A grand weekend in Eastbourne


EXG MAR 14 TRAVEL - Credit: Archant

Rebecca Underwood visits Eastbourne to discover why this famous Victorian resort is still drawing the discerning visitor for a grand stay beside the seaside

Saunter along the elegant King’s Promenade towards the pier, admire the colourful carpets of flowers on display and listen to the tunes from the bandstand as the soaring seagulls squawk overhead.

Welcome to Eastbourne, known as the Empress of Watering Places, a fine example of a Victorian resort, which continues to attract more than 4.5million visitors every year.

Eastbourne offers visitors a tantalising 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 1930s seafront bandstand are among the most popular attractions.

One of the most popular events in Eastbourne is Airbourne, the world’s biggest, free seafront air show, which will be performed this year from August 14 to 18. The sky will be awash with the red, white and blue formations of the Red Arrows, accompanied by the Royal Air Force. Lynx, Tutor and Tucano, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the tandem rotor Chinook helicopter will be whizzing overhead as the onlookers, in their thousands, cheer in celebration.

Among the finest places to stay in Eastbourne is the Grand Hotel, a striking example of elegant Victorian architecture. Located in a prime position on the seafront, the property is known as The White Palace and was built in 1875 and dominates the shoreline.

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. As expected of a five star hotel, the service is first class.

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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.

The menus feature traditional British dishes with a contemporary flair and are inspired by local produce selected from Sussex farms. Or savour a scrumptious serving of fish and chips at Harry Ramsden’s on the corner of the Grand Parade and Terminus Road. For a delicious pub lunch, the Duke of Devonshire, also on Terminus Road, is the ideal spot.

If you are making a long weekend of your stay, make time to visit 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 relaxed 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 4,000 works includes pieces of modern British art and features an extensive display of the works of Eric Ravilious. Whatever you decide to do, rest assured that you will certainly have a grand weekend in Eastbourne. And if you want to beat the traffic, go by rail with the help of www.southernrailway.com.

Find out more

Look out for a summer rates offer at the Grand Hotel, with dinner, bed and breakfast from £117.50 per person (Saturday nights from £130 per person) based on two adults sharing a deluxe bedroom. Minimum two-night stay over weekends. Children’s rate from £10 per night. Call 01323 412345.