12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hastings
Hastings is a popular seaside resort famed for its sporting and cultural events, as well as for its association with the 1066 Battle of Hastings (an event that in fact took place at Battle, six miles away). Although its importance as one of the Cinque Ports ended due to a series of destructive floods and repeated attacks by the French at the end of the 14th century, the town experienced another heyday in the 19th century when it became a seaside resort, taking Brighton as its model.
1 Net Lofts
A row of "net lofts" - traditional tall sheds used by fishermen to store and dry their nets - has been retained in the old town of Hastings. A coat of black tar helped the horizontally positioned wooden boards remain weatherproof, a process known as weatherboarding that's common in East Sussex.
Be sure to visit the Fisherman's Chapel in Rockanore Road. Built in the 19th century, it now houses the Hastings Fishermen's Museum and has displays relating to boats and the development of the local fishing industry.
2 Hastings Castle
The remains of Hastings Castle, the first to be built after William the Conqueror's invasion in 1066, can be explored on the town's West Hill. Visitors can reach the site by the Cliff Railways, the UK's steepest funicular railway. The castle is famous for its still intact 'whispering dungeon', and displays recount the incredible events surrounding this historic period.
Location: West Hill, Hastings
3 Old Town
Below Hastings Castle, the elegant curving building of Pelham Crescent was constructed between 1824 and 1828. Half-timbered houses stand in Hasting's narrow High Street and in All Saints Street, with its church of the same name.
Next to the 1872 Hastings Pier on the seafront is the Conqueror's Stone, at which William the Conqueror is said to have taken his first meal in England.
Location: High St, Hastings
4 Smugglers Adventure
Smugglers and pirates once frequented the Hastings area, and Smugglers Adventure is a fascinating insight into their lives and times set in the pre-glacial St Clements Caves. As you explore the labyrinth of caves you'll discover the secrets and dangers facing smugglers through the more than 70 life-size characters and hands-on displays.
Other great attractions for families include Drusillas Park in Alfriston, one of the best small zoos in the country, and the Blue Reef Aquarium with its displays of amazing aquatic creatures.
Location: High St, Hastings
5 Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve
Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve is situated on an unspoiled stretch of England's south coast near Hastings. There are several excellent walks through its 640 acres of woods, grassland and coastal scenery. Allow plenty of time to do some wildlife spotting, including watching for the many migrating birds that cross the English Channel. The visitor center houses a wealth of information about the wildlife and geology of the area.
Location: Fairlight Rd, Hastings
Rudyard Kipling - one of England's most famous authors, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and author of The Jungle Book and The Man Who Would be King - lived in beautiful 17th century Bateman's House from 1902 until his death in 1936. Located just 11 miles northwest of Hastings in Burwash, the house and its excellent displays include Kipling's 1928 Rolls Royce as well as furnishings. The gardens are kept as they were during his lifetime.
Location: Bateman's Lane, Burwash
7 Battle Abbey
The delightful little market town of Battle, just six miles north of Hastings, is well worth exploring due to its role in the infamous Battle of Hastings in 1066. To commemorate his victory, and in atonement for the bloodshed, William the Conqueror built an abbey on the spot his rival King Harold fell. The 223 ft Benedictine abbey church, consecrated in 1094, was demolished during Henry VIII's rule. The home built on the ruins eventually became a girls' school (the tomb of Sir Anthony Browne, the man responsible for tearing it down, can be seen in nearby St Mary's church).
The gatehouse, completed in 1339, and the ruins of the monks' dormitory (1120), remain particularly impressive today. The excellent visitors' center contains many fascinating displays of the battle and its impact. Other area attractions include Yesterday's World Battle on the High Street, a fun museum offering a nostalgic glimpse of bygone days with a Victorian kitchen, grocers, chemists, 1930s railroad station, and sweet shop.
Location: High St, Battle
8 Herstmonceux Castle
Splendid Herstmonceux Castle, 10 miles west of Battle, is a moated red brick Renaissance manor house from the 15th century that once served as home to the Royal Observatory. Today, 600 acres of beautiful parkland and superb Elizabethan gardens are open to the public. The grounds include excellent trails such as the Chestnut Tree Walk and its 300-year-old trees, as well as the beautiful formal gardens.
Location: Herstmonceux, Hailsham
9 Bodiam Castle
Built on the northern slopes of the Rother Valley in 1389, Bodiam Castle (eight miles northeast of Battle) is widely regarded as one of the most romantic castle ruins in England. Never having endured a siege, it retains much of its original character. An unusually wide moat creates the appearance of a lake, in which the square castle with its sturdy, round, battlement corner towers, stands as if on an island.
For a special treat, walk to nearby Bodiam Station, last stop on the 10 mile long Kent & East Sussex Railway, a fantastic heritage train ride all the way to beautiful Tenterden in Kent (for a truly memorable sightseeing adventure, buy a return ticket).
Location: Bodiam, Robertsbridge
Beautiful Bexhill-on-Sea is well known for its classic Victorian town, and as the first place in Britain to have a motor-racing track. These and other historic facts are celebrated at the Bexhill Museum and the Motoring Heritage Centre. It's also home to the lovely De La Warr Pavilion, built in 1935 in the International Modernist style, and the first welded steel frame building in the country.
Address: 48 Devonshire Rd, Bexhill-on-Sea
William the Conqueror is supposed to have landed in the small resort of Pevensey Bay in 1066. A mile inland is the village of Pevensey, where the Normans built a castle using the remains of an old Roman fort. The 20 ft tall castle walls are still standing, as are the remains of the dungeons, gate tower and mint house.
Location: Castle Rd, Pevensey
Just 12 miles northeast of Hastings, Rye is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in England and a must-see attraction when travelling England's south coast. Home to enchanting cobbled streets such as Mermaid Street, the town is chock-full of excellent boutique shops, cafés, tearooms, restaurants and inns, including the famous Mermaid Inn, once the haunt of the notorious Hawkhurst Gang.
While there, visit Camber Castle, built by Henry VIII and located in the lovely Rye Harbour Nature Reserve with its thriving fishing fleet. Rye is a popular hangout for writers, and lovely Lamb House was once the home of Henry James. Another nearby attraction worthy of a visit is Great Dixter House and Gardens in Northiam. This 15th century manor house features fascinating furniture and needlework displays and is set in a garden designed by Lutyens that includes a sunken garden, a walled garden and a lily pond, as well as a fascinating topiary.