Downs Link Discoveries

by Gosia Giernalczyk

The Downs Link connects the North Downs Way and the South Downs Way National Trails. The trail starts at Guildford in Surrey and ends at Shoreham by Sea in West Sussex, covering 41 miles.

Choices on the Downs Link path

There are two options for walking from Guildford to Bramley, depending on individual abilities and preferences. I walked both options and both were great for different reasons.

St Martha's Church set before a bright blue sky.
Trees grow on the banks of the River Wey.

The main option is a route to St Martha’s Hill, following the North Downs Way. On the top of the hill, you’ll find St Martha’s Church and amazing views.

The second option is a low-level route alongside the River Wey with picturesque river views. It is a good choice if a more relaxed walking option is preferred.


The walk starts at Guildford, which is a lively 17th-century town. It was surprising to see how many restaurants, cafes, pubs and shops Guildford has to offer. The architecture in the town centre is interesting and many buildings are nicely lit up at night.

Bright blue light illuminates the storefronts of Guildford at night.
Guildford is prettily lit at night.

Not only there is an extensive choice of places to dine and shop, but also it is possible to visit one of the local theatres.

Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, lived in Guildford for a few years, and there is a statue of Alice and the White Rabbit at the beginning of the Downs Link.

A bronze statue of a rabbit running ahead of two girls, dedicated to Alice in Wonderland.
An information board on the Downs Link about Alice in Wonderland.


I would not say that I know a lot about railway history, but there was something fascinating about walking along the Downs Link knowing that most of the trail follows the old railway line.

Two different railway companies built the northern and southern sections of the railway. The first one was built by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and opened in 1861. The second was operated by the Horsham and Guildford Direct Railway Company and opened in 1865.

Bright green decommissioned train carriages stand beside the Downs Link trail.
An information board explains the Downs Link's history as a railway line.

The existence of railways made it possible for people to travel to the seaside. Building the railway was an important part of the local development. The railway was closed in 1966, the same year many other railway lines were closed by the Beeching Cuts.

Along the trail there is no sign of the old railway track itself, which were removed long ago, but it is possible to see and visit the old platforms and to read about each station and railway history.


My walk was in October, and I was very lucky with the weather. The first two days’ weather was great, around 20 degrees and mostly sunny. On the third day of my walk, the weather was a bit gloomier and most of the time the sky was grey with a few glimpses of sunshine. The last day of the walk was a bit windier and occasionally rainy.

Trees provide dappled shade on the Downs Link.
The author stands on a path through established woodland.

Fortunately, most of the Downs Link Way is through woodland. The trees shielded me from sunshine (when it was getting a bit too sunny) and from wind and rain alike.

I really enjoy visiting forests and woodlands all year round, and mid-October was a fantastic time to enjoy the walk.

Rivers — Panta Rhei

The Downs Link starts in Guildford, where it is possible to observe the River Wey. The second river we will see is the River Arun. Just before entering Shoreham-by-Sea, the path proceeds along the river estuary and we can enjoy watching meadows and the wide variety of plants and animals that live there.

Trees line a river on the Downs Link Path.
The river is particularly wide beside this farmer's field.

The trail passes The Wey & Arun Canal Trust, where you can watch birds and find plenty of information about the fauna and flora of the region.

When I walk along rivers, what often comes to mind is Heraclitus’s aphorism: Panta Rhei, everything flows. There is something very relaxing and comforting about this thought, especially in beautiful surroundings. 


I must admit that I have tried horse riding only a few times in my life, when I was a child, but I like to watch these magnificent and gracious animals.

A horse grazes in the field not far from the walking trail.
A horse in a padded coat leans over its fence to inspect the photographer.

A few sections of the trail follow bridleways and it possible to spot horse riders. Additionally, the trail passes multiple horse paddocks.


The last part of the walk takes us to Shoreham-by-Sea. While most of the trail proceeds through woodland and farmland, the last stage of the walk takes us through more open landscapes.

Pebbly beach on the Downs Link.
British seaside.

After crossing the Adur Ferry Bridge and passing an ice cream café and fish and chips, the trail reaches the seaside, and that is the end of the walk.

Contours Holidays pride ourselves on our expert knowledge of the UK’s trails. We regularly set out to check our routes and directions and to make improvements on the holidays we offer. You can find several write-ups of staff expeditions in our Trail Diaries.

Gosia, Database Team Manager at Contours Holidays, stands at the seaside with a sandy beach behind her.

Gosia Giernalczyk

Database Team Manager

Organises database team work. Google Maps and research enthusiast. After work you can find her learning salsa and bachata on the dance floor, enjoying nature and architecture on a walk, or watching a movie at a small cinema with big vision.

Read more blogs by Gosia Giernalczyk

Interested in walking the Downs Link yourself?

Contours Holidays offer two versions of the Downs Link walking holiday: the traditional route, climbing to St Martha's Hill, and a special stile-free variant along the River Wey that we've put together to suit beginner walkers and those with mild mobility impairments. The routes are otherwise identical, with several different schedules to choose from. Find your holiday here:

Originally published 24/10/23

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