Getting out of London to relax and recharge is the best way to cope with the everyday stressors of the city. Coming to the end of May we nearly forgot we had a second bank holiday in the month. With some free time off from work and a desire to explore somewhere new outside of London D and I booked a very last-minute trip down to the coast. I’ve now visited many seaside towns and find I either strongly love or dislike them with no in between. After some research D found cheap rail tickets and accommodation in Hastings so we decided to give it a go.
When we arrived and found our hotel – the White Rock Hotel – we were quite happy that we went with a sea front location. It was well away from the hub of the main streets and the old town. The hotel was also close to the disused pier which oddly enough was interesting to see in decay. Built in 1872 it hey days were throughout the 30s and 60s. It closed down in 2006 and in 2010 suffered a suspicious fire and has been boarded up. Regeneration efforts are currently being made but I’m not sure how successful they are.
After ditching our bags we wandered around trying to get our bearings and find the tourist office. Thankfully it is almost certain that most towns and cites in England have one. Hastings is a little bit like a tale of two towns. Behind the strip where we stayed the streets were run down but closer to the old town it was lively and packed with people.
Moving along to old town we passed the Holy Trinity Church of Hastings. It wasn’t clear if we could go inside but after peaking through the door we were welcomed to enter and look around. I spotted a Canadian flag and was instantly intrigued as to why it was there. Chatting with a member of staff I learned that many Canadian soldiers stayed in Hastings to rest and recover. I began to feel like we had definitely chosen the right destination.
Hastings’ claim to fame comes from being the location where the last and most famous invasion in English history was fought in 1066…or rather a location close to here. The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II, during the Norman conquest of England. The battle took place north-west of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle. The English were defeated.
Remnants of this battle are non-existent but you will find ruins of Hastings castle at the top of West Hill which is easily reached by a funicular. The castle was one of three fortifications that was ordered built in 1066 when Duke William II landed here. It was then ordered to be rebuilt in stone in 1070. The surviving stone is lovely but with so little of it left it is hard to image a full castle here. To help visitors picture an intact castle a short video and information panels are dotted around the ruins.
Though small Hastings offers a lot. We happened to catch a biker and Jack in the Green festival so we had no trouble keeping ourselves entertained. Besides the castle we also visited the aquarium, the shipwreck museum, rode a miniature train, and explored nearby St Leonards.
My verdict? I liked it a lot but wouldn’t return any time soon. Maybe I have found the elusive middle ground for my unofficial ranking of the UK’s seaside towns. It was great for the time we were there but you only need 2 days at most unless you have a car to get to attractions further afield. Our aim was to relax and recharge and we did just that.
Our next UK destination just happens to be by the sea again! Off to Devon in September for a wedding. I think I am going to love this one.