Spending a day in Eastbourne
PUBLISHED: 08:36 22 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:33 23 June 2020
Things to do in the East Sussex coastal town of Eastbourne
The beautiful coastal town of Eastbourne is located on the lower slopes of the South Downs, which form chalk cliffs nearby including the famous Beachy Head. Old Town (which was originally known as Bourne) was the principal medieval settlement.
The town grew in popularity after Dr Richard Russell of Lewes published his Dissertation on the Use of Sea Water in 1752, which encouraged people to visit the seaside to improve their health.
William Cavendish, the 7th Duke of Devonshire, took a great interest in Eastbourne as a major local landowner and the modern town is largely his creation.
The Duke had a vision of a seaside resort “built by a gentleman for gentlemen” and in 1859 he commissioned a development plan from Henry Currey which featured wide thoroughfares, fine public buildings and sweeping promenades facing the sea.
In the morning
Eastbourne is surrounded by stunning countryside, and indeed one of the country’s most iconic landmarks in the form of Beachy Head. There’s a great circular walk from the town to Beachy Head taking in the picturesque village of East Dean (go to www.nationaltrail.co.uk). The popular Cuckoo Trail is a 14-mile surfaced path between Heathfield and Eastbourne’s Shinewater Park which follows the route of a former railway line.
The jewel in Eastbourne’s crown is its splendid promenade edged by majestic Victorian hotels including the illustrious Grand, which has welcomed famous guests including Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin.
The seafront is home to some interesting relics of the Napoleonic Wars. The Wish Tower, which is normally open most weekends throughout the summer, was built to protect the western end of Eastbourne Bay. It was part of a series of Martello towers (103 in total) which stretched from Seaford in East Sussex to Norfolk. The Redoubt Fortress on Royal Parade was added in 1806 to protect the eastern end of the bay and is now home to a military museum. Back on the western end of the seafront is Eastbourne Lifeboat Museum, which tells the story of the local lifeboat since 1822. The boathouse was built from public donations collected by the Daily Telegraph, as a memorial to the actor William Terriss, who was assassinated outside the Adelphi Theatre in 1897. Don’t forget to schedule a walk on the glorious Victorian pier, designed by Eugenius Birch and opened in 1870.
The Story of Eastbourne exhibition and heritage hub on Terminus Road tells the story of Eastbourne through the eyes of the real people who lived it. If shopping’s more your thing, the newly opened £85m Beacon shopping centre has a host of high street names, while the Enterprise Centre is full of independent boutiques. There’s also an antiques collectors’ market.
It’s well worth spending a few hours exploring Towner, the gallery currently glorying in a colourful mural by Lothar Götz. Although, as with all of the venues listed, it is closed at the time of writing due to social distancing, the gallery hosts some interesting and influential exhibitions. There is also a cinema showing arthouse and documentary films.
If there’s time, plan a trip to nearby Pevensey Castle to explore its history which stretches back 16 centuries. English Heritage says it “chronicles more graphically than any other fortress the story of Britain’s south coast defences.” In the evening, plan a visit to one of Eastbourne’s theatres, which include the Devonshire Park, Royal Hippodrome and Congress. Throughout the summer Eastbourne Bandstand hosts concerts and every Wednesday these include traditional proms favorites and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with a magnificent fireworks display.
Day On A Plate
It wouldn’t be a trip to the seaside without ice cream, and Fusciardi’s is a traditional Italian gelateria very popular with locals. Tennis player Johanna Konta told Sussex Life in 2018 that gelato is top of her to-do list when she returns to her hometown.
Bill’s on Terminus Road is a nice spot for brunch, or for something rather more unusual The Mad Hatter Cat Café on Station Road offers refreshments, vintage styling and feline cuddles. There’s even a cinema club!
Bistrot Pierre near the Wish Tower has good food and glorious views while Company offers fun casual dining and great cocktails.
The local view
Director of Towner Eastbourne
“I just love living and working in Eastbourne. The combination of a culturally vibrant seaside town with world-class beaches on the edge of the South Downs National Park ensures the perfect life balance for our family. My cultural highlights include Towner Eastbourne’s exhibitions, activities and independent cinema, the Emma Mason Gallery, Devonshire Collective’s events and initiatives and the biannual Artists’ Open Houses festival. We always eat and shop at Camilla’s Bookshop, Hudson’s Deli, The Dolphin Pub, Company Eatery and Skylark Café. #EastbourneALIVE First Thursdays brings diverse live music and performance to venues across the town once a month.”
“Eastbourne is developing and progressing fast. The newly redeveloped Devonshire Quarter is one of the best arts hubs in the south with the Towner and the Congress and Devonshire Park Theatres bringing some of the best culture available to Sussex. There are plenty of funky new bars and restaurants opening and the new Beacon Centre has massively changed the town centre for the better – including bringing us a multiplex cinema.”