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Stephanie Boon, lying in her sleeping bag in her small tent.

Campsites On The South Downs Way – Tried and Tested!

Campsites On The South Downs Way – Tried And Tested! is part of a series of articles on the South Downs Way 100 mile national trail.

 

Standing on the cliffs above Beachy Head read and white striped lighthouse towards the end of The South Downs Way

On the cliffs at Beachy Head

Contents

    1. Intro
    2. Foxleigh Barn Campsite and B&B: Amberley
    3. Housedean Campsite: between Brighton and Lewes
    4. Alfriston Camping Park: Alfriston
    5. Fairfields Farm: Pevensey, Eastbourne
    6. YHA Camping
      Truleigh Hill YHA Camping: Near Devil’s Dyke
      South Downs YHA: Southease
    7. Wild Camping on the South Downs Way
    8. Links to the full South Downs Way series

5 Great Campsites Right On The South Downs Way

For Hikers And Backpackers

If you’re looking for recommendations for campsites on the South Downs Way you’ve come to the right place!

When I planned my own hike on this stunning long-distance trail in May 2021 I discovered there aren’t many campsites right on the South Downs Way itself. Most of them involve extra miles off trail – and extra miles aren’t my idea of fun! (Especially with the bout of illness and crap weather I had.) I planned to wild-camp the whole trail but as it turned out this was more difficult the closer the trail got to Eastbourne, where it becomes built-up and busy with holiday-makers.

Luckily I’d made a list of campsites before I left home ‘just in case’ (top tip – it makes life so much easier!) and called ahead on the day. So

Here are 5 campsites on the South Downs Way that your weary legs will thank you for!

NB: none of the campsites had good mobile reception (EE) or wifi facilities, with the exception of wifi at the YHAs.

1. Foxleigh Barn Campsite and B&B: Amberley

Foxleigh Barn Campsite and B&B 

Grid Ref: TQ 02799 12370

Foxleigh Barn campsite is definitely one of the loveliest campsites on the South Downs Way!

One of the great campsites on the South Downs Way: Foxleigh Barn, Amberley. A view of the orchard and washrooms

Foxleigh Barn Campsite: The shower and washing up facilities are to the left of the orchard.

Foxleigh Barn Campsite has 1 small level camping field, ideal for hikers with all the facilities a backpacker needs. These include a basic hot shower and washing facilities as well as washing up facilities. You’ll be pleased to find Foxleigh Barn has a shelter with a dining table and chairs, a microwave, a kettle, and a fridge. You’ll also find a socket or two to charge your phone – even newspapers to dry out your boots! (How thoughtful is that?!) There’s a welcome sheltered outdoor area with a washing line and picnic tables too.

Foxleigh Barn Campsite is a beautiful, well-maintained site. It is beside a road but there was no traffic overnight, so it was a peaceful stay.

The owners Lin and Pete were lovely and welcoming (and showed lots of concern for how ill I was) and provided information about what’s available in the village. (Which includes a village store and a cafe with fab cream teas!). There’s no shop on site, but you can buy a few small necessities, including things like blister plasters.

A cream tea in the courtyard of a quaint tea room in Amberley near Foxleigh Barn Campsite

A cream tea at Amberley Village Tea Room is highly recommended!

A wander into the village is a must: it’s picture-postcard perfect, with thatched cottages and hollyhocks everywhere you look. I wondered if Helen Allingham had ever painted here!

Beautiful cottages in Amberley are a just a short walk from Foxleigh Barn Campsite: Half timbered cottage behind a topiary bay tree

Picture postcard cottages in Amberley village

In May 2021 it cost £15 a pitch.

2. Housedean Farm Campsite: Between Brighton and Lewes

Housedean Farm Campsite

Grid ref: TQ 36820 09277

A ‘Cool Camping’ And Glamping Site

A couple of large-ish, not entirely level but attractive camping fields with firepits for each pitch. I wasn’t overly impressed with the facilities available for hikers, but then I don’t think we’re their intended market!

There are outdoor shower cubicles, ostensibly so you can shower under the stars. It was chucking it down when I was there though, so all I needed to do was stick my head out of the tent!

The toilet cubicles reminded me of temporary loos, but along with all the other facilities on site they were spotlessly clean.

If you want a wash you do that in a three-sided shelter open to the elements. (And other people, should that bother you). Washing up facilities are also in a three-sided shelter, with a freezer, a kettle, and a socket to charge your phone. But sadly there’s nowhere to sit while you wait. In fact, there was no indoor shelter available, so nowhere for the poor hiker to dry out. I didn’t see any table or chairs – I don’t even recollect a picnic table. However, there was a family of swallows nesting in the shelter, which was a joy to watch!

A swallow sat on top of a freezer in a campsite on The South Downs way

Watching the swallows watching me from the top of a freezer int the 3-sided kitchen shelter

The site is right beside a busy A road, but it was fairly quiet overnight. There’s also a small shop on site.

It’s worth noting that there’s a free water tap on the wall outside the site so you can fill up as you pass by if you decide not to stay.

In May 2021 it was £15 a pitch, which seems on the high side for a one-person tent and no drying facilities. If you can find somewhere to wild camp in the area, save your money and go for it, but the campsite is in a really convenient location.

3. Alfriston Camping Park: Alfriston

Alfriston Camping Park

Grid Ref: TQ 51621 02735

The Best Shower Experience Of All The Campsites On The South Downs Way!

Great Campsites on the South Downs Way: Alfriston camping field at dusk

One of the large camping fields at Alfriston

Despite the name ‘Park’, this site was a real treat. There are 3 large, level fields with excellent modern facilities. The shower cubicles are huge with solid glass doors (no mouldy curtains that stick to you) and none of that holding the tap down to keep wet and warm! There was a hairdryer, large mirrors, a counter, and sinks too. Similarly, the toilet block offered large modern cubicles, sinks and mirrors. There are more traditional washing-up facilities outside the shower block.

The facilities were more like you’d find in a good gym than on a campsite!

The owner was fantastic, driving around on his quad bike offering a firepit and wood for myself and a fellow walker – for free! We politely declined though, preferring to shelter from the rain showers and wind – and get some sleep!

The quaint village store with bow windows either side of a red door in Alfrison village

The Alfriston village store and deli, right on the South Downs Way

The only thing I didn’t see was an onsite shop or picnic tables. However, the centre of the village is on the trail itself, just a short walk down the lane.

It cost just £10 a night, which seemed like a real bargain!

 

4. Fairfields Farm: Pevensey, Eastbourne

Grid Ref: TQ 63907 04190

Fairfields Farm

A Traditional Campsite Just Outside Eastbourne

Stephanie Boon on a shingly beach in Eastbourne at the end of the South Downs Way. Large hotel in the background.

Eastbourne: plenty of large hotels and b&bs, but no campsites

A short walk from Pevensey & Westham railway station direct from Eastbourne – approximately a 10-minute journey.

I got to Eastbourne a day earlier than planned so I needed a place to stay overnight, but despite hotels and b&bs everywhere there’s no campsite in the town itself. There is a nearby YHA but that was closed due to Covid, and at the time of writing it didn’t offer camping.

The only choice was to head out of town where luckily there’s a traditional site just a short train journey (then walk) away. (It cost £3.50 or so for a single fare). The train journey takes about 10 minutes and was running every half hour from Eastbourne station, right in the middle of town.

The facilities are what you’d expect on a traditional site like this: a level pitch, a cold shower block with the usual handheld tap and a fabric curtain (which you’re expected to sweep out yourself). There are of course plenty of toilet cubicles and washing-up facilities under a well-covered shelter.

There’s also a laundry room with a washing machine and dryer…and iron and ironing board!

I didn’t see picnic tables or find a shelter other than the laundry room – but at least you could dry your clothes! There’s also a well-stocked shop on site.

In May 2021 it cost a reasonable £10 a pitch, excluding the train fare.

 

Youth Hostel Campsites On The South Downs Way

5. Truleigh Hill YHA: Near Devil’s Dyke

Truleigh Hill YHA

Grid Ref: TQ 22033 10517

Hostel Comfort With Good Views

Truleigh Hill YHA building at dusk

View of Truleiegh Hill YHA from the camping field

I planned a stay here purely for sentimental reasons, which sounds a bit weird! But the South Downs was where I went on my first ever backpacking trip when I was 17 – and Truleigh Hill is the only YHA that I stayed at that’s still going. So what was it like after all these decades? A bit disappointing to be honest (for camping at least, but mostly because the camping field is on a major slope and the cost was 30% more than quoted on the website).

The facilities (if you can find them) include an outdoor washing-up area and a drying room, traditional showers, and toilets.

The shower I had was cold in a very small cubicle, and I wasn’t told where any of the other facilities were. The hostel is a bit of a labyrinth and I was disappointed that I found the drying room just before I left!

There is, as you’d expect, a good range of meals you can order, including breakfast and well-priced coffee and cake! (The self-catering kitchen was closed.) But I preferred to cook my own to get rid of some of the excess weight I was carrying!

Best of all is the large, comfortable communal room with great views that you can access at any time.

Cooking on a gas stove on the grass at Truleigh Hill YHA

Cooking in the camping field at Truleigh Hill YHA

Not so good was a serious lack of sockets for charging your electronics (which may well be a problem during busy times), but the wifi was great.

I had a peek at the dorms, which looked good if you need a dry night.

In May 2021 it cost £12 a night (although I was quoted £8)

YHA South Downs: Southease (Bonus Hostel Right On The Trail!)

YHA South Downs

Grid Ref: TQ 43335 05495

A YHA With Great Coffee And Cake!

I confess I didn’t stay here, but I did stop for coffee and cake with beautiful views over the Downs. It’s a lovely site, right on the trail and they offer camping as well as hostel dorms, which all looked like a great place to stay.

Beautiful old church with a round tower and wild flowers in front.

Probably the prettiest church I’ve ever seen! Southease near the South Downs YHA

Wild Camping On The South Downs Way

I wild camped on the first section of the South Downs Way and didn’t have any problems finding a discreet pitch near the path. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the sort of wild camping with amazing views though, it was just somewhere to lay my head for a night’s rest. Wild camping looked possible after the halfway point, but I was too ill (with some sort of vomiting bug) and just needed an easy place to rest.

The Downs really begin to open up in the second half of the hike and are very exposed, which might make wild camping more difficult. You also need to be really respectful and considerate of the environment, so check out my guide to the principles of Leave No Trace which includes 12 practical tips.

A view of the South Downs looking down over a village with a broad track on the left on a bright summer's day.

Wide-open spaces on the Downs

And if you’re new to wild camping then my ultimate guide is just for you! It covers everything from planning where to go to tips for women going solo:

Your ultimate guide to wild camping in the UK

If you’ve got any questions about my experience of camping on the South Downs Way feel free to ask away, I’d love to help make your adventure as wonderful as mine was!

Happy hiking!

Stephie

If you’ve found this guide helpful I’d be thrilled if you share it, thanks my lovely!

Where Next?

If you’re planning a hike on the South Downs Way head over to the rest of the articles in the series:

Image Link: Hiking The South Downs Way: Everything You Need To Know!

A complete guide to planning, including my costs, travel, water taps and more

 

Image link: Packing List For The South Downs Way

My full kit list was way too heavy! Here’s a tongue-in-cheek look at what I did wrong and how to avoid my mistakes…

 

My Journal From The South Downs Way

Have a look at some of my sketches and original notes from this amazing trail

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