Your first day walking quickly takes you away from the hustle and bustle of Winchester into the countryside. The pretty village of Chilcomb with its thatched cottages and village green is a real highlight today. As you climb Beacon Hill National Nature Reserve you are rewarded with views across the Meon Valley to Old Winchester Hill. The trail continues around the edge of the picturesque village of Exton, which is definitely worth a short detour. From here, continue to the foot of Old Winchester Hill, which can be bypassed, however, we highly recommend the short climb to the top for lovely views. On clear days you may even spot the Isle of Wight in the distance. From here, it's a short distance to the town of East Meon, your overnight stop.
The South Downs Way starts in the historic city of Winchester. Famous for its Gothic cathedral, one of the largest in Europe, it is also the resting place of novelist Jane Austen who died in Winchester in 1817. The city is home to the UK's largest farmer's market. Browse over 100 stalls selling artisan bread, cheese and ice-cream, just to mention a few of the goodies on offer! The market takes place twice a month, usually the second and last Sunday of each month. Winchester has all the amenitites you may need such as a Tourist Info Centre, supermarkets, pharmacies, ATMS, cafés and restaurants.
East Meon is about 30 mins off the South Downs Way but it's a great place to spend the night. It's steeped in history and dates back to at least 600 CE. The church is home to bronze-age burial barrows which date back to about 2,000 BCE. The entire village was once the Royal Estate of King Alfred the Great and later William the Conqueror. There are two pubs serving food, and a post office.
Our luggage handlers on the SDW run to an extremely tight schedule to ensure that hundreds of customers bags are delivered on time to their next accommodations by 17:00 (along the entire route). Therefore, to avoid any delays in Winchester, they ask that you have your main bag down at reception and ready to be collected by no later than 08:30am.
Rest stopsThe Milburys
The South Downs Way occassionally crosses busy roads, take care when crossing!
If you wish to carry a hardcopy map, we would recommend buying the South Downs Way map published by Harvey's Maps. Alternatively, you may wish to print the daily maps directly from our app.
If you wish to bring a guidebook, we would recommend Trailblazer's South Downs Way by Jim Manthorpe & Daniel McCrohan.
Food & Drink
There are plenty of places to stock up on supplies in Winchester. Although you will be walking through towns and villages, café opening hours are not always guaranteed, therefore we recommend taking enough food and drink to see you through until your next overnight location.
Tips and hintsPlease see the interactive map for notable points of interest. Click the icons on the map for more information.
Book recommendations for this region:
Such is the way of British hiking, that you need to be prepared for all seasons and weathers; sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required, as is plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Walking poles may be helpful on some of the ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.