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Things To Do In Hastings, England

Published:

Modified: March 11, 2020

by Bojan Ivanov

1620px Hastings Castle 2012 07 28 - Things To Do In Hastings, England
Hastings Castle with town in the background/ Photo by Kreepin Deth CC BY-SA 3.0 (from Wikipedia)

Hastings is a hidden gem that awaits exploration located in the southeast of England. There a lot of interesting things to do in Hastings. This attractive East Sussex seaside resort is full of suppresses. There are many attractions that certainly will keep you in Hastings for at least a couple of days. 

 

Hastings is best known for its association with the famous Battle of Hastings of 1066, a battle that took place near the present-day town of Battle, approximately six miles away from Hastings. Later it was part of the Medieval alliance of coastal towns known as the Cinque Ports. However, because of destructive floods and constant attacks by the French, Hastings lost its importance as one of the Cinque Ports at the end of the 14th century. In the 19th century, it became a popular seaside resort, as the railway allowed tourists to reach the town.

 

Here is a list of things to do in Hastings:

 

1.

Visit Hastings Castle – A Significant Historic Site

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An aerial view of Hastings Castle/ Photo by Barbara van Cleve CC BY-SA 4.0 (from Wikipedia)

 

You can explore the remains of Hastings Castle on the town’s West Hill. This mighty stronghold is the first fortification built after William the Conqueror’s invasion in 1066. The ruins that can be seen today originates mostly from the reign of Henry III in the 13th century.

 

Throughout the centuries this impressive fortress has suffered a lot. A large portion of the complex fell into the sea during a severe storm in the late 13th century. The French attacked it several times in the 14th century. Abandoned in the 16th century. Hit by bombs during bombing in WWII. Now only parts of the structure are standing. However, even though it lost its former glory throughout the century, it is still impressive.

 

The castle is famous for its cloistered chapel and dungeons. There are many displays that tell the story of the castle and the historic events that happened here. There is also a tent where you can watch the “1066 Story” and learn more details about the castle’s history and the famous battle. The view from the top is breathtaking.

 

2.

Walk-Up The Hastings Pier And Enjoy The Great Views

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Hastings Pier at sunset/ Photo by Dr-Mx CC BY-SA 3.0 (from Wikipedia)

 

Hastings Pier dates back to 1872 and extends 280 meters into the English Channel. It was vulnerable to the elements, like all piers, and suffered storm damage in 1990, followed by a fire in 2010, which wiped out it almost entirely.

 

Luckily, the huge renovation brought the pier back in life. This spacious pier featuring lots of timber is a remarkable structure. It is an interesting mix of the traditional look and many modern elements. In 2017, the renovation project won the Stirling Prize for architecture. 

There is a state-of-the-art exhibition in “the Deck” visitor centre and a cafe with a scenic view on the upper floor. The pier hosts many different events over the summer, like free family workshops, live music, street performers and outdoor cinema screenings.

 

3.

Get An Insight On Smuggling In Smugglers Adventure

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Smugglers tableau/ Photo by Cory Doctorow CC BY-SA 2.0 (from Flickr)

 

Smugglers and pirates frequented the Hastings area in the 17th and 18th centuries. They burrowed the West Hill’s sandstone caves with hundreds of meters of tunnels in order to move and store illegal goods like rum. In Victorian times St Clements Caves became a tourist attraction. Local residents used the caves as a hospital and air-raid shelter in wartime.

 

Walkthrough the extensive cave network and learn about the area’s smuggling past in a wonderful atmosphere in the pre-glacial St. Clements Caves. This is a very unique museum with information boards and more than 70 life-size interactive figures of pirates and smugglers, accompanied by sound effects. It is very cool inside the caves, thus it is an ideal destination for the hot summer days. Some parts of the caves are very dark so you have to walk very carefully. A must-do attraction in Hastings perfect for children and adults alike. Hastings smugglers adventure opening time: every day from 10 am to 4 pm until October 31st. Smugglers Adventure closes the doors for public visits in winter.

 

4.

The Darkest Side Of Humanity In The True CRIME Museum

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A police photograph of John George Haigh, the “Acid Bath Murderer” (1949)/ Public domain (from Wikipedia)

 

This place should be on your bucket list, especially if you are a fan of TV crime drama. A chilling, yet fascinating exhibition of the darker side of criminal activity around the globe. The museum is an interesting mix of artefacts and replicas with plenty of information to read about true crime, as well as some spooky reconstructions.

 

The actual acid tubs used by John George Haigh to dissolve his victims, a love letter from a serial killer and a genuine lethal injection deathbed are the “relics” of the museum. You can become forensic for a moment in the Crime Lab and play some forensic games, like guessing the crimes and the celebrities from their police mugshots. Hear the authentically recorded confessions of some of the notorious serial killers where they describe their hideous deeds in the surround sound cinema (CINEMA CAVE). 

 

5.

Relax in the Hastings parks

(i) Alexandra Park – In The Heart Of The Town

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The Bucks Hole Reservoir in Alexandra Park/ Photo by Jaminnun CC BY 3.0 (from Wikipedia)

 

The formal Victorian gardens are surrounded by wild areas. There is also a boating lake, few tennis courts, a miniature railway and several play areas for the youngsters. The park hosts many concerts and festivals over the summer.

 

(ii) Old Roar Gill – A Little Haven Of Peace

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A tree-lined path in the Old Roar Gill/ Photo by don cload CC BY-SA 2.0 (from Wikipedia)

 

Old Roar Gill is a narrow wooded valley at the northern end of Alexandra Park. Walk through the woods in a magical atmosphere alongside a stream and discover a couple of very picturesque waterfalls. In this nature reserve, you can see rare flowers and animals. It’s a beautiful place to wander around.

 

(iii) The Hastings Country Park – A Protected Area

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Hastings Country Park/ Public domain (from Wikipedia)

 

Upon the cliffs above Hastings is located the Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve. With its 852 acres of ancient woodland, heathland and cliffs it is one of the largest nature reserves in England. Enjoy in walks just a few minutes from the centre of Hastings overlooking some of the most amazing landscapes on the south coast of England.

 

There is plenty of wildlife (including wild ponies) and rare plants to see, like mosses, liverworts and lichens. In spring or autumn, you can watch the migrating birds that cross the English Channel. Fulmars, peregrine falcons and black redstarts (one of the largest populations of breeding black redstarts in the UK) are nesting on the cliffs. Other notable birdlife includes kestrels and buzzards. The reserve is attracting ravens and barn owls too.

 

There are also several historical landmarks. This area was inhabited since the Palaeolithic Age. The Celts, Romans and Saxons all left their mark.  

 

6.

The West And East Hill Lifts – A Unique Experience

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The East Hill Lift/ Photo by Andrew Skudder CC BY-SA 2.0 (from Flickr)

 

The town has two funicular railways rattling up and down its sandstone cliffs.

 

The older of the two is the 150-metre West Hill Lift, which opened in 1891, serving Hastings Castle and St Clements Caves. This railway runs through a man-made tunnel and still uses its original narrow wooden Victorian coaches. The West Hill lift has a lower station on the charming George Street departing from the old town. The upper station on the West Hill offers breathtaking views over the town and the English Channel and access to Smugglers Adventure and Hastings Castle.

 

The East Hill Lift is the UK’s steepest funicular railway and has a lower station on Rock-a-Nore Road. The upper station offers great views of the Old Town and access to Hastings Country Park. This line was launched in 1902 and is capped with a pair of towers constructed to house the water tanks for the original hydraulic propulsion system.

 

 

7.

See The Sea Life In The Blue Reef Aquarium

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Exploring Blue Reef Aquarium/ Photo by Steph Gray CC BY-SA 2.0 (from Flickr)

 

Close to the East Hill Cliff Railway is located the Blue Reef Aquarium. There are lots of interesting and varied fish from local waters and from all around the world. 

 

Take a walk through naturally themed habitats and see hundreds of marine animals (brightly coloured tropical fish, rays, sharks and seahorses).  The main attraction is the enormous ocean tank with an underwater tunnel with sharks and reef fish. They also have reptiles, spiders, snakes and a large octopus. If you are lucky you may even catch the feeding times for some of the fish or for the octopus.

 

8.

Discover The Local Fishing Tradition

(i) Learn About The Local Fishing Industry At Hastings Fishermen’s Museum 

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The former church of St Nicholas, now Hastings Fishermen’s Museum/ Public domain (from Wikipedia)

 

Hastings and the neighbouring area have a more than 1000 years long fishing tradition. Be sure to visit the former Fishermen’s Church of St Nicholas in Rock-a-Nore Road. Erected in the 19th century and surrounded by several tall black net sheds. It now houses the Hastings Fishermen’s Museum, with exhibits related to boats and the history of the local fishing industry. 

 

You can climb aboard the Enterprise (1912), the last sailing lugger in Hastings. The town’s last sailing lugger is the main exhibit in the Hastings Fisherman’s Museum.

 

(ii) Learn About Shipwrecks At Shipwreck Museum

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Entrance to the Shipwreck Museum/ Photo by Kirkbooth CC BY-SA 4.0 (from Wikipedia)

 

During low tide, you can explore the sites of two historic shipwrecks in the Shipwreck Museum in the Old Town of Hastings. Learn some interesting details inside the museum about the geology of the coastline and the environmental conditions that helped to be preserved the wrecks on the seabed. Many artefacts scavenged and saved from ships wrecked in the English Channel are part of the collection. There is also an exhibit of fossils discovered in the local region.

 

(iii) Walk The Stade

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The Stade as seen from Hastings East Hill/ Photo by Magiko CC BY 3.0 (from Wikipedia)

 

You can also take a walk at the Stade, a shingle beach in Hastings Old Town Fishing Quarter. Originally the beach was smaller. The construction of the harbour and groyne in the late 19th century caused a steep bed of shingle to accumulate. Europe’s largest fleet of beach-launched fishing boats is based here.

 

A famous attraction of this part of Hastings is the net shops, a traditional tarred weatherboard net sheds used by fishermen to store their nets. A weatherproof store for the fishing gear was essential. The fishing gear in the past was made from natural materials. It rotted easily in wet weather if not protected. These remarkable tall black wooden structures are standing evidence of the town’s long history as a fishing port.  

 

 

9.

Jerwood Gallery – Hastings Museum Of Contemporary Art

 

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Photo by John Lord CC BY 2.0 (from Flickr)

 

Jerwood Gallery is a museum of contemporary British art opened in 2012. It is located on the Stade in front of the old town. The building itself is a unique piece of art with a quite intriguing design. It has an exterior that harmonizes with the nearby net shops. The black-tiled shiny exterior reflects the nearby cliffs and waves from the shingle beach thus adding more to its already fantastic look. 

 

The permanent collection at the Jerwood Gallery has works by some of the well-known names of modern British art like L. S. Lowry, Stanley Spencer, Walter Sickert, Ben Nicholson, Patrick Caulfield and Augustus John. 

 

10.

See The Enormous Collection At Hastings Museum & Art Gallery

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Hastings Museum and Art Gallery/ Photo by Oast House Archive CC BY-SA 2.0 (from Wikipedia)

 

Hastings Museum & Art Gallery is an amazing museum with an eclectic mix of exhibits and collections. Established over 125 years ago and placed in an Elizabethan-style mansion the Hastings Museum & Art Gallery offers an incredible opportunity to explore art, history and culture from around the world.

 

Before Hastings tells the story of the area from prehistory to the Saxons and The Story of Hastings in 66 Objects continues the story from 1066 until today. There is also a collection of dinosaur fossils including the Iguanodon, which was discovered in the area. This exhibition is interactive and especially interesting for the children.

 

Also worth a look is an exhibition of Native American artefacts relating to Grey Owl, or Archibald Belaney, a Hastings-born emigrant to Canada who pretended to be a First Nations person and became a prominent conservationist. His true identity was discovered after he died. 

 

Probably the most spectacular part of the building is the Durbar Hall, a stunning interior space created for the 1886 London Colonial & Indian Exhibition with intricate, Indian Islamic-style wooden carvings. The Durbar Hall’s upper floor houses a world art exhibition.

 

11.

Walk The Ruins Of The Battle Abbey And Learn About The Battle Of Hastings

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Battle Abbey ruins/ Photo by Chris Shaw CC BY-SA 2.0 (from Wikipedia)

 

The Battle of Hastings is one of the most crucial events in English history. William of Normandy defeated the Anglo-Saxon pretender to the throne Harold Godwinson and start the Norman Conquest. Later William founded a monastery at the site of the battle. Supposedly the high altar was positioned on the exact spot where Harold died.

 

Now a stone marks the spot because the abbey is a partial ruin. Battle Abbey was one of the many abbeys, monasteries and convents that suffered during the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1541. The abbot’s quarters became a stately home and the other buildings started to decay.  

 

Battle Abbey is a 15-minute drive or train ride from Hastings. You can walk around the battlefield and the ruins. There is also a visitor centre with an interesting exhibition and a film about the battle, and audio tours of the battlefield site. 

 

Hastings Weather Or When To Visit Hastings?

In case you have already decided to visit Hastings, here are the annual Hastings weather averages: July is the hottest month with an average temperature of 17° (63 ° F). The coldest is January at 6°C (42°F). The wettest month is February. August is the best month to swim in the sea when the average sea temperature is 17°C (64°F).

However, do not wait for the ideal weather. Hasting is beautiful in every time on the year.