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Where is Eastbourne? It’s on the south coast of England, mid-way between Brighton and Hastings. It has a population of 93,000, is known as the sunshine coast due to the high number of recorded sunshine hours, and is more of a place to stay as opposed to a day trip destination. It has a reputation of being full of old people. This is a misnomer, as the demographics have changed considerably over the years.
How to get there
It’s inland from the A27, A22, and on the A259. There’s a direct rail link from London (90 mins) as well as daily coaches. There is also the Sovereign Harbour for those under their own sail, protected by a double lock system.
What to see
Eastbourne has the largest entertainment complex outside London, with four theatres catering for concerts, plays, musicals, touring, Gilbert and Sullivan, and lots more. There is also a comprehensive programme of events on the seafront, with the traditional bandstand. Magnificent Motors in May, tennis in June, Extreme in July, the free air display in August, these are just some of the many events during the year.
The seafront is all on the flat, with 3½ miles of promenade. As well as the famous Carpet Gardens (given over to onion growing during WW2), there is a pier, a lovely little dotto train, open top seafront bus, and Eastbourne’s latest attraction, guided walking tours, lasting an hour and a half with informative and amusing commentary.
No commercial buildings are allowed on the seafront apart from hotels, so don’t expect to see amusement arcades, cheap restaurants, or places of downmarket entertainment. Instead, expect to see buildings that conform to tradition. On the lower level there are self-service cafes, middle promenade various refreshment kiosks, upper level the road. All very civilised.
Where to eat?
There is a very cosmopolitan feel to Eastbourne’s restaurant scene, with something for literally all tastes. As locals, we love eating at the Belgian Café, attached to the Burlington Hotel on the seafront junction with Terminus Place, with its excellent selection of fish and meat dishes, as well as music scene. There are copious choices of fish and chips, but go one road inland away from the popular areas for this. Better choice, better quality. Lots of pubs to choose from, but again where the local go is The Marine (01323 720464), in Seaside (it’s the name of a road). Owned by Phil and Ann for over 25 years, with manager Andy, go hungry. You won’t leave this way. Superb choice of malt whiskies, local beers, quality ports, all you would expect from a traditional pub.
As you would expect from a town this size, there is an excellent choice of Italian (try Pomodoro), French (try Exqus), Turkish, Greek, Chinese, Indian, Thai (four of these last count), and that’s not counting the Sovereign Harbour restaurants.
Where to stay?
Most if not all guide books mention The Grand Hotel, (01323 412345) the only five star hotel along this section of the south coast. For the majority with a more limited budget, there is an excellent selection, with web site to follow. There are a many coaching hotels, a lot of a particular standard where you don’t expect a great deal staying on a budget, but receiving a warm welcome, entertainment every night, breakfast and dinner, and possibly trips out.
However there are also a lot of non-chain hotels catering for the independent traveller, particularly noteworthy seafront Marine Parade (01323 730005) Afton close to pier (01323 733162) and Cavendish – four star seafront good standards (01323 410222). Small hotels and b&bs abound, we particularly like the six room Ebor Lodge (01323 640792) high standard Boyne House (01323 721868). There are also a lot of parks on the Pevensey Bay side if you bring your own caravan or sleep under canvas.
Official tourist authority site
Tel: 01323 412000
Eastbourne Hospitality Association
01323 726756 (limited hours)
Eastbourne Walking Tours
Local ex-hoteliers Harry and Pam Pope are taking visitors and locals on a guided walk along the seafront and interesting back roads. The walks last for 90 minutes, are all on one level, and are suitable for all ages. There is a meeting point board on the pier side of the bandstand, where walkers gather five times a week – Monday and Wednesday at 3pm, Thursday and Sundays at 8pm, and also Sundays at 11am. Says guide Harry ‘I have researched the walks over a long period of time, and have even found out facts that locals, including the mayor, were unaware of. It’s amusing as well as informative, the feedback is superb, so I can be confident In saying that it’s a very interesting hour and a half.’
Who tried to blow up the pier? When was someone murdered in a top floor room of the Burlington Hotel? What ghost appears in Elms Avenue? Where is Eastbourne’s secret air raid shelter? All these and more are answered during the walk that costs £5, with under 14s free.
Call 01323 734107 or e-mail [email protected] for more Eastbourne background/information.
Photos courtesy of www.visiteastbourne.com