No pilgrimage is identical – some pilgrims prefer a more direct path, whilst others want to explore the rich stories the land has to offer. Tailor your pilgrimage with the short cuts and alternative routes. You’ll also find these routes on the google maps in each stage.
Strawberry Trail After the Oil Terminal take the winding path through the nature reserve by following the signs for the Strawberry Trail. Only 1/3 of a mile longer than the main route, you will miss out St Andrews but gain time amongst the wild wetlands and trees. Just follow the waymarks, thanks to the river you can’t get lost and will arrive in Hamble by following the path.
Fort Nelson. From Boarhunt, go south and follow the Allan King Way to pass by Fort Nelson and the Nelson Monument. It will add 1 mile, and gives you the opportunity to visit the Royal Armouries. The monument was one of several erected as a memorial to Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson. Nelson became a national hero in his lifetime thanks to his military prowess, but he was also a strong opponent to the abolition of slavery.
Kingley Vale. From Emsworth, leave the flat coastal path and head towards the hills. The journey from Stoughton over the ridge and down again is wonderful. Miss out on Chidham, the birthplace of St Cuthman, Bosham with its deep Anglo-Saxon history and remarkable church, and the Sanctuary at Apuldram. Gain spectacular views, wildflower banks, beech hangars and yew forests, legendary burial mounds and some of the finest ancient yews in England.
Shortcut. After Slindon, in the woods stay on the straight path instead of turning off. This will send you along a path next to the busy A27, before picking up a path through the Waterwoods. You will miss the church at Binsted and walking alongside the River Arun, but will save 1.5 miles.
Shortcut. From Sullington, follow a straight track to Washington to avoid re-ascending the Downs. You will miss spectacular views and Chanctonbury Ring, but will save 2 miles and gain the opportunity to use the pub or shop in Washington.
Shortcut. From Glynde, stay on the pavement next to the road, cross the A27 and rejoin the Old Way at the next crossroads. You will miss out St Andrews Beddingham but save 1 mile. Involves some road walking.
Cuckmere Haven. If you haven’t seen the Seven Sisters or Cuckmere Haven before, take an extra day from Alfriston to see the views that inspired Eric Ravilious. There are two options, either a 1 day loop that takes you on a round trip back to Alfriston, or one which cuts out Wilmington in favour of walking over the chalk cliffs in a 2 day hill climb.
Alfriston-Cuckmere 1-day Loop: from Alfriston, walk to Lullington’s Church of the Good Shepherd, then south to Litlington to connect with the South Downs Way. Follow this route to All Saints, Westdean, and continue all the way to the sea. When you are ready to move on, loop back and return along the river, perhaps have a dip in the oxbows before returning to Alfriston. The next day head on to Wilmington and continue your Old Way journey.
Alfriston to Jevington 2-day via Eastbourne: From Alfriston, either walk up to Wilmington to avoid missing it or go to follow the South Downs Way to Exceat, and then wander down the meandering river. At the mouth, walk up over the cliffs. It’s a challenging walk to Beachy Head and beyond, dipping down the cliff face again at Eastbourne to the recently restored Holy Well. The next day, return to the South Downs Way and go back up, rejoining the main route at Jevington. You will miss Wilmington and Folkington, but gain a classic journey over the iconic Seven Sisters white cliffs.
Shortcut. Before Stone Cross follow the 1066 Country route left to Sharnfold and Hankham. You will miss out on the small town of Pevensey, including the castle and St Nicholas Church, but will save 2 miles. Involves some road walking.
Ashburnham. take the dog leg off the 1066 Country route to visit Ashburnham Place, a Christian retreat centre set in beautiful grounds with a tea room. You may be able to rejoin the route to Penhurst by obtaining permission to walk through the estate, or return the way you came. Adds two miles if you have to return the same way.
Fairfield. Choose between the main route which takes you up to Stone In Oxney along the Saxon Shore Way, or continue across the marshes to visit the enigmatic St Thomas Fairfield. Once the heart of a thriving community, marsh plague saw the village vanish centuries ago, leaving only the iconic church. You will miss out on the Church of St Mary and its Mithraic stone, as well as the village pub. This route is flat but can be muddy. Involves some road walking.
Shortcut. Follow the Elham Valley Way and pass through bronze age barrows and a wartime landscape of practice trenches and radio towers. You’ll miss out Postling with its charming parish church and source of the East Stour, and save 1 mile.
Shortcut. To take a more direct route in Canterbury, follow this track which is both the North Downs Way and the Via Francigena, a pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome recorded by Sigeric the Serious in the 10th Century. You’ll save 4.5 miles but miss out on much. Bekesbourne has a church, the Old Palace where Thomas Cranmer wrote the Book of Common Prayer, the natural spring of the Chapel of Well, which is great for wild swimming, and Fordwich, with its ancient town hall, church and mysterious stone that may have one been part of the shrine of St Augustine.