Henry Beston once said “the three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach” and when visiting the seaside in England for a weekend away you are definitely guaranteed at least two of these, the ocean and the rain!
Growing up in New Zealand a trip to the beach was always a treat especially if it included a Goody Goody Gumdrop ice cream when heading home. My lovely friend and I decided to take a trip to the South Coast to blow away the cobwebs that had managed to entwine around us after the dreadful winter in England. We decided against Brighton, as its normally crowded and accommodation is over priced and opened up good old Google Maps to find Hastings and St Leonard’s and it had our two vital ingredients, a beach and cake!
I had booked us into stay at The Cloudesley in St Leonard’s which is a luxury 5 star boutique B&B which caters for Dietary requirements (including Gluten Free), they offer Holistic treatments and the rooms have Siberian Goose Down pillows so it sounded like pure bliss and something we were both looking forward to all week. Ten minutes into our train journey to St Leonard’s I had a phone call from the owner to say that the shower was broken and he would have to find us alternative accommodation. Sometimes you can only laugh and hope that there is a silver lining. The owner of the Cloudesley was extremely gracious and picked us up from the station and took us to the new hotel and gave us a bottle of wine (hello silver lining!).
Our alternative was The White Rock Hotel in Hastings which is situated directly in front of Hastings Pier (photo below is taken from our room). The hotel looks slightly rough around the edges from the outside but the room and bathroom were a lovely surprise and very comfortable. The hotel also has a restaurant where we had dinner on Friday night and the food and service was really good, so would recommend if you arrive late to have dinner at the restaurant.
The room we had was on the 1st floor and had a Juliet balcony with long billowy curtains which was extremely romantic especially with the gale force winds that were blowing!
It was a special treat to be able to see the sea when lying in bed (hello silver lining).
After a hearty breakfast in the restaurant at the hotel (you get a discount if staying and they do a mean English breakfast) we decided to tackle the wind and rain and take on Hastings and St Leonard’s.
Our first stop was to walk to the Old Town so we took advantage of the slightly less windy conditions by walking through the Town Centre and did a bit of retail therapy; hello new Topshop shoes (my friend wanted new shoes not me!).
A short walk from the Town Centre is the Old Town which has one of those gorgeous little streets that you only find in England where all the buildings are higgledy piggledy and you just swoon in delight. We were told that Hastings and St Leonard’s is going through a rejuvenation at the moment and with rejuvenation brings cute little cafes, antique and art shops opening around town. I was prepared to try and eat cake in every cafe however I would still be there a week later!
We then stumbled past the compulsory seaside attractions of carousels and mini golf that you find at many of the English Seaside towns and found where the fishermen sell their goods and oh my goodness there was a man selling Fish and Chips and they smelt so good, it actually reminded me of New Zealand as we do the best Fish and Chips in the world! We had cake plans so decided against a cheeky portion of chips.
To get away from the Fish and Chips we took a ride on one of the two Funiculars in Hastings. For a person that doesn’t like heights I really enjoy a ride on a Funicular. The views over Hastings and St Leonard’s were pretty incredible even though we were almost blown over the edge! You can imagine Pirates hiding their treasure around this part of the world and on the 21st July 2013 Hastings holds a Pirates Day (the biggest Pirate event on the planet! well I might be making this up slightly but they do hold a world record)
No trip to the English seaside is complete without purchasing some Rock candy (sweets / lollies) and I got slightly over excited and bought good old fashioned fudge which didn’t stay around for very long. Luckily enough John Bull Confectioners do online orders of Rock and Fudge so if you don’t get a chance to visit the seaside then you can still order online.
One of the reasons I had chosen St Leonard’s what that there was an awesome cake shop called Michala’s Cute Cakes and yes the cakes live up to their name, they are super cute and super yummy. I had the Gluten Free Lemon Meringue Pie which was the best Lemon Meringue Pie ever, full of flavour but not over powering and so light! A pot of tea and a slice of cake is £4.50 and that’s a total bargain as the slices are real slices not tiny slithers – just what the doctor ordered.
Michala’s Cute Cakes is tucked inside a shop called SHOP on Norman Road and both are well worth a visit in you are in the area. Looking at these photos I am thinking I should have bought the polka dot dress!
Now to be honest we were slightly still hungry and thought we should have something healthy to go with the cake so we headed directly across the road to a little cafe called The Little Larder Cafe which offers amazing lunch dishes and am you can see from the photo below the Cottage Pie with Cheesy Mash was a total winner. Even though it doesn’t say on the Menu board, just ask at the counter and the lovely ladies will point out the gluten free options.
I took home a piece of Fruit Crumble Cake for G, he demolished it within seconds so I can safely assume that the cake was good!
Norman Road in St Leonard’s is a great place to shop and eat so if you are visiting the area don’t leave without having a browse.
Even though we had an accommodation blimp everything worked out in the end and when we were preparing to depart the clouds parted and gave us a little glimpse of blue sky before we headed back onto the train to London.
Hastings and St Leonard are a fantastic alternative to Brighton, offering a great variety of boutique shops, antique shops, cafes and bistros and a slightly more purse friendly seaside destination.