You may have heard of Beachy Head as one of the UK's top suicide spots. This is, I hope it goes without saying, not why I chose it for a birthday walk. It is also part of a beautiful stretch of the Sussex Heritage Coast, not far from Eastbourne, and accessible thanks to the paths of the South Downs Way. The whole area is a stunning mix of limestone rock, ocean views, and steep paths. It's about an hour by car from where we live, but feels like a different part of the country.
We started our walk at Birling Gap, which is managed by the National Trust and so has a carpark we could use as NT members. You can access the beach at Birling Gap (above) and it is a dramatic setting with black pepples and those ever-present cliffs. It wasn't a particularly warm day and I can't imagine wanting to swim there, but for atmosphere it is excellent.
The walk from Birling Gap to Beachy Head is about 3 miles, but they are 3 miles of up-and-down paths and some extremely steep sections. It took us about an hour. It's a popular area and you're unlikely to have paths to yourself, but it's also spacious enough to accommodate plenty of walkers without feeling crowded.
The Beachy Head pub is situated just back from Beachy Head, overlooking inland fields rather than the coast. It has received variable reviews on Trip Advisor and I was worried it may not deliver on food or atmosphere, but fortunately it did both. I'd booked a table so we were able to sit looking over the fields (we noticed pre-booked parties got those better tables; those who wandered in got less atmospheric seats). The interior was beautifully furnished with wooden beams and felt more like a casual restaurant than a pub, although there was also a bar section for those wanting that.
|The Beachy Head pub|
Like many pubs, The Beachy Head is now part of a chain - Vintage Inns - which I believe makes its menu the same as the other 200-odd Vintage Inn pubs. I find this approach to pub management a bit sad, given the long history of independent and quirky pubs in Britain, but I can't fault the menu we selected from. It offered Mr Bite a "chicken and leek pie in a creamy mustard and white wine sauce, topped with puff pastry, served with spring onion mash and seasonal vegetables" (£9.50). He declared it excellent, and he has quite exacting pie standards. The mashed potato also scored top points.
|Chicken and leek pie, and quinoa and edamame bean salad|
I had the "quinoa and edamame bean salad with roasted beetroot, butternut squash, soya roasted seeds and pineapple dressing" (£10.50). It is the sort of meal I feel privileged to find in a pub setting and it was beautifully made, with the pineapple dressing a nice touch. My only complaint was the balance of lettuce to other ingredients - I was expecting more quinoa - but it was very enjoyable. Other veggie options on the menu include a courgette, carrot and chickpea burger, and a spiced vegetable tortilla wrap.
After lunch, we retraced our steps, taking in the cliff-side views from the other angle and navigating the up-and-down sections in reverse. As a walk and lunch combination it worked well, with the pub perfectly located for a mid-way stop.
We will be doing more outings over the coming weeks as my mother-in-law has recently arrived from Australia and we're keen to show her the surrounding countryside and sights. I doubt we'll make it back to Beachy Head, but may have some other highlights to share in time.
The Beachy Head pub is located on Beachy Head Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK, BN20 7YA. Details are at http://www.vintageinn.co.uk/content/vintage-inn/en/restaurants/south-east/thebeachyheadeastbourne/.
Have you enjoyed any local sights lately?