Written by larapiegeler
As is probably the case for many, until we visited Hastings, we knew it only for its 1066 battle and not much else. But it seems that this faded Victorian holiday hotspot is gradually reinventing itself as a boutique hotel-scattered destination for seaside weekenders, and by the time we left, we agreed that we’d received equal doses of nostalgic charm and selective modernity.
The old pier is still inaccessible, and seems to levitate on its rickety legs above the sea as a ghostly monument to the iconic 1960s concerts held in the pavilion and the dancers and midnight swimmers of the 1930s. But from the vantage point of the ‘Alluring Antarctica’ room at the Zanzibar Hotel, with a glass of wine in your hand and the promise of ten minutes in your en-suite sauna before dinner, it’s an evocative work of art. (The ‘Sensual South America' room is good, too, and has a great bath.)
After an early afternoon arrival, we made a closer inspection of the Marine Parade and the old town – good for boutiques, small, independent interior design shops and art galleries as well as gift shops and pubs. A very late lunch of fish and chips from the legendary Blue Dolphin (eaten whilst watching the arrival of the May bank holiday bikers’ convention) lived up to our high expectations, and we played crazy golf on the seafront until midnight.
The visitor centre at Battle is hi-tech and child-friendly, with its own café boasting local produce, but if you prefer to let your imagination add the Norman and Saxon armies to the scene, then a walk across Senlac Hill (from a corruption of the French, ‘Sanguelac’) and an exploration of the ruined Battle Abbey make for a thoughtful morning.
Die-hard history fans might also want to make the twenty-minute taxi journey on to Pevensey Castle, but provided the weather holds, take a ride on the UK’s steepest funicular railway to the East Cliff Country Park – a huge nature reserve. A chillier day, however, might merit a visit to the shipwreck museum – but either way, honouring the town’s history as a fishing port by grabbing some freshly cooked, sustainably caught fish in a bun from the stall by the Victorian net shops on Stade beach is essential.
A more sedate dinner at Latham’s Brasserie on George Street comes highly recommended.
Jack-in-the-Green celebrations have been observed in Hastings every May day since even before the Romans arrived, and today they swamp the whole bank holiday weekend in parades led by teams of drummers who make the ground shake, street performances by Morris dancers and folk musicians, and the symbolic rituals of the crowning of the May Queen and the Slaying of the Jack. Of course, it only happens once a year, so if you can’t time your visit to coincide with it, there’s still a fantastic, recently re-developed aquarium centre and a clutch of quaint, specialised museums to browse around (– unless, that is, it’s warm enough to spend a day on the beach!) and if you can stomach any more seafood, have crab sandwiches for lunch at Maggie’s.
Departed from London By Train Duration 2.5 days London to Hastings £27.80
2 nights B&B at the Zanzibar £165
Admission to the Blue Reef Aquarium £7
Mini golf on the seafront £3
Fish in a bun £3
Fish and chips £6
Lunch at Maggie’s £10
Dinner at Latham’s £30
Entry to the Abbey and Battlefield £6.50
East Cliff funicular railway ticket £1.60
(All costs are given per person, based on two sharing..)
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