Didn’t someone once say that Eastbourne was a town where you went to die? Hope so, because the faded grandeur of this old-school seaside town is a delight. Glorious Regency-style townhouses make it look like a mini ‘Bath-by-the-sea’, and its wide, shingled beach is a haven for families, all making the most of the late September sunshine (it was over 80 degrees when we were there, warm enough to swim in the sea).
The seafront is as traditional as they come; a pretty little pier with a set of small, kiddie-friendly arcades and a tearoom; bandstands, wind shelters, well-kept lawns. Old-fashioned ice-cream parlours rub shoulders with rock and souvenir shops. Pubs serve all day. Faded grand hotels keep watch over the groups strolling along, licking their lollies and looking out for a decent chippy.
Step away from the front, though, and things get a little more quirky. Behind the station is Little Chelsea, an area of up-and-coming art shops, vintage and record stores, good pubs and interesting restaurants. Wander along the seafront and you come to Redoubt Fort, a monument to the role Eastbourne played in the country’s defences in wartime. The main shopping areas might be British high-street bland, but the incredible Towner Art Gallery makes up for that, with its gorgeous glass walls and high concrete ceilings. Trek a little further along the coast and you come to the natural wonder that is the chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters. All in all, Eastbourne has rather a lot going for it… and not just as a place to see out your days.
The cutest pub back garden ever. Little wicker chairs, hanging plants and some much-needed shade on a very hot September day. Good selection of beers and ciders, and a nicely done-out dining room, too.
A sports pub that isn’t too heavy on the sports (if you don’t like football, don’t worry), close to the train station. A strong lunch menu made it a bit of a firm favourite.
Rather lovely wine bar serving good food and small plates alongside its excellent selection of vintages.
So old-fashioned! So twee! But the teapot was in the shape of an elephant and there are scones for breakfast, along with starched tablecloths and seagulls swooping by as you’re sat on the pier. A delight.
Fusciardi’s Ice Cream Parlour
Ah, an old-fashioned Italian ice-cream house, right on the seafront. Just what you need on a scorching hot day.
Notarianni’s Milk Bar
Another gem from the past – this perfect, Formica-clad diner, serving up bacon butties and fry ups. Perfect to cure that hangover.
Half Man! Half Burger!
You’ve got to try The Big Cheese here. It’s bloody delicious. Also, the name. Eat here for the name, if nothing else.
Tucked away behind the seafront is this Japanese restaurant which does seriously good food. Some of the best yakitori in the south-east (IMHO) and a really good takoyaki (octopus balls, nicer than you think!). Lovely staff too – a bit of a find.
Very cool menswear (mostly) shop with a great range of grown-up skater clothes including Deus Ex Machina and Herschel stuff. Friendly owner, too.
33 South Street
Gorgeous homes and interiors store with some lovely pieces and glorious artwork. Not too expensive, either.
Little Chelsea Antiques Emporium
A proper ‘rummage around and see what you can find’ sort of place. Lot of goodies hidden away – the 1930s ‘FA Cup Football Game’ caught our eye.
My goodness, Eastbourne is well served with its vinyl shops.
Mostly new cuts, with some older bits and pieces knocking about, Pebble is clean, bright and very welcoming. Nice owner and lots of swanky vinyl to hand.
The Vinyl Frontier
We do love a record store that also has a cafe. And The Vinyl Frontier does. It’s an official ‘Record Store Day’ shop, so it’s well stocked with unusual offcuts and some cool older pieces, too.
Glorious basement beneath Little Chelsea Antiques, stuffed to bursting with good-quality oldies. Make your way down the rickety staircase into a palace of vinyl delight. Yes, we spent a lot of money here.
What we did:
Wandered through the streets of Little Chelsea, admiring the rather fine art galleries and rummaging in the charity shops. Headed to the Towner Art Gallery and the Eric Ravilious room to check out his locally inspired drawings. It was a super sunny day, so we walked along the seafront to visit Redoubt Fortress, a Napoleonic-War monument to coastal defences.
Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
Heard it in one of the record shops and it stuck with us for the rest of the weekend.
What we bought:
Plenty of vinyl, including a brilliant slice of girl power – Girls In The Garage vol 9 – Oriental Special (a total delight). Deus Ex Machina T-shirts. A green lamb figurine, called ‘Lamby’ (original).
Where we stayed:
House Of The Dead / Crazy golf?:
Yes! Mini golf at Treasure Island along the seafront. Some difficult holes and tricky set-ups made for a frustrating round; nicely maintained, but LOTS of little kids made it a slow course to play.