Linear walk from Rye to Hastings, East Sussex
Distance : 14 miles (23 km), walking time about 5½ hours.
Start: Rye train station.
Finish: Hastings train station
Difficulty: Strenuous, hilly in the afternoon,
Route summary: An attractive, mainly coastal walk from the interesting ancient town of Rye to Winchelsea, then following the Royal Military Canal (RMC) to Cliff End, and finally along the cliff top to Hastings.
Getting there: Main line rail services from London (Victoria or Charing Cross stations, or St Pancras (for the more expensive fast train), changing at Ashford International station for a local service to Rye. A return ticket to Rye covers the journey back to London, if required. Frequent trains from Hastings for return.
Description: The route follows a public footpath across fields to Winchelsea, briefly joining the 1066 Country Walk (1066CW), then along the Saxon Shore Way (SSW).
Maps: OS Explorer Map Nos. 125 (Romney Marsh, Rye & Winchelsea) and 124 (Hastings & Bexhill). Landranger Map Nos. 189 (Ashford & Romney Marsh) and 199 (Eastbourne & Hastings)
Eating and Drinking: The “New Inn” at Winchelsea is conveniently located on the 1066 Country Walk. The “Coastguard Tea Rooms” at Fairlight requires a short diversion away from the coastal path.
Sightseeing: It can be worth taking half an hour or so at the start to explore Rye. The route described here goes through the town and past a number of places of interest. The church at Winchelsea is unusual and the grave of comedian Spike Milligan is in the churchyard.
Route described by Howard Densley and checked by Jackie Gower.
Exiting from Rye station go straight ahead past bus stops to a T junction and turn left (into Cinque Ports Street), and continue straight past Rope Walk on the left into Tower Street. Arriving at the mediaeval Land Gate on the right, go right through the arch and follow the road uphill.
At the first junction turn left, then first right. At the T junction by the “Simon the Pieman” shop turn left. A few metres ahead at the church turn right. Follow the path to the cobbled road which swings right past Lamb House. Turn first left into Mermaid Street and continue downhill past numerous old buildings across a minor road to a T junction.
Turn right on to Strand Quay, where there is an Information Centre. Continue to the T junction (mini roundabout) and cross the main A259 road at the pedestrian crossing. Go left across the road bridge over the River Tillingham.
Follow the road round to the left for a few metres, then turn right at a sign on the side of a building saying “Quay Side Court” (no footpath sign, but this is a public footpath). Follow a narrow road past a white-painted house on the left to a farm gate. Go through this gate, straight across a field and through the next gate, then straight towards Winchelsea (visible on the hill in front), keeping to the left of tall grasses and a probable hidden drainage ditch.
Go through the next gate (or over the stile), then over 2 successive footbridges with fields in between. The path (where visible) diverges left from the drainage ditch. Cross a third footbridge, then go over a field towards a large gap in the bushes opposite and continue a short distance over another field, arriving at a road at Ferry Bridge, which crosses an unnamed stream.
Turn left on the road over the bridge and continue until you meet a T junction where the main A259 road makes a hairpin bend and ascends a steep hill into Winchelsea. Ignore the main road and turn right on to the 1066 Country Walk (1066CW), which becomes a narrow path through woodland leading to a gate into a field. Turn left and follow the edge of the field, then go upwards left through a gate.
Continue up towards a pole-mounted brazier, where there are a few remnants of an old windmill. Then continue along the path and through a gate at the edge of the village of Winchelsea. Cross the main road and turn right at the first X-roads, towards the “New Inn” and the church.
Follow the 1066CW along the road with the church on the left and then out of the town. The road then swings to the right. After a few metres turn left over a stile and downhill across a field, over another stile where two paths cross. Turn left off the 1066CW and continue to a road. Turn right and follow the road under a mediaeval arch (“New Gate”).
About 400 metres further on turn left at a footpath sign, through a gate. Cross the open field, heading towards another gate by a lone tree. Go through the gate and over a bridge across the Royal Military Canal (RMC).
Turn right along the RMC, now on the Saxon Shore Way and continue for about 2km. At a footpath junction turn left, leaving the RMC and cross a road, then go up the steps opposite on to the sea front.
Turn right and continue as far as the Emergency Coastguard Post and turn right again. Cross the road, go through a car park and across a footbridge over the RMC. Turn left and continue to the road.
Turn right on to the road (next to the public toilets), keep straight at a road junction and after a few metres turn left at “Red Lodge”. Then turn immediately right on the Saxon Shore Way (SSW).
Follow the SSW through Cliff End up on to the cliff top, and continue for about 1½ km, where the path swings right away from the cliff top towards the village of Fairlight Cove.
At a footpath signpost (vandalised at the time of writing), turn left on to the SSW (footpath pointer missing), and follow the road straight for about 1km past a number of junctions, to where it becomes signed as Lower Waites Lane.
Continue straight to the end (a sort of T junction) and turn left past a 30 mph limit sign, going uphill. At the top turn right along Bramble Way, continuing to a T junction. Turn left and continue to the next T junction.
Turn right on Channel Way, which follows the cliff top. After “Firehills Cottage” keep left on a footpath and continue through a gate into Hastings Country Park.
At this point it should be possible to continue on the SSW along the cliff top all the way to Hastings, but in 2016 there had been a land-slip further along the SWW near Ecclesbourne Glen, so if you decide to carry on along the cliff top you need to keep an eye out for diversion signs in case it has still not been cleared. An alternative route via the popular Coastguard Tea Rooms is suggested here.
To get to the Tearooms, turn half-right uphill on a grassy path. At a T junction at the top turn left on a track with a prepared surface. Soon a car park can be seen uphill to your right front, and it can be convenient to cut the corner and walk towards it across grass.
Head to the right of the car park towards the Visitor Centre. Take the path at the side of the Visitor Centre, which after a few metres joins a road. The Tearooms are about 100 metres up on the right (open until 5pm).
Walk from the Coastguard Tearoom south past the Visitor Centre looking towards the sea. Turn right opposite the car park through a gate along a track (not shown as an official footpath on OS map).
Go carefully down some rough steps and follow yellow arrows through a rocky sandstone area to join a bridle path. At this junction go straight, i.e. west (avoiding the track on the right).
Continue a short distance to the next junction and proceed straight ahead West through a gate partially hidden in foliage into a field.
Cross the field close to the fence on the left. At the next junction follow the sign to Barley Lane roughly South-west on a tarmac lane. At a gate across the lane go through and turn immediately left on a path downhill to Ecclesbourne Reservoir.
Follow the path left round the east end of the reservoir, eventually leading along the south side of the reservoir. Keep right at all junctions until a “X” junction is reached. Continue over the wooden footbridge opposite, again keeping right at junctions until the exit on to Barley Lane comes into view in front.
Turn left before the exit and continue along a grassy path until a raised area appears on the right with a bench at the top. Go through a gap in the hedge to the right of the bench on to Rocklands Lane.
Turn left and continue past Rocklands Holiday Park to a gate across the lane. Go past the gate, shortly arriving at the open area around East Hill.
Turn left to approach the cliffs and follow the cliff edge West, finally descending the steps to Hastings Old Town.
To reach Hastings railway station, from the bottom of the steps continue downhill on a narrow road to a ‘T’ junction where it joins the A259 road. Go left and over the pedestrian crossing, past “the oldest building in Hastings”.
Follow the A259 to the right and continue about half a mile along the sea front to a roundabout. Go right under a pedestrian underpass and then a short distance along a wide pedestrianized road to a junction with a signpost to the station.
Follow the road past the “John Logie Baird” pub on the right and continue uphill to the station.