I’m a full believer that city escapes are good for the soul. Even though I love city life, there always a point where I just can’t bear crowded trains, hectic shops and busy restaurants. I crave more personal space, less noise and fewer people.
Last weekend, I had reached that point. I knew I was getting there when we went to Ham House and I spent the rest of that weekend plotting a proper escape. I worked through my list, thinking about what might work and which option was best for this time of year. We’re in the process of buying a house at the moment, so it had to be a day trip and not an expensive train. Eventually, I settled on Hastings, a seaside town in East Sussex somewhere between Rye and Brighton. Less than £20 for a day ticket and just over an hour and a half from Charing Cross, it’s a great last-minute choice.
I have to admit Hastings’ station and the immediate surrounding area doesn’t give you a great first impression of the town. But walk about 10 minutes to the coast, go past the whizzing fairground rides and rattling arcades and you’ll discover the Old Town.
A cobbled high street with side streets worth exploring.
Since May Day was approaching there were lots of colourful outfits and tinkling bells as Morris Dancers made their way through the street. I watched all of this perched in a cosy cafe, called Hanushka.
It’s a bit of an eclectic cafe, with a stall outside selling polish hotdogs and a name that doesn’t quite match up with what you might expect to find inside.
With the bookshelves filled from floor to ceiling and desk lamps adding light to a bit of a grey day, it felt a bit more like a library. We ordered coffees (good but not great) and portugeuse custard tart (otherwise known as a nata) to give a little bit of fuel before lunch.
The Old Town is quite easy to navigate with a main high street that runs virtually paralell to the sea front and a few smaller streets to the side.
(You know that I’m totally regretting not getting a closer snap of that mint green and pink door combination.)
You’ll quickly discover that one of Hastings’ specialty is an abundance of antique furniture and general homeware stores.
I wanted to rummage through each one.
But I thought it might be more fun to return when we finally have our house and garden. And to be honest, I was pretty happy pottering through the cobbled streets and enjoying a slower pace.
There isn’t a great deal to see and eventually we made our way to the coast for a few long deep breaths of the salty sea breeze.
Now we all know that the best views are found up high, so clambering our way up the East Hill was an obvious must-do.
You can choose to take the train and go back in time to when the railway line was built in 1903 for about £3. We decided we wanted to walk so we found the steps to the side.
The view up top is lovely and it made me want to see some of those colourful houses up front as well as tackle the hill on the other side. It’s funny how much more energy you can find away from London, suddenly things don’t seem quite so draining.
On a sunny day, I imagine the sea looks much more appealing, especially in contrast to a few weeks navigating the small and never-ending streets of London.
You could choose to hike across Hastings Country Park, covering some 660 acres.
And this view made it very tempting. But feeling unprepared for an amble along the cliffs, we chose to return to sea level and tuck into some fish and chips.
Maggie’s comes highly recommended but sadly claimed to be fully booked and didn’t take card. We attempted a hunt for an ATM but eventually settled for one of the many fish and chip shops on the shore.
The town had become quite busy by 2pm, so we spent the last part of the day on the sea front. Hastings is well-known not only for the battle that took place in a field not to far away, but also being home to one of the largest fleets of beach-launched fishing boats.
It wasn’t quite as picturesque as I imagined it. But a refreshing sight to see don’t you think?
We walked as far as we were able to, stopped and took a few long deep breaths, watching the waves roll in and listening to the sound as they crashed on the shore. One of the best feelings in the world in my opinion.
Whether you have a nice car or a lovely camper van, it’s fair game as a perching place.
Whilst Rye and Whitstable may hold the top spot for quaint seaside city escapes, Hastings certainly has its own charm. I wouldn’t necessarily put it high up on the list, but if you’re just after a quick day trip it will definitely do the trick.
As we don’t have many overseas travel plans this year, I’d love to explore more of the British coast. Are there any other seaside towns I should visit?