Exploring England: Eastbourne
Many people imagine the East Sussex town of Eastbourne as a traditional seaside holiday resort with rock, ice cream and deckchairs. But Eastbourne is more than sunshine and beaches; it is a vibrant modern town situated close to stunning landscapes and many important historical sites, and whether your interest is in nature, sport, the sea, the arts or history, you’ll find something to excite your passions in the local area.
As a visitor to Eastbourne you’ll find a wide variety of accommodation on offer from bed and breakfasts to first class hotels. My choice was the Shore View Hotel, which is on the seafront and has superb views across the promenade towards the English Channel. Recently refurbished to a very high standard, this Victorian era hotel is managed under the guidance of hotel management company Then Hospitality, so I was confident of a pleasant stay.
I had a twin double with a sea view. The room was clean and comfortable and the perfect place to rest after a hard day’s sightseeing. But if you need to keep in touch with your office, you’ll find the free WiFi and handy desk ideal. Eastbourne has a great selection of eating-places but you must try the Shore View restaurant. It offers excellent traditional food at competitive prices – my favorite is the lamb shanks followed by Belgian waffles – and there’s a children’s menu if you are visiting with the family. There’s also a restful bar, which is a great place to relax with a pre-dinner drink or to take a nightcap. Another great feature is that, for a modest extra charge, the Shore View welcomes pets, so you don’t have to worry about leaving them behind while you are away from home.
If you can drag yourself away from the Shore View, turn to the right outside the door and a short walk will take you towards the historic 150-year-old pier, now undergoing a rebuild after being partially destroyed in fire in August 2014, and then to the stunning flowerbeds along the promenade. Eastbourne is rightly proud colourful spectacle of these beautifully manicured gardens, but equally special is the Bandstand with its unique semi-circular design and blue domed roof and colonnade regular concerts, particularly during the busy summer months. Keep going and you’ll come to the wish Tower, number 73 of 74 Martello Towers that were built along the south coast as defenses against Napoleon, and nearby café where you can take a break and enjoy the view back towards the town.
To the east of the hotel, a short walk will take you to the Redoubt Fortress, one of only three remaining redoubts built in the Napoleonic era. It is now a fine military museum and is well worth a visit. The kids will find it fascinating too but they’ll probably prefer the nearby pirate-themed Treasure Island Adventure Park or Fort Fun. And just a few minutes’ walk further east, there is Sovereign Harbor where you’ll find a huge marina complex with boats, quality shopping and excellent cafes, bars and restaurants.
There’s plenty of entertainment within walking distance of the Shore View. Enjoy a show or maybe an old-fashioned afternoon tea dance at the Grade II listed Winter Gardens or you could take in a show at the Congress Theatre. If you are a sports fan you’ll have the chance to see the Eastbourne International tennis tournament played in June at the Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club, the traditional pre-cursor to Wimbledon, while a short walk away is the Saffrons where you’ll see local football, cricket and hockey. But if you prefer art, then the award-winning Towner Gallery is the place for you.
Just outside Eastbourne there’s also plenty do see and do. A few minutes drive to the west will take you to the world famous Beachy Head, at 162 metres high the highest chalk cliff in Britain, with the lighthouse on he shore below. Beachy Head also marks the eastern end of the South Downs Way, a superb walking trail that will take you through beautiful countryside all the way to Winchester.
Eastbourne is surrounded by stunning countryside, as a drive around the local area will show. But there are also a host of historic sights. You’ll come across Pevensey Castle, site of a Roman fort and Norman castle, and places like Battle, where the Battle of Hastings was fought. Lewes, Bodium and Scotney castles are all within easy reach and are all worth a visit. And, as you travel around, you’ll come across some wonderful Sussex villages like Alfriston with traditional pubs and tearooms.