You get a lot of scenery for the three miles of this outstanding downland walk along Devil’s Dyke. This version is my favourite of numerous variants: much better, in my opinion, to start at the bottom of the South Downs – as I’ve done here – and walk up, then earn the view far over the Weald to the Surrey Hills. You soon leave the crowds behind as you dip down into the longest downland dry valley, and past a wooded lake for the finale.
I’ve suggested an alternative start – useful for bus travellers – from Devil’s Dyke itself, though it does rather give the game away and reduces the element of surprise. I’ve picked the path that makes a less steep ascent than the alternatives and looks out across the Weald in its early stages.
OS Explorer map OL11. Two possible start points: Poynings village centre or Devil’s Dyke; 3 miles; one steep ascent from the base of the Downs to the top)
1 With the Royal Oak on your right, follow the road 30 yards, then just after Dyke Lane House turn left into Dyke Lane (signposted as a bridleway). At the Devil’s Dyke National Trust sign, just inside the woods, fork right uphill, then 20 yards later fork right again on a roughly level path (the steps up to the left also lead up to the Devil’s Dyke Hotel but are very steep and there are fewer views). The path runs close to the field edge then eventually rises slightly. Where a path crosses keep forward along the contour (avoiding the path to the left that rises steeply).
2 The path emerges into a field corner then immediately goes left through a gate. Follow the bridleway, which rises steadily, eventually getting big views.
3 At the top go forward at a four-way signpost, following the bridleway a further 20 yards, then turn left along the top (Brighton briefly comes into view away to the right) to the Devil’s Dyke Hotel.
4 Standing with the view behind you, take the public road to the right of the Devil’s Dyke Hotel, past the bus stop, then find the waymarked path on the left just after the bus turning circle, through a kissing gate and through some trees, where you can see the valley ahead that you’re about to drop into.
5 Turn right at the next junction after 50 yards, through a gate, then left down on the path that leads down into the floor of the dry valley (this is Devil’s Dyke). There’s a chunk of brickwork on the valley floor, presumably part of the long-defunct cable car that once came this way (there’s a bit more visible on the top of the slope to the right). Carry on along the bottom of the valley for half a mile.
6 At a fence by a National Trust sign for Devil’s Dyke (facing the other way), take the right-hand gate by the bridleway signpost. This track leads through woods, dropping gently (soon ignore a rising path to the right). A long, thin lake appears among the trees to the left; soon take the left fork of paths inside the edge of the wood, still close to and above the lake.
7 Emerge into a field and carry on alongside the lake, crossing it at the end by a mini-dam on the left, then turn right in the next field, along the right edge towards Poynings. Go over a stile by a gate and through a yard onto the road; turn left to reach the Royal Oak.
Discover more of Sussex’s wonderful walking potential in our Slow Travel guide: