Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount
Car-free around HastingsEast Sussex
Celebrating the relaunch of Hastings Contemporary, here are some car-free things to do in and around this colourful seaside town. You can get to Hastings by railway in as little as 80 minutes from London and prices on the train start from £5 (for advance tickets with Southern rail from London Victoria). The quickest journeys are from London Bridge with Southeastern and both lines showcase some lovely South Downs scenery. There are also trains and buses arriving from all over Kent and Sussex and beyond.
1. Visit Hastings Contemporary
The elegant glazed brick building that houses this innovative gallery on Hastings seafront first opened to the public in 2012. There are beautiful, airy spaces overlooking the neighbouring fishing village and seagull-studded trawlers by the sea as well as bold changing exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. Reopening on July 6th 2019 as the independent Hastings Contemporary, the gallery kicked off with colourful, deceptively simple paintings by the artist Tal R, whose works are the perfect foil for the gallery’s cool white walls and eye-catching views. There are also works by Roy Oxlade and a playful series of sketches by Quentin Blake, whose images of “The New Dress” chime with the idea of rebranding the gallery.
- Director Liz Gilmore describes the gallery’s new direction in nautical terms; the summer exhibitions represent “us flying our flag for the future and setting sail into new waters”.
- Tal R, whose pictures of beaches and boats echo the views outside the window, also says his images of “ships, waves, sea” have a metaphorical dimension: “It’s so deep you don’t know what’s under it.”
- To get to the gallery, follow Good Journey’s directions, walking down to the seafront from the station and then left along the shore, past the funfair.
- And don’t miss the the cafe with its boat-facing balcony: there are views across the fishing fleet and out to sea – and excellent food, including fish platters.
2. Ride the Cliff Railway
Hastings has two funicular railways to take visitors up the steep cliffs to viewpoints above the town.
- The East Hill cliff railway, the UK’s steepest funicular railway, is just a few steps beyond Hastings Contemporary on the left and has great views on the way up as well as from the country park at the top. It costs £3.50 for a return ticket.
- Once you’re up, have a wander over the hill behind the beacon to find the overgrown mound of an iron age fort among the bushes and admire the all-round views across Hastings and the surrounding sea and landscapes.
- You could chose to walk down through Hastings old town, which is packed with characterful side streets. The area was voted the UK’s top pedestrian neighbourhood in a 2018 Ramblers poll. Or simply ride the funicular down again. You don’t need to walk far in Hastings – there’s a miniature train along the seafront and an open-topped sightseeing bus around town.
3. Museums and more
There are lots of interesting things to see and do in Hastings. Two museums in the working fishing village surrounding Hastings Contemporary, showcase the town’s maritime history.
- The Fishermen’s Museum is full of saw fish blades and scallop dredgers, a crumpled doodlebug bomb and a suit sewn with silver winkles, all beached in a former church round a huge sailing lugger you can climb on.
- Next door, the larger Shipwreck Museum is a salvaged trove of rusted muskets and barnacle-crusted bottles.
- Buy ready-prepared seafood from the (amazingly cheap!) kiosks nearby and enjoy a picnic on the beach or stroll along the seafront, where there are lots more places to eat.
- If you’re travelling by bus (see 4 below), your ticket entitles you to some discounts in the area, like 2 for 1 entry to the True Crime museum in Palace Avenue Arcade, just down the hill from the railway station. Make sure you print the online voucher beforehand and show it with your bus ticket.