South Downs Way - MTB

South Downs Way - MTB

Cycle the South Downs Way from Winchester to Eastbourne: 100 miles of National Trail.

3 to 6 nights
100 miles
Moderate to Strenuous

From £440 per person

Discover the available tours

About this route

Embark on a mountain biking holiday along the only National Trail open to cyclists from start to finish: the South Downs Way. This off-road route clambers along the chalk downs of Hampshire and Sussex, rising to old beacon viewpoints and charging down hard-packed pathways.

Stretching from Winchester to Eastbourne, the South Downs Way MTB is less than an hour from London, but you’d never know it while you’re out here. High above rolling patchwork fields, the trail tends to avoid towns and tarmac, favouring dirt bridleway through lush countryside. Make it all the way to the coast and the chalk clifftops above the English Channel will reward you with some truly epic views.

© Contours Walking Holidays South Downs Way - MTB map
100 miles (160 km)
2nd January to 24th December

Holiday highlights

Touring along white pathways where the soil has peeled back from the chalk beneath.

Experiencing exhilarating descents from Butser Hill, Harting Down and Chanctonbury Ring, with plenty of smaller plummets between them.

Completing a National Trail by bike, all 100 miles and endless hills of it.

Available tours

CodeTourDurationDifficultyPrice per person
C-SDW-MB0 From Winchester to Eastbourne 3 nights, 2 days riding Strenuous£440
C-SDW-MB1 From Winchester to Eastbourne 4 nights, 3 days riding Demanding / Strenuous£550
C-SDW-MB2 From Winchester to Eastbourne 5 nights, 4 days riding Moderate / Demanding£660
C-SDW-MB3 From Winchester to Eastbourne 6 nights, 5 days riding Moderate£755

South Downs Way - MTB 3 nights, 2 days riding

£NNN per person
  • Itinerary
  • What's included?
  • Extra nights?
  • Tour facts
  • Elevation & terrain
  • Travel info
  • Weather

Travel to Winchester where your first night's accommodation has been booked

Day 1

Winchester to Amberley. 49 miles (78.5km) / 5548 ft (1691 m) ascent

Day 2

Amberley to Eastbourne. 50.5 miles (81km) / 6030 ft (1838 m) ascent


Depart from Eastbourne after breakfast

Your Itinerary

The daily mileages quoted are average trail miles only and do not include the distance from the trail to your accommodation. We do not expect you to have to travel more than 2.5 miles from the trail to your accommodation.

Below are the additional costs that may apply depending on your requirements. Our standard prices per person are based upon two people sharing a room; if you are on your own, or are part of a group but require a room of your own, then the Solo Traveller or Single Supplements apply respectively:

Solo Traveller Supplement
£60.00 per person / per night
Single Supplement
£45.00 per person / per night

You can add rest days at any of the overnight stops:

Extra night (Standard)
£65.00 per person / per night

What's included?

  • 3 nights' accommodation in en-suite rooms (where available) in selected B&B’s, hotels, inns and guesthouses along the trail.
  • Breakfast each day.
  • Door to door luggage transfer.
  • Maps with the route marked on and a guidebook or route notes describing the trail.
  • An information pack containing an itinerary, instructions on how to find your accommodation each night and a kit list.
  • Detailed travel instructions on how to get to the start of your holiday and back from the end of it.

Extra Nights & Rest Days

Book an extra night into your holiday and see the sights, explore the local trails or take the time to rest and relax in picturesque surroundings.

Wondering where to book that extra night?

An extra night at the start of your holiday can be a great way to see the sights before you and your bike are 50% mud. Winchester is a beautiful, historic city full of Georgian buildings and gothic architecture. It’s host to Winchester Cathedral, one of the largest in Europe, and King Arthur’s round table over in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle.

Take time to bask in your own achievement with an extra night at Eastbourne. There are spectacular views from Beachy Head and a load of historic attractions, from Redoubt fortress to Sovereign Harbour. If you’re not ready to stop the ride, enjoy a stretch of the Coastal Culture Trail that links Eastbourne with Hastings along the beautiful seafront.

You can add rest days at any of the overnight stops:

Extra night (Standard)
£65.00 per person / per night

Tour Facts

Total distance: 99.5 miles (159.5 km)
Duration: 3 nights, 2 days riding
Minimum daily distance: 49 miles (78.5 km)
Maximum daily distance: 50.5 miles (81 km)
Code: C-SDW-MB0 Grade: Strenuous
Season: 2nd January - 24th December
Start of holiday: Winchester
End of holiday: Eastbourne

Elevation & Terrain

Route profile

South Downs Way - MTB Route Profile

The first ascent after Winchester rises to Cheesefoot Head, followed by a descent to a series of small hills and a climb to Beacon Hill, where the views are fantastic.

It’s a sharp drop from here, with two more big climbs and falls on the way to Butser Hill, the highest point on the South Downs Way. The descent here is intense, plunging down through Queen Elizabeth Country Park, with an equally steep ascent out into a long stretch of gradual, easy ascents on the way to Harting Down. There’s a climb right afterwards, though, that may well have you off the bike and pushing it.

A downward plunge feeds into another ascent, followed by a stretch of fairly flat riding and another descent. There’s a stiff climb up to Chanctonbury Ring, but a long sweeping downhill should give your legs time to recover on the way down to Botolphs.

The big hill before Firle Beacon may involve some hike-a-bike but can be doable if you really grit your teeth. It pays off with a long swoop down to Alfriston. Summit Willingdon Hill and you can call yourself victorious: the South Downs Way concludes with a fast, open run down into Eastbourne.


  • Dirt bridleway
  • Chalk trails
  • Brief road sections

The South Downs Way is a proper off-road trail across the downs, avoiding towns and tarmac where possible. This may mean you need to take a detour for a lunch stop if you aren’t carrying one with you.

While the terrain is never particularly technical, expect to be riding on dirt and on mud. In wet conditions, the chalk sections of the route can be particularly slippery.

We recommend you have experience riding off road before attempting the South Downs Way. A mountain bike is by far the best choice of bicycle. A hardtail will be slightly better suited for most riders than a full-suspension bike — not least because they’re that bit lighter for the odd hike-a-bike climb.

Travel Information

Useful information and travel links that will assist you in your plans to travel to the start of the holiday and back from the end of it are sent to you with your full tour pack. A summary is given below:

By Air - The most convenient major city and international airports are Southampton, Bournemouth, London Gatwick and London Heathrow.

By Rail - There is a rail station at the start of the trail (Winchester) and also at the end of the trail (Eastbourne).

From London - Trains run from London Waterloo station (and also Paddington on a weekend) to Winchester.

Return To The Start - The easiest way to return to the start of the trail, is to take the train from Eastbourne to Winchester.

Please Note:

Most train lines will allow for bikes to be taken on board. We advise that you check on as you may need to book a space for your bike or there may be a limit as to how many bikes the train can store.

Most buses in the UK are unable to store bikes on board, so we would recommend avoiding this form of transport.

Weather Information

To find out more about the weather forecast for your chosen holiday's general location, please see the following websites:

  • MetCheck - This website allows you to look up detailed weather information for specific locations as far as six months in advance.
  • Met Office - This website shows regional area forecasts a few days in advance, with a general UK forecast description of up to 30 days in advance.
  • Mountain Forecast - This website shows what the forecast is like up on specific hills and fells, and offers forecasts a few days in advance.