

The South Downs National Park is Britain`s newest National Park. Plan a walk in the gentle sloping hills and river valleys which cover over 70 miles of across Sussex from Winchester to Lewes. Beachy Head with its white chalk cliffs reaching 600ft (180m) high is the most famous landmark along the coast.  The South Downs is an area steeped in history with monuments and ancient sites dating back to the Bronze Age.  Busy modern towns and historic villages such as Alfriston also pepper the landscape. There is such a wide variety of architecture to enjoy from centuries` old flint faced cottages hidden away in quiet corners. Enjoy the cathedral city of Chichester or lively Brighton, with its elegant Regency buildings and modern shopping complex, nightclubs and a vibrant culture all its own.

One of the `best walks in the world` can be enjoyed along the South Downs Way, which takes in the views from clifftops, peaceful rivers, quaint historic villages and pubs.  Biodiverse habitats under protection of the National Trust include ancient woodland, lowland heath and chalk grassland.  Whether walking, cycling, driving, or on horseback, the South Downs can be enjoyed by visitors of all levels of fitness.

Cuckmere Haven and the Seven Sisters is a magnificent sight beloved of artists and photographers; one of the last areas of natural coastline.  Down in the valley the meandering river bends can be followed on foot (or by bicycle) to the sea.

Try a circular walk for views over the Downs and then stop for refreshment at the Tiger Inn in East Dean. This was a centre for smuggling in the early 1800s. Local people must have made a good, if risky, living from wrecks. Some wrecks were deliberately caused, by the putting up of lights so the sailors thought they had reached the safe harbour at either Newhaven or Eastbourne. Those caught, were deported to Australia.

Typical English country pub gardens abound here where you can drink traditional ales and enjoy home cooked food.  It is a great pleasure to enjoy a cream tea in the village of Alfriston where you can see among other picture-perfect historic buildings the 14th century Clergy House, a rare Wealden Hall House, thatched, with a timber frame, and take a peaceful walk along the banks of the Cuckmere river by St Andrew`s Church. Founded in 1360 and built in the shape of a cross, St Andrews is also known as `the Cathedral of the South Downs` with its central bell tower housing six bells, the pulleys of which come down right into the centre of the church, making bell ringing practice on Tuesday nights an intriguing sight.

The world famous Glyndebourne opera house, established in 1934, is hidden away in the South Downs countryside near Lewes.  Opera goers have the benefit of the glorious productions both old and new and take picnic tea on the lawns, mostly in evening dress, during the interval.

The legendary Devil`s Dyke near Brighton is one of the largest dry valleys.  Home to a prehistoric settlement and hill fort, it is now a habitat for butterflies and birds, and a popular site for walkers and hang gliders catching the thermal updraughts.