“I really want to go to the seaside,” my friend said to me. For once it didn’t prove to be an unfulfilled fancy like so many can be at university. On an unfortunately wet day last March, myself and two others rocked up to Charing Cross station at around 8am to start our day trip not to Brighton or Dover or Portsmouth, but to Hastings.
Hastings has everything you need for a day trip (particularly if you’re happy to spend a bit of cash): there are tourist traps like the aquarium and classic attractions like castle ruins, and the more unique locations like exploring the caves used by smugglers of the past. But even for free and in the rain there’s enough to do.
After an hour and 45 minutes we arrived. First up: the beach. Like most beaches in South East England Hastings has a pebble beach, about five minutes from the train station. It wasn’t raining (yet) so we paddled in the ocean and stared into the distance at the charred husk of the pleasure pier. Once it has been restored it will be a great feature of the town.
We next visited the old town which retains the town’s historic past as a fishing port. There are plenty of interesting old buildings, such as the Piece of Cheese Cottage and the Stag Inn, and many have accompanying creepy ghost stories. You might want to look some of them up in preparation for your trip!
We then walked up the West Hill that flanks the old town to enjoy the view across the Channel, admittedly limited thanks to the weather. Normally one can take England’s steepest funicular railway from the base of the hill to the top, but it’s currently closed for repairs. The complementing East Hill funicular railway is open though (weather dependent) so no need to miss out.
At this point the heavens opened so we took refuge in a café. Once hot food and tea had warmed us we headed back out to explore more of the old town. The Stade, the shingle beach of the old town, hosts Europe’s largest fleet of beach-launched fishing boats and is home to fifty tall black wooden sheds called the Net Shops. These were used to store fishing gear to prevent rotting. We also popped into the free Hastings fishermen’s museum, which includes a fishing boat for investigation.
We finished with the final necessary of the day – fish and chips. There is no better end to a seaside trip. Then we dodged the raindrops on our run back to the station and reached London by early evening.
So if you want to get away to the seaside for a day, you could do far worse than a trip to Hastings!