Looking for a short break? Eastbourne and the surrounding area could be just the place!
For a midweek seaside break away from London for couples and families, there are the more obvious choices such as Brighton; well-known and easily accessible. But how about somewhere you might not have thought of: Eastbourne? Only 80 minutes from London by train, it’s town with much to recommend it as well as being the gateway to the South Downs as their eastern end butts up against the English Channel with the dramatic cliffs of the Seven Sisters.
Start with a tour of Beachy Head, Birling Gap and the South Downs on the half hourly open topped bus (£10 for an adult). With many stops on the seafront, it’s a hop-on and hop-off service that can easily take a whole day to experience in full. We got off for the first time at the Beachy Head stop, and enjoy the views out to sea to the south, and equally impressive expanse of the South Downs to the north west.
Then back on for Birling Gap for some fossiling and easy access to the beach, as well as enjoying the view of the cliffs of the Seven Sisters. Onwards up into the downs and discovering the local sheep breeds at the Seven Sisters Sheep Centre. Finally, back onto the bus and back down to your starting point; to get the best views of the glorious South Downs, it’s best to join the rush for the top deck of the roofless double decker bus. Best enjoyed when it’s not raining!
Once back in Eastbourne, as you’re at the seaside, why not enjoy the full gamut of traditional British seaside activities? If the tide is out, there’s sand for sandcastles; and as the beach is well-sheltered from the prevailing south-westerlies by Beachy Head; it’s great for children and there are RNLI lifeguards on the beach at all times in the day. If you’re feeling in need of a little something there are plenty of kiosks ready to sell you a delicious ice cream, perfect for eating as you promenade towards the pier. We really enjoy piers; quintessentially British and both bucket and spade and harking back to Edwardian gentility, with the wooden planking for strolling right next to the amusement arcades.
Other ways of amusing yourself abound. For shopping, there’s the Arndale centre with a selection of well known shops and chains, or for a more relaxed browsing experience, the Little Chelsea quarter around Grove Road and South Street, near the train station has art, interior design, antique and second hand bookshops, as well as many dining choices.
In the evening, there are plenty of places to eat in both Eastbourne itself as well as out to the east by Sovereign harbour. But don’t just restrict yourself to dinner: why not enjoy a traditional cream tea in one of the hotels on the seafront?
English wine, and English sparkling wine in particular, is gaining plaudits and winning competitions, beating champagne in in blind tastings. So why not use Eastbourne as a base for a tour of the excellent English wine makers in Sussex.
We took a tour with Fizz on Foot who offer a variety of walks, followed by lunch then a vineyard tour and the all important tasting. We started in the pretty and ancient village of Alfriston, full of antique and other independent shops and perfect for exploring. The Clergy House next to St Andrew’s Church – known as the Cathedral of the Downs – and the village green, called the Tye, was the first property to be bought by the National Trust.
Our walk took us along the banks of the river Cuckmere towards Litlington (home of George IV’s mistress), before crossing the river and returning to Alfriston. Being out on the river’s floodplain on a blazing English summer’s day was simply lovely. We followed up this walk with a visit to the Rathfinny Wine Estate, to see their impressive vineyard dedicated to English sparkling wines.
After our two days in Eastbourne and the beautiful surrounding countryside, we were happy to sink into the coolness of the air conditioned train after the hottest two days of the summer, feeling refreshed, renewed and ready to face the city again, having enjoyed our town, sea and countryside break.
We were guests of Visit Eastbourne, but all opinions are our own.
If you’re interested in wine, they currently have a special offer of a two night break, with wine tour from £169pp here.