A short break in Hastings, East Sussex
Hastings is a seaside town that never fails to surprise me. It's never quite as I remember and in recent years there's been much regeneration, especially around the charming old fishing port - or rather, the Fishing & Cultural Quarter. It also has a smashing little castle, even if some of it has fallen off the cliff and no one seems sure where the keep would have stood.
You could, of course, go to the new shopping centre, and if you're approaching from the north that's the part of town you'll see first. But stroll eastwards along the sea front and you arrive via the excellent tourist information centre at the quirky, historic parts of Hastings, as well as the state-of-the-art Jerwood Gallery that blends so elegantly into its surroundings. I'd love to have gone back for the Black Huts Festival of writing, music and film at the end of last month, too - that's earmarked for a short break in Sussex next year.
For a boho experience, bijou George Street is the place to look, with its eclectic mix of bric-a-brac, books, ethnic shops and terrific cafes - if you need refreshment you're spoilt for choice. (We especially loved the charming Brazilian cafe.) Just round the corner we also found the best fish & chips you could wish for, with a boat for children to sit in - a popular idea.
If you can't face climbing the cliff on foot, take the funny little Victorian funicular through a natural cave from George St. Hastings castle's an atmospheric ruin that looks small but was plenty big enough to absorb a large school party on our visit. We walked back down the cliff path to the old harbour, with its dark wooden shacks, quirky shed-boats, Blue Reef Aquarium and little museums - my favourite is the Fishermen's Museum, in an old church, where you can climb into a fishing boat suspended from the rafters.
And that was just a small part of Hastings, so when you're self-catering on the Sussex coast do go and explore - it's very rewarding. Click here to see our selection of Hastings properties.