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Severn Sisters

Bill Bryson is one of my favourite travel writers. I love the perspective he brings to his books about the UK as a knowledgeable outsider having been born in the US but having lived for a long time just down the road from where I grew up in North Yorkshire. If you enjoy a good travel book then I can highly recommend both ‘Notes from a Small Island’ and ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’. In one of my favourite passages in ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’, Bryson describes the walk from Eastbourne over the Seven Sisters. It sounded so incredible that it inspired me to go and visit myself.

What are the Seven Sisters?

Walks on the British coast

“To my left were bosomy hills of green and gold, to the right a spangled plane of bright blue sea. Dividing the two were cliffs of brilliant white”

– Bill Bryson, The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island

The Seven Sisters are a series of chalk cliffs overlooking the English Channel between Eastbourne and Seaford. They are located within the South Downs National Park and you should visit soon as they are gradually being eroded by the sea. The chalk cliffs offer a stunning backdrop whatever the weather and have been used in a number of famous films including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Atonement.

How did we spend our day at the Seven Sisters?

Coast line with lighthouse

Eastbourne is only a couple of hours away from London by train so the Seven Sisters are perfect for a day trip from the capital. We would recommend checking the weather ahead of time though because it was absolutely chucking it down when we went. Not to be deterred by the weather we took the 12X Coaster from Eastbourne train station and got off at Downs View Lane. From there it was a short walk down to the National Trust Centre at Birling Gap. 

The NationaI Trust Centre is well worth a visit, even at the start of your day as it offers a lot of information about the local area and the cliff erosion that is affecting the area. We took shelter from the ran and enjoyed some of our packed lunch before starting on the walk back to Eastbourne.

The weather was almost unbearable but the views more than made up for it. They were incredible. It is quite a tough walk up and down the undulating cliffs but you are rewarded with stunning views along the way, especially once you reach the Beachy Head Lighthouse. Despite the wind and rain, we kept stopping for photos so by the time we got back to Eastbourne we were absolutely drenched. Foolish as we are, we did not take a change of clothes so had to cancel our plans for a dinner out and ordered takeaway on our journey back to London. Hot cheesy pizza never tasted so good!

How can you do this yourself?

Well firstly, we had a fantastic day despite the weather but we would have enjoyed ourselves even more in the sunshine. Check the weather before you go! The Seven Sisters are easily accessible from London by public transport. To get there, take a train from Victoria to Eastbourne for only £38 return. From there you can get a bus out to Birling Gap or walk from East Dean as we did.  You really only need a day for this trip but if you fancy making a weekend of it then there are plenty of places to stay in Eastbourne itself.  If you are planning to visit Eastbourne as part of a trip to the south coast then Brighton which is only 24 miles down the coast. Trains to Brighton run regularly, taking only 37 minutes and costing £11.40. Have you been to the Seven Sisters? Have any books inspired your travels? Let us know in the comments below.

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Alex is a solicitor at an international law firm based in London. He has always loved travelling and loves to eat like a local. His favourite destination is Peru where he spent a month travelling in 2009 with World Challenge.

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