I love Eastbourne. It’s got its own unique and quirky vibe and whilst some of the things I have suggested here are the standard “must visits” of Eastbourne, I’ve also thrown in a few curve balls too.
Get stuck into a book
Is there anything better than diving into a really good bookshop and losing yourself for an hour or two? In Eastbourne, you’ll find Camilla’s Bookshop in Grove Road which is famed for its parrot as well as its books! This is a book lover’s heaven with lots of different sections and books stacked to the rafters. If you haven’t had enough after a visit here, head out to Alfriston to Much Ado Books which is equally gorgeous and has little corners in which you can plonk yourself down to browse. It’s next to Ye Olde Smugglers Inne.
Sovereign Harbour didn’t exist when I lived near Eastbourne! Built in the early 1990s, these days it’s home to a large marina with four linked harbours, lots of shops and alfresco restaurants. For my part, the best part is strolling along the boardwalks admiring the yachts. You are supposed to get to the harbour by bus (number 99) although I drove. Enough said.
Is it me, or is there something completely Moorish about a Martello Tower? And Eastbourne is well endowed in the tower department. There is one just off King Edward’s Parade (not far from The Grand Hotel) known as “The Wish Tower”. Since it was decommissioned in 1873, it’s been a geological museum, a naval battery in WWII, a military museum and a puppet museum but is now a little pocket of tranquillity. It’s occasionally open to the public.
There’s also a Martello Tower at Sovereign Harbour and this one has many original features, including its gun barrel. It feels a little like the last bastion of Eastbourne here but if you keep going east, there are another four towers at Pevensey! Martello heaven!
Visit Towner Eastbourne
One of my all-time favourite Sussex buildings, in part due to its shape, and in part due to the fabulous exterior art installation, Towner Eastbourne is always worth a visit. In the Devonshire Park part of Eastbourne, there is an ongoing programme of exhibitions here as well as a number of workshops and an independent cinema.
The bright coloured exterior is called Dance Diagonal by German artist Lothar Götz. It’s a temporary installation which has now been extended to 2024. Towner has also got the largest public collections of work by Eric Ravilious (1903–1942) and there are currently a number of these on display. I can’t decide if I’m a fan or not.
Afternoon tea at The Grand Hotel
Deliciously decadent, The Grand Hotel describes itself as, “The finest 5-star hotel by the sea in Sussex” and it’s also known as The White Palace. They offer a rather fabulous afternoon tea which includes a Champagne high tea. Prices for a Monday to Thursday start at £30.00 per person or £38.50 with a glass of Champagne.
Cue the theatre and a few ghosts
Eastbourne is awash with theatres including the Royal Hippodrome Theatre, Devonshire Park Theatre, Congress Theatre and the Winter Garden where they also host live music. Word on the street is that The Royal Hippodrome (which opened in 1883) is one of the most haunted buildings in the country and you can go on a “Ghost Hunter Tour” here. The tour includes a spirit board, table tipping, glass movement, sensory work, and using equipment such as K2s (whatever they are). I have not tried it.
The grand old bandstand
Eastbourne has a rather gorgeous bandstand that was built in 1935 in a semi-circular design with a blue-domed roof. Throughout the year, the bandstand hosts dozens of live events from music to fireworks. It’s currently closed for repairs but that doesn’t stop the entertainment because the folks from the bandstand have gone on tour with pop up shows at the Winter Garden!
To the west of Eastbourne, you’ll find the area called Holywell and steep steps take you down to the Holywell Spring on the beach. It’s quite hard to find until you’re right upon it but the clear, freshwater spring has something a little mystical about it. The spring is supposed to have curative powers.
The big wheel is back
The UK’s largest transportable Ferris wheel (over 160ft tall) is back on Western Lawns this summer. Great views from the top – so I am told. It’s not for me.
Eastbourne’s fabulous festivals
Time your visit carefully to coincide with one of the town’s many festivals. They seem to have a festival to cater for every wish and whim including an eco festival (July), a vintage festival (August), a tribute band festival (August), a walking festival (September), a Steampunk festival (September), Oktoberfest (October) and a beer and cider festival (May). I’m sure there are more I haven’t discovered yet!
You can’t visit Eastbourne and not visit Beachy Head where you’ll find the lighthouse and the Belle Tout. You can only walk at the base of the lighthouse at special spring low tides and caution is needed so that you don’t get cut off by the sea coming in.
But you can walk up to the Belle Tout which has a heap load of history (it’s featured in a number of TV shows and films) and is now a B&B with rooms named: Captain’s Cabin, Old England and Keepers Loft.
The Azimuth sculptures
When I last visited Eastbourne, the Redoubt (an old coastal fort and military museum) was closed and the signs seem to suggest it’s not going to open any time soon. However, in front of the Redoubt is a rather enigmatic sculpture installation. Made out of reclaimed sea defences, it all looks like a mixture of mythical sea creatures and old shipwrecks. The artist has carved tales of historical events into the wood. I suspect you love it or hate it. I love it.
I know I haven’t mentioned the pier. Visit it if you will, but it didn’t float my boat although it looks fabulous from the beach on a sunny day.
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For more information about things to do in Eastbourne, visit: https://www.visiteastbourne.com/tourism/