The view of Hastings beach and seafront from the pier on a bright sunny day

A visit to the historic coastal town of Hastings, East Sussex, UK

In Counties, Days Out, East Sussex, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

Discover the Twittens, Funiculars and Rock-a-Nore

When you think of Hastings, you may immediately envisage King Harold and William the Conqueror engaging in a brutal skirmish on the harsh battlefields in 1066. However, I don’t want to disappoint, but the conflict actually took place in Battle, some 8 miles away.
The Hastings Fisherman’s Museum, located in a former Fisherman’s Chapel, in the Rock-a-Nore region of this pretty little seaside town.É

The Fisherman’s Museum

Nonetheless, Hastings has so much more to offer for a day out, there’s something for everyone in this East Sussex seaside town. Historic streets, an active fishing quarter, adventure golf and the nostalgic aroma of fish and chips by the sea.

Not only is it perfect for a day out with the family but, it is also ideal for weekend break from London.

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A little bit of history

Hastings rich history dates back centuries and centuries. No sooner had William the Conqueror defeated the British, he’d ordered that a stone castle was to be built on the cliffs. Today just a few ruins of the castle remain.
The view from the cobbled beach back to Pelham Crescent with Hastings Castle ruins above

Pelham Crescent with Hastings Castle ruins above

During the 12th century, Hastings became a Cinque Port. Members of the Cinque Ports were responsible for providing ships and men, to meet the naval and transportation requirements of the English Crown.
The view of Hastings beach and seafront from the pier on a bright sunny day

Hastings beach and seafront

One of the unusual aspects of Hastings is that although for over a thousand years, fishing is part of daily life, Hastings doesn’t have a harbour. The fishing boats are all hauled back across the pebbles, which makes Hastings, Europe’s largest beach-launched fishing fleet.

Fishing Quarter and The Stade

The area of Hastings that I’m immediately drawn to is the fishing quarter and especially The Stade. I just love strolling around by the wooden black weather-boarded net sheds, then stumbling across the stoney beach amongst the trawlers.
The wooden black weather-boarded net sheds in the Fishing Quarter of Hastings with an old fishing trawler in the centre.

Wooden black weather-boarded net sheds

All the while, squawking seagulls soaring overhead, looking for their next innocent victim who doesn’t have a firm grip on their fish and chips.

Ahh, you definitely know you’re beside the English seaside and all within a day trip for London. Grab the kids and let's visit the coast.

The fresh fish fishmongers based in the wooden black weather-boarded net sheds that sit on the beachside of the Rock-a-Nore region of Hastings

RX Fisheries and Net Shops

Dotted all around are fisheries tempting you with their catch of the day, or you can just grab yourself a pot of jellied eels or cockles and sit and watch the tide lapping across The Stade.
 
The Stade is the landing area for the colourful working fishing boats. When the fishermen have finished their haul for the day head in amongst the vessels, it’s like a pebble graveyard for huge rusting chains, buoys and weather-worn fishing nets.

A small fishing trawler, with the identifier RX142, on the single beach at Hastings on the East Sussex coast

RX142 Fishing Boat

Your bucket and spade won’t be required here, building sandcastles and burying your uncle neck-deep in the sand will have to be saved for another day trip to Margate.

A guide to Great Britain

There are so many beautiful regions to discover around the UK. From the delightful Kent coast in the southeast to the stunning Highlands of Scotland in the north. The UK is bursting with historical landmarks, castles and palaces.

Grab a copy of the latest DK Eyewitness guide to ensure you don't miss all those incredible sights.


Rock-a-Nore

There’s plenty to keep you amused all along Rock-a-Nore. From the East Hill Funicular railway and the Hastings Contemporary to the aquarium, Fisherman’s Museum and the Miniature Railway.
 
That’s before you have a rummage around the antique shops or a quick refresher in one of the socially distancing seafaring pubs.

A small gift shop in the Rock-a-Nore region of Hastings offering antiques & bric-a-brac, snacks and ice creams

Antiques, ice-cream and nautical gifts

The fascinating lofty tall black sheds along the Rock-a-Nore immediately catch your eye. The net shops, some of which are three stories high, are used for storing the fisherman’s nets and ropes rather than for drying them.
The view from Rock-a-Nore past the Wooden black weather-boarded net sheds to the East Hill funicular railway

East Hill funicular railway and Net sheds

The net shops have been an integral part of Hastings fishing fleet for centuries, in 2010 the 39 remaining net sheds were granted Grade II* listed building status.
 
Another unique element of Hasting’s seafront is East Hill Lift, one of two funicular railways in Hastings. East Hill opened in 1902 and transports you effortlessly 81 metres to the country park above. The funicular railway originally operated on the water balance principle; however, this was upgraded in 1976 to electricity.

The stone waiting room at the bottom of the East Hill funicular railway, with the tracks leading up to the station on top of Hasting's cliffs

The East Hill lift

A miniature diesel locomotive that forms part of the Miniature Railway that runs along towards Hasting's pleasure beach

Hastings Miniature Railway

The Rock-a-Nore and Stade is such a fascinating part of Hastings and full of so much history. With the Shipwreck Museum and the Fisherman’s Museum, you’ll be kept amused for hours with all the salty-sea-dog tales.
 
For a little bit of nostalgia hop onto the Miniature Railway which winds its way from Rock-a-Nore by the pebbly beach to the bustling amusement park.

Yes, you're right Hastings is a fun day out for the family.

Hastings Old Town

When you manage to drag yourself away from The Stade, head up through the lanes of the Old Town.
 
Oh, and keep an eye out for the Winkle Club sculpture, yes, it is a giant mollusc.

A polished steel sculpture of a giant winkle (sea snail) supported by fish at the point the old town of Hastings meets Rock-a-Nore
Hastings Winkle Club sculpture
Stroll north along the picturesque road of All Saints’ Street. There are so many delightful timber-fronted buildings along here. What makes this lane even more charming is the ancient raised walkway and the quaint streetlamps.
Hastings Winkle Club sculpture, Things to see in Hastings, East Sussex, England, UK

Timber-framed homes at the bottom of All Saints’ Street

Cottage garden flowers outside a terraced house in All Saints’ Street in Hastings
Charming cottages all through All Saints’ Street
The view along All Saints’ Street in Hastings with its Colourful weather-boarded cottages
Colourful weather-boarded cottages along All Saints’ Street
A couple strolling along All Saints’ Street in Hastings

Strolling the raised footpath along All Saints’ Street

Hastings Old Town was originally just two main streets, the High Street and All Saints' Street, which were divided by the Bourne Stream. The town has most certainly grown since the 14th century; however, these two pretty streets have still kept their charm.
The Cyril and Lilian Bishop lifeboat, that was involved in the Dunkirk evacuation, mounted at the end of All Saints’ Street as a memorial?

The Cyril and Lilian Bishop lifeboat

Just before crossing over to the High Street take a little time to appreciate the wonderfully restored 1930’s lifeboat the Cyril and Lilian Bishop. This tough vessel not only saved 34 lives during its time in Hastings, but it was also used in the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.

More seaside adventures

If you love visiting seaside resorts, take a peek at the Kent coastal towns we’ve discovered. Uncover the delights of Broadstairs, Deal, Hythe, Dungeness, Folkestone and more.

High Street

The High Street in Hastings is not quite how you would envisage a typical town High Street. Perhaps it’s because this one dates from centuries ago.
 
Predominately lined with quaint higgledy-piggledy homes, with tiny doorways and diamond leaded windows. Interspersed with antique yards, A G Hendry’s home store and shops where you can have a good old rummage.

The mix of buildings along the historic terraced houses of Hastings High Street

The top of Hastings High St

A traditional old hardware store on Hastings High Street with a selection of good on the pavement outside.
A G Hendy hardware store

Passing through these two ancient streets, keep a lookout for the ‘twittens’. The name twitten is quite unique to Sussex. These little alleyways and passages lead off of the High Street and All Saints’ Street to lanes and streets beyond.

An old cast iron lamp post at the top of the picturesque Church Passage in Hastings

Strolling down the picturesque Church Passage

A view of the tower of St Clements Church from Hill Street, lined on either side by half-timbered houses

St Clements Church from Hill Street

Take a stroll down some of the hidden alleys, as not only are they used as cut-throughs, they are so often hiding little cottages or pretty floral courtyards.
 
Keep an eye out for Church Passage along the High Street, this scenic lane leads up to Croft Road. For any Foyle’s War fans, you may recognise ‘St Just’ house from the detective TV drama.

The beautifully styled St Just House in the old town of Hastings

St Just House

This is a delightful area of Hastings to get lost in, there are so many quaint homes and intriguing little lanes to roam around.
 
Weave you way down past St Clements Church and onto Swan Terrace to rejoin the High Street.

Family day out from London

What could be better than a fun day out with the family by the seaside? Jump on a train from London and the English coast awaits. Candy floss, crazy golf, amusements and spinning teacups.
 
With Raileasy catch a highspeed train from St Pancras Intl, London and change at Ashford Intl. Or alternatively, catch a direct Southeastern train from London Bridge Station.

George Street

Another of my favourites streets in Hastings is George Street. It’s full of so much character, and the architecture is wonderful.
Strolling along the historic George Street in the old town of Hastings

Charming architecture along George Street

A view along George Street in Hastings, home to many a fine pub

Hastings is not short of a pub or two

Few of the shops along here are uniform, centuries of time have left its imprint along this pleasant pedestrian lane. Lined with charming boutiques, antiques, curios, bookshops and independent stores. And so many tempting pubs and eateries.
 
A street musician was keeping us entertained, all the while a couple of locals were playing a game of giant chess.

A game of giant-sized chess being played on Geroge Street

Playing chess along George Street

Also, along George Street is the entrance to West Hill Lift, Hastings second funicular railway. The two original wooden Victorian coaches travel along the 500ft tracks skywards, through a tunnel to nearby Hastings Castle and St Clements smuggling caves above.

Smuggling town of Rye

There’s so much to discover in East Sussex, and you certainly won’t want to miss Rye.

America Ground and Trinity Triangle

This small region of Hastings has a fascinating past. Centuries ago the triangular area around Robertson Street, Carlisle Parade, Harold Place and Claremont was once part of the sea.
 
The great storms of the 13th-century lead to Hastings harbour being destroyed and gradually the area silted over. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that merchants and ne’re-do-wells, occupied the land. Paying no rent on their ramshackle dwellings and creating the area to become almost self-sufficient, primarily ‘No Man’s Land’.

A giant mural on a wall identifying this area of Hastings as America Ground

The America Ground mural, along Robertson Passage

A traditional cast iron street sign for the Trinity Triangle district of Hastings

The Trinity Triangle

A form of independence was declared against the Corporation of Hastings, by raising America’s ‘Stars and Stripes’ becoming known as America Ground.
 
By 1850, the land was transferred to the Crown.

The beautiful architecture styling of the Old Library of Hastings

Hastings Old Library in Claremont

The beautiful architecture styling of the Venetian gothic Printworks in the Trinity Triangle of Hastings

The Venetian gothic Printworks

Things have changed a little bit around here now. In and around the ancient Trinity Church and Hastings old library are craft beers bars popping up, tattoo parlours, street-side cafés and organic stores.

Map, guides and more

When you’re nurturing the seed of a road trip, plotting your destinations across a paper map just brings the adventure to life. Whether it’s the touchy-feely aspect of the map or the rustling sound of mastering the art of origami while trying to fold it away, I’m not too sure. Nonetheless, the good old Ordnance Survey guys and gals always come up trumps.

Take a look at the vast array of maps you can choose from.

Off to the seafront

Hastings seafront just cries out for you to promenade along. With the sun shining a refreshing breeze blowing from the sea head onwards to Hastings Pier.

The view of Hastings pier from the promenade across the pebble beach

Hastings pier

Due to a severe fire in 2010, the pier was rebuilt, and in 2017 it won the Stirling Prize for Architecture. Dotted all around the pier are historic storyboards, touching plaques from local residents and plenty of seating to sit and watch the world sail by.
Traditional stalls on Hastings Pier selling candyfloss, slush puppies, popcorn & sticks of rock
Candy floss and slush, what more could you want?
Hastings Pier still as all the nostalgic fun that every pier should have with children’s rides, billowing candy floss and the traditional amusement arcades.
Hastings adventure golf course on the pleasure beach offering fun for all the family

Hastings adventure golf

Strolling back towards Rock-a-Nore there’s still more fun to be had, the trampolines bring back great childhood memories for me. Nowadays it’s the swashbuckling adventure golf and that boating lake that’s more up my street.

Drop us a line

If you have any questions or just fancy sharing your seaside experiences, drop us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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