Eastbourne in East Sussex, less than two hours away by train from London, has all the ingredients for the perfect day at the seaside.
It is a short walk through the town center to get to the pier from the railway station. The main attraction in Eastbourne, the pier was partially damaged by a fire at the end of July 2014 but, it has since been restored although work is continuing on the structure at the end of the pier which houses the famous Camera Obscura.
There are many places selling food and drinks on the pier, including a fish and chips restaurant, where food can be purchased to have there or to take away and eat it sitting outside on the pier watching the world go by…mind the seagulls! In the middle of the pier is the Victoria Tea Rooms, a venue serving traditional Afternoon Tea; the Ocean Suite is a place popular with weddings, christenings and birthday parties and the fun continues into the night at the Atlantis nightclub also located on the pier. Walking to the end of the pier will give the opportunity to enjoy beautiful views of Eastbourne, the beach and the cliffs in the distance.
Away from the beach, covering a large area adjacent to the seaside are the Carpet Gardens, a colorful display of flowers and bedding plants, they provide a nice backdrop for photography enthusiasts, especially on a sunny day. Further along is the Eastbourne Bandstand, with three level of seating, it accommodates up to 1600 people with a packed calendar of events from Easter until the end of September. The Eastbourne Bandstand is one of the best vantage points from where to enjoy the most popular event of the summer: the Eastbourne Airbourne Airshow; held every year in August, it features a number of aircraft displays including the world famous RAF Red Arrows.
Although Eastbourne can be easily visited on foot, in the summer months the Dotto Train, a trackless road train, takes visitors on a ride along the waterfront stopping at all the major attractions in town; it keeps the young ones entertained, providing at the same time a welcome respite from walking. Another option to visit Eastbourne and its surroundings is to board the Eastbourne Sightseeing Bus which travel around the town and further away on a circular route every 30 minutes.
Many people come to Eastbourne for the beach but, walking enthusiasts like its proximity to the South Downs Way, a 100 miles footpath running from Eastbourne to Winchester in Hampshire. It is a pleasant walk along the beach from Eastbourne town center, past the Wish Tower and following a tree lined promenade to Helen Garden at the west end of the Eastbourne Seafront to reach Eastbourne Downland, the start of the South Downs Way; from there, it is a steep walk towards Beach Head past the Bomber Command memorial and the Compass Rose. Looking back there are beautiful views of Eastbourne and the coastline.
Beachy Head is the highest chalk cliff in Britain rising 530 ft above sea level; sadly it is a notorious suicide spot and along the edge of the cliff, a number of crosses can be seen along with poignant messages from family and friends of people who chose to end their life here.
On a more cheerful note, the area offers outstanding views of the cliffs and the lighthouse immediately below Beachy Head; it is worth remembering that chalk cliffs are subject to erosion therefore is very important to stay between the boundaries marked and pay attention to the danger signs along the route.
From Beachy Head, the former Belle Tout Lighthouse can be seen; for people with energy left, it is another steep walk to get there. The lighthouse has been converted into a Bed and Breakfast therefore it is a private property not opened to the general public (unless you have a booking for one of the six rooms available). Next to the lighthouse there is a small shop selling drinks, ice-creams and refreshments with a sign next to it saying that the nearest toilet is 20 minutes away…you have been warned!
For visitors who do not want to walk all the way to Beachy Head and/or want to see the white cliffs from a different perspective, boat trips are organised in summer from Eastbourne; the one-hour round trip with live commentary follows a route along the cliffs, past the lighthouse and back.
Eastbourne is very popular all year around but being a seaside town it comes alive in the summer; it is a favorite destination for families and mature citizens who prefer a quiet atmosphere, in high contrast to nearby loud and proud Brighton, only a short bus ride away.