I’ve spent a couple of days in Eastbourne again. It’s a great place for a quick, cheap break by the sea.
I was brought up by the sea (Seaford – about 10 miles from Eastbourne and absolutely not worth visiting, trust me) and I miss it badly living in the city. Eastbourne has a lot of sea…a whole beach-full…is just 2 hours drive from London (or 1.5 hours on the train, which I prefer) and, even better, its hotels are remarkably cheap. Certainly a LOT cheaper than Brighton which is closer to London and more lively, but definitely a lot more up itself now that it’s full of tattooed, pierced, tree-hugging TV producers.
Admittedly, Eastbourne is basically one large old people’s home without walls, but it has many gentle charms and, more than anything else…it’s really good value.
For example, this weekend I stayed at the Albany (Lions) Hotel, a hotel on the front overlooking the sea, and it’s £35 a night for one person including full cooked breakfast. It’s not posh but it’s clean and surprisingly quiet and they even have a really good three-course meal in the evening which is just £14.50.
My favourite place to stay in Eastbourne (apart from the wonderful Grand Hotel which is at least £150 a night so out of range) is the Hydro Hotel. I never pay more than £45 a night there and it’s a fantastic place, a really well-kept hotel with croquet lawn, very good food (their breakfasts are still cooked to order, not congealing under hot lamps) and great views over the sea.
There are some excellent B&Bs here too, run by lively and friendly landladies and usually costing about £25-45 a night for a single room like the Berkeley and Brayscroft House.
I find these places by going to Laterooms.com which I love. It’s a great website for cut-price hotel rooms, particularly in the UK. If I feel like popping down to Eastbourne for a day or so of quiet I’ll go on there, look at the offers and pick the best one (not always the cheapest as I’ve been in one or two really cheap ones and there’s usually a reason why they’re that cheap!). The reviews are very helpful and stop you picking a place just because it looks cheap. They’re pretty reliable so I tend to go for places that have at least a 75% approval rating.
Once you’re in Eastbourne, it’s up to you what you do. If the weather’s good (and if often, surprisingly is as Eastbourne is nicely sheltered by the South Downs) you can walk by the beach, sit in one of the cafes on the front or mooch around what’s left of the shops (they’re not doing too well right now).
If you’re a walker, then go for Beachy Head, the cliffs and the Downs generally. They’re wonderful. In the evenings there are musicals, plays and all kinds of shows indoors and outdoors. In fact, I’m tempted to come down in March to see the latest Alan Ayckbourn play which has its UK premier in Eastbourne. There’s also the very impressive, new Towner Art Gallery which is great for a cup of tea even if you’re not into art.
I think Eastbourne is a well-kept secret. I’m only letting you know about it because I know there’s room for a lot more visitors here, particularly in the low season, and it’s such good value. I really can’t keep it to myself.