Here we take a look at ten highlights of Hastings, a medieval seaside town situated on the south coast of England. About twenty miles from Eastbourne the town is, of course, famous for its monumental battle of 1066. In fact, the Battle of Hastings took place seven miles northwest of Hastings, close to the town which is now known as Battle.
Not only does Hastings offer traditional seaside pursuits, but it is brimming with history and cool independent shops along with a cutting-edge art gallery. With some interesting art-deco architecture together with a scattering of quirky museums, Hastings offers plenty to keep everyone entertained. Here we take a look at ten things to do in this eclectic and quirky seaside town.
1) Take a Ride on the Cliff Railways
There are two funicular railways which clatter their way up and down the seafront cliffs. The West Hill Lift has been functioning since 1891 and the original Victorian coaches run through a tunnel to Hastings Castle and St Clements Caves. The East Hill Lift opened in 1902 and transfers passengers to Hastings Country Park. With a gradient of 78%, it is, in fact, the steepest funicular in the country.
2) Learn about Maritime History at the Shipwreck Museum
Situated in Old Town, the small, but fascinating Shipwreck Museum is home to a range of artefacts retrieved from local shipwrecks. Exhibits include a 13th century rudder together with cannons, bottles, ammunition and replicas of various ships which have met their end in the English Channel. Additionally, there are a number of interactive and informative exhibits as well as a shop. Entry is free, but donations are appreciated.
3) Explore Hastings Old Town
The narrow lanes of Hasting’s atmospheric old town are full of traditional pubs, intriguing independent shops and historical buildings. Tiny stores trade in antiques, art and curiosities and the area is home to some of the oldest pubs in town. The Stag, for example, dates all the way back to the 16th century. In addition to being frequented by smugglers back in the day, the pub is said to have been connected to the practise of witchcraft.
4) Peruse Art at Hastings Contemporary Gallery
This slick modern gallery situated on the seafront started life as the Jerwood Gallery in 2012, but has since been renamed. The tiled low-level exterior reflects the light, and the small, but well laid out interior has exhibition rooms of various sizes. The Hastings Contemporary Gallery hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year and there is a good café on site.
5) Take a Step Back in History at Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle (built in 1070) stands upon a hill overlooking the old town. Although the walls of its south side were claimed by the sea, the ruis provide an insight of how the castle looked in times gone by. Remains of the castle include the dungeons, together with the walls of the Chapel of the Holy Cross and a couple of archways. It’s worth watching the video about the castle to gain an understanding of its history. Even if you aren’t a history buff, the views over Hastings and the English Channel are spectacular.
6) Pay a Visit to The True Crime Museum
Located on the seafront, the somewhat gruesome True Crime Museum isn’t for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, anyone with an interest in serial killers, murderers and gangsters will find it enthralling! Although only small, it packs a punch with its chilling atmosphere (it is situated in a cave) and intriguing exhibits. Visitors have the opportunity to have their fingerprints taken, sit in an electric chair or have a mugshot taken.
7) Dip into Teddy Tinker’s Emporium
You can’t miss this brightly painted orange and blue shop which is located in the St. Leonards area of town. Inside is a treasure trove of antiques along with curiosities, vintage clothing and fancy dress. Additionally, Teddy Tinker’s has the largest collection of American sheet music in the country. Other items include postcards together with jewellery, furniture, vintage tins and a variety of tempting trinkets. It would be easy to spend hours exploring this Aladdin’s cave of knick-knacks.
8) Check out the famous Fishing Huts of Hastings
Located along the Stade, on Europe’s oldest fishing beach, the town’s historical fishing huts are a striking sight. The tall black wooden sheds are three storeys high and are still used to store nets, sails and rope by the local fishing fleet. Amongst the huts, colourful fishing boats can be seen alongside piles of fishing nets. Nearby are a number of fish shops and restaurants where you can sample an array of delicious freshly caught seafood.
9) Venture into Smugglers Caves
This museum looks at the history of the smugglers, pirates and bootleggers who used the labyrinth of caves in days of olde. The dimly lit underground tunnels and passageways lead to spacious caves where history is brought to life by over seventy life size smuggler characters. The chapel is the coldest of the caves and is said to be haunted by smugglers. Additionally, there are several interactive exhibits and plenty of information on the history of the caves.
10) Visit the Scene of England’s Most Famous Battle
The Battle of Hastings took place around 1000 years ago. Although there is not much remaining from the scene, those with an interest in history will nevertheless find a visit interesting. In addition, the quaint town of Battle, nearby, is home to several decent pubs and cute shops. You can either wander across the battlegrounds yourself or take an audio tour. The ruins of Battle Abbey, which were built by William the Conqueror are an evocative sight and there is a plaque at the spot where King Harold was in the eye by an arrow.