Over our years as full time pet sitters, we’ve spent a lot of time in the county of Sussex. Each time we receive a new booking for a Sussex house sit, we’re so pleased to have the opportunity to return to this beautiful part of the country. We especially love when we care for dogs that love long walks, as the Sussex countryside offers a variety of scenic routes. From beautiful rolling hills along the Downs, to country gardens, clifftop walks and famous pebble beaches, there’s something for everyone! Here we’re sharing our favourite days out in Sussex that you can enjoy with your four-legged friend by your side.

Table of Contents

    Ditchling Beacon

    Starting with the place that is without a doubt our most visited spot in Sussex! We regularly house sit at a home in Ditchling caring for sweet Collie/Pointer/Spaniel cross Betty, who loves nothing more than heading up to the Beacon and walking along the South Downs with us. The views are simply spectacular as it’s the highest point in East Sussex! To the South, you can see the famous Amex Stadium (home to Brighton and Hove Albion football club) as well as Brighton itself, pinpointed by the i360 tower. Further East, on a clear day you’ll be able to spot the Seven Sisters clifftops – more on those below! To the North, walkers are treated to a sweeping view over Ditchling and beyond. It’s an incredibly picturesque place to take your dog for walkies, and they’ll love running free along the open landscape.

    There’s a well-trodded path running along the hilltop which is part of the South Downs Way, so you can walk in either direction from the Beacon for miles. Dogs are permitted off lead along the Downs, but be aware that at certain times there are sheep or cows in some of the fields along the way where dogs must be kept on lead. It’s worth noting that, due to the elevated nature of this area, it’s very exposed to the elements and it’s worth packing a coat on windy day! The best way to get to Ditchling Beacon (if you don’t fancy hiking up the steep hill!) is to drive to the car park that’s just a few minutes walk to the Beacon. The car park is owned and operated by the National Trust, so a small parking charge applies to non-members. There is a dog waste bin by the gate to get rid of poo bags after your walk. What3Words: ///mountains.speaks.scratches

    Ouse Valley Viaduct

    The Ouse Valley viaduct (also called the Balcombe viaduct) is a 1500ft long, 96ft high viaduct over the river Ouse. The viaduct is situated just south of the village of Balcombe and was constructed in 1839, using roughly 11 million bricks! What drew us to visit here, while pet sitting Whippet Ludo, was its oval design throughout the 37 brick arches that creates a stunning view both from the side and underneath the structure. It’s a fantastic location for a photo opportunity with your pooch! It also makes a lovely picnic spot during the week as there are few visitors, and with only the sound of trains occasionally rumbling overhead we like to sit in one of the oval arches and enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside.

    Ouse Valley viaduct is located just north of Haywards Heath, near the village of Balcombe. The easiest way to get to the viaduct is by car, and there are a couple of dirt lay-bys on the side of the road right by a footpath that leads to the viaduct where you can park for free. You can see the viaduct from the road and it’s only a short 3 minute walk through the field to get there. If the dirt lay-bys are full when you arrive, there is free parking available at the nearby Ardingly Reservoir, and a footpath from the car park takes you all the way to the viaduct in around 20 minutes. If you want to take your dog for a longer walk after the viaduct, Ardingly Reservoir has a waterside walking path ideal for a gentle stroll. There are no restrictions for keeping dogs on lead at the viaduct, but with its close proximity to the road it may be best to keep them on lead to be safe, and there are no dog waste bins here so make sure you take it with you. What3Words: ///rationed.headrest.lease

    Brighton and Hove

    One that’s close to our hearts as it’s the last place we lived before we became nomadic pet sitters! We spent a year living in Brighton walking dogs and boarding at our home, taking our furry friends to dog-friendly cafes and hang out spots. Now whenever we’re in Sussex we make a pilgrimage to our home-from-home to check out the new dog-friendly places. We know Brighton like the back of our hands and the city is one of the most dog-friendly cities we’ve travelled to in the UK, making it the perfect destination for a day out with your dog. As with any city there are good walking routes, dog-friendly shops and bins for dog waste every few feet, plus Brighton has a few free water bottle refilling stations that are convenient for giving your dog water on a hot day. We’ve previously written about how to spend a day in Brighton and Hove with your dog, but here are a few of our highlights:

    • Brighton beach. Where better to walk your dog than on Brighton’s famous pebble beach! Dogs that love swimming will enjoy splashing around in the waves, and for those that can walk or run for miles the beach stretches on as far as the eye can see. Dogs are permitted off lead on the beach, and there are bins lining the promenade, but be mindful of the beach areas near Hove that are dog-free zones between May and September.
    • The Laines. Brighton’s famous shopping spot if you’re looking for quirky independent stores filled with treasures. Many cafes and shops along the Laines welcome dogs inside, including Lucy & Yak where ‘dogs are not only welcome in our stores, but encouraged!’. As such you can expect lots of fuss if you visit here with your dog. The Laines themselves are a gorgeous place to walk your dog – the cobbled streets, eclectic street art and jumble of coloured shopfronts are a feast for the eyes.
    • Lunch at Shelter Hall. This indoor food market offers a variety of dishes from 7 different independent stalls. The ground floor is dog-friendly and is so large and airy there’s ample space for dogs to sit undisturbed, plus it’s table service meaning you don’t have to relay with your party to order food while someone stays at the table with the dog. There’s also an outdoor seating area that wraps around the building providing a view of the beach – perfect for people-watching.

    In our opinion, the best way to get into Brighton is by train or bus. It is possible to drive into the city, but eye-watering car park fees and a network of permit-only residential parking zones can make it difficult to find a good spot. Brighton is just an hour by train from London, and arriving into Brighton station puts you right at the heart of the city with a 12 minute walk straight down the road to the beach. If you arrive at Hove station, you can walk all the way along the beach and into the centre, or take a stroll through Hove itself for a plethora of independent dog-friendly cafes – find our favourites in our Hove dog-friendly cafes blog post! What3Words: ///noble.change.served

    Knepp Rewilding Project

    We found this wonderful nature reserve when on the lookout for a new walking route with long dog trio Raffles, Violet and Rocco. Knepp Rewilding Project spans over 3,500 acres of marshland, scrubland and wood pasture, and its sole aim is to create space for wildlife to thrive. As such, dogs must be kept on lead here as there is an abundance of wildlife on site, from old English longhorn cattle to purple emperor butterflies. It’s a beautiful place for a gentle stroll and there are 4 walking routes to follow, ranging from 2.2km to 10km. For a mid-length, varied walk, we recommend the 4.7km orange route, which takes us around an hour to complete with our 3 dogs. This route is mostly on grass and takes you on a small loop past the ruins of Knepp Castle, and to one of the tree houses that makes for perfect top-down viewing of the old English longhorn cattle grazing in their herd. Each of the walking routes at Knepp are very well-signposted, with brightly painted arrows marking each turn, so they’re easy to follow!

    There are a few different points of entry to the grounds but we recommend heading to the walkers car park, as you’ll be at the starting point for all four walking routes at Knepp. The car park is well laid out and spacious, and works on a donation system with a suggested fee of £5 per vehicle. There are bins for rubbish and dog waste, and paper maps showing details of each walking route. Knepp also have a cafe with both indoor and outdoor seating, perfect for weary dog walkers looking to take the weight off their feet after exploring with four-legged friends! What3Words: ///slid.health.unearthly

    Devil’s Dyke

    A fantastic location for those who love hiking, and for dogs that can walk for miles! Devil’s Dyke sits on the South Downs Way and is the longest, deepest and widest ‘dry valley’ in the UK at almost a mile long. We love to come here when pet sitting Sprocker Spaniel Bear as he loves to run off some of his crazy Spaniel energy on long walkies in the countryside, and he can run freely off lead along the Downs. There’s a 4.8km hiking route at Devil’s Dyke mapped by the National Trust, called the ‘Histories and Mysteries’ trail. The sloping hillside makes for picturesque views and the perfect environment for your dog to roam – just be aware that there are sometimes livestock grazing in fields and you’ll need to put your dog on lead.

    The car park here has bins for dog waste and is owned by the National Trust, so there is a parking charge for non-members. The car park is just a few minutes from the beginning of the walking trails at Devil’s Dyke. Alternatively, the 77 bus from Brighton travels up to Devil’s Dyke on select days depending on the time of year, or the 17 bus runs from Brighton to Poynings, though the latter requires a 25 minute walk from the bus stop to Devil’s Dyke. If you’re looking for a very long dog walk, it’s possible to follow the South Downs Way all the way from Ditchling Beacon to Devil’s Dyke along a well signposted route – this is around 11.2km one way. After your walk head into the dog-friendly Devil’s Dyke pub at the car park for a refreshing drink for you and your dog – we recommended grabbing an outdoor seat on a sunny day, as you may be treated to the sight of paragliders taking off from the top of the hillside! What3Words: ///traps.glassware.folks

    Barcombe Mills

    We love to visit Barcombe Mills for a gentle dog walk on a sunny Summer’s day. We first visited the area while pet sitting Cockapoos Hattie and Baxter in nearby Wivelsfield, and it became a favourite route to walk the dogs as it’s so easy to follow and winds through large open fields that are perfect for the dogs to run around. There is an 8km loop walk that mostly follows the river Ouse along to Barcombe Reservoir, where you’ll find people enjoying canoeing down the river or having a picnic on the riverbank. We loved stopping here for a snack and giving the pups a water break – as the walk is out in the open for the majority of the route, we’d recommend taking water with you on a hot day. Hattie and Baxter loved snuffling their way along the river, sniffing out lots of interesting scents!

    There is a free car park at Barcombe Mills where you can make a donation to the local parish, and the circular route begins from the car park. The walk is very flat and mainly on pathways that have been well-trodden by walkers and dogs, making it an easy route for any dog. There are no dog waste bins here so be sure to take it with you. What3Words: ///unfocused.hikes.nails

    Sheffield Park

    For a dog-friendly stroll in a gorgeous setting, head to Sheffield Park. We recommend a visit during Autumn as every year the Park becomes a symphony of orange and gold when the leaves change colour in the trees. Dogs must be kept on lead at Sheffield Park but as you’d expect from a National Trust property, all the paths are well-maintained and you can enjoy a stress-free dog walk around the lakes and through the woods here. If you need to let your dog run off some steam, the adjacent East Park is a dedicated area where dogs are allowed off lead. There are waymarked walking routes ranging from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours across open fields, and there’s also a Walk Wood open seasonally that makes for a good loop for walkies. The Coach House cafe has a beautiful and spacious dog-friendly indoor area (The Garden Room) as well as ample outdoor seating for a sunny day – you can even buy your dog some doggy ice cream for a post-walkies treat!

    As well as in the gardens, dogs are allowed inside the shop and woodland, though it’s worth knowing dogs cannot enter the gardens on Saturdays before 1pm. There are dog waste bins dotted around the park as well as dog water bowls by the cafe and reception. National Trust members can use the car park and enter the gardens for free, and for non-members it is possible to arrive on foot from the nearby Bluebell Railway. There is a well signposted path to follow that takes around 15 minutes, though the footpath can get very muddy in inclement weather – not the best for long-haired dogs! There are local buses running from surrounding train stations, depending on which area you’ll be heading from. What3Words: ///punters.jazz.economics

    Ashdown Forest / 100 Acre Woods

    We LOVE to go for dog walks across the Ashdown Forest to get our hearts pumping and tire out our doggos with a good long roam. We regularly pet sit for Labradors Hattie and Ruby, spending our days together walking the network of criss-crossing trails in the forest. There are Exmoor ponies kept in various electric-fenced paddocks across the forest as well as many horse-riders out on the paths – especially on the weekend – so it’s important to put your dog on lead when you come across horses for everyone’s safety. Aside from this, your dog can roam off-lead freely! There are puddles and rivers for dogs to swim in, and a never-ending supply of sticks to chase! Disney fans, or those who grew up with Winnie the Pooh stories, will be delighted to learn that the 100 Acre Wood was based on the Ashdown Forest. There are many places across the Forest that inspired A. A. Milne’s tales, and if you want to take your dogs to all the points of interest we’ve written a dedicated post about all the Winnie the Pooh sites to visit across the Ashdown Forest.

    The landscape of the Ashdown Forest can be quite open in places if you’re not sticking to the woodland, so make sure you take water with you on a warm day. The natural beauty of the Ashdown Forest is what attracts so many visitors each year, and as such there are no poo bins blotting the horizon – be responsible and take your dog waste with you. There are more than 40 car parks across the Ashdown Forest, and for those without their own transport there are bus routes running through the forest with stops at both Gills Lap and Chuck Hatch Lane. The latter is a 3 minute walk to Pooh car park for the start of the path to Pooh Sticks Bridge, where you can play Pooh Sticks (or your dog can chase the sticks!). What3Words: ///triangle.blankets.workloads

    Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters

    There’s nothing like a coastal dog walk to blow away the cobwebs! The Seven Sisters is a series of seven white chalk cliffs in the South Downs National Park, and is one of the longest stretches of undeveloped coastline on the South coast. We’ve hiked along the cliffs here countless times, in all weathers! It can be unpredictable with high winds coming in off the sea, and the open landscape offers no shelter, but this makes for spectacular views along the clifftops. The undulating landscape is perfect for a dog walk, especially for energetic dogs that love to run and run! You can walk to the lighthouse at Beachy Head, which takes around an hour from Birling Gap, or head in the opposite direction for an hour and hike to the beach at Cuckmere Haven.

    The National Trust owns and maintains the land here, with the car park at Birling Gap providing a point of entry for coastal walks, as well as a National Trust cafe, toilets, bins for dog waste and a visitors centre. There is a small parking charge for non-members. Alternatively, we like to park at the Seven Sisters Country Park visitor centre in Exceat, and walk along the Cuckmere River to the sea. Here you can spot the picturesque Coastguard Cottages and admire the views across the Seven Sisters and out to sea. At certain times of year you may find grazing livestock and ground-nesting birds in the area, as well as adders when the weather is warmer – be sure to keep your dog under close control on walks along the Seven Sisters not only to protect the wildlife, but to keep dogs safe from the cliff edge too. What3Words: ///spotted.community.dolphin

    Other places in the area

    A few places that didn’t quite make the list due to some restrictions on where dogs can roam, but they are lovely spots for a quick visit:

    • Petworth Park. A National Trust property with over 700 acres of parkland to explore via criss-crossing paths. Dogs are welcome in the Pleasure Garden, though they must be kept on a short lead and on the paths, but they are free to roam in the Deer Park. Still, dogs must be kept under control in the Deer Park – as the name suggests, it is home to a large herd of fallow deer. Only assistance dogs are permitted in Petworth House and the Servants’ Quarters. As the Park is spacious, we’ve enjoyed lots of tranquil dog walks here. What3Words: ///haggle.cured.thickened
    • Wakehurst Place. While Wakehurst have now opened their doors to visitors with dogs, four-legged friends are only permitted on certain routes, and are not allowed in any buildings other than the visitor centre and Stables Pantry cafe. There are designated dog-walking paths across the site as well as an off-lead area, however visitors are still required to pay full price for entry even though you cannot access all of Wakehurst, and you must stick to the paths with your dog on a short lead at all times. We’ve previously visited without a dog, enjoying a long day out admiring the incredible 500+ acres of the wild botanic gardens and exhibitions without restriction. For this reason, we’d only recommend taking your dog to Wakehurst if you have membership and can therefore enter for free, or visit with a group of friends to take turns entering dog-free areas to be able to get your money’s worth for the cost of your entry ticket. What3Words: ///boost.result.crescendo
    • Nymans. Another stunning National Trust property, however dogs are only permitted in the gardens at certain times of year. During Winter dogs are allowed to enter the gardens at Nymans from 1.30pm-4pm, and while it’s fantastic to be able to stroll around the grounds with your dog, there’s not a lot of flora to see in the Winter! We much prefer visiting the property during the Summer to make the most of our visit, without dogs. All year round you can walk the wider estate paths with your dog, though they must be kept on lead from March-August due to ground-nesting birds. The woodlands are a Site of Special Scientific Interest, so these precautions are taken to protect the wildlife. Again, if you have National Trust membership Nymans is a wonderful place for a short walk your dog, but for those that have to pay the full ticket price to enter, access with your dog is restricted and may not be worth the cost. What3Words: ///compacts.points.farms

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