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South Downs Ultra Challenge

2 days
Grade 4

About the challenge

This is an extremely arduous 100km endurance trek over the rolling hills and high ridges of the scenic South Downs. We walk through day and night, with some steep ups and downs, before coming to the spectacular final stretch over the famous white chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters. We finish on the highest chalk sea cliff in England – the beautiful headland of Beachy Head, near Eastbourne. You’ll be incredibly happy to see it!

This is a very tough challenge – you will need to be a very fit, experienced walker and determined to conquer the hilly terrain and the fatigue in order to succeed. Your sense of achievement will last a lifetime!

Dates & prices

Departs Days Charity Availability Registration fee   Fundraising target   Payment option  
24 Jun 2017 2 Open challenge Spaces £49 + £350 Or £175 Book now

The itinerary

Day 1 & Night:

We set off early in the morning – essential for completing the distance – from the historic market town of Arundel, featured in the Domesday Book. We follow the River Arun through an area of wetlands, with good views of Arundel’s wonderful castle behind us. Our first steep climb brings us up onto the Downs; we continue along the ridge, buoyed by the amazing views. Most of our day is spent dipping down and climbing back up again! Towards the end of the day, at roughly our half-way point, we climb up to the highest point of the trek – Ditchling Beacon (248m), which is the third-highest point on the South Downs. It will probably be getting dark at this stage. After a brief rest, we continue walking, passing Lewes, an old Roman settlement complete with a Saxon castle, and head southwest, back towards the hills.

There are some steep sections for the next few miles; you’ll be feeling tired and in the dark it’s more challenging, so it’s important to take it steady. We walk along a ridge, descend and climb up steeply again to Beddingham Hill and its twin radio masts. We’ll be able to see the lights of the built-up coastal belt. Our route now contours along to reach Firle Beacon (217m), a great point for another rest before we head downhill via the ancient, well-preserved Long Burgh long barrow; we soon come to the small village of Alfriston, with its authentic half-timbered buildings. We cross and then follow Cuckmere River as it winds its way to the coast – this is our first flat section of any length! Depending on your walking pace, it should also be getting light again around this point, and this, combined with the respite for our leg muscles, should help us feel more refreshed and determined!

Day 2: Alfriston – Seven Sisters – Beachy Head

The way ahead is particularly scenic, which helps to motivate your tired body and tick off the remaining miles. Cuckmere Haven, where the river meets the English Channel, is a common film location: with its backdrop of white chalk cliffs, the beach is often used to depict Dover. Second World War pillboxes and other remains show its role in the country’s defence. From here, we take the South Downs Way over the Seven Sisters, a series of rolling chalk cliffs – the most well-known section of our day, and arguably the most spectacular. Some of the ascents and descents before us are steep and arduous, others more gradual, but with every climb our destination grows nearer and it’s not long before we can see it in the distance. The views over the sea are wonderful on a clear day and will encourage you to keep going!

Dipping right down to the abandoned National Trust hamlet of Birling Gap, with its nineteenth-century fishermen’s cottages clustered perilously close to the eroding cliffs, we climb again. We pass Belle Tout lighthouse and then make a last uphill effort to the top of Beachy Head. We’ve made it, and have earned a powerful sense of achievement that will never leave us!

We have time to celebrate with our fellow participants and enjoy the views before returning home.

Total distance: 100km

Detailed information

What's Included?

The price includes experienced Discover Adventure leaders and support staff throughout to manage the event safely and enjoyably, marshalling stops with water, food and snacks. Parking is available at Beachy Head, and we provide coach transport from there to the start at Arundel.

What's Excluded?

We are not including personal insurance (optional), any parking fees or transport costs, or accommodation if required. Approx. £50 is recommended for personal expenses and we strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.

Trekking Information

Groups may set off at staggered intervals (depending on numbers) but you can go at your own pace. The full 100km walk should take approximately 30 hours for fit and strong walkers; other should allow longer. It may take some walkers up to 36 hours or more.

This is not a competitive event! You can go at your own pace, but if we are concerned about you being able to finish the distance safely, we will recommend you stop early.


We trek mainly on grass or gravel paths but there are some small tarmac roads and at least one main road crossing. Some sections may be muddy. There are many hills of varying length and gradient, and little true flat terrain. The environment we walk through needs the respect of all its users to be preserved. Please walk on the path surface rather than on the vegetation growing beside it, don’t remove stones from the paths and don’t take short-cuts. Please follow the Countryside Code.


Be prepared for any weather! This may only be a one-day event, but you still need appropriate, good quality footwear and clothing to cope with the weather conditions and the length of walk.



Preparing for the challenge

Clothing & Equipment

We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice. Each person should bring a small daypack to carry lunch, camera, waterproofs, sun cream, a warm fleece and any other items needed during the day.


This is a long and tough one-day walk and it is consequently vital that you train sufficiently for it. We will supply you with a thorough training guide once you have registered. The more training that you do the more you will enjoy the experience!

It is an endurance event, designed to be very challenging for those of good health and fitness. It is achievable for most people provided they train far enough in advance to gain the fitness and experience required – and have a healthy dose of self-belief and determination.

Trip Safety

Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency mobile phones, medical kit and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency UK back-up. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate.  Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires – is all done with your safety in mind.

Worldwide Sustainable Tourism

Long before Responsible or Sustainable Tourism became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through. 

Discover Adventure Projects

We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up.

Carbon Offsetting

We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them. Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with The Conversation Volunteers and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at or call 01302 388883.