The ‘off the beaten track’ trail for Hastings actually starts at St. Leonards, trust us on that one.
If you are taking the train, jump off at St. Leonards Warrior Square, which drops you precisely where you want to be; at the top of Kings Road. Make your way down towards the sea where you will be greeted on each side of the street by cafes, restaurants, and what the road is truly known for; it’s curiosity and bric-a-brac shops.Farm Yard is passionate about natural wines, and is a great place to earmark for a return trip to graze your way through their menu of locally sourced food and sample their extensive natural wine menu, why not pick up a bottle? They are also a bottle shop.
Turning left at the end of Kings Road will join you onto London Road, can you see the sea?! Head in the direction of the coastline and be sure to veer off course a little to experience Norman Road, the destination that St. Leonards became famous for. You can’t miss Tommy’s Pizza, carrying on the visual narrative of this part of town with its colourful mural and inviting relaxed vibes. Norman Road is peppered with art galleries and lifestyle shops, as well as more eating spots to put on your list for next time! Be sure to check out Kino Teatr, grab a programme to see what’s on their live music, events, and film listings.
Once you’ve reached the sea, head left in the direction of the pier and the big wheel in the distance. The wide promenade invites cyclists and walkers to venture side by side – cycling the trail really is a wonderful experience. With plenty of places to securely leave your bike whilst you dip in and out of the independent shops and cafes, you really will be experiencing the trail, with the sea air filling your lungs.
Along the coastline, you will encounter Goat Ledge, with its colourful beach vibes and relaxed atmosphere, it is a great place to stop for a refreshment or locally caught fish roll. It’s hard not to spend a lot of time amongst the vibrancy of this spot, where St. Leonards meets Hastings, but there’s much to do.
Head towards Hastings Pier as a landmark, but as this trail is all about finding hidden gems, peer over the wall at Source Park to discover the newly launched Courtyard – that’s the spot to rest for a while. Make your way down through the world’s biggest indoor BMX and skatepark in the former Victorian baths, the ghosts of its architectural past intact, it is a spectacle in its own right, and then out the doors to the Courtyard. You can choose from vegan food, health juices, or beer from locally brewed Brewing Brothers (also visit their site at Imperial on Queens Road, but only if you want to have the best pizza in town!). Here you can sample many of their beers named after famous brothers, and with the promise of Oysters and sharing boards on their way, this sunken courtyard away from the main road is the perfect hidden suntrap.
If you are making your way to Hastings Contemporary which sits at the end of the old town, then take a short detour through America Ground who’s history the declaration of independence still carries through to the uniqueness of this quarter of town. With the Norman church sitting in the centre, and surrounded by coffee shops, record and comic book shops, health food stores and Gotham Alley – take some time out to wander around.
Through the newtown and past the impressive St. Mary’s in the Castle, and the large arcades, you will find yourself at the top of George Street. With the familiarity of Diagon Alley, George Street will give you endless opportunities to explore its curiosities, stop for cocktails and tapas at Seed, or get lost in the world of The Clockwork Crow, it will be impossible to make it out of George Street empty handed.
At the other end of George Street, turn right towards the sea and you will find nestled amongst the black weatherboard net huts, the black iridescent tiles of Hastings Contemporary. If by now, you need another pit stop, nearby you will find Maggie’s famous fish and chips, and the beautifully presented and rather hidden Rock-a-Nore Kitchen. For a real adventure, take the funicular railway up to the West Hill where the elevated views will give you a true understanding of the beauty of the Old Town. It is up here that you will also find The Beacon, a hidden away home from home, wonderful food, events, and if you plan it right, an art class or two.
With so much to do on this trail, it is worth knowing where to stay so you can do the lot, at leisure. Porters Wine Bar on High Street in the Old Town is a famous music venue, with a friendly welcome, great food and drinks menu, and a courtyard out back, this really is a gem of the Old Town. Next door, they have beautiful boutique rooms to stay, Moore House is packed with personality and history with luxurious flourishes. If you stay here, you will truly be part of the heart and soul of Hastings Old Town.
The Laindons further up on High Street offers rooms and spa treatments overlooking the rooftops. The Old Rectory, also offering treatment rooms, sits right at the edge of this part of town, which is great news as you will be passing many of the pubs that the town is known for, including award winning The Crown.
If you are heading in the direction of Bexhill to visit the De La Warr Pavilion, or Eastbourne to see the Towner, then perhaps a stay in St. Leonards would suit better. Ruby’s Rooms wears its artistic offering on the outside as well as within whilst The Zanzibar Hotel has plenty of themed rooms to choose from, both with sweeping views across the English Channel.
Hastings is known for more than the battle that marked its place in our history, but it’s fiercely defiant and independent spirit can still be felt today. With a calendar of festivals, events, and traditions all year round, you can pick the perfect time to discover. Proudly part of the Coastal Culture Trail, start planning your adventure today.