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A dog day at the beach at Cuckmere Haven

By May 4, 2019No Comments

If you are looking for a dog day trip within easy reach from London, with breath-taking landscapes, a dog-friendly beach, and the opportunity of some nice walks, Cuckmere Haven is one that checks the boxes. Cuckmere Haven, is a lovely place near Seaford, in the South Downs in East Sussex, at the feet of the Seven Sisters, and is just a couple of hours from London by public transport or by car. In this post you can find a plan and tips for your perfect dog day out.

A dog day out at the beach at Cuckmere Haven

Dog and man stand on trail with Seven Sisters white cliffs on the horizon, blue sea and green fieldsOver Easter holidays, we visited Cuckmere Haven on a glorious sunny day. To reach Cuckmere Haven we got a Thameslink train from London Brige to Brighton and then a bus to Seaford (more about planning your trip below). The bus ride was rather long (over an hour), but we were lucky to get a seat on the upper deck and enjoyed the views, mostly of the coast, and got off at Chyngton Lane, at the East end of Seaford.

Opposite Chyngton Lane bus stop, there is a path (which is marked as dead end) which runs in between lovely cottages, down towards the fields. It is a lovely walk, that gets you into the change of landscape. We found that one of the cottages even had a dog water bowl outside its gate, for thirsty canines that go on explorations in the area. We had been advised by a local that we should have walked straight until reaching a car park (where you can leave your vehicle if you are coming by car), so after reaching the end of the path, we continued on the tarmac road running uphill, cutting through fields with sheep (sheep were in enclosed fields, but good to keep your dog on a leash). Following the road up the hill we reached the South Hill Barn car park, which is the real starting point of the walk.

Road with sheep in field and man and dog walkingTo reach Cuckmere Haven, there is a path running downhill on the left handside of the car park. As we strolled in such a glorious warm day, a marvellous landscape opened in front of us. The Seven Sisters white cliffs, with a beach and a couple of cosy cottages on the trail leading to it and vivid green grassland. Truly a breathtaking view, and we saw a couple with their dog sat on a bench, strategically placed in a panoramic point (I thought what a romantic spot for a wedding proposal that must be at sunset).

View of Cuckmere Haven from the trail before reaching the beach with large dogOn the day, being Good Friday, we met quite a few hikers and many dogs, but if you visit during the week I imagine you may find the beach almost for yourself. As far as we are aware, the Cuckmere Haven’s pebble beach is dog-friendly all year round (we didn’t find any signs stating otherwise and couldn’t find any indication of dog bans from online research). One thing that you don’t notice is that river Cuckmere, which flows into the sea at Cuckmere Haven cuts the beach in two. To cross, you will have to make a detour; I am not sure whether you can pass at low tide.

We stopped at the beach to play fetch with Argo and for him to enjoy a good swim and cool down. As ever, he had a great time with tennis balls and was tireless (when we gave him a break he strongly disagreed with our choice staring at us and crying for more). We met a Whippet and a Spaniel, but they decided that water was not for them. We were surprised by the very high dog/people ratio, among the hikers we met on the way!

Dog at the Cuckmere Haven beachAfter a stop at the beach we had a walk up Cuckmere Valley, heading towards the dog-friendly Cuckmere Inn pub where we were planning to have lunch. The river’s meanders draw curves in Cuckmere’s flood plain. You can follow the trail flanking the river heading North, as we did. The low vegetation means that your dog won’t find any shade, however the river on the side of the path gives a chance to cool down if needed, and considering the number of wet dogs we encountered trotting on the path more than one are happy to take a dip.

Dog and man at Cuckmere ValleyIt’s just a 20-30 minute walk upstream from Cuckmere Haven to get to the Cuckmere Inn, a very dog-friendly pub with a lovely terrace where you can bask in the sun or enjoy some shade under a garden umbrella (they have also plenty of room inside for a fresher spot if it is a hot day), and have lunch. But there are a number of recommended walks in Cuckmere Valley to make it a longer walk.

We stopped for lunch at the Cuckmere Inn. We visited it on Good Friday and it was quite packed, but managed to find a table. We had tried to book, and the recorded voice for the booking said that there was no availability, but we went there in person and they actually had room, but they told us that it would have taken 1 hour and a half for food to be served.  We were happy to wait and Argo in the meantime took advantage of the “Doggy idratation station”, a water barrell for dogs, where you can go and self-serve your pooch (bring your own bowl). The food was good and we loved that almost at every table on the patio there were dogs. And so many large ones too! An unusual view coming from London!

Dog on the terrace of the Cuckmere Inn pubAfter lunch, we had a little walk and as it was already mid afternoon, we took the bus back to Brighton from the stop across the bridge opposite the pub. We had scheduled another adventure and early start for the following day, so we just had the time for a quick gelato in Brighton and made our way back to London, but to make the most of your day I would recommend booking a train back later in the evening, so you can enjoy a full afternoon in Cuckmere Valley.

Things to do with your dog near Seven Sisters

Walk in the countryside near Seaford

  1. Visit Cuckmere Haven dog-friendly beach. Perfect for playing fetch and having a good swim!
  2. Go hiking at the Seven Sisters or nearby: There are many walks you can do in the area. A circular one, suggested by the National Trust is this one which apart from Cuckmere Haven includes Hope Gap. For a weekend out, you could also venture on the Seven Sisters (more below).
  3. Take your dog paddle boarding: In the area you can also go dog paddle boarding on river Cuckmere, hiring a SUP (or canoe) at Buzz Active and bringing your dog along for the ride. They told us that almost any dog size can do, provided they don’t scratch the board; they don’t provide life vests for dogs, so bring your own. If you make your way to Eastbourne you will also find Eastbourne Kayak and Surf Hire which prides itself to be dog-friendly.
  4. Stop at dog-friendly pub Cuckmere Inn. You can reserve a table on Cuckmere Inn’s website and check out their menu here.
  5. Take your dog dinghy sailing at Buzz Active Eastbourne, on the sea. We confirmed that they are dog-friendly and also rent SUP and kayaks.
  6. If you are visiting by car and want to explore more the area, a 20-minute drive North West, you can reach National Trust’s Monk’s House, the country retreat of Leonard and Virgina Woolf, where dogs are welcome on a short lead.

Making it a weekend: the Seven Sisters and Birling Gap

Dog plays fetch at the Cuckmere Haven beach

You can go for a day-trip like ours (all practical tips to plan it below), but you could also make it a weekend away, combining it with a hike at the Seven Sisters. The whole trail is quite long and hilly, so it can be challenging for both people and dogs especially in the warm season. With this in mind, it would be good to think about the weather and avoid hot Summer days for your dog’s sake and bring something to cool down your dog (there are plenty of products on the market, the unexpensive trick is soaking a t-shirt in cold water and put it on your dog, however obviously this will dry much faster than something specifically made for the scope).

You can also break the walk in shorter hikes. For instance, you could exploe the Seven Sister’s shorter legs, or try the Seven Sisters and Friston Forest circular walk (under 8 miles/ 13 km in lenght), which will take you to lovely Birling Gap, which has a staircase to descend to the beach (50 steps) and where dogs are allowed on the beach on a lead. The shop is dog-friendly and dogs are also allowed in specific areas of the cafe.

One general consideration is that the Seven Sisters is a top-cliff walk, on chalk cliffs. The Seven Sisters country park advises that as cliffs are unstable and there have been recent falls, walkers should stay well away from the edge and the base of any cliff. In addition, it is advised to keep dogs on a leash,also in consideration that the park has grazing cattle and sheep.

If you are keen to hike and explore, there is a map of the area (affiliate link) by Ordnance Survey which includes a mobile download. You can also order your custom-made map (affiliate link) choosing your starting point and map scale. There is also a free online South Downs National Park discovery map, with interest points marked on it, that may give you an inspiration.

Planning your trip

Dog and man walk on trail at Cuckmere Valley

Essentials to pack for your trip are surely a collapsible water bowl and bottle of water (or you can find a dog water bottle with integrated bowl). To cool off your dog if you go hiking a soaked t-shits can do – but dries quickly – so in case you can consider a cooling vest.

Apart from the usual beach gear – towel, bathing suit -, and it will be the perfect place where to bring some tennis balls to play fetch with your dog if he/she is keen on the game. A long line in case your dog is not confident off leash (good news is that there are no trafficked roads nearby, no bikes on the beach as it is made of pebbles, but in case your dog is not sociable with other dogs probably not the best place, as there are many, so you may want to go super early morning).

There is livestock everywhere in the area, so while in the part we walked through sheep was in fenced fields, there are other areas where they are grazing not be behind a fence, so you will need to keep your dog under control at all times and walk them on a leash where appropriate. The beach should be fine as there are shouldn’t be sheep/cows there, but always have a look.

How to get there

By public transport

Option 1. Train to Brighton + bus to Seaford

You can take the Thameslink train to Brighton from St Pancras, London Blackfriars and London Bridge, or you can take the service from London Victoria. We found an offer of 2 tickets for £25 return in total, which was a great deal.

Once in Brighton, you can walk to the bus stop of bus no. 12 or that of no. 13X and get on in direction of Eastbourne, getting off at Chyngton Lane (you can use the Brighton & Hove bus plan your journey tool). It is an hour and a few minutes ride and we run into a couple of traffic jams, so with the good season it may be best to take the bus early. Depending on how many of you travel together, have a look at the different types of tickets before going and may be cheaper if you purchase it through the app rather than on board of the bus. For instance, the duo networkSAVER tickets allows two people to travel together on the entire route for one day for £8.40; the family networkSAVER ticket, allows you to travel on any bus during the day for the whole family, up to 5 people (min 1 adult, max 2 adults), it costs £10 if you make it on board, or £9 if you use the app.

Option 2: Train to Seaford (changing at Lewes)

Alternatively, you can take a train from London Victoria to Seaford (changing at Lewes), which takes an hour and a haf, and then walk to your destination (it is a 40 minutes walk to South Hill Barn car park) or take a short bus ride. This option may be better in terms of time optimisation and to avoid traffic on the road, but more expensive in terms of train tickets.

By car

From Central London it is a 2 hours drive to get to South Hill Barn car park in Seaford. The car park is free (max 12 hours stay) and counts 60 spaces. If you are looking for other car parks nearby, this official car park map by the Lewes District Council will come in hand.

By campervan

Earlier on the blog we wrote about hiring a dog-friendly retro campervan. This could be a nice trip to go on with a campervan (just make sure to clean your dog and protect all surfaces inside the campervan after your beach trip). There are Dub Dub and Away in Dulwich and Buttercup Bus Vintage Campers in Croydon that can be good alternatives for a hire.

Where to sleep with your dog(s)

Cuckmere Haven coastguard houses with white cliffs in the backgroundIf you are making it a weekend away, there are a few dog-friendly accomondations in the areas (some of the links to the accomodations suggested are affiliate links, meaning that any booking made through the link, at no extra cost for you, will help supporting the blog).

In particular, there are some lovely dog-friendly cottages in the area.

  • Cherrystone Barn in Ripe, near Lewes, sleeps 2 with up to 3 dogs and has a large enclosed garden according to the description; it also has a scandinavian wood-fired hot-tub (at a surcharge).
  • Cherry Cottage, nearby, sleeps 6 with 2 dogs (at an additional charge), looks truly a treat.
  • Cuckmere Lodge, in the village of Alfriston, sleeps 5, and accomodates one dog with a £20 charge per dog for up to 7 nights.

For an adventurous stay, there is the Firle Camp and Firle Yurts could be an option. If you don’t care about the accomodation and you are looking for a basic and cheap one, there is a Travelodge in Eastbourne (affiliate link).

More about dog-friendly accomodation in this guide.



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