The south coast of England has many old seaside towns that were fashionable in the Victorian era and Hastings was one of them, although its history dates from much further back. Having recently undergone a resurgence in popularity I decided to visit to see what’s been happening and to explore the town.
The train from London takes just over an hour an a half so it wasn’t long before I was in Hastings. It was cold but the sun was out when I set off towards the seafront. Hastings is split into two parts, the old town and the more “modern” seaside resort, I decided to start off with a walk along the promenade heading towards St Leonards on Sea.
There are some beautiful old Victorian era terraces along the seafront and although a little jaded now you can see how grand they once were.
Along this part of the seafront is where I find Hastings Pier. One of the drivers of the areas regeneration the pier has been transformed from being almost destroyed by fire in 2010 into what you see today. The new pier reopened in 2016 and has a visitor centre, cleverly clad in timber from the decking the survived the fire, shops and a cafe with a viewing deck. They also host regular events here too.
Walking back on myself brings me to the old part of Hastings. The beach here is still filled with small fishing boats and the town still has the largest beach launched fishing fleet in Europe.
Along the edge of the beach are some strange looking tall black wooden huts, these are used by the fisherman to hang their nets in. Hastings fish market is held here and there are also some lovely cafes and restaurants around this area.
Walking into the old town is like stepping back in time, nestling between the east and west hills there’s a charming mix of half timbered houses, narrow streets and passageways. Locally these are known as twittens.
I had a lot of fun wandering around these streets looking at the different buildings and discovering some wonderful quirky shops selling everything from vintage and retro furniture to antiques and ice cream and fudge.
Above the old town is Hastings Country Park, 660 acres of ancient woodland, grassland and heathland that stretch across five miles of exposed cliffs and some beautiful rugged terrain. There are two funicular railways that you can use to reach the top, the East Hill Lift and the West Hill Lift. The East Hill Lift is the steepest funicular railway in Britain. I used the West Hill Lift and within a few minutes was at the top admiring the spectacular views up and down the coast.
Hastings Castle, or rather whats left of it also sits on the top of the cliffs. The castle was built on the orders of William the Conquerer after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. What can be seen today is less than half of the original castle.
Sat on the train heading home I’m already thinking about returning to Hastings but the next time I think I’d choose to stay and make a weekend of it as I felt the town and the surrounding area had a lot more to show me. I’m looking forward to planning my return.