While staying at our recent housesit in Slaugham, we were on the hunt for unusual places to visit in the nearby area. We came across the Ouse Valley viaduct, which has been dubbed ‘one of the most elegant viaducts in the world’. Initially when we looked up information about the viaduct we thought it was some sort of optical illusion or clever photography trick. Curiosity got the better of us, so we headed off to investigate for ourselves.

Balcombe Viaduct
The optical illusion at Ouse Valley Viaduct

Once we arrived at the viaduct, we realised that we have actually crossed it many times without realising – when we lived in Brighton we would often catch the train towards London, and the train line uses the viaduct to cross the river below.

The viaduct itself is an amazing piece of architecture, and you’re sure to get some stunning photographs!

A brief history

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 – hence the alternative name of Balcombe Viaduct.

It was constructed in 1839, and is made from roughly 11 million bricks! After a Brighton to London train line was comissioned the previous year, the viaduct was built to cross the Ouse valley below. Its oval design throughout the 37 brick arches make for a stunning view both from the side and underneath the structure.

Getting here

The viaduct is located in West Sussex, just north of Haywards Heath, near the village of Balcombe.

The easiest way to get to the viaduct is by car. There are a couple of dirt laybys on the side of the road right by the footpath leading to the viaduct. From the road it is only a three-five minute walk until you are directly underneath the viaduct.

Whilst we were easily able to get a parking spot here, we did plan our trip to arrive early in the morning – and on a Monday. It’s safe to assume that it’ll get busier as the day goes on, especially if you visit midweek and/or in the Summer holidays. By the time we left the viaduct there were two more groups walking up the path, cameras in hand, on their way to take photos. We were lucky to have the view to ourselves during our visit – we’d definitely recommend getting there early if you can. If the dirt laybys are full when you arrive, there is parking available at the nearby Ardingly Reservoir, and a footpath from the car park leads all the way to the viaduct – approximately 20 minutes walk.

If you like being on foot, you could get the train to Balcombe itself and head out on a walk in the West Sussex countryside. Whilst we didn’t try it ourselves, it seems like it could be quite a pleasant walk.

Whilst in the area

Whilst visiting the viaduct why not add to your trip and go and see some of these nearby places:

  • Ardingly Reservoir. A 198 acre reservoir and nature reserve, with a lovely waterside walking path ideal for a gentle stroll.
  • Nymans, National Trust. We spent a lovely sunny morning walking around the woods and gardens here – take a peek at our photos here!)
  • Take a trip to Brighton. The last place we lived before our housesitting journey began! Catch the train from Haywards Heath and within 20 minutes you’ll be strolling down the main road from the station, straight onto that famous pebble beach.

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