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11 Magical Walks in Sussex

11 Magical Walks in Sussex

There isn’t a better way to get to know Sussex than walking in it, these 11 Magical Walks in Sussex are my personal favourites.

Walking is one of my great loves in life and it is something that I do whenever I can, wherever I can, wherever I am in the world.

But Sussex, England is the place I call home and wherever I travel throughout the world, I do always miss the lush countryside, enchanted forests, abundant wildlife and magical walks here.

Sussex’s countryside is full of hidden gems and throughout this guide, I will take you away from the towns and cities and into the wild, I will help you discover its magical and enchanting side.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you click a link and purchase something I have recommended I will earn a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay but helps me to keep Travels by Izzy going.

My Favourite Magical Walks in Sussex

Kingley Vale

Kingley Vale is well known for its ancient and twisted yew trees, a symbol of death, immortality and rebirth.

Located in the South Downs National Park the Yew Tree Grove here is home to some of the oldest trees in Britain as some of these giants have been standing for 1,000 years. 

The history of Kingley Vale dates back to the Bronze Age which is 3300 BC and has been used throughout history. At the top of the hill here is the most interesting site that remains, the Devil’s Humps, these would originally have been burial mounds reserved for people with high status. 

Walking through Yew Tree Grove and the whole park has such an eerie feeling, you really can feel the history of the place and the history of those who have walked it before us.

Not to mention as well how truly stunning the twisting and winding branches of the Yew trees are making this maybe one of the most magical walks in Sussex.

With several footpaths throughout you can find the perfect length route to suit your needs and length of time. Just head to the West Stoke car park on Downs Road, Chichester to start your adventure.

Chanctonbury Ring

Chanctonbury Ring is a prehistoric hillfort atop of Chanctonbury Hill, thought to date back to the late Bronze Age, the use of this structure is unknown but was abandoned for about 500 year before being used again in the Roman Period.

The site then become abandoned again before the landowner in the 18th century planted a ring of beech trees around it perimeter to beautify the site.

The temples and archaeological evidence no longer remain at the site on ground level, all that remains for us to see is the ring of trees.

🧝🏻‍♀️ Legend says that if you run around the ring of trees seven times anti-clockwise you will summon the Devil, once he appears it says he will offer the summoner a bowl of soup in exchange for their soul.

You can access Chanctonbury Ring from many different locations, either along the South Downs Way, from Washington, Findon or the Chanctonbury Ring Road car park.

With heaps of footpaths as this is a very popular area for magical walks in Sussex you can easily map out a route to suit your day out!

Devils Dyke

Devil’s Dyke is a very well-known spot on the South Downs, neighbouring the popular tourist hotspot Brighton it is somewhere that locals and tourists can be found every day.

The Dyke itself is a 100-metre-deep v-shaped dry valley which has been used throughout history they believe as a defensive site because of its amazing view of the surrounding countryside.

In Victorian times Devil’s Dyke became a tourist attraction with people flocking here from all around, they even built a railway from Hove to what is now Dyke Farm and a cable car to help people reach the top!

In Folklore, it is believed that Devils Dyke was formed by the Devil, Sussex was the last county in England to fall into Christianity and in the Devil’s fury when losing his last remaining foothold decided to dig a trench from the ocean to Sussex to drown its people.

A local Hermit after hearing this made a deal with the Devil that if he could dig his trench in one night he could have his soul, if not he had to abandon his plan. After tricking a cockerel into crowing at midnight the Devil ran away believing dawn was about to break, leaving behind his half-finished trench, the valley we see today making this a magical walk in Sussex filled with history.

Being part of the South Downs Way, a popular and well-known walk in Sussex, there are plenty of footpaths and bridleways to choose from here, you can either walk along the South Downs Way atop the downs or plan a circular route taking you into one of the many villages or woodlands around.

St Leonards Forest

St Leonard’s Forest runs from Horsham to Tonbridge and makes up the western part of the Wealdon Forest Ridge.

714 acres owned by Foresty England is open to the public with many different access points from Owlbeech Woods, Leachpool Woods, Roosthole and Buchan Country Park.

The rest remains private with a few footpaths and bridleways to be found running through it.

Growing up in Colgate a village in the heart of West Sussex we spent many years exploring St Leonard’s Forest and its ancient woodland, timid wildlife and enchanting brooks make up a large part of my love for the Sussex Countryside.

🧝🏻‍♀️ According to Legend, St Leonard was a 6th Century Hermit who lived in the forests that now bear his name, a Dragon was said to also call this forest home, devouring men and cattle that crossed its path. St Leonard is believed to have slayed the dragon and it is from this that the forest now carries his name.

Roosthole, Owlbeech and Leachpool are my favourite parts of St Leonard’s forest to explore, you can either find more accessible magical walks in Sussex from Owlbeech and Leachpool or a much more rural and natural path from Roosthole.

The best time of the year to visit St Leonard’s Forest is in the Spring where you can find the forest floor carpeted in vibrant, sweet-smelling bluebells.

The Knepp Estate — My Favourite Walk in Sussex

The Knepp Estate is one of my very favourite magical walks in Sussex.

If you are not familiar with Knepp, they are rewilding pioneers, taking their 3,500-acre piece of land and allowing it to be restored to its natural way.

Knepp shows us what the English countryside would have been like before we started farming, on the land there are free-roaming animals such as cattle, ponies, pigs and deer. These roaming herbivores maintain the land and keep the growing scrub from taking over.

During your time in the estate look out for the ruin of Knepp Castle, once a full building now all that stands today is a single tower dating back to the 12th century.

There are 16 miles of public footpaths around the Knepp estate all starting from their newly opened Rewilding Kitchen & Shop, make sure to stop for a cake or browse at the local produce!

You can download the map from their website, here you can find many different route options allowing you to take it all in and explore the full project with their 10km walk, or if you just want to go for a nice evening stroll, which is one of my favourite ways to visit, then you can opt for one of the shorter walks.

Throughout your walk whichever length you choose keep your eye out for the grazing animals, as nature has been allowed to take over here you will often see an abundance of additional wildlife too. Making Knepp my favourite place to truly return to nature and to myself.

Amberley Castle

Erected as a 12th-century manor house and fortified in 1377, Amberley Castle has had many owners and has changed in countless ways over the years.

Today Amberley Castle has been converted into an award-winning country hotel with quite a high room rate!

But don’t worry if you can’t afford to stay you can still pass through the grounds on a public footpath and explore the quaint Amberley Village known for its traditional thatched cottages.

From Amberley, you can either follow the public footpath passed the castle and along to the River Arun, or you can cross the B2139 to get onto the South Downs Way and creat a circular route through Rackham.

Halnaker Windmill

Built for the Duke of Richmond in the 18th century as the feudal mill of the Goodwood Estate, this windmill had been working ever since until it was struck by lightening in 1905.

Since then it has undergone a few restorations and is now a wonderful reminder of English history.

But the Halnaker Windmill is not the only reason you’ll want to visit this hidden gem, from the parking up to the mill you will find yourself walking through a beautiful tunnel of trees.

This tunnel is such a wonder, especially during the Autumn as its leaves turn different shades or orange and brown creating an incredible landscape. It is turning into a very popular walk in Sussex.

The Halnaker Windmill can easily be missed, to get there head to Halnaker on the A285 and keep your eye out for Warehead Farm, there is a small free parking area at the entrance to the the farm.

Once you have arrived you can head up the lane and through the tunnel of trees to see the Halnkaker Windmill.

There is only a public footpath giving you access to and from the mill, you cannot walk anywhere directly from it but if you head back towards the car you can join up with some of the other footpaths in the area.

The Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters are white chalk seacliffs that run along the English south coast.

These cliffs are firstly absolutely stunning and huge, walking along them you are amazed at just how large they are.

They are also a geological phenomenon as this chalk formed under an ancient sea that existed with the Dinosaurs about 65 to 100 million years ago!

The Seven Sisters form part of the Sussex Heritage Coast as it features many archaeological sites from throughout history such as fossils, burial sites, argicultural history, settlements and defense structures, like the ones you can still see today from World War 2.

This unique and natural beauty is not one to be missed when visiting and has a well-deserved spot on my magical walks in Sussex list.

Located between Seaford and Eastbourne the best place to start for your walk is in Seaford, this cute coastal town has plenty of parking and will give you iconic views of the white cliffs throughout your walk.

To walk all seven cliffs there and back is about a 20km trip all in, so make sure to pack some supplies as you’ll need them after walking up and down all seven cliffs twice!

There is no need for a map as it is one continuous path the whole way along, however, if you would prefer to switch it up with a more circular route or do something shorter you can find plenty of walk ideas by studying the public footpaths and bridleways in the area on Outdoor GPS. Due to its popularity there are many options for this great walk in Sussex.

Whichever route you choose if you pick a beautiful English sunny day you will have an array of colours all around you from turquoise glittering oceans, rich green grassy hills and contrasting white cliffs.

seven sisters beach

Ashdown Forest

The Ashdown Forest is famously known as the home of Winnie the Pooh, the first book was published in 1926 and written by Alan Milne.

Living in London the family purchased a home near the north border of the Ashdown Forest, his son Christopher Robin was only a child at the time and spent the majority of his time whilst they were in the countryside exploring the forest.

It was from his tales of his adventures that the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh was formed.

But it has a much broader history, originally a medieval hunting forest in 1066 that was then used up until Tudor times, famously known to be used by Henry VIII.

The Ashdown Forest also boasts a rich archaeological history with much evidence of prehistoric activity dating back 50,000 years ago, here they have found settlements, arrow heads and hunting enclousures.

This heathland that is now open to the public is also a Site of Special Scientific Evidence, which is used for conservation especially, with an area specially dedicated to the protection of Europe’s most threatened bird species.

🙋🏻‍♀️ However, if you are a lover of Winnie the Pooh many of the sites and landscapes from the book can still be seen today such as Hundred Acre Wood, North Pole and Gloomy Place.

To plan your day out you can find all the suggested walks from the Ashdown Forestry Centre on their website but a great place to start is Pooh Corner.

Pulborough Brooks

The Pulborough Brooks is a 400-acre nature reserve owned by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).

This forest and wetland is home to a huge variety of native birds as well as many wintering species, while a lot of the reserve is inaccessible due to the floodplains there are many walkways and footpaths throughout.

There are a few different areas within the brooks you can explore, starting from Pulborough village you can walk across the floodplains, however, be mindful of the rainfall and time of year as during most of the winter if the rain has been heavy much of this can be underwater.

Alternatively, you can start from the RSPB car park located between Pulborough and Storrington, here you can either walk into the woods and then link up with other public footpaths in the area or stay within the nature reserve and observe the diverse flora and fauna here.

One of our favourite ways to visit the Pulborough Brooks was to come near sunset and observe from the bird-watching huts, here you can quietly watch as the sun sets and the whole landscape is transformed to orange with the reflection of the sky on the water.

Ouse Valley Viaduct

The Ouse Valley Viaduct or sometimes known as the Balcombe Viaduct carries the Brighton to London railway line over the River Ouse.

Located between Haywards Heath and Balcombe the Ouse Valley Viaduct is a structural marvel, it is said the construction of it which began in 1939 and finished in 1841 used 11 million bricks!

Known for being the most elegant viaduct in Britain this Grade II listed viaduct has been problematic throughout history undergoing many restoration works with the last major one finishing in 1999.

Once only a spot known by locals it is now a bit of hotspot, but this doesn’t take away from it’s magic.

You can either head straight to the Ouse Valley Viaduct and find some parking here on the main road or to incorporate it into a longer walk I recommend starting from the parking at Ardingly Reservoir.

From here you can find many public footpaths either around the lake and then to the viaduct or a large circular route taking you right past the Ouse Valley Viaduct.

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