Activities, England, Europe, Hiking, Travel, Uncategorized, United Kingdom

Ouse Valley Viaduct Walk from Balcombe


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The Ouse Valley Viaduct used to be a hidden gem in West Sussex, but after photos appeared of it on social media it became more popular. This viaduct is absolutely mind-blowing, so you shouldn’t be put off by the flock of Instagrammers to the area. It makes a great place to go hiking from London if you combine it with the Ardingly Reservoir walk.

I often find ideas for day trips from the Wild Guide books, which has some secret wild swimming spots, off the beaten path places and unique attractions.

Day trip inspirations

I love the Wild Guide books and have the whole collection. This one focuses on hidden gems, beaches, unique accommodation and canoe/kayak trips within easy reach from London.

This edition covers interesting walks (all accessible by train) which lead to secret lakes, rivers and seaside beaches. Perfect place for a wild swim or paddle.

History of the Ouse Valley Viaduct

It was built in 1841 to carry the London-Brighton Railway Line over the River Ouse. It has been restored many times since. The viaduct extends for 450 meters in length and has a height of 29 m. You can often hear people refer to it as the Balcombe Viaduct, since it is close to the village.

How to get to the Ouse Valley Viaduct

By train: There is a regular train service from London Victoria to Balcombe. Then you can take a 5-minute taxi ride or go on a nice countryside walk along the Ardingly Reservoir.

By car: You can park at the Ardingly Reservoir car park. It is free, but space can be limited on a nice weekend, as people who use the Activity Centre also park here. From the car park, it is a 1 km walk to the viaduct.

Some people leave the car dangerously on the main road next to the viaduct. It is annoying to the locals as it causes delays and traffic jams. It also prevents the local farmer to get on with his day, when people leave their car at his gate. There is no suitable place to park next to the road and those who do can expect their cars to be towed. So please use the Ardingly Reservoir car park.

Ouse Valley Viaduct Walk from Balcombe

We started the walk from Balcombe train station and followed a route my AllTrails app suggested, but you can also download the GPX files that I provide at the bottom of this blog post.

First, we walked through the cute village of Balcombe, which had some pretty streets with autumn colours. Then we found the path that lead us to the Ardingly Reservoir. There was a map, which showed different routes in the area. We started on the Kingfisher Nature trail. During our visit, the water level in the reservoir was quite low. Most of the trail goes inside a forest, so views are limited to the reservoir. The path is fenced off and the access to waterside is prohibited to the general public. There were many gates, but they were only meant for fishermen.

Ardingly Reservoir

However, the path is still lovely and it was nice being outdoors on an autumn day when all the leaves were changing colour. There was even a hide, although it was right across the Activity centre, so not sure how much birdlife you can observe there when the reservoir is busy with sailors and kayakers.

As we got closer to the Activity Centre we had better views as well. This is a great place to come if you like watersports. You can rent kayaks and SUP boards. You can try windsurfing or sailing a dinghy. They even provide RYA courses. There are also toilets and a cafe on the site of the Activity Centre.

Shortly after you leave the reservoir, you will get the first glimpse of the Ouse Valley Viaduct. You can get some nice views from the top of the hill, but be aware of the bulls.

Once you walk down the hill you will cross the river and then just follow the riverside path until you reach the viaduct.

As the place got popular there are more rules to obey, like no drones. The viaduct has a great WOW factor as you come round the corner to view along its full length. It is a stunning piece of architecture giving you an optical illusion feeling.

When we arrived on a sunny autumn weekend, there were many people around and I was worried I wouldn’t get the shot I wanted. It was peak time and people were sitting at the arches having a picnic. We also did the same and luckily by the time we finished our lunch most people left and we were able to photograph it without the crowds.

Ouse Valley Viaduct
Ouse Valley Viaduct
Ouse Valley Viaduct

Then decided to do a circular walk and started to head back to Balcombe through the beautiful British countryside.

Hike Difficulty: This circular hike is 13 km and it took us 5 hours. However we always take long taking photos, so you can probably do it under 3 hours at a comfortable pace.

These are some of the essentials, that we used on this day trip.

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Hey, I'm Enikő! I'm currently an au pair and I want to share my experiences with you. I've travelled a lot in the past years. I'm gonna teach you how to settle in to a new country and get free accommodation anywhere in the world. Circle Enikő on Google+!


  1. Fi Riley
    October 30, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    Hi Eni
    Thanks for the great blog. I did this walk using your map today and loved it.
    With gratitude,

    • Enikő
      December 9, 2020 at 9:38 am

      Hi, I am so glad you found the blog post useful. It is such a nice walk. 🙂

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    February 10, 2021 at 1:00 pm

    […] very beginning, one of the key requests this couple made for their photos was to have some taken at Balcombe Viaduct. The couple had walked there often, and Sophie really loved the architecture and beauty of the […]

  3. Bhakti Korgaonkar
    August 29, 2021 at 5:11 pm

    Hi Eni,
    I followed this trail today with this map of yours. My partner and I absolutely enjoyed the walk! Thanks a lot, keep up the good work.


    • Enikő
      September 3, 2021 at 9:06 am

      Hi Bhakti, thank you so much for your feedback. I am glad you enjoyed the walk.

  4. 17 places to go hiking near London by train | Travel Hacker Girl
    September 12, 2021 at 8:39 am

    […] Plan your hike: Walking route […]

  5. Kamilla
    October 17, 2021 at 3:25 pm

    Szia Enikő, véletlenül bukkantam a blogodra amiben 17 helyet foglalsz össze kirándulni London közelében. A nevedből adódóan gyanítom magyar vagy és a mai nap megcsináltam ezt az útvolanat ami nagyon jó volt ☺️ Egyébként én is au pair vagyok jelenleg

    • Enikő
      November 3, 2021 at 2:05 pm

      Szia Kamilla! Igen magyar vagyok. Au pairként kezdtem én is, de már több, mint 6 éve kint élek Angliában. Imádok kirándulni és felfedezni Nagy Britannia csodás vidékeit. Örülök neki, hogy hasznosnak találtad a bejegyzésem. Sok szép kirándulást kívánok neked.:)

  6. Polly
    November 21, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    What a wonderful walk- thanks TrackerGirl- great to have someone already working out the route!

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    […] […]

  8. Lily
    June 28, 2022 at 7:57 pm

    What a great walk! But I added some miles to it for the challenge and did 27 km instead 🙂 It took me 2 days to recover …

  9. Sharayu
    December 15, 2022 at 9:13 am

    Hi dear, thanks for sharing. Its lovely space to explore.

  10. ImoForpc
    February 14, 2024 at 10:00 am

    Loved the detailed information on the walk! The photos of the viaduct and the surrounding countryside are stunning. Definitely adding this to my bucket list of outdoor adventures. ????

  11. Inne
    March 22, 2024 at 5:46 pm

    We are planning our holiday to the UK for the month of July, this is very helpful. Thanks!

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