Thursday, July 12, 2018

Daytripping to Eastbourne

Eastbourne Pleasure Pier in the fog

Living in a big city means that day trips from time to time are essential. Sometimes a girl just needs a break from the hustle & bustle, but it's also great to visit a place that offers something different than what I see day-to-day. I'm always on the lookout for my next day trip, often spending hours scanning google maps and train timetables... Lately I'm obsessed with day trips to the seaside, scouring the map for beautiful, Victorian British coastal towns for stunning views and a bit of amusement. My most recent day trip took me to Eastbourne.

the grand hotel eastbourne

I originally settled on Eastbourne because of its close proximity to Seven Sisters, thinking a hike might be in order. Unfortunately I didn't find enough time to get to Seven Sisters, so that will have to wait for another trip, but I did have plenty of fun exploring all Eastbourne has to offer from the gorgeous pier to scenic walking trails. It took me less than 1 1/2 hours to get to Eastbourne by train from Clapham Junction and once I stepped out of the station it was like I was in a different world.

Statue of William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire

Pictured above is a statue of William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire who inherited quite a lot of property in Eastbourne. Cavendish oversaw the development of the seaside town so he is commemorated with this statue at the top of Devonshire Place. The Duke was also instrumental in the founding of Eastbourne College by selling some land at an affordable price for the school to be built upon. He also commissioned a well-known architect to design some of the buildings on the campus. As such, many hotels, streets and other establishments in Eastbourne are named after Devonshire or Cavendish.


Eastbourne as a town isn't so exciting - in fact it looks like it's probably seen better days. With airline travel being so affordable and accessible these days, many British holiday makers as you know travel abroad, so the tourism in these quaint seaside towns probably isn't quite what it used to be. Approaching the seaside, it starts to look more and more like a traditional seaside town with old fashioned candy stores selling sticks of rock and colourful, Victorian hotels coming into view. Quirky and slightly vintage, it's not unusual to see something funny such as an Elvis has left the building sign or even a cheeky quote from Frank Sinatra. In fact, I saw so much Elvis memorabilia in Eastbourne that it's not hard to think the town may be a little obsessed with the King of Rock & Roll.

Eastbourne Pier

The most noticeable thing to see or do in Eastbourne of course is the pier which opened in 1870 along the King Edward's Parade for holiday makers who flocked to the coast in those days on trains, yet were often prevented from seeing the water when the tides made it impossible to view the sea from dry land. Pleasure piers allowed visitors to promenade out onto the water at all times. The beautiful blue and white Eastbourne Pier is 1,000 feet long and hosts a variety of things to enjoy from amusements to a jazz bar.

golden lions head on pier

Trimmed in glistening gold, the Eastbourne Pier is like a time warp to days gone by and it offers stunning views of the coast. I always love visiting a pleasure pier, spending an hour or two playing the penny bulldozer games, taking in the fresh sea air and if the weather is good, grabbing an ice cream or a popsicle to enjoy while watching the world go by.

bandstand

Also situated on the seafront is the iconic Eastbourne Bandstand. Hosting over 140 events every year, it's the busiest bandstand in the UK. Built in 1935 for just £28,000, the bandstand seats 1,400 and is the only one of its kind in the UK. A plaque placed near the bandstand commemorates Eastbourne bandsman John Wesley Woodward who played music on the Titanic when it sank in 1912.

slice of cheese pizza

The King Edward's Parade is the main beach area in Eastbourne extending from the pier southwest to the Wish Tower and pretty much where I spent most of my day there. Beach huts, swimming, showers, toilets, merchandise and a boardwalk offering various refreshments line the beach making it the perfect place for a summer day to soak up some rays when it's sunny and warm.

MInt Chocolate Chip Ice Cream in a cup

I'm always a sucker for food stalls at beaches and amusement parks, enjoying every last bite of pizza, ice cream and anything else that takes my fancy. The pizza and ice cream along the King Edward's Parade are delicious, but just a warning... Keep it covered or the seagulls are going to enjoy it as much as you do!

Colourful Victorian Buildings

Walking along the streets of Eastbourne closer to the sea, you'll find the Winter Garden (another British tradition) a few quaint little pubs and more hotels than you can shake a stick at. Beautiful Victorian style buildings line the streets and there are a few fun shops to visit as well.

Grand Hotel Eastbourne

Known by locals as The White Palace the Grand Hotel stands majestically looking over the King Edward's Parade shrouded in palm trees and offers seaside luxury. Built in the 19th century, the Grand Hotel Eastbourne has hosted a fair number of notables including Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and Arthur Conan Doyle. The Grand Hotel also has an association with some well-known musicians including Debussy who completed his symphony "Le Mer" in suite 200 in 1905.  Built in 1875, the Grand Hotel has stunning views of nearby Beachy Head in the distance and stunning gardens on the property. In its heyday, upper classes would holiday by the seaside for months at a time, often bringing their entire staff for the stay. 


World War II changed things for the hotel when it closed down to become a military headquarters as so many grand buildings did at the time. The hotel eventually reopened and more recently was giving a complete refurbishment in 1998. While the Grand Hotel Eastbourne still maintains its Victorian glory, it has been modernised to keep up with the times and now offers luxury accommodation for 21st century travellers to the seaside, much like it did for holiday makers in the 19th century.

seagull eating a sandwich

Walking Southwest along the coast you'll come upon the Wish Tower and while we couldn't really see much of it while we were there, I'd highly recommend stopping for a cup of coffee or tea at The Western View, a charming little cafe that has outdoor seating where you can take in stunning views of the sea. You'll probably see some seagulls as well, so don't leave your scones lying around unguarded or they might disappear!


If seaside villages, pleasure piers, Victorian architecture and long walks or hikes are things you enjoy, I definitely recommend a trip to Eastbourne. Keep in mind that it's not the wealthiest town, so there's no abundance of high end restaurants or fancy cocktail bars, but if you're in the mood for pizza or fish & chips, you're in luck, the locally produced ice cream is out of this world and the views are incredible. There's plenty to see and do that I didn't get around to in Eastbourne from an art gallery to a llama park, so I'll definitely be back. For more information or to plan your trip, check out visiteastbourne.com.
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