Birling Gap

13 Mar 08 12 Comments

Barely home again before it’s time to go. Assuming the weather plays along, we’ll be taking the Saratoga out for an extended trip. We were initially planning an initial stop (well, if you don’t count refuelling) in Dublin, where my mother is at a conference. But having been away last weekend, things have backed up a bit so we’re going to miss Dublin this time around unfortunately. After all this time in the British Isles, I’ve never been to Ireland! I definitely need to get that sorted.

The LifeboatInstead, we’ll fly into North Weald and then meet my mother at Gatwick. We’re going to pick up my son and then all of us are going to spend the weekend at Birling Gap in East Sussex.

Birling Gap is a hamlet on the Seven Sisters cliffs on the South Downs. It consists of a single road ending in a parking lot, where you’ll find half a dozen fishing cottages, a hotel and a lifeguard station.

HallwayThe Birling Gap Hotel describes itself as "a Victorian colonial style villa with its interior furnished in a 1930’s style". The walls are covered with a textured rose and cream wallpaper scattered with black and white photographs of beach goers, covered from their necks to their knees, frolicking on the beach. Dried flowers adorn the corners adding to the feeling of genteel decline.

We stayed there a few months ago on a whim, simply following the road from Beachy Head. A middle-aged woman sat at the front desk as we walked into the building. I imagined that when no one was looking she would stare gloomily at the doorway, muttering about outsiders causing havoc in their small inn. Her bright smile as she greeted us belied my fantasies but still, I couldn’t shake the feeling of DuMaurier’s Cornish inn, the men meeting late at night to drive the ships onto the rocks and keep the bounty.

Premium Suites We stayed in the room on the right in this photograph, overlooking the cliff, winter winds driving spray against our windows all night long. It was great. The next morning I went down the rickety stairs to the beach and walked for an hour.

Beach at Birling Gap

The cliffs are eroding, a noticeable amount every year. The initial row of fishing cottages has already been removed to stop them slipping into the sea. From Birling Gap you are just in view of the Belle Tout lighthouse (now a private residence) whichwas moved back in 1999 to keep it from falling into the sea. A large information plaque informs visitors that the lighthouse will need moving again within the next hundred years, a rather unfortunate circumstance considering this information is right next to the For Sale sign.

I loved everything about the place. If ever I had to meet a stranger with only a moment to judge his character, I would arrange that meeting at the Thatched Bar to watch his reaction to Birling Gap.

Category: Miscellaneous,


  • Ah, so that raisses a philosophica question. Is character fixed? So you may think of your Mom, for example, as reacting a certain way since we assume you know her character, but then it turns out that her reaction is really different – and won’t that be fun.

    It looks beautiful, and I can’t wait to go there – it will be great to get some real weather and some rough terrain!



  • “If ever I had to meet a stranger with only a moment to judge his character, I would arrange that meeting at the Thatched Bar to watch his reaction to Birling Gap.”

    Intriguing thought! It looks beautiful!

  • I recently spent the weekend in a leaky hotel with some friends with a snowstorm sweeping across the town–at 10000 feet. The landscape and skies were bleak, but I loved the weekend and the hotel.

  • Memories………
    I used to live there in the late 79s.
    About 2 months trying to learn English…
    I remember it was pretty isolated…. for this purpose…
    Hopefully I’ll go back one day, beating the edge….

  • I was googling for ‘Birling gap’ and found myself here. The title of your site is curiously inappropriate to the place since Beachy Head is associated with suicides – people leaping to oblivion. On the other hand I suppose that if you think you have perfected the art of ‘not hitting the ground too hard’ this would be a good place to find out how good you really are. Because of its draw to suicides the Samaritans placed a sign at Beachy Head with their phone number so that depressed people might ring them and hopefully be persuaded not to jump. I remember somebody pointing out at the time that the message board would have been more usefully placed on the top of the cliff rather than where they had placed it, on the beach.

  • Just thought I’d reference the fact that the site is a reference to flying for future people coming straight in via this page. Who knew that Birling Gap could be so popular?

    I wrote about Beachy Head in a previous post. When I was there the board was definitely up top.

  • Its really beautiful, but I don’t think that I can leave there. Maybe I can go there for visit, soon.

  • I used to Work At this beautiful hotel and i enjoyed every moment of the family orientated business, they were ever so friendly and the views were amazing, unfortuanatly i had to leave due to college exams. Would recommend this hotel to anyone :).

  • What is happening there? Will it be removed in spring 2012?
    I would like to go back one time before that. Or is it too late allready?
    In 1999 I have been working at the Hotel. There was a lot going on during that time. But perhaps there allways was a lot, having all the students coming and going.
    It feels as a part of my live will disapear. How is the family doing? Are they still involved? And what about the other people working during that time?
    And the regular guests…

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