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Visit Hastings

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published October 14th 2010
Most people recognise the name Hastings better if the words 'Battle of' are written in front of it. And while this is undoubtedly an excellent place to learn about what happened in 1066, there's a few other strings to this seaside town's bow.

First important piece of local knowledge is that the battle didn't take place in the town of today, it took place in a more civilised time when people took their armies out into a field and fought there. In 1066 that field was six miles out of town. Far enough so that today it's got it's own railway station called 'Battle'. There are a few structures commemorating this fight that saw the Normans take control of the British Isles, the main one being graceful Battle Abbey, which William, who won the battle, was ordered to erect by the Pope to commemorate the loss of life. The abbey's altar supposedly stands on the spot where Harold, the leader of the Saxon army, fell.
The nearby 1066 Exhibition Discovery Centre, a short walk across Senlac Hill, is built with all the 21st Century technology that can be mustered to help take us back to the time of the battle: interactive games, replica mail and shield and a dramatic filmed reconstruction.

After a contemplative morning spent on the battlefield it might be time to explore the charms of Hastings' more recent past. To the Victorians this town was the perfect place to establish a seaside resort, and the pier they built still stands on its rickety legs out in the sea, despite the promenade leading to it having been swallowed by the waves. You'll have a good view of it if you have a lunch of fish and chips at the Blue Dolphin.

After lunch wander round the white painted buildings of the pretty part of town: Pelham Crescent and Wellington Square. Then take a ride in the UK's steepest funicular railway up the East Hill to the Hastings Country Park, a huge nature reserve, for a walk along the, at times, dramatic cliffs. Hidden in these cliffs on the West Hill are St. Clement's Caves where smugglers once stored their loot.

If it's a blowy day then maybe the local Shipwreck Museum would be more atmospheric. Or the aquarium if you need to stay indoors.

Before you head home it might be worth taking a stroll along the pebble clad beach called the Stade, to the net shops and smoking huts under the pale sandstone cliffs. Behind the fishing boats you'll find the little stores where you can still buy fish fresh off the boat or home smoked to take home with you. Hastings has been a fishing port since before 1066 and still is today.
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Why? More than just the battle of 1066
When: When the weather looks promising
Where: Take the train down from Charing Cross or Victoria
Cost: Train tickets from as little as 5 if you book them a week in advance
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