Don’t write this lovely little seaside area off, it’s absolutely worth your time. What to do in Hastings? History, creative experiences, shopping and yummy food await.
What to do in Hastings: history
Take a trip through time with us to Hastings, in Sussex, England.
October 14, 1066 − a most famous date that changed the course of English history. The English army, led by King Harold, was deployed on Senlac hill, where the town of Battle and its beautiful abbey presently stand. William (“The Conqueror”), positioned his army strategically, and although it’s understood to have been a close battle, at the end of a very long and bloody day in time, William won the war, bringing Norman rule to England. —click here to read the story
Creative things to do in Hastings
When we think of creative escapes within easy proximity to London, usually somewhere like Brighton or Whitstable come to mind. But, recently we decided to venture further down the coast for the first time, to historic Hastings.
If you want to know what to do in Hastings, stop and chat to the locals. They’ll give you tips on all the ways to experience living history and where to get the creative juices flowing. From castles to caves and ghost tours, this quirky, poignant and pretty seaside stop-over is ideal is brimming with options.
A photographer’s dream
Gardens, ocean and cliff-top landscapes abound, making it simple to find what to do in Hastings that is perfect for you. It’s the colourful maritime heritage that makes this place excellent for discovering unique shots, whether you’re an amateur or pro photographer. Hastings and nearby Rye and Winchelsea belonged to the Cinque Ports Confederation and this heritage is still evident in their fishing trade and medieval experiences.
Take a free walking tour of the Stade (organised by the Hastings Fishermen’s Museum) or through Hastings’ quaint Old Town (also free, organised by Old Hastings Preservation Society), get your bearings, then explore and image-capture til it’s time for bed. On a sunny day, the light here is divine at sunrise and sunset.
More of what to do in Hastings? Get amongst the antiques shopping! Interestingly, there’s plenty of delightful vintage shopping here, but not so much that it’s overwhelming (like in some other larger cities).
If you’re seeking one-off trinkets and pieces to make your home stand out, wander the boutique stores of Hastings’ Old Town and be ready to snap up a delicious deal. Wander off to Courthouse Street too, and you’ll discover a treasure trove of surprises that’s been a local secret here for over 30 years − known as Courthouse Mews − ask for Dee or Beverley. The sale space is vast once you move through the front of this vintage shopper and collector’s dream!
Wine and dine
There’s a number of lovely wineries in the area, including award-winning Sedlescombe Organic and Carr Taylor that offer tasting experiences among other events throughout the year.
Or head to Hastings for a unique day, week or month cooking experience with renowned chef and restaurateur, Paul Webbe. Where better to refine your seafood culinary skills than in the town that boasts Europe’s largest beach-launched fishing fleet? Drop the team a line and ask about the Hastings fish and seafood school. bon appétit!
Man’s best friend
We very much loved how dog-friendly Hastings turned out to be, and will return for this reason. Why leave your best mate at home when you can bring them along with you for extra joy and companionship. And, if you’re craving a fix of uplifting dog energy, this place works well too, because there’s plenty on hand who are happy for an extra pat on the head (or bum scratch as the case may be).
Write it out
Wander the alleys, chat in the pubs, meditate on the beach − be inspired, and write or blog til your heart’s content. Hastings is big enough to not get bored, but small enough that you can really relax and take it all in.
From Far from the Madding Crowd in Dorset to Frankenstein in Manchester, England staged one big, beautiful movie set in 2015, and crowds flocked to see where their favourites were shot.
VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, James Berresford said: “Our research shows that 40 per cent of tourists want to visit locations they’ve seen on the big and small screen [like Downton Abbey], so we know there is a huge appetite for ‘set-jetting’.”
VisitEngland teamed up with Creative England to select some of the biggest films to grace our screens in 2015, revealing to film buffs exactly where the action was shot…
INTO THE WOODS
The film adaptation of the eponymous Broadway musical Into the Woods features an all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick and Johnny Depp. Showing off a number of quintessentially English locations, the soon-to-be Disney hit was shot at Dover Castle in Kent, Waverley Abbey and Virginia Water in Surrey, the Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire, Hambleden Village and Hambleden Barn in Buckinghamshire. The film follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel-all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them.
This live-action feature is inspired by the classic fairytale Cinderella and brings to life the timeless images from Disney’s 1950 animated masterpiece. English locations including the grand bridge at Blenheim Palace, Black Park in Iver Heath and the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich all help to set the scene for this childhood favourite. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the film stars Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden and Helena Bonham-Carter.
A LITTLE CHAOS
Starring Kate Winslet, Stanley Tucci and Alan Rickman. The story centres on a female landscape-gardener who is awarded the esteemed assignment to construct the grand gardens at Versailles, a gilt-edged position which thrusts her to the very centre of the court of King Louis XIV. But the 18th century French palace and grand houses were actually shot in England at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire and Cliveden House in Berkshire. Some of the cast stayed at the Grade I listed, luxury hotel and grand stately home, Cliveden House, during filming. With a garden central to the story, the production also needed some versatile outdoor space and found most of what they were looking for in Black Park, a country park next door to Pinewood Studios, which covers over 500 acres of woodland, heathland and grassland.
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
A new adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel, the film stars Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen, with screen play by David Nicholls. Filmed predominantly in and around Hardy Country in Dorset; Mapperton House, Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Sherborne, Eype, Purse Caundle, West Bay, Beaminster and National Trust property Cogden Beach all play a part. Few authors have such strong associations with their local area as Thomas Hardy, and today you can explore two of the writer’s houses – his childhood home and Max Gate, the property Hardy designed himself and moved into with Emma after his marriage.National Trust property, Claydon House in Buckinghamshire, also features in the film, doubling up as Boldwood.
Based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel of the same name, the latest adaptation features an all-star cast. Daniel Radcliffe will star as hunchback Igor, whilst James McAvoy will portray Victor von Frankenstein. Filming locations included Manchester Town Hall, Chatham Historic Dockyard, the Old Royal Naval College, including King Charles Court, and the bank of the river Thames in Greenwich.
Have you ever set-jetted? Drop us a line in the comments to let us know where you’ve visited and what was filmed there. We’re keen to find this one being filmed in Scotland!…
More things to do in England
We’ve had a helpful piece shared with us via your-rv-lifestyle.com on 100 things to do in England – worth a browse if you’re heading over this way!
Images copyright to individual film distribution companies.
Sadly I was under the weather on New Year’s Eve, so the highlight of my evening was watching the Made In Chelsea end-of-season party on TV. I was feeling a little better the following day, and the cloudy Blighty weather cleared to a gorgeous sunny January 1. We captured it all in a one-minute piece … take a journey with us:
Heading to Brighton? A few travel tips from our last trip: HERE
Are you considering a tour such as the one I’ve just been on with Back Roads Touring in the UK? Cooper and I are fans of tours because put simply, if you’re short on time / on your own / not travelled much / don’t want the hassle of getting lost or stuck in dreadful accommodation, then generally with a tour you can’t go wrong. There are however, some important factors to remember if you’re embarking on a tour. Further to this, if you begin a tour in London but are a first-timer in the city, here are a few tips that may be of use…
Top tour travel tips London and UK
11 tips/preparing for a tour + first time in London:
How long will you be in London – is it worthwhile buying an Oyster (transport) Card? My rule of thumb is that if you’re going to be commuting in London for over three days then buy a ‘weekly pass’ – it’s MUCH cheaper than ‘topping up’ all the time and allows Tube and bus travel in all the areas you’re going to need. If travelling within the city for just a day or two, buy a ‘day pass’ each day, unless you literally are only planning one trip on the Tube for the day (unlikely).
Consider day tour options around the city – it’s huge with lots to see. The ‘big red bus’ hop-on-hop-off option is always a good one.
Be careful when commuting on buses and the Tube – while these services are efficient for familiar users, sometimes visitors will find the rush of busy passengers overwhelming and insensitive. Be aware that buses can pull off without warning.
PLAN what you want to see and where you want to go – Tower of London, Kensington Palace etc. Organise passes in advance. London is vast, and it can be arduous and tiring to navigate if you’re unfamiliar with the city.
Most pubs and cafes offer free WiFi, so if your hotel is charging through the roof for this service, chances are there is a free option within just a block or two of your location.
On tour, always be on time back to the coach – it is only fair on the driver/guide and fellow passengers, and it’s very stressful for everyone if people have to wait and/or come searching for you.
Never go anywhere / leave the coach without a credit card and your passport, as well as contact number(s) for your guide and other emergency contact details – just in case!
In the UK, Orange Mobile offers inexpensive pay-as-you-go SIM cards (easy to top up at any ATM) that can be utilised in most mobile phones, iPhones, and even iPad / tablet options. Orange or T-Mobile shops are all over London.
Don’t over-pack! Inevitably everyone who ends up with too many (large) bags admits they’ve brought too much, and it becomes painstaking trying to get from one place to another. Also, take clothes that you can mix, match and layer. It helps to bring clothes you can wash together too – you don’t want to be doing ‘separate loads’ on the go. If you’re stopping somewhere for two nights, do your washing as soon as you stop which leaves ample time for drying. Wrap washing in a towel and ring as much water out of it as you can, then hang washing around the room or on coat hangers. Jeans are serviceable, but can be quite heavy if you take too many.
Ask your tour guide where the nearest supermarket is, and buy your water in big bottles which is far cheaper.
If you see a person travelling on their own, include them in your outings. The more people you embrace, the better. You’ll also get more out of your trip by talking to and getting to know your co-travellers.
As those of you reading this blog will know, I’ve recently been on a journey through the ‘Heart of England’ with Back Roads Touring in the UK (organised via Escape Travel in Australia).
Back Roads Touring offers a wide range of options throughout the UK and Europe, and in fact I have my eye on several more trips in the UK that I’d love to book over the coming year or so (particularly the Corners of Cornwall 7-day, The Red Dragon of Wales 6-day, and Secrets of Southern England 4-day tours – take a look at the itineraries on the website and you’ll understand why). A few of our co-travellers had even booked two or three Back Roads Touring adventures in a row, with our Heart of England tour sitting in the middle of their holiday plans.
The Heart of England tour itself though is a classic choice, especially if you’re trying to decide on one particular option in the country. Four days was a nice length of time to be on a tour, there were no early morning starts and we generally had enough time to explore each destination. Best of all, this tour offers an overview of all that we’d typically associate with England – green countryside, old English pubs, castles, royalty, Shakespeare, medieval sites all the way through to mythological and mysterious destinations such as Stonehenge.
Evidently these tours are ideal for a person with a mature, intelligent and interested mindset who is a keen, (sometimes) seasoned traveller seeking a low-stress adventure, as well as quality, comfortable accommodation and up-market dining options.
With so many tour operators to choose from these days, why consider Back Roads Touring?
Small travel groups.
Mini bus means travelling through towns and seeing them (many large buses can’t go where Back Roads Touring can).
Quality dining options.
Personalised service including travel advice and assistance.
The opportunity to get to know everyone on board.
Relaxed travel experience.
Expert guides who introduce ‘local’ experiences at each tour stop.
Back Roads Touring offers the discerning traveller the ultimate in exploration options based on over 25-years experience in the small group and tailor-made tour industry in this region.
My own trip highlights? This time around I’d definitely say Windsor Castle (vast, stunning, lavish, historical) and Stratford upon Avon (romantic… Shakespeare! Need I say more?). I was also impressed by the accommodation and delicious meals that were part of the ‘Back Roads Touring’ experience.
Today’s last Back Roads Touring ‘Heart of England’ adventure was one we were all excited about. We set off early from Bath and headed out across the Salisbury Plain towards mysterious Stonehenge. Dating back to 3100 BC and a time when there were only about 20,000 people in Britain, there are many theories and debates surrounding just how and why this stone circle was built. One of the few things known for sure is that we had begun to master agricultural skills at the time when Stonehenge was constructed. Evidence strongly suggests the stone circle functioned as a calendar of sorts, to help determine the best time to reap and sow the land. It is quite incredible to witness the precision of the stone cuttings, given that they would have been designed using only tools available in the stone age.
Interested in more? Here’s a short clip from the BBC on the building of Stonehenge:
The site is a spectacle to behold, and we were fortunate that the sun was shining on the famous scene for us this morning. Once we’d all wandered around the site – inspecting it as directed by our handy audio guides – we left the growing crowds behind, driving not too far down the road to the pretty city of Salisbury.
This city is particularly famous for its cathedral – evidently the most painted of all the cathedrals by artists of the 19th century. Its iconic spire is the tallest in Britain, and the cathedral is home to one of only a few original copies of the Magna Carta. Just imagine, what must it have been like nearly 1000 years ago when some of these cathedrals were being built? Some towns would have even sprung up because of the work! Has anyone seen or read Pillars of the Earth?
It’s a particularly interesting and historical stop on the tour, and aside from the cathedral, Salisbury itself also boasts numerous other amazing museums, old churches and buildings to explore if time permits.
Our final stop of the tour was Windsor Castle. This particular attraction actually ended up being one of the key highlights of the trip for me and several others in our group. Preferred residence of the Queen, and a place where the royal family has been residing for many many years, Windsor Castle is brimming with spectacular rooms, relics, art, photographs, weapons, memorials and history that has been a long time in the making.
Unfortunately the Queen wasn’t there to greet us this time around – evidently her car was stuck in mud on the way back from Wales (it has been raining a lot here this week)! Ideally take at least a day to navigate the whole property properly, especially if royal history interests you. I was particularly fascinated by St George’s Chapel, a beautiful gothic structure that still regularly hosts religious ceremonies but is the burial place for many of England’s past leaders including Henry VIII who lies beside his ‘favourite’ wife and mother of his only male heir, Jane Seymour. The other highlight was Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House – spectacular, vast and apparently the largest dolls’ house in the world; and I quite enjoyed seeing a special photographic exhibition presented to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year.
Overall this journey was fun, interesting and absolutely highly recommended. Thanks to Back Roads Touring UK, Escape Travel Australia, and our terrific guide for this particular trek, VJ, for a truly enjoyable four-day adventure through England’s historical heartland.
Welcome to Travel Live learn, where we are passionate about living a life full of great adventures. We are Sarah + Cooper, and here we share our advice and stories about expat living in the UK; pet and house sitting around the world; wellness travel and creative living, no matter where on the planet you are. We have worked in media, communication and creative roles for 20 years, and have spent over 10 years living and working abroad. We hope you find value in our content. Please do connect by leaving a comment or find us on social media.