Day trips from London – must-do experiences in Hastings, Battle & Rye

Jump on a train heading south-east from London and in under 1.5 hours you’re in what is known as ‘1066 Country’ (due to its connections with the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066), in the towns of Hastings, Battle and Rye. Visit for a day of unique heritage, seaside experiences, festivals and much more!

 

3 MUST-DO EXPERIENCES – HASTINGS

Not only is the Jerwood Gallery set in a stunning glass building on the Old Town’s fishing beach it’s also at forefront of contemporary art with changing exhibitions and home to a fabulous collection of 20th- and 21st-century British art.

Head down to St Clements Caves and embark on a Smugglers’ Adventure. You’ll join notorious smuggler ‘Hairy Jack’ through underground tunnels and caverns on this interactive experience that tells the tales of smugglers through the ages. You can also enter the attraction via the original West Hill funicular railway, which retains its original Victorian wooden carriages.

Stroll around the picturesque Old Town, a bustling haven of cobbled streets, ‘twittens’ (narrow passageways) and a flourishing arts community, which you can explore through its myriad of antique stores and independent art shops. Alternatively, explore off-the-beaten track at the America Ground and White Rock area of Hastings. This cool, creative neighbourhood has a fascinating history and is now home to independent restaurants, cafés and shops, funky clubs and bars, as well as Source BMX Park, the biggest underground BMX park in Europe, which runs its own ‘Battle of Hastings’ in September.

 

Where can I eat?

Fresh fish lands on Hastings’ beaches every day, serving the town’s restaurants and cafés. Head down to The Stade area, the town’s fishing and cultural quarter, and dine on smoked fish and fresh cockles at Rock-a-Nore Kitchen, or admire the views of the seafront while munching oysters and other delicacies from the sea at the Old Custom House Restaurant. Round off your lunch with a luscious homemade ice cream from Di Polas ice cream parlour, where flavours range from sea salt caramel to apple and ginger.

 

And if you do want to stay overnight…

Hastings has some genuinely charming B&Bs to choose from. Among them is The Laindons, a pretty guesthouse with five rooms located in the Old Town within a Georgian Grade II-listed building. It’s kept so much of its original character and comes with fabulous views of Hastings Old Town. The Old Rectory boutique B&B is also housed in a historic building and is beautifully designed within, showcasing work by local artists and designers. For hotel choices, check out The White Rock Hotel, a stylish seafront property with contemporary, comfortable rooms and a terrace café/bar, perfect for a meal or drinks while overlooking the coastal view. 

 

3 MUST-DO EXPERIENCES – BATTLE

Re-live the atmosphere and tension of more than 600 soldiers clashing at the annual battle re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings. Held every October (13-14 in 2018), visitors can expect a day being immersed in medieval life and discovering what it was like on this famous date that changed history.

The market town of Battle grew up around Battle Abbey, built by William the Conqueror following the Battle of Hastings as a penance ordered by the Pope. Now looked after by English Heritage, along with the battle site, you can explore the abbey ruins and even stand on the spot where King Harold was said to have perished.

The town of Battle that subsequently spread beyond the Abbey walls is now a charming town to explore and offers cultural gems during the year. Throughout October is the Battle Arts & Music Festival, featuring events ranging from classical recitals, contemporary dance, author events and a range of artistic masterclasses and demonstrations.

 

Where can I eat?

For a light meal of sandwiches, cream teas and homemade cakes, Lavender Abbey Tea Rooms – with its cosy log burner to warm up against during the cooler months – is a popular choice and runs an interesting programme of evening events. A picturesque option is The Orangery at Ashburnham Place, where you can have lunch and afternoon tea in a Lancelot Capability Brown-designed building, which is home to many delicate plants including the oldest camellia in the country. Or stop by The Bull Inn Pub & Restaurant – a 17th-century coaching inn – for English pub classics such as pies, fish and chips, and steaks.

 

And if you do want to stay overnight…

Once a gunpowder owner’s residence, on the site of an 18th-century gunpowder works, the PowderMills is now a gorgeous country hotel in Battle, set in 150 acres of parkland and lakes. Just outside of Battle, overlooking the tranquil village green of Sedlescombe, is the family run Brickwall Hotel, which was built at the end of 16th century for the local ironmaster. And, for a luxury B&B stay, try Boreham House, around a ten-minute drive from Battle and situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This Grade II-listed Georgian house, originally the home of the local apothecary, also offers a converted self-catering cottage in what was the house’s original stables and coach house.

 

3 MUST-DO EXPERIENCES – RYE

Made up of attractive cobbled streets and a gamut of narrow passageways, the medieval town of Rye is made for exploring. It’s like stepping back in time as you discover buildings dating back to the medieval, Tudor and Georgian eras. It’s quaint and quirky – Mermaid Street, for example, is home to ancient buildings with unique names such as ‘The House Opposite’ or ‘The House with the Seat’.

Close to town is Great Dixter, the birthplace and home of renowned gardener and writer, the late Christopher Lloyd, and is well worth a visit for its glorious gardens – incorporating a walled garden, the sunk garden and the peacock garden – and for its horticultural events that run throughout the year.

For a true taste of Rye’s countryside, head to the award-winning, 850-acre Oxney Organic Estate, around six miles from the town, for a guided tour of its vineyard, and enjoy a tasting of its organic still and sparking wines, which only use the vineyard’s grapes and follow a natural winemaking ethos. It also has holiday cottages on site and recently introduced renovated vintage shepherds’ huts to stay in.

 

Where can I eat?

A pretty little clapperboard pub on the outskirts of Rye where the Military Canal meets the River Rother, The Globe Inn Marsh has a fantastic menu of locally sourced fish and other local ingredients, plus a bar that stocks more than 40 gins.

Another great fish restaurant is Webbe’s at the Fish Café, located in a listed building near the Landgate Arch in Rye, and was the first completely fire-proof building of its kind in the UK when it was built in 1907. It’s all about fresh local fish here, brought in from the ports of Rye and Hastings,  

Ten minutes from Rye is restaurant with rooms, The Gallivant Hotel, with a superb bistro that overlooks the beautiful sandy dunes at Camber Sands. It’s passionate about using local produce across its menu, with a daily changing menu highlighting the season’s best, and boasts a large list of English wines.

 

And if you do want to stay overnight…

Sloping ceilings, creaky floorboards and a diverting history encompassing 18th-century smugglers make the Mermaid Inn a special place to stay in Rye. History oozes out of every corner – its cellars date back to 1156 and the building itself was rebuilt in 1420 – although you’ll find a very contemporary welcome.

Another fine example of a historic inn is The George on Rye’s High Street, which dates back to 1575. A luxury hotel, each room is designed with its own bespoke furniture and colour theme. Dine at its in-house restaurant and enjoy a drink in its own pub, The George Tap.

Looking for more of a glamping experience? A ten-minute drive from Rye and you’ll find yourself in the village of Beckley, and at Swallowtail Hill, a farm, meadow and woodland where you can stay in either of its charming cottages – the Woodcutter’s Cottage or the Meadow Keeper’s Cottage – or its two cosy wood cabins. It’s a great place for a full digital detox.

 

Getting there: Hastings, Battle and Rye are located in the county of East Sussex on England’s south coast. Trains leave from either London St Pancras or London Charing Cross (depending on your destination) and take around 1.5 hours.

7 British festivals foodies you should visit in 2018

Let the British food festival season begin! Come for the amazing food and world-renowned chefs and stay for those extra twists that deliver true British style. We pick seven to have on your radar this summer.

 

Pub in the Park, various locations

When and Where: Bath, south-west England (8-10 June), Tunbridge Wells, south-east England (6-8 July), Knutsford, Cheshire, north-west England (7-9 September)

Why: There’s nothing quite as quintessentially British as the pub and world-renowned chef Tom Kerridge – owner of the first pub, the Hand and Flowers, to be awarded two Michelin stars – is bringing the pub, first-class food and music to the great outdoors this summer. Sample dishes from top British pubs, including the Hand and Flowers and Tom’s other Michelin-starred pub The Coach, while dancing the night away to Razorlight, Jamie Cullum and KT Tunstall.

Getting there: Bath can be reached in 1.5 hours by train from London, Tunbridge Wells in one hour and Knutsford in three hours.

 

Port Eliot Festival, Cornwall

When: 26-29 July

Where: Port Eliot estate, St Germans, Cornwall, south-west England

Why: There’s plenty of chefs, stalls, locally-sourced and sustainable produce, international food and cookery demonstrations here that celebrate the rich and diverse food culture of Cornwall and south-west England. Yet as the festival is located in stunning 6,000 acres of countryside it’s a perfect opportunity to indulge in unforgettable outdoor activities, from wild swimming to foraging walks. This year’s food-demo focus concentrates on up-close-and-personal experiences in the estate’s centuries-old Big Kitchen and the Open Fire Stage. Oh, and there’s a baking masterclass with Desperate Housewives and Superman star Teri Hatcher.

Getting there: take a direct train from London to St Germans, which takes just under four hours.

 

Foodies Festival Edinburgh

When: 3-5 August

Where: Inverleith Park, Edinburgh, Scotland

Why: Because you’ve always wanted to take part in cream-pie throwing, chilli eating and cheese-stretching competitions! Quirky activities aside, this touring festival (which travels to six other British destinations) brings everything a foodie could ask for to a festival, from Kombucha workshops to Prosecco and Parmesan masterclasses, artisan and street food stalls, a Gin Station and a Tequila Shack. Plus, you’ll see top bands such as The Hoosiers and Toploader perform.

Getting there: The park is a ten-minute taxi or bus ride from Edinburgh city centre.

 

Isle of Wight Garlic Festival

When: 18-19 August

Where: Sandown, Isle of Wight, south England

Why: Ever fancied trying garlic fudge? Or how about sampling garlic popcorn or ice cream? The Isle of Wight, off the coast of south England, is famous for its garlic so it makes perfect sense for the island to host an entire festival to the ‘stinking rose’. Find out just how good garlic is for health, learn various ways to cook with it and how best to grow it. A new theatre kitchen has launched for this year where cooking demonstrations will take place and the whole charm of the festival is further boosted with live music, art, craft and food stalls, a huge funfair and children’s entertainers.

Getting there: Take the 45-minute ferry crossing to Fishbourne from Portsmouth Harbour (2 hours from London by train).

 

The Big Feastival, Cotswolds

When: 24-26 August

Where: Alex James Farm, Kingham, Cotswolds, central England

Why: Launched by Alex James of Britpop legends Blur, and taking place on his Cotswolds farm, The Big Feastival has earned its place as one of the food festivals to visit, thanks to both its impressive line-up of top chefs – which this year includes Marco Pierre White, Raymond Blanc, Mark Hix and Pierre Koffman – and stellar musical talent. Cheese is a big draw for this festival (Alex James makes his own); cheese lovers should head to the double-decker cheese hub with its award-winning artisan cheeses and all-day cocktail bar, and – new for 2018 – The Cheese Bar and The Cheese Truck where you can feast on huge stacks of British cheeseboards and grilled cheese sandwiches. When you’ve eaten your fill, dance off the calories to music from Basement Jaxx, Craig David, and Paloma Faith.

Getting there: The nearest train station is Kingham, 1.5 hours from London

 

Great British Food Festival, Wiltshire

When: 25-27 August

Where: Bowood House, Wiltshire, south-west England

Why: It’s a foodie paradise set in the grounds of a beautiful English stately home in the heart of the Cotswolds. Another touring festival, the Great British Food Festival comes to the breathtaking Bowood House, which gives visitors the opportunity to team a love for food with a love for history. Along with talks, stalls and cooking demonstrations, there’s also the chance to take part in some quirky British challenges – why not see if you can beat the record of eating a 74.5 inch sausage followed by a pint of cider in less than six minutes six seconds!

Getting there: the train takes just over an hour from London to Chippenham; Bowood House is then a 15-minute taxi ride from there.

 

Abergavenny Food Festival, Wales

When: 15-16 September

Where: Abergavenny, south Wales

Why: Set in a pretty medieval market town, this is one of Britain’s most well-established food festivals – 2018 marks the 20th year since the first took place –– and it’s a great festival to visit for combining a passion for food with a sense of adventure. There’s a diverse selection of forages and tours operating as part of the festival, taking advantage of the bountiful Welsh countryside. Forage for seafood or for gin botanicals or book onto tours of nearby vineyards and distilleries. The popular ‘Cooking Over Fire’ area will return to the town’s historic castle featuring Hang Fire BB, while the demo stage will host Welsh chef legends such as the Michelin-starred chef Gareth Ward from Ynyshir Hall, and James Sommerin from his eponymous restaurant in Penarth, Cardiff.

Getting there: Trains take 2.5 hours from London to Abergavenny or 45 minutes from Cardiff.

 

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Food & Drink

Festivals

Heritage

Culture

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South-east England