Return for the second year, the Reading walking festival comes to Reading for 2024 in May, with over 40 guided walks across five days

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Whether you're a serious hiker or just wanting to stretch your legs, the South East offers a diverse range of walks to enjoy.  With over 11,000 walking trails, paths and routes to enjoy there are endless discoveries to make along the way.  South East England is also home to a host of fantastic walking festivals that offer a great way to explore the area, experience new walks and meet new friends.  Head out on foot for some fresh air and exercise and enjoy the 3 million acres of natural beauty in South East England.

The Countryside CodeEnjoy the beautiful South East countryside at every opportunity; it is so good for your wellbeing, great to be out in the fresh air and enjoying some exercise. Please remember whilst out and about to follow the Countryside Code.  

Take a look at some of our favourite top walks in the South East below, or if you want to stretch your legs a little further, our long-distance walks in Berkshire, highlighting the national trails and pilmgrimage routes in this area (more to follow). If you would prefer to walk with others, the South East is home to a host of walking festivals that take place from March to September - scroll down to discover more. 

Top Walks in South East England

Part of the South Downs Way, this stretch of coastline has featured in many TV shows and adverts. The series of chalk cliffs with its breathtaking views, make it clear why the sisters have become so recognisable. The 13.6 mile walk goes from Seaford to Eastbourne and includes views of the iconic Beachy Head lighthouse and the chance to enjoy the beautiful Cuckmere Haven.  Some shorter self-guided walks are also available if you don't want to walk it all.

This four and a half mile walk takes in the famous Battle Abbey and the 1066 Battlefield, the most famous conflict on English soil.  You can also follow in the footsteps of William the Conqueror on a longer 31-mile walk 1066 Country Walk from Pevensey to Rye - look out for the new sculptures along the way.

Battle Abbey, 1066 Country. Credit National Trust

This 100 mile national trail runs from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in Sussex and has an ascent to 3,800km.  The trail runs entirely within the South Downs National Park (SDNP).  To long?  There are numerous shorter walks starting from Winchester, or in and around West Sussex or take on the coastal walk from Eastbourne to Alfriston (17.5 miles) which can be accessed by walkers only.  

The Isle of Wight coastal path can be spilt into 6 sections and takes you the whole way around the Isle of Wight.  Walks range from 8 - 16 miles and includes incredible scenery and views a plenty.

Discover the beautiful Sussex countryside around Brighton with the Sussex Walk App.  Showcasing 10 walks in and around Brighton, you can experience the beautiful views from Devils Dyke or Ditchling Beacon, explore Brighton's largest park Stanmer Park, or follow in the footsteps of Winnie-the-Pooh at Ashdown Forest.  With a whole host of options from 1 mile up, its a great way to explore the beautiful Sussex countryside.

Explore the historic sites of Portsmouth with this 3km walk along the promenade.  Starting near Clarence Pier and finishing at The Hard, linking many of the cities historic attractions and taking in the Camber, Old Portsmouth and Gunwharf Quays, the route is indicated by a chain motif set into the surface of the pavement making it easy to follow.  Fully accessible and flat.

Millennium Promenade, Old Portsmouth, Hampshire

Starting at Jane Austen's house in Chawton, this 4.5 mile walk takes in the countryside that inspired many of her novels.

Try one of the three walking trails that head out from the Western Heights Nature Reserve, you can enjoy views over the town of Dover, Dover Castle and the White Cliffs.

This 3km waterfront trail links Explosions! The Museum of Naval Firepower with the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and offers panoramic views over Portsmouth Harbour. 

Open only in the spring at the height of Bluebell season, immerse yourself in a colourful trail of flora and fauna. There's a walk of 2.5 miles and wheelchair accessible 1100m route with mobility scooters available to hire.

Arlington Bluebell Walk, East Sussex

You don't always have to travel right out into the countryside to walk, there are some fantastic places to explore in our towns and cities.  Windsor and the surrounding area benefits from some beautiful large open spaces to walk including Windsor Great Park, Dorney Lake Arboretum and alongside the River Thames.  

The Basing trail a waymarked, circular 7 mile walk leading to the picturesque village of Old Basing near Basingstoke. The village dates from the Saxon times, and the trail includes the chance to see the Civil War site of Basing House; its ruins, surviving buildings and earthworks that still bear the scars of its historic siege.

Take a stroll along the 4 mile route between Turner's Margate and Dickens' Broadstairs, much of which follows an ancient footpath between St Peter's and St John's churches is signposted in both directions. Start at Margate Harbour Arm next to Turner Contemporary Gallery or on Broadstairs promenade outside Dickens House Museum.

View of Broadstairs Beach, Thanet

The second largest hill-fort in the country, with spectacular views in every direction - on a clear day you can see as far as Brighton and the Isle of Wight. Cissbury Ring is located in the South Downs National Park, just north of Worthing, West Sussex and is about a 20 minute walk from the local car park at Storrington Rise.

Walking is a great way to discover a new place, to feel part of the place you are visiting and they don't always need to be in the countryside.  Discover three new walks in and around the city of Southampton, from foodie hot spots, to jewel hunting on a fun treasure hunt for children around Houndwell Park, or exploring the cities sculptures, mosaics, murals and more.

Hengistbury Head is a stunning headland perched on the edge of the Bournemouth coastline, its a beautiful place to enjoy a walk.  Enjoy uninterrupted views of the Isle of Wight to the left and the crescent of the Bournemouth and Poole coastline to the right, lots of fresh air and varied flora and fauna. 

Hengistbury Head, South of Christchurch, Bournemouth

This 18 mile coastal trail along a stretch of the East Sussex coastline, connects three award-winning art galleries along the way, the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, the De La Warr Pavillion and the Hastings Contemporary.

The 21 mile long-distance footpath starts in the beautiful village of Alton (at the railway station) and follows the steep, densely wooded East Hampshire Hangers (a series of steep sided wooded hills) to the market town of Petersfield, then onto Queen Elizabeth Country Park.  The trail can be easily divided up into bite-size sections of around two & four miles, making it ideal for a family adventure or an afternoon stroll.

Fun for all the family, this walk follows alongside the River Medway and is marked with twenty posts with zinc rubbing plaques and information about local wildlife.  Starting from The Old Boat Café, each post is located where you are likely to see these creatures or signs of these creatures. 

Discover the hugh natural basin 'that the Devil scooped up by throwing handfuls of earth at the god Thor' at Hindhead, Surrey, a beautiful wildness with easy access from the A3. 

Walking Festivals

Walk, stroll, or saunter your way along to one of this year's walking festivals, they are a great way to discover new places, meet like-minded people, and enjoy the breathtaking South East countryside. 

This year walking festivals kick off in March in Maidstone, Kent, from the 15th - 24th March with the Heart of Kent Walking Festival, followed by Alton Walking Festival, East Hampshire (1st - 31st May 24). The Reading Walking Festival returns for its second year from the 11th - 19th May 2024, with nearly 50 walks over nine days. There are two walking festivals on the Isle of Wight in 2024, the first running from the 11th - 19th May 2024, and the second from the 5th - 13th October 2024. Offering the chance to explore the island on foot, both in the springtime and autumn, with a plethora of routes to suit all abilities.

The North Wessex Downs Walking Festival covers the counties of Hampshire, Oxfordshire, and Wiltshire. The walking festival runs from 31st May - 9th June 2024, celebrating the stunning scenery and landscapes of the Downs. White Cliffs Country Walking Week takes place across Dover from the 15th July - 21st July 2024, with the full program and bookings available from June 2024. The Eastbourne Walking Festival runs from 7th - 15th September 24 and includes talks, walks, and a range of fringe activities over the nine-day celebration of the great outdoors. 

To view information about each walking festival and to book your walks, please see below. 

Coastal walks and walking holidays

Click the 'map view' button or browse the list below for a selection of companies that organise self-led hikes or guided walking holidays, tours, paths and national trails, for individuals and groups, in South East England.

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  1. Cobtree Manor Park

    Type

    Type:

    Adventure Park / Playground

    AYLESFORD

    Cobtree Manor Park has over 50 acres of parkland displaying a diverse and maturing collection of trees and shrubs. The Park features a themed play area, along with a sculpture trail, plenty of space for picnics, and a visitor centre and café serving…

  2. Stockbridge Down Wildlife and History Walk

    Type

    Type:

    Nature Trail / Watching

    Stockbridge

    Explore this isolated island of characteristic chalk downland set in a sea of intensively farmed land.

  3. Buriton Literary Walk Inspired by W H Hudson

    Type

    Type:

    Walking

    Petersfield

    This walk starts in the village of Buriton and explores parts of the South Downs National Park. W H Hudson was an accomplished, self taught field naturalist. His first book was published in 1885 and his twenty-third a year after his death in 1922.…

  4. Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve

    Type

    Type:

    Nature Reserve

    Hill Head

    Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve is home to various habitats including river, marshland, and scrapes.

  5. Thames Path National Trail

    Type

    Type:

    Walking Tour

    Oxford

    The Thames Path National Trail is a wonderful way to explore the River Thames. This long distance walking route starts at the source of the river in a field in the Cotswolds and follows the banks of the Thames for 185.2 miles (298km) meandering…

  6. Jane Austen Circular Walk

    Type

    Type:

    Walking

    Chawton

    A 4.5-mile circular walk in the heart of Jane Austen country. Start at Jane Austen's House in Chawton and follow in her footsteps across fields and through the village of Farringdon. Jane was inspired by this beautiful countryside to write and…

  7. Tudor History Tours

    Type

    Type:

    Walking Tour

    Station Parade, Eastbourne

    Unique holidays in Southern England, brought to you by Tudor History Tours, who offer an unrivalled opportunity to bring this period in our nation’s history to life!

  8. Curious About Walks

    Type

    Type:

    Walking Tour

    Curious About... Explore, Discover & Enjoy!

    Curious About offer over 75 self-guided heritage walks with a treasure hunt theme across towns and cities across the UK! Suitable for individuals & groups of all ages, they are great for Family…

  9. Great British Dog Walk - Bodiam Castle

    Type

    Type:

    Outdoor Event / Activities

    Robertsbridge

    A sponsored walk to transform deaf people's lives

    Hearing loss is rising. This invisible disability has devastating impacts on people's safety and mental health. Take part in this 3km or 5km sponsored dog walk, and raise funds to train more…

  10. Haslemere Walking Festival

    Type

    Type:

    Walking

    Haslemere

    From Friday 14th to Sunday 16th July, the 3-day programme of walks will take you in and around the beautiful town of Haslemere.

  11. South Downs National Park

    Type

    Type:

    National Park

    The South Downs, now a newly designated National Park are accessible from Worthing. The South Downs Way runs from Winchester to Eastbourne and can be accessed at several points around Worthing or Adur.

  12. Monthly Walking & History Tours

    Type

    Type:

    General event

    Marlow

    An informative 1 hour tour of the magnificent 65 acres where you will discover the numerous unique plantings as well as the Italian garden.

  13. My Year Walks

    Type

    Type:

    Walking

    Great Missenden

    Embrace the seasons on a guided Roald Dahl countryside walk; kick up some leaves, ramble through woods, smell the flowers and listen to extracts from Roald Dahl's My Year in the beautiful woods and fields that inspired the book.

    My Year was Roald…

  14. 878 AD

    Type

    Type:

    History and Heritage

    Winchester

    Step into Anglo-Saxon Winchester!

    Experience the sights and sounds of Anglo-Saxon Winchester and discover the stories of the people who lived there, brought to life with the spectacular world of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Discovery Tour: Viking…

  15. Isle of Wight Walking Festival

    Type

    Type:

    Walking

    ISLANDWIDE

    Walk this way! The Isle of Wight Walking Festival returns in Spring and Autumn 2024. The Spring Walking Festival will be from Saturday 11th May to Sunday 19th May and the Autumn Walking Festival will be from Saturday 5th October to Sunday 13th…

  16. Reading Walks Festival

    Type

    Type:

    Walking

    Reading

    This May, Reading's are hosting there second Walking Festival! Running from 11-19th May, Reading Walking Festival is as much about telling the stories of Reading as walking for pleasure, so you don't need to be a seasoned hiker to take part and…

  17. Leechpool Woods

    Type

    Type:

    Parkland / Woodland Garden

    Horsham

    Leechpool is an ancient woodland covering 53 acres and includes Oak, Ash, Hazel, Hawthorn, Holly, Blackthorn, Sweet Chestnut and Scots Pine.

  18. Warnham Nature Reserve

    Type

    Type:

    Nature Reserve

    Horsham

    A haven of peace and beauty within a mile of Horsham, this 92 acre site offers a 17 acre millpond, reedbeds and woodlands which are rich in flora, dragonflies and birdlife. Includes a visitor centre, cafe, two bird hides and free parking.

  19. Alton Walking Festival

    Type

    Type:

    Walking

    Alton

    Alton is a vibrant Walkers are Welcome Hampshire town which truly has community spirit at its heart. Situated at the source of the River Wey and enjoying a stunning rural backdrop at the gateway of the South Downs National Park, Alton is known by…

  20. South East England Tourist Guides Association

    Type

    Type:

    Sightseeing

    Discover the real South East England. Blue or Green Badge Guides who each have an unrivalled knowledge of the region and take pride in helping visitors explore its unique heritage.