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Secret Walks: Cow Gap

Secret Walks: Cow Gap

Secret Walks: Cow Gap

For an off-the-beaten-track walk, Cow Gap is the perfect way to explore the stunning South Downs coast, discover the beach at low tide and enjoy views of the magnificent lighthouse from sea level.  The more adventurous can walk across Falling Sands to Beachy Head Lighthouse to explore this world famous landmark.

Before You Go

Check tide times and weather.  There is more to explore at Cow Gap beach at low tide and a walk to the lighthouse should definitely not be completed after low tide or even during a seasonal high-low tide.  We suggest departing at least 3 hours before low tide to reach the lighthouse.

Please note there are no toilets along the route and the only refreshments are available at the start points by either Bedes School, Holywell or Beachy Head Countryside Centre. 


South Downs National ParkBeginning at the start of the South Downs Way, at Dukes Drive, take a left after Bedes School and follow the path to the cliffside walk.  Stop for a photo opportunity overlooking the Holywell beaches before continuing west along the coastal walk.

Did you know? Holywell is named after its natural spring, which can still be found today at the base of the cliffs.

Whitbread Hollow

After a short walk you will emerge onto Whitbread Hollow, where you'll also find a range of immaculate playing fields used by Bedes School in the natural dip of the Downs.  This was originally a site of 19th century allotments set up by the Gilbert family to help the poor help themselves. 

Continue along the coastline uphill until you spot a bench with a path veering off to the left.

Cliffside Path

Cow Gap path

Follow the secluded path down towards the beach.  You'll find steps carved into the cliff in places and views across Cow Gap - great for spotting passing yachts, motorboats and even jet surfers on a good day.  At the end of the path take the metal steps down to the beach.

Cow Gap Beach

Giant boulders, some as big as an armchair, large swathes of reef and flourishing wildlife are abound here with nesting and migrating birds and dense marine life.  The chalk rock gives the water an unmistakeable turquoise hue and the giant smooth rocks are a great spot to sit down and bathe your feet in the cool but rocky waters.

Beachy Head Lighthouse

Follow the beach west - taking care not to walk too close to the cliffs, and you'll find the most amazing view of the world famous lighthouse.  Walk along the emerging reef for an even better view.  

As the tide heads out, the more adventurous can walk across the rocks and sands to reach the lighthouse base and climb up to explore this Grade II listed building.  Allow 1 - 2 hours to reach the lighthouse and give yourself plenty of time to explore before the tide turns.


Cow Gap beach walkFor a different route back, follow the beach east towards Holywell, allow an hour as most of the route will be rocks.  The cliffside path uphill from Holywell will bring you back to your start point.  Alternatively, from Whitbread Hollow take the challenging uphill walk to Beachy Head or one of the higher paths, leading onto the South Downs Way, which will return you to Bedes School. 

Other routes:

Cow Gap can be reached from several other locations.  Start at Beachy Head (near the pub) and follow the walk down towards the sea, or walk along the beach from either Holywell (1 hour) or Birling Gap (3 hours).

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Product Information

  1. Beachy Head

    Beachy Head is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain. At 530 feet high, the majestic cliffs provide magnificent views.

  2. South Downs Way


    Why not walk or cycle the South Down's Way. The route stretches for 90 miles between Eastbourne and Winchester, taking in picturesque villages and stunning scenery. It is suitable for walkers, horse riders and mountain bikes.

    The Downs around Eastbourne are recognised as an area of outstanding…

Itinerary Distances

FromToDistance * (metric)
Beachy Head (50.73863,0.25118)South Downs Way (50.75008,0.22455)2.04
Total Distance *2.04 miles
Estimated Journey Time4 minutes

* Approximate distance by road

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Eastbourne Visitor Centre, Welcome Building, Compton Street, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN21 4BP

01323 415415

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