Become a deep sea diver!
Well, not literally obviously, but if you want to experience walking underwater without the aid of diving equipment, Underwater World is the place for you. It is an aquarium with a walk through section where the fish are actually swimming above you. Apart from this, there are numerous other more conventional tanks with all manner of marine life.
There is a very interesting section called Neptune's Nursery, where you can see the breeding programme in operation.
There is a short introductory film in an auditorium at the beginning but, other than that, you can wander around at will. You could easily spend a couple of hours here.
Admission is £6:20 for adults, although there is a discount available if you have visited either the Smugglers Adventure and / or the Castle. The arrangement is reciprocal. Open all year round.
Update August 2013.
I have to stress that this tip was first written many years ago when I first joined Virtual Tourist. Whilst researching some other old tips I came upon this which was obviously in need of some work. When I made the tip, this place did not have it's own website, and I have added that now. It is true that any travel information is out of date before it is ever published, and I offer this as is. Hopefully, other members will have added more recent, relevant and useful information since I last visited. The new information I have gleaned is that opening hours are now
March - October 5pm
November - February 4pm
Closed on Christmas Day.
Prices, current as of August 2013 are
Child 3 - 14 years £6.10
(must be accompanied by an adult)
Seniors & Students £7.15
Family of 4 £26.00
(2 adults and 2 children)
Family of 5 £30.75
(2 adults and 3 children)
Disabled - £5.50 each.
I hope this assists as I do like to keep my tips up to date but I would stress the need to source more recent reports on the place to ascertain what it is like now.
- Family Travel
Visit the Castle.
As I said in my intro page, the Castle dominates the Old Town of Hastings.
Upon landing in England in 1066, Duc William ordered a fortification built here. Originally of a motte and bailey construction, it was added to over the years until it was a formidable Norman castle of the type we generally understand today. There was an important pilgrims Church within the grounds, once overseen by Thomas Becket before his elevation to being Archbishop of Canterbury.
The castle eventually fell into decline and was overgrown and all but forgotten for several centuries until an enterprising aristocrat employed an amateur archaeologist to excavate it. Unfortunately, in his zeal, the archaeologist managed to cause a considerable amount of damage. Additionally, since about 1800, a good proportion of the castle has literally fallen off the edge of the cliff! In the light of all this, it's probably not the most impressive ruin you might visit in England, but it does have the advantage of superb views (weather permitting!) of both the old and new towns.
Admission £3:20 for adults which includes a 20 minute film show in the "siege tent" in the grounds.
If you present your ticket from the Castle, you get 1/3 off admission to the Smugglers Adventure and Underwater World.
The telephone number given is for the Tourist Information Centre.
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
Hastings Pier was inaugurated in 1872 and was once a very popular place. Quite a lot of shops, restarants and cafés were situated there. During the decades it deteriorated and in 1996 it was closed. For some years, the future of this landmark was uncertain, but a new investor was found and the pier reopened in 2002. However, the restauration works carried out at the beginning of this decade seem to be only slightly more than cosmetic works. The structure seems still to be in a status of deterioration. It is forbidden to walk under the pier as pieces of debris can fall down on you! So, currently a small part of the pier close to the beach is open.
East Hill is not as exciting as West Hill as it does not offer any mentionable tourist attraction. The only attractions are the East Hill lift, a funicular railway, and the hill itself.
There are two ways to get on top of the hill: 1st) The railway, which is - similar to the west Hill lift - only open during daytime and will take a few cents. 2nd) The steps. I didn't find any shortcut like at West Hill...
If you mastered the steps, you will be rewarded with a wonderful view over the old town of Hastings and the sea (Of course, you will be rewarded with the same view if you use the funicular railway...). You will also find a large grass area which can be used for picnics, relaxing etc.
Even if you do not want to go on top of the hill, just have a look at it from below. These cliffs are a natural work of art which deserve a visit.
Town hall and tourist information center
In the city center, close to the bus station at at Queen's Road, I found a neogothic building looking like a church. It was the town hall, built in 1823, reviving elements of the "decorated period". In this building, you will also find the tourist information. There, you can not only inform yourself about accomodation, attractions, events etc., but you can also get a free map of the town center (something I did NOT in the internet!). A small turret, obviously belonging to the building too, is used as a fast food grill.
Old Town - George Street
The old town of Hastings is situated between West Hill and East Hill. Here, you will find a lot of pubs and restaurants as well as souvenir shops. George Street, at the foot of West Hill, is the heart of the old town. This is also the place where you can still some pre-georgian buildings.
From George Street, you have access to the steps leading to the top of West Hill and to the West Cliff funicular railway. For information about that, check out my tip about West Hill.
West Hill - castle ruins and more
A couple of attractions, including the castle ruins, are situated on or close to West Hill. One of the main reasons to climb up that hill is the wonderful view on the town and the beach.
There are at least three different ways to get on the top of the hill. 1st: Take the funicular railway (called West Hill lift) - this is surely the most comfortable way, but is only possible during daytime (as far as I can remember 10 - 17:30) and will take a few cents. 2nd: Use the steps from the old town which are quite steep. 3rd (recommended): Go to the place where old and new town are connected by a small pedestrian tunnel. Then climb up castle hill road and keep right. It is also a steep way, but not as steep as the steps and much shorter. You will easily find the entrance to the castle. From there, you can climb up the stones or follow a small short path right to them to get the wonderful views.
If you chose the steps, you will find them at George Street. Unfortunately, they are hard to find. Look out for the entrance shown on one of the pictures of this tip.
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
The area around Hastings is named 1066 country and you will find many attractions related to the battle of Hastings which took place in 1066. One of these attractions is the castle of Hastings which was the first stone castle built by the Normans in that year.
First, only a wooden "motte and bailey castle" was built on that site, later it was rebuilt in stone. The castle was given to a norman nobelman, the count of Eu in 1069. Until the late 13th century, the castle was expanded, but a heavy storm made the cliff collapse destroying a large part of the castle. The church, St. Mary in the castle, was in use until the reign of Henry VIII, but afterwards the ruch and the remaining castle buildings were abandoned and the site was used for farming. The castle was excatavated from 1824 on and became open for visitors. In 1961, a stone was exchanged with the castle of Falaise, the place where William the Conqueror was born. Sometimes, events related to the battle of Hastings take place in the castle ruins.
Today, you can visit the castle ruins. A small leaftlet will give you some information about the fuction of the different buildings. Unfortunately, almost everything was demolished in the past centuries. An arch of the church is the best preserved structure, from some walls only stumps are remianing. In a new building which looks like a blue tent, you can see a 15-minute-video about the battle of Hastings and its background. For more information about the battle of Hastings, I would like to recommend a daytrip to the town of Battle.
If you don't mind walking on a steep street, approach the castle via Castle Hill road. It takes less time than the West Hill funicular railway or the steps (which are even steeper than the road) as these are a little further away from the castle. See also my tips about West Hill for further information.
P.S.: The opening times on the webpage are a little outdated. In summer 2006, the castle was already open at 10:00 a.m.!
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
Although tourism is the most important business in Hastings, fishing still plays a great role. Hastings is home to Britain's largest beach-launched fishing fleet. The fleet is based in an area between East Hill and the amusement park at the beach promenade. This "harbour" is open for visitors so that you can easily watch the fishermen doing their work. Close to the net shops and the fishermen's museum, you will also find some huts where the fishermen sell their products. As far as I saw it, these huts do not have fix opening times. I assume that they open depending on weather and availability of products. Although visitors are welcome, please keep in mind that it is a working area. So be careful when walking around.
P.S.: I am not sure what to think about that box. Do the Norwegians help out with their own fish when the fishermen in Hastings had a bad day? Or do local fishermen sellm their own products as "norwegian Salmon"? Who knows...
The pedestrian tunnel
A small pedestrian tunnel links the old town with the modern town center of Hastings. Perhaps, the tunnel would be nothing special, if it wasn't decorated with some stylised scenes known from the Bayeux Tapestry. The scenes include the coronation of Harold Godwinson, the Normans crossing the channel, a battle scene and the death of Harold. OK, these mosaics are far away from being as impressive as the original tapestry. But it is a fancy idea and looks really nice.
- Historical Travel
Fishermen's museum and old boats
Between the "net shops", you will find some old fishing boats. They were once part of Hasting's fishing fleet, but are now pahsed out. Information plaques will tell you some facts about the different boats.
The boats belong to the fishermen's museum, which is located in the former St. Nicholas church. The church was built in 1852 but was not used anymore after WWII. In 1956, it became the fishermen's museum where you can see pictures and items related to the fishing industry in Hastings. Admission to the museum is free.
The boat you see on the right side of the picture, "Edward and Mary" from 1919, was the first fishing boat in Hastings to have an engine installed.
- Museum Visits
Net shops - the tall wooden huts
At the foot of east hill you will find some tall wooden huts. These buildings are used for storage of fishing nets as well as other items and tools needed in the fishing industry. It is said, that their main purpose was to dry the fishing nets, but these were mostly dried on the beach where they could be extended to its full size and humidity can escape. The first "net shops" were built in the 19th century and owe their unsual size and shape to a tax law. Due to limited space, high ground taxes were implemented. So the fishermen built their shops tall to avoid the taxes. It is said, that the first of these huts were phased out boats which were set end in into the ground. This is not really proved, but a single hut was rebuilt in that way.
Between the huts, you will find some old fishing boats which belong to the Fishermen's museum.
St. Mary in the Castle
This church, built in classic style, was designed in 1823 and named after the former chapel of the castle which stood a couple of meters above the present church. In the 20th century, the church was abandoned, but was refurbished in 1997. Now, it is in use as a center for cultural events. It is not open for public visitors, unless an event takes place inside.
If you expect a beach with white sand then Hastings is the wrong place for you. The beach between the fishing area in the east and the pier in the west consists of pebbles. However, there are still ways to enjoy the beach. Some people use it as a picnic area where they can sit down a drink a beer with some friends. Or just lay down and enjoy the sound of the waves while reading a book. See it as a different kind of city park and you will find your way to enjoy it.
101 things to do with an old boat.
Well, only one actually! Due to an ancient regulation , the huts on the beach to house the fishing nets were not allowed to be any larger than eight feet square, so the enterprising fishermen just built them upwards. Historically, the net huts were made from old boats, "planted" end on in the shingle, although now they tend to be custom built affairs - still conforming to the regulation size! I must admit, I've never seen anything like these anywhere else in England.
Nowadays, one of them is even a souvenir shop.
- Historical Travel
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