“ Birling Gap Road / East Dean / Near Eastbourne / East Sussex „
I often spend time down in Eastbourne, East Sussex, as it's where my boyfriends parents live. Whilst the beaches in Eastbourne itself are excellent, some of the cleanest I have ever seen, on our last visit I decided to explore more of the local area, and Birling Gap, a few miles outside of Eastbourne was one of the other beaches we visited.
I believe there are fairly regular bus services to Birling Gap from Eastbourne, but we travelled by car, a simple matter of following the A259 out of Eastbourne, heading towards East Dean, and then following the signs to Birling Gap, which is essentially a very tiny fishing village. There is a small row of fishing cottages (apparently some of them fell into the sea some time ago) a free National Trust carpark, and a national trust owned restaurant. There is also a small lifeboat house, which you can take a little look around. It's well worth popping in for half an hour, as there are plenty of local news articles, and details of recent rescues to look at.
The beach itself is accessible only via a steep set of wooden stairs - it certainly isn't wheelchair or buggy accessible. At high tide, the beach is very narrow, in fact at very high tide there is no beach to speak of at all, and the stairs are roped off . There are various warning signs about warning of the dangers of falling rocks - a real danger, as this particular stretch of coast is often battered by strong winds .
The beach is shingle - relatively comfortable to walk on, although there is a band of particularly sharp small rocks that are quite painful and should be avoided. Nearer to the cliffs, there are large boulders of chalk rock that make excellent seats, and at lower tide there are plenty of rock pools to scout around in, as well as some sandy patches.
The rock pools here are fairly safe - the beach is sheltered in a sort of curve, and the waves here seem much gentler and more sedate than on other parts of the south coast . The natural curve of the cliffs also helps protect from the biting winds so common to this area . We found plenty of small crabs and winkles, limpets, and some sort of slimy brown thing in the rockpool.
There are plenty of shells to be found on the beach - largely winkles and some well worn oyster shells.
One thing worth noting, especially if visiting with young children, is that part of the beach is generally accepted by locals as nudist friendly . It isn't an official nudist beach by any means, and you won't see people parading about with their wangdoodles handing out on the main stretch near the stairs, but about 600 or so yards to the right of the stairs is where the nudist friendly area begins, and the further you go this way, the quieter the beach becomes.
One thing to note with this beach is that, as it is so narrow, and curves around, you do need to be very aware of the tide times . You can, at low tide, walk right around the cliffs to the nearby shingle beach at Cuckmere Haven (this will take you through the nudists) or alternatively, walk around in the opposite direction and end up in Eastbourne. The tide does come in very fast though, so you do need to be careful.
Overall, it's a nice little stretch of beach, especially for rockpooling . There isn't an awful lot else to the place though, with the only real option for food and drink being the one restaurant, but its fine for an hour or two.