A Grand Weekend in Eastbourne
Saunter along the elegant King’s Promenade towards the pier with a gentle breeze fluttering over the waves and the cornet in your hand melting in the sunshine. Pause a while to admire the colourful carpet of flowers on display and listen to the tunes from the bandstand as the soaring seagulls squawk over your head. Welcome to Eastbourne, known as the Empress of Watering Places, a fine example of a Victorian resort, which continues to attract over 4.5 million visitors every year.
The best place to stay in Eastbourne is the Grand Hotel on King Edward’s Parade. This imposing property is a striking example of elegant Victorian architecture located in a prime position on the seafront. Known as ‘The White Palace’, the hotel was built in 1875 and it dominates the shoreline.
Guests from the past include Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan, Ernest Bevin, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Alexandra, Charlie Chaplin, Elgar, and the composer Dubussy, who completed his enchanting symphony ‘La Mer’, during his stay at the Grand in 1905.
From 1934 to 1939 orchestras broadcasted live on the BBC every Sunday evening from the Grand’s Great Hall, which was once the venue for Dennis Potter’s drama ‘Cream in My Coffee’. These days, traditional afternoon tea is served in the Great Hall. Temptations include fresh scones oozing with fruity jams and thick fresh cream, a selection of dainty sandwiches and assorted pastries, and to keep trim, practice your dance moves with the ‘live’ resident band performing in the Chatsworth Lounge on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
As expected of a five star hotel, the service is first class; the accommodation features plush furnishings and rich fabrics, ultra comfortable beds and plump pillows, ensuring a deep slumber in preparation of the day ahead.
After a sumptuous breakfast, guests are welcome to take a dip in the indoor pool or the spacious outdoor pool, where you can select a comfy lounger and relax in the sunshine. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served with aplomb in the elegant Garden Restaurant where the menus feature traditional British dishes with a contemporary flair and I highly recommend the succulent pink breast of Cornish duck, ideally served with a cool glass of Pinot Noir.
Eastbourne offers visitors an intriguing glimpse into a fascinating history. In 1849 the railway was connected to the town and tourism began to develop. The promenade was built and the pier opened to much fanfare in 1872. To this day, the pier and the 1930’s seafront bandstand are among the most popular attractions. As the music drifts over the promenade from the bandstand those strolling by cannot resist taking a seat and joining in the toe tapping and spontaneous applause.
One of the most popular events in Eastbourne is ‘Airbourne’, the world’s biggest and free seafront air show, usually performed in August. The sky is usually awash with the red, white and blue formations of the Red Arrows, displaying their union jack tailfins and whizzing overhead as the onlookers, in their thousands, all cheer in celebration.
For an afternoon tipple and a delicious luncheon head for the Crown and Anchor, on Marine Parade, which attracts locals and visitors alike and you may be wise to make your reservation in advance. The menu features a delicious slow cooked lamb shank oozing with real ale gravy and served with a pint of Greene Kings India Pale Ale, it is simply scrumptious.
In 2014 Eastbourne Pier, the 144 year old Grade II listed building, was badly damaged by fire and is still undergoing restoration. Fortunately, two thirds of the building was saved, including the outer pavilion, and it is still possible to walk the entire length and, as usual, it always attracts the vast majority of visitors, keen to take in the panoramic views across the ocean.
A breath of sea air usually awakens the appetite and if you feel a little peckish, head for Harry Ramsden’s on the corner of the Grand Parade and Terminus Road. Select an outside table, sink into a comfy chair and savour a tasty luncheon of fresh fish ‘n’ chips with mushy peas. Harry Ramsden’s has been serving our national dish for over 75 years so you can rely on excellent service and a mouth watering menu.
To work off those calories, consider visiting Seven Sisters, the undulating cliffs, which are remnants of dry valleys eroded by the sea, and take a stroll by Beachy Head, a spectacular chalk headland rising to more than 160m. The cliffs provide nesting ledges for Kittiwake, Herring Bull, Rock Pipit, Northern Fulmar and Feral Pigeon and the dense cliff top scrub supports breeding Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and White and Lesser Whitethroat.
For those of us who love nature, a trip to the South Downs, Britain’s newest National Park will not disappoint. The area covers 627 square miles, two thirds of which is in Sussex, and where you will see some of the most varied and stunning English landscapes.
For a more sedate morning’s exercise and an excellent round of golf, consider the nearby Royal Eastbourne Golf Club, which was founded in 1887 when Queen Victoria celebrated her golden jubilee and following patronage by her grandson Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence. This traditional member’s club, located within the South Downs National Park, caters for all levels of handicap. The scenery is glorious and the courses are maintained to the highest standards.
For a relaxing afternoon, the Towner, a contemporary art museum located on College Road, features a unique programme of major exhibitions of historical visual art in addition to an extensive contemporary collection. The internationally renowned collection of approximately 4000 works includes pieces of modern British art.
And for a spot of evening entertainment, the Congress Theatre, is a short stroll from the Grand Hotel and presents an array of ‘West End’ productions.
Whatever you decide to do, rest assured that you will certainly have a grand weekend in Eastbourne.
Top tip: *Summer rates offer at the Grand Hotel; dinner, bed and breakfast from £125.00 per person per night based on 2 adults sharing a deluxe ‘inland’ bedroom for two nights or more (Sunday to Thursday inclusive – special rates apply for Friday and Saturday). Welcome homemade lemonade and shortbread in your room on arrival and on day two of your stay a £10 voucher, per room, towards luncheon, served between 12.30 – 2.00pm. Children’s rate from £10.00 per night. Tel: 01323 412345.
Resort images courtesy of Visit Eastbourne