Make Haste to Hastings!
The East Sussex town of Hastings, rich in history as for the Norman Conquests famous battle in 1066, the town gives its name to the Battle of Hastings however the crusade took place a few miles north close to the town of Battle. As one of the medieval Cinque Ports, Hastings is synonymous with the ocean. However, it did come under attack from flooding on several occasions, most significantly when half of Hastings Castle and much of the town were washed away due to a lack of a natural harbour, in 1287. The what was then small fishing village, of Hastings, became a profitable haunt for smugglers who could be found with the contraband in the partially manmade St Clement’s Caves — now home to Smugglers Adventure, the popular tourist attraction where you can take a journey back in time to uncover the deep and dark secrets of the smugglers.
Centuries of warfare and erosion have taken their toll on the seaside town but it’s character and embedded history add to the charm of the seaside retreat. Today the town boasts a range of attractions perfect for a weekend break, overlooking the English Channel, with a wealth of yearly cultural events, festivals and designated Blue Flag beaches, at Marina beach and Pelham beach, to boot. The iconic Hastings Pier, one of the oldest in England, was built in 1972 and over the years has played host to music legends The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Genesis and Pink Floyd. Like the castle, it too has seen its fair share of devastation having suffered major storm damage in 1990 and further destruction occurred when 95 per cent of it was destroyed by a fire in 2010. Thanks to the Hastings Pier Charity it was restored and reopened in April 2016. With its history and heritage at its heart, the modern RIBA-award-winning pier is a simple and sustainable entertainment hub loved by locals and visitors alike. The uninterrupted expanse of the pier allows you walk the full length and into the elements, perfect for blowing the cobwebs out all year round.
The winding streets of the picturesque Old Town are crammed with Tudor houses and cosy cottages and the tiny twittens are just calling out to be investigated. It is also here that you’ll find the industrious fishing quarter, home to the largest beach-based fishing fleet in Europe, elevated net huts and weather-beaten beach huts. If you want to take in greater views of the area, hop on the UK’s steepest funicular railway, where the East Hill Lift provides access to Hastings Country Park and far-reaching views of the town below. Yet another structure of national importance, a powerful symbol of endurance. The entrance to a further funicular railway, which retains its original wooden Victorian coaches, can be found in the traffic-free George Street, the highly popular heart of the Old Town buzzing with many continental cafes, restaurants, and independent shops. There are so many things to do in Hastings, discover the outdoors on a fine weather day and explore one of its many museums when the weather is a little inclement, including the Hastings Fisherman’s Museum and Shipwreck Museum to get a taste of the fishing history. For the art-lovers, the sizeable collection of British artworks of Hasting Contemporary includes a permanent collection, rotating exhibits and a special emphasis on regional artists. This October through to January 2023 Hastings Museum & Art Gallery will be illuminating and celebrating the diversity of artistic talent in Hastings and beyond where selected artists will have their work on display in the Hastings Open. The Coastal Currents Arts Festival is an annual celebration of arts and culture across the 1066 region and includes open studios, events, exhibitions and performance art. For the thrill seekers and those that want to walk on the wild side then Source Park, the world’s largest underground skatepark and the recently refurbished Hastings Aquarium might just top off the perfect weekend away. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to where to dine, whether you’re looking for a quick bite, a light lunch, sensational seafood or fine dining, Hastings and the neighbouring town of St Leonards have an abundance of café’s, restaurants and bars including, but by no means conclusive, Porters in the heart of the Old Town, Webbe’s Rock-a-Nore, Galleria Seafood Bar, La Bella Vista and Graze on Grand in St Leonards. However, no trip to the seaside would be complete without good old fashioned fish and chips and a soft whipped ice cream with a walk along the beach.