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Secret City: Hastings

A view of the coastline and town of Hastings

Hastings in East Sussex has been a holiday destination since Victorian times, and nowadays it’s also a great place to live as a student. We asked Lauren Fry at Sussex Coast College Hastings for an insider’s perspective – and her five reasons why this corner of the coast is an essential UK experience…

‘Hastings is a historic town on the south coast of England, big enough to be interesting but small enough to be friendly.

It’s an eclectic mix of Victorian elegance and modern transformation, with a vibrant community full of new businesses, visitors, students and residents, giving Hastings a real buzz.

These are the five things I love about Hastings:

1. Art and culture

Hastings has a growing reputation as a thriving national and international arts centre. The town hosts free cultural events every Saturday throughout the summer, and an annual arts festival called Coastal Currents. In 2012 the Jerwood Arts Institute opened a brand new gallery in the Old Town, and in nearby Bexhill-on-Sea, the De La Warr Pavilion puts on high-profile exhibitions, performances and concerts.

International staff and students at Sussex Coast College Hastings (Photo ©L. Fry 2014 / D. Fowler 2013)

2. Festivals and events

Hastings loves to celebrate, and there are lively social events throughout the year. Where else would you find Jack-in-the-Green, the annual May Day festival where parades of people dressed in leafy green costumes march through the streets?

Or check out one of Hastings’ many other festivals: St Leonards Festival in July, the Seafood and Wine Festival in September, Pirate Day (with pirate costumes and pirate-themed games, food, arts and crafts!) and the Hastings Old Town Carnival in August. There are also exhilarating fireworks displays, bonfires and parades (check out our article on Bonfire Night to see some amazing celebrations in Hastings).

3. Pretty seaside views

The town’s ancient fishing quarter, with its colourful boats and charming fishing huts, is home to the UK’s largest beach-based fishing fleet.

A typical sunset in Hastings' fishing quarter (Photo ©VisitBritain / Daniel Bosworth)

4. Transport links

Hastings is close to Brighton and London, with direct train links to both (the train to London takes about an hour and a half). It’s also an hour and a half to Gatwick Airport, or you could take the train to mainland Europe – just pick up the Eurostar at nearby Ashford International. In Hastings itself, there are even two funicular railways, which really put the ‘fun’ back into travelling!

5. History

There's so much interesting history in Hastings! It's most famous for the Battle of Hastings in 1066, which changed the course of British history. It is also linked to many historical figures, from the inventor of the TV, John Logie Baird (the Scotsman lived and worked here in the 1920s), to Alan Turing – considered the father of modern computing, who famously worked to decipher the Enigma code during the Second World War.

Hastings is also home to St Clement’s Caves, which were formed around 14,000 BC during the last Ice Age. They have served as a home, a hospital, an air-raid shelter during the war, and a ballroom, and been visited by everyone from the Rolling Stones to the Royal family. Today, visitors can see a vivid recreation of the story of smuggling along the Sussex Coast during the 17th and 18th centuries.

And if that’s not enough, you can visit the remains of Hastings Castle, built by the Normans in 1070 on the West Hill, overlooking the town.

Battle Abbey, which was built on the site of the Battle of Hastings in the 11th century (Photo ©English Heritage)

Hastings is a unique and exciting place in which to live, work and study. Come and pay us a visit!’

Read more:
   •  Explore the UK: More city guides for students
   •  8 reasons to study in the UK's countryside
   •  Lights, camera, country houses! Discover the real UK locations from literature

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