On Friday, Mum and I got up bright and early and met my friend Arthur at Waterloo East to catch the train to Hastings for the day. None of us had ever been to Hastings before, and really weren’t sure what to expect. The only Hastings I could picture was its representation in Foyle’s War, and I sensed this would be pretty far from the reality. I was in for a very pleasant surprise!
I love train journeys: they always give such a sense of adventure, and the 1.5 hrs flew by as we chatted away happily and ate the Pumpkin Cupcakes I’d brought along. On arrival at Hastings, we gloried in the beautiful weather that greeted us and decided to head straight for the sea. From recommendations I’d received from friends, I knew we’d find a lot to enjoy along Rock-a-Nore road, which offers a pleasing mixture of culture (in the form of the Jerwood gallery), lovely seaside views and some of the best fish & chip shops in England. It only took about 20 minutes to walk from the station, and as soon as we got to Rock-a-Nore road, I whipped my camera out and started snapping away. Hastings really is a seaside town, and there’s no better place to appreciate it then this stretch of road, where fishing huts and boats, antique shops and fisheries all jostle together against the cliff.
Realising it was lunch time, I suggested we head to Maggie’s, which had been recommended as the place in Hastings to get fish & chips. I hadn’t booked ahead, which turned out to be a mistake, as they turned out to be completely booked (apparently, it’s wisest to book at least a week in advance), but happily a last minute cancellation occurred and we were given a table. It was clear that this place is exceedingly popular with local Hastings residents, and for good reason: we had some of the best fish & chips we’d ever tasted. I was a little overwhelmed at first by the portion size (one plate looked about enough to feed all 3 of us!), but manfully did my best, and it was delicious! The batter was thin and crispy, the cod wonderfully fresh and the chips exceedingly moreish.
After eating as much as we could manage (I’m not sure anyone could accomplish a clean plate at Maggie’s!), we decided a walk by the sea to work off some of our lunch would be wise. Arthur and I certainly got in a bit of a workout as we negotiated our way down some rocks to a particularly pretty part of the coast. ‘What I don’t do for the blog!’ I thought, clinging to a rock as an avalanche of slippery pebbles disappeared from under my feet. Fortunately, Arthur came and rescued me, and we made it to the bottom all in one piece.
Although rock climbing will clearly never be my forte, the stunningly beautiful seaside was definitely worth the effort. We both exclaimed over the true blue of the sea (you can tell you’ve been in London too long when you’re far too used to water looking rather bleak and muddy), and it was lovely just to stand and breathe in the air.
Returning to the main road, we were keen to get the funicular to the top of the cliff to admire the view of Hastings and the sea spread out below us. Wandering into the charmingly old-fashioned office, we paid for our tickets (£2.50 each) and were whisked away to the cliff top. The views were gorgeous, and once again I felt exceedingly thankful that the weather gods were smiling down on us. Blue sky met blue sea, and the pastel-shaded houses of Hastings spread out below us, making a pleasingly colourful landscape.
The Old Town looked so inviting from above, we decided it was time to explore it from ground level too, and were whisked back down again in the funicular to start our gentle ramble through the streets of Hastings’ Old Town. I have to say, I’ve seldom seen a prettier town: it felt like stepping back in time as we traversed the tiny alleyways and curving streets, flanked either side by many ancient and beautiful houses. My friend Arthur loves history and architecture so was on cloud nine and said too how his friends and relatives living abroad would adore Hastings. I completely agree: it offers a fantastic glimpse into a largely bygone England, and there’s also a largely unspoilt (and un-touristy) air to Hastings that is very special. I would absolutely recommend anyone visiting London for any length of time to take advantage of the easy train journey and make a day of it in Hastings.
We soon came across busier streets filled with quaint shops and cafes and decided that a drink at Penbuckles Deli was a good idea. The Deli is a foodie’s paradise, stuffed to the brim with delicious cheeses, meats and other delicacies. We were still too full from the fish & chips to eat anything, but instead ordered some wine and tea to enjoy in the cosy backroom (note: you do have to order some kind of food if you’re having alcohol, but we were able to get some olives as a take-away, which we enjoyed later that night).
Having refreshed ourselves, I was keen to head back to the Jerwood Gallery, of which I’d heard fabulous things. We were lucky to catch two excellent exhibitions that are currently being shown at the Jerwood: Lowry by the Sea and Horizons: Kettle’s Yard. Both were fabulous, but I especially enjoyed the Lowry exhibition. I’ve always associated Lowry so strongly with his urban artworks and had had no idea he’d done several seaside paintings as well. They are beautiful, and it felt so special to see them in such a lovely gallery right by the ocean. Having spent a fair amount of time exploring Jerwood, we stopped for another cup of tea in the gallery cafe which has a very nice terrace overlooking the sea and is well worth a visit.
Regretfully, it was then time to head back to the station to catch a train to London. We all agreed that we had the most fantastic day out and wanted to return to Hastings again soon. Much as I love London, it’s so fun to have a day away from the city every once in a while, and there’s really so much on offer nearby that it’s a shame not to go exploring more often. Have any of you been to Hastings before? What did you think of it? Have I inspired you to take any day trips yourself (I hope so!)? Also, it’s worth mentioning that if (like my friend Arthur) you’re a keen history scholar yourself, then you may want to book your calendar for September / October next year, when there will be a big arts festival in Hastings with contemporary interpretations of the Battle of Hastings, and a historical re-enactment.
I was given 3 train tickets to Hastings, as well as free entry to the Jerwood Gallery, by the lovely people of Visit 1066 Country and South Eastern Railway, in exchange for a blog post about the area. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own, and I wouldn’t have written about my trip had I not loved it and wanted to share it with all of you.