UK Nude Beaches - Birling Gap on the South Coast of England

Quiet Shingle Beach Beneath Gleaming White Cliffs

sevensisters.jpg
The Seven Sisters from Birling Gap. A sturdy metal staircase (inset, lower right) is an easy and safe route to the beach. © Ferne Arfin

Birling Gap, between Brighton and Eastbourne on the South Coast, is a peaceful, scenic beach on National Trust protected seashore. The beach, south of East Dean in East Sussex is close enough to Brighton to satisfy nudists who are disappointed by Brighton's own Black Rock Beach (which is overlooked by a busy road and rude gawkers). The only things overlooking Birling Gap are the gleaming white chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters.

In fact, if you are looking for a splendid spot to enjoy one of the best views of the iconic Seven Sisters cliffs, this is the place.

Though not an official nude beach, it has been used by "naturists" for years. Birling Gap and much of the South Downs area nearby are owned by the National Trust. There is open access to both the beach and the Downs. The few walkers in the area are accustomed to seeing nude bathers and won’t be shocked as long as you keep to the area that has become a nude beach by common consent. It's actually hidden in a fold of the cliffs, out of sight of the access stairway to the beach.

Marine Conservation Society's annual Good Beach Guide 2018 Rating: 5-Star Excellent. This is the highest European water quality rating. The organization has also awarded the beach "Recommended" status.

How Private is it?

As nudism is unofficial here, do keep the UK's laws on public nudity and good nude beach manners in mind.

It's a good idea to have a cover up close to hand, just in case. One thing you shouldn't have to worry about is being checked out or overlooked by drones. That National Trust has a strict policy forbidding almost all drones from flying over all of their land and beaches on the South Coast. The only exception they say is, "...contractors or staff who satisfy stringent CAA criteria, have specific insurances and have been commissioned or authorised by the Trust for a specific purpose – and in these cases the activity is strictly controlled." Read their full drone policy here.

   

 

Birling Gap Nude Beach Essentials

  • Description: A relatively narrow shingle beach beneath the South Coast's magnificent cliffs. There are some patches of sand at low tide as well as a shelf of sharp rocks that should be avoided. The water quality is excellent but swimming can be dangerous because of the rocks.  At low tide, the rock pools are good for trying to catch crabs, prawns and shrimp. This is a very quiet spot and visitors often have the beach to themselves.
  • Facilities: There is an inexpensive, pay and display National Trust parking lot as well as a café and toilets in the National Trust visitor center, once the Birling Gap Hotel. You can buy a packed lunch at the cafe to take down to the beach - but do remember to take away any wrappings and trash.The visitor center and cafe are open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. depending on the time of year. The countryside and beach areas are open from dawn to dusk, year round.
  • Warnings: Rocks have been known to fall off the face of the cliffs so try to avoid the falling rock zone when choosing your spot. A patch of very sharp rocks makes getting in and out of the water difficult. Best times are at high tide, when the rocks are well below the surface, or low tide, when they are exposed to view.  Check tide tables for nearby Eastbourne ​(4.7 miles away) which will be similar.
  • Getting there: Birling Gap is on the south coast, off the A259 between Eastbourne and Seaford. At the village of East Dean, turn south following signs to 'Went Hill' and 'Birling Gap'. Birling Gap was once a village with a small hotel. But the cliffs at this point are eroding and falling into the sea at a rate of about 3ft a year. All that's left is a short terrace of unoccupied cottages, some of which have already been demolished as the cliffs fall into the sea. At the shore, reach the beach by an enclosed metal staircase next to the National Trust visitors center. If you see any clothed bathers on this beach, they will be near these stairs. Turn right at the bottom of the stairs and walk about 500 yards to the start of the nude bathing area. The further along you walk in this direction, the quieter and more deserted the beach will be.