South Downs Way Western Section
Winchester to Amberley in 4 Days Walking Code: SDW5
The section between Winchester and Amberley has many wooded areas, offering shade from the sun and a variety of views. It is steeped in history from start to finish.
This is our longer duration Western section itinerary, with an average distance of 12 miles a day. It’s a good balance between covering the miles and leaving enough time to enjoy the countryside and villages.
|Day 1||Travel to Winchester for your first nights accommodation|
|Day 2||Winchester to Exton||12||19|
|Day 3||Exton to Buriton then transfer to South Harting||14||23|
|Day 4||Transfer back to Buriton then walk to Cocking||12||19|
|Day 5||Cocking to Amberley||13||21|
|Day 6||Depart from Amberley after breakfast|
Winchester to Buriton
Before leaving Winchester make sure you explore this ancient city with its links to the Romans, King Arthur, King Alfred the Great, William the Conqueror, Winston Churchill and Keats, to name but a few. The route starts near the Cathedral and on entering the rolling Hampshire countryside, it passes through fields, along quiet lanes, following the lower slopes of the downs, and then up to Beacon Hill, which gives you the first real taste of the down land scenery you’ll be walking through for the next few days. A steep descent takes you into the village of Exton where most routes spend the first night.
Leaving Exton along the banks of the River Meon, you eventually come to the top of Old Winchester Hill, with its Iron Age settlement. The route descends to the valley, and then climbs up through fields to Coombe Cross. There is a path off here to East Meon, otherwise the route continues on up to Salt Hill, before descending to the foot of Butser Hill then into Queen Elizabeth Country Park. A walk through the woods eventually brings you down to the pretty village of Buriton.
Buriton to Amberley
After walking back up onto the trail, you follow the high crest of the South Downs, along tracks and lanes, and through woods. The Way continues above South Harting, to Beacon Hill then through more woods to Cocking Down, where the views open out again. From here most routes have an overnight stop in Cocking. More fields and woods are interspersed with fine views, before descending again to cross another road. The wide chalky track then winds its way between large arable fields. You are rewarded with more spectacular views as you follow the track over Bignor Hill, where you can see the River Arun snaking through the water courses of Amberley Wild Brooks. The trail finally leads down into the Arun valley, and passes close to the picturesque village of Amberley, where most routes will spend the night.
Easy to Moderate
This is another relatively easy National Trail which is clearly way-marked along the length of the path. A good route for a first long-distance walk.
Terrain: Varied - but these are gentle downs and heathlands, not mountains! The path spends most of its time on the south downs, undulating over farmland and through woodlands.
What’s it like underfoot? Pretty good. Well maintained paths, tracks, and green lanes throughout, although sections can get a bit muddy in wet weather.
How much up & down? Once up on the Downs, the trail is rolling rather than hilly. It does drop down to the valley floor to visit villages and cross river valleys, followed by climbs of up to 700 ft (200m). There are some short steeper sections, but they don’t go on forever. The highest point is 886 ft (270m).
Signposting: Generally good.
Navigation: Pretty straightforward. Well defined paths, and good signposting.
|Accommodation||Overnight Bed and Breakfast accommodation in selected hotels, farmhouses, village inns, guest houses and family B&Bs.Full English or Continental breakfast.|
|Guidebook||A detailed guidebook with route information, maps, photos and background information.|
|Information of Services Along the Route||A comprehensive Service Info sheet, including services such as cash points, banks, post offices, village shops, inns, cafes and taxis.|
|Maps||A waterproof map from Harvey Maps covering the whole route.|
|Personal Itinerary||A personal itinerary setting out each overnight stop, including large scale maps of each accommodation, to ensure you find it easily.|
|Emergency Telephone Support||If you get in to difficulties during your holiday, we are always available to help, even out of office hours.|
|15% discount at Cotswold Outdoors||We will issue you with a 15% Discount Card valid at all Cotswold Outdoor stores, and online, for the whole year on confirmation of your booking.|
|Luggage Transport||We will transfer your luggage between each overnight stop – if you leave your luggage at the accommodation when you set off in the morning, it will be moved on to your next B&B. You only need to carry a small day sack with the clothes and provisions you require during the day’s walk.|
| Packed Lunches
||Provided for each day’s walking and recommended on this holiday as there will not always be a handy shop or cafe on the route.|
|Off Road Parking||If you are travelling by car we can usually arrange off road parking for the duration of your trip. (There may be a small charge for this).|
|Arrangement of return transport||We can also arrange your transfer back to your car, (or advise you when public transport is a better option)!|
What’s not Included
|Evening Meals||Your evening meal isn’t included in the package, but we include full details and recommendations for each evening meal in your itinerary. You will normally be within walking distance of a pub and/or restaurant, or where there is good food available at the accommodation, we’ll book that for you. Allow about £20.00 per night.|
|Transport to the Start & Away from the Finish||Have a look at the “Travel Info” tab above for suggestions. If you’re still struggling, get in touch and we’ll help you sort it out.|
|Travel Insurance||Even if you are based in the UK travel insurance is worth having.|
One of the great features of our South Downs holidays is the quality of the accommodation, including small country house hotels, guest houses, bed and breakfasts and farm house accommodation. In selecting the accommodation we look for helpful, friendly hosts with good quality, characterful accommodation close to the trail. We always try to arrange en suite accommodation, i.e. rooms with their own bathrooms for each night of your stay. However, in some of the more remote locations accommodation is limited and occasionally we may have to book rooms with shared bathrooms for one or two nights of your holiday, (especially if the booking is made at short notice), but we will always let you know if this is likely to be the case. Here are a few examples of the accommodation we book for you:
Giffard House, Winchester
An elegant, beautifully restored Victorian house with luxurious rooms and plenty of character. Located in a quiet part of Winchester, only a short walk from the city centre, you are assured of a warm welcome and a comfortable stay.
Corhampton Lane Farm, Exton
This traditional farmhouse near the village of Exton has large, beautifully decorated rooms and is full of character and charm. Suzanne is a delightful host and you are assured of a friendly welcome and a delicious breakfast from her lovely farmhouse kitchen.
General travel information for the South Downs Way will be included in your holiday pack, including train and bus timetables where available. Detailed instructions on getting to your first night’s accommodation by car, or on foot from the nearest train or bus station, will also be included in the holiday pack on individual accommodation maps. To view train times please visit national rail ,where you can also purchase tickets in advance. For information on bus timetables please visit traveline.
By Air: The nearest International Airports to the trail are Southampton (European and domestic flights only) and London Heathrow. There is a railway station at Southampton Airport (Southampton Airport Parkway) with fast and frequent trains to Winchester (journey time approx. 10 mins). Trains also run frequently between London Heathrow (Terminals 1, 2 and 3) and Winchester changing at Hayes & Harlington and Reading (journey time approx. 2 hours).
By Public Transport: There is a railway station at Winchester (WIN). Winchester Railway Station is located on the South Western Main Line with frequent trains to and from London Waterloo station (journey time approx. 1 hour). There is a taxi rank at the station if needed.
By Road: Winchester is located not far off the M3 motorway at Junctions 9 and 10. If travelling from the North, follow the M6 motorway onto the M40. Leave the M40 at Junction 9 (Bicester/Oxford) and follow the A34 towards Oxford and Newbury. Continue on the A34 until you reach Winchester.
By Public Transport: There is a railway station at Amberley (AMY). Amberley Railway Station is located on the Arun Valley Line with hourly trains direct to and from London Victoria station (journey time approx. 1 and a half hours)
Winchester is one of England’s most historic cities and well worth an extra day. It was the ancient capital of Wessex, and seat of King Alfred the Great. Winchester Cathedral has been a place of worship for 900 years and houses, amongst other treasures, Jane Austen’s tomb. King Arthur’s famous Round Table is worth a visit, in the Great Hall, and the City Museum has many fascinating displays and artefacts. There are many places to eat and drink, too.
Nestling at the foot of the Downs, Amberley, with its many thatched cottages, is a lovely place for a day off. Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre covers a 36 acre site, and is dedicated to the industrial heritage of the area. There is a narrow gauge steam train and vintage bus service to take you around the site, as well as many traditional craftsmen, such as stained glass makers and wheelwrights. Amberley also has a castle, which can be viewed form the outside, and a train station with regular services to the nearby historic town of Arundel.