One of my favourite things to do on a weekend, when I’m not exploring different parts of London, is to head to a proper English seaside town. After a hen-do in Brighton, and with a couple of days off work to spare, my next choice for exploring was Hastings. Living in London has opened up a whole new world of south-coast seaside towns to explore and I, for one, am not complaining. My boyfriend might though, as he doesn’t have quite the same love for crumbling English sea side towns as I do.
I also want to start this post with a slight disclaimer: I find it hard to talk about English seaside towns without sounding like a twat. They’re best when they’re slightly crumbling but you can also see that they’re on their way up. I’ve mentioned this before, for example when I wrote about my trip to Margate. There’s a definite air of gentrification happening there. The same can be said of Hastings, where instead of the buzzword being “Kentrification”, they talk about the “down from Londoners”.
I always wonder whether I would go to these sea side towns if they weren’t gentrifying. Whether I would still like them as much if they didn’t have some of the London/city comforts I’ve gotten used to in my time living in big cities. There’s nothing wrong with a town “getting better” but there are obvious effects on the local population who end up being pushed out. And, if I’m honest, I’m not sure how I reconcile my positive experience of gentrification with the negatives for others.
Anyway! With that little rant over and my disclaimer out of the way, here’s how I spent 24 hours in Hastings.
Getting to Hastings
Usually, as I’d been at my friend’s hen-do in Brighton, I wasn’t starting out from London. Instead, I got a local line service from Brighton to St-Leonards, where we stayed for the night. Getting to Hastings from London is pretty simple though – there are trains from Victoria, Charing Cross and Blackfriars. Charing Cross is the quickest option, with the journey taking around 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Because it was about two hours away, we decided to stay the night. Due to its former glory as a prime Victorian holiday destination, there are hundreds of hotels along the front. We had quite a nice stay at the Royal Victoria. It’s quite a grand hotel (or it was once) with a ridiculous marble staircase. It once hosted guests like Queen Victoria and Edward VIII – although it’s hard to imagine it would these days.
Probably the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about Hastings is the Battle Of. Unfortunately, I had no interest in that so did nothing 1066 related. If it is your kinda thing, then you probably can’t go too wrong with a visit. It’s clear that there is a lot related to that battle in the town, including the 1066 experience, the battle site and the ruins of the abbey.
Having said that, there is still enough to do when you’re in Hastings that isn’t related to 1066. We did the standard walking along the beach, grabbing an ice cream and I failed miserably at making my boyfriend head into the Amusement arcade to play the penny slots. We also took a walk along the pier, which is relatively newly rebuilt after a fire destroyed the Victorian pier. It has brightly coloured stalls, fish and chip shops and a camera obscura. Is it the best example of a pier in England? Nope. But it’s fun in its own different way.
We took a trip up the East Hill Cliff Railway, a funicular railway which gives access to Hastings Country Park and some pretty wicked views of Hastings and the coast. A return trip was only £2.50 and it was a sweet little thing to do. Hastings is pretty unique because it has two funicular railways, the West Hill lift is the steepest cliff railway in England but is mainly hidden inside a tunnel.
We also took a walk around the Stade area of the town, through the netting sheds – tall black sheds that used to store fisherman’s nets which are unique to Hastings – along with the Jerwood gallery and around the boats and ships. Afterwards, we took a walk around Hastings Old Town. It’s a part of the town full of half timbered buildings and small cottages and passageways which used to be used by smugglers.
If vintage shopping is your thing, then you can’t go too wrong with a trip to Hastings. I was massively surprised by the large number of independent shops there. A lot were vintage clothing shops, but there were delis, bookshops and antique shops too.
Eating and Drinking in Hastings
It would be wrong to be by the sea and not eat fish, right? We had dinner at Webbe’s Rock-A-Nore and sat outside in the windy sea air near the netting shops. They try and use local fish from the ports at Hastings and Rye. We feasted on seafood linguini, cockles, seafood broth and mackerel pate. Yum!
We had drinks at a small place called Whistle Trago on George Street. They did a pretty fantastic range of cocktails – most of which you probably wouldn’t find elsewhere. I had one which resembled more of an ice cream sundae than a cocktail, it was totally worth it.
So would I go back?
Yes, definitely. Hastings is a really cute place to visit, even if it is a teeny bit run down. However, there are plenty more seaside towns to explore!
Let me know if you go to Hastings and what you get up to!