Downs Link Cycle Route Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
The Downs Link officially starts in Guildford, but the route shown on the map below starts at Shalford, Surrey, and runs for 36 mostly traffic-free miles to Shoreham-on-Sea. Most of the route is on disused railway lines, so no steep hills to contend with.
The reason why this guide starts from Shalford is simple: cycling out of Guildford you will either have to contend yourself with busy roads, or a segment of trail where there are many steps, down which to drag your bike.
Shalford has a train station, but before taking your bike on the train, be sure to read my Bikes On Trains guide first.
Please note that there are a few on-road segments. South of Southwater you’ll encounter the first, with the most unpleasant probably being the third of a mile onlong the B2135, south of Partridge Green. There is a very narrow pavement you may want to choose to cycle on instead.
You can easily combine this route with both the Thames Path and the Wey Navigation, allowing for mostly traffic-free cycling from the heart of London to the sea.
Photos by DiminutiveFox, Andy Keetch and SolOnWheels.
Surface on the Downs Link
Most of the route is on self-compacting gravel, and is rideable all year round. However, after rain, and especially in winter, you will want mudguards.
In winter there are usually some segments that either floods, or are covered in deep mud.
Practically any kind of bike can be used on the route, but bikes with fatter tyres and mudguards will be better.
There are toilets in Shalford, in Cranleigh (but off-trail), at The Lintot pub in Southwater, at the Southwater Country Park Café (off-trail), at The Old Railway pub in Henfield, and ins Shoreham-by-Sea.
Refreshment stops: ⭐⭐
Points of Interest
For starters, you’ll be cycling to the beach. Also look out for Bramber Castle, a ruined Norman fort.
Routes in Sussex
- Centurion Way traffic-free cycle route
- Downs Link Traffic-free Cycle Route
- Cuckoo Trail Traffic-free Cycle Route
There’s one barrier just north of Southwater, but trailers at least should be able to get through easily, as should trikes.
There are several gates along the route, and people on adaptive bikes, who cannot dismount, will struggle with those.
In places, the trail is quite narrow, and you may find yourself needing to stop when encountering others using it.
Forecast for the Downs Link
What the Downs Link looks like
Getting to the Downs Link
This is a great car-free day out from London. Simply get the train to Shalford, and cycle down to the sea. Other stations along the route are Christ’s Hospital, Horsham and of course Shoreham-by-Sea. Do yourself the favour of first reading my Bikes On Trains guide though.
To find more routes, click this link.
DayCycle routes are routes can can easily be cycled by most people in a day, or part of a day. Do have a look at all the other DayCycle routes available on WillCycle. Many contain detailed route guides, as well as embedded maps (like the one below) from which you can download the GPX file for the route.
5 thoughts on “Downs Link Traffic-free Cycle Route”
It’s a lovely ride, even with a bit of road work, and I enjoyed your write-up. I can add that The Cabin just south of Henfield (on the trail) now has toilets (in addition to nice coffee, cakes and splendid views) and the Henfield to Bramber stretch has a couple of short but “interesting” inclines/decents on a badly made farm track that includes loose stones. Please take care on those sections – I have seen people come a cropper there.
Thanks for the update, Robin
Seconded the advice r.e. Henfield-Bramber. It’s a bit of a shock after the miles of flat! Similarly, but not as bad, there is a stretch just north of Rudgwick/Cox’s Green (mile 10 on your map) where the path is diverted to avoid a (currently?)-unusable railway tunnel and instead goes sharply up and down with an uneven dirt surface. Finally: I did the southernmost stretch on a scorching day this summer and was gratified to find a water fountain just off-trail in a layby off the A283 just south of Bramber.
Great site, good luck!
Thanks for the update, and your kind words, David.
I lived in Southwater for a while, about 30 years ago, and rode the section to Partridge Green, where we had family, a few times. In those days it seemed to often be very muddy and not much fun on skinny tyres. I wasn’t a regular cyclist then and it never occurred to me to ride to the coast, or to head north. Maybe I’ll have to do it one day, although I don’t have much reason to visit that part of the world these days.
Sorry, this is no help to anyone, just reminiscing…