Think of Hastings and the famous battle of 1066 will no doubt spring to mind. But while the seafront town has a historic past, it is destined for a great future. With miles of beaches, fantastic attractions and excellent parks and open spaces, Hastings is a great place to spend a few days – especially if you’re travelling with your four-legged friend. Dogs are welcome in many of the town’s independent pubs, cafes and shops and you’ll fall in love with the quirky Old Town and the Victorian splendour of St Leonards.
Dog-friendly Hastings: the must-sees
Visit Hastings Pier, which stretches more than 270m out to sea. Built in 1872, it survived two world wars, played host to musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd and caught fire more than once. But the RIBA award-winning attraction standing today was officially opened in 2016 after the local community rallied to save it. The pier is home to the Pavilion Restaurant, fairground rides, a large ‘beer garden’ and cute beach hut-style food and drink kiosks. Dogs can enjoy a stroll along the pier, but must stay out of the buildings.
Just over the road, you’ll find the True Crime Museum, which is housed in a collection of quirky seafront caves. If you’re fascinated by serial killers and all things creepy, you’ll love seeing the UK’s largest collection of crime memorabilia. A lethal injection deathbed is among the items on display, as well as the acid containers John Haigh used to dissolve his victims. There’s even a Cinema Cave where you can hear murderers discuss their crimes – and dogs on leads are welcome to explore it all with you. They can even have their mugshot taken in the Hall of Shame, which makes a great souvenir. Adult tickets cost £9.50.
Railways are another big thing in Hastings – and they tend to come with spectacular views. There are two cliff railways in the Old Town which both have interesting claims to fame. East Hill Lift is the steepest funicular railway in the UK and provides access to Hastings Country Park (keep reading to find out more). West Hill Lift, meanwhile, still has its original Victorian wooden coaches and unusually, passes through a tunnel on the way up to Hastings Castle – which is not dog-friendly. Adult returns on both cliff railways are £4 and pets travel free. Dogs can also enjoy free rides on Hastings Miniature Railway, which runs along the seafront from Rock-a-Nore station, by the historic fishing sheds, to Marine Parade. Adult returns cost £2.50.
If it’s historic sights you’re after, don’t miss a trip to the scene of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. You can stand on the very spot where the armies of King Harold and William the Conqueror fought to decide England’s future. Visitors can also walk the Battlefield Trail which is lined with sculptures of Norman and Saxon soldiers. The village of Battle, where you’ll also find the ruins of a famous abbey, is a short drive from Hastings. Adult tickets for both the abbey and battlefield – which are maintained by English Heritage – cost £16, and dogs on leads are welcome throughout the site. There’s also the beautiful medieval town of Rye to explore – but that would make for a whole other blog!
Dog-friendly Hastings: the best walks
Start by taking a stroll along the promenade. Hastings has almost five miles of traffic-free beachfront to enjoy, with plenty of places to shop, eat and explore en-route. You can walk all the way from The Stade, where the biggest beach-launched fishing fleet in Europe is based, to Galley Hill – the highest point along this stretch of coast – without encountering any cars. Of course, it’s possible to walk further too, but pedestrians will have to share the space with motorists. To see a map of the traffic-free route, click here.
As you follow the seafront path from Hastings to Bexhill-on-Sea – approximately four miles away – there are lots of attractions to look out for. You will pass countless cute beach huts but keep an eye out for the ancient submerged forest at Bulverhythe. When the tide is out, you can see tree stumps that are 4,000 years old. The hull of a 17th Century Dutch shipwreck can also be sighted at low tide and if you’re lucky, you might even find a Cretaceous fossil or two. There are also motoring and smuggling trails to follow, with lots of information boards en-route.
Be sure to visit Hastings Country Park, too. This beautiful nature reserve, on cliffs overlooking the Old Town, spans more than 850 acres and is the largest open space in the borough. The views from the park are simply stunning – on a clear day, you can even see France. Interestingly, it was here that inventor John Logie Baird was inspired to start his TV experiments – and the first moving pictures were transmitted from his Queens Parade workshop in 1924. The park can be accessed via the East Cliff lift or from one of several car parks in the reserve. To see the main highlights, check out the four walks recommended by the Friends of Hastings Country Park.
For more formal gardens, check out the perfectly-manicured Alexandra Park. It is home to a wonderful arboretum and several lakes which, in Victorian times, supplied local residents with fresh water. The park, which was first created in the 18th Century, also has a miniature railway and cafe as well as tennis courts and wildlife zones. Click here to read more about its curated Tree Walks.
The beaches in and around Hastings – and indeed, the majority of Sussex – may be shingle, but you can find some sand when the tide is out. Alternatively, jump in the car and head to Camber Sands, which is approximately a half-hour drive from Hastings. Beach lovers will be in their element here, with miles of sand dunes to enjoy. Dog restrictions apply between May and October but pets are allowed on certain parts of the beach all year round – and at neighbouring Broomhill Sands. The dog-friendly sections are clearly signposted but click here to see a map showing where they are.
For a more relaxed stroll, check out the Royal Military Canal, which starts at Cliff End, just outside Hastings, and runs for 28 miles to Seabrook, near Folkestone. The canal was originally built in the early 1800s to defend against invasion by Napoleon – but its guard posts also helped stop smugglers. There are waymarked trails all along the canal and plenty of places where you can stop for a picnic. If you visit during the summer months, listen out for the noisy marsh frogs. You can’t miss them!
Dog-friendly Hastings: the best pubs and cafes
Hastings Old Town is super dog-friendly and almost everywhere welcomes dogs. Start a pub crawl by heading to The Albion, on George Street. This local landmark is renowned for its pies, while The Crown, at the foot of the country park on All Saints’ Street, has won awards for its locally-sourced food. In the same road, you’ll also find The Stag Inn, which dates back to 1547 and always has dog treats on the bar.
A trip to the old-school First In Last Out in the High Street is also a must. FILO, as it’s affectionately referred to by locals, brews its own beer just up the road and has a packed events calendar. There are always dog treats floating around and pets are welcome in the restaurant, as well as the bar.
For phenomenal craft beer and wood-fired pizza, head to Brewing Brothers on Queens Road. We couldn’t get enough of their four cheese pizza when we visited. But if it’s vegan food you’re after, check out The Bathing Hut Cafe in St Leonards. At weekends, the team behind the cafe also look after the meat-free menu at the colourful Prince Albert, in Hastings town centre – and all of it is delicious.
The American-style Pelican Diner, on East Parade, is a great place to go for brunch (check out the epic Lumberjack Breakfast). And if you’re in need of a caffeine fix, head to Hanushka Coffee House, which has two branches in Hastings – in George Street and Robertson Street. They feel more like bookshops than anything else but that is all part of the charm. If your pooch is lucky, they may even get their own plate of biscuits.
Pooches will get lots of fuss at the community-run Marina Fountain in St Leonards, which has two pub dogs. Their colourful shelters in the garden are a great place to enjoy a glass of wine or two, while cocktail bar Cactus Hound, also in St Leonards, does some amazing margaritas. Pets are also guaranteed a warm welcome at Badger Inc Beach Bar. This is a great breakfast spot on the seafront opposite the pier.
And don’t miss a trip to Goat Ledge in St Leonards. This funky beach cafe is incredibly pet-friendly and open from morning until night. Fresh seafood is the speciality here, but diners can also enjoy fish-shaped waffles for breakfast or a cheeky cocktail. Although seating at the cafe, opposite Warrior Square, is predominantly outside, you can pre-book one of its quirky beach huts. Alternatively, just turn up and try your luck.
Dog-friendly Hastings: where to stay
If you’re looking for a unique place to rest your head, try Ruby’s Rooms, right on the seafront. This arty B&B, in Eversfield Place, is owned by culture collective Ruby & Norm. It is instantly recognisable from the outside, thanks to its funky exterior. There are both rooms and self-contained apartments to rent in this six-storey property, all of which have amazing sea views. Dogs are welcome at Ruby’s Rooms – which also acts as an art gallery – but must be agreed with the owners in advance.
Another seafront property that allows pets is the simple yet stylish White Rock Hotel. With two dogs of its own and a resident cat, the hotel goes above and beyond for its four-legged visitors. One review I found even said the staff cooked chicken and rice for their two labradors when they were poorly! Pets are welcome throughout the hotel, including the cafe-bar and sunny outdoor terraces.
For fantastic sea views, check in to the Victorian Beach House overlooking St Leonards’ Warrior Square. This luxurious apartment has an enclosed patio garden and a real light and airy feel, thanks to the 12ft-high ceilings. The nautical-style decor is super chic and there’s even an honesty bar with everything from gin to ginger ale. The apartment is a five-minute walk from the beach and sandy paws are welcome.
Slightly further along the seafront, towards Bexhill-on-Sea, you’ll find a stylish beachfront apartment with its own private courtyard. It takes up the entire basement of a Grade II Listed property built by James Burton – the architect of St Leonards – in 1830. Dogs are very welcome at the one-bedroom property, which comes complete with a wood-burning stove. The owner of the apartment also lives upstairs, making check-in a breeze.
How do I get to Hastings?
The town is approximately a two-hour drive from London. By car, simply get on the M25 then follow the A21 all the way down into 1066 Country. From Brighton and the West, take the A27 and A259. Regular Southern and Southeastern trains also serve the area. These take 83 minutes from London to Hastings and 68 minutes to Rye. Trains depart from London Charing Cross, Waterloo East and London Victoria. The nearest major airport is London Gatwick.
Where can I find out more?
For further tourist information, check out the Visit 1066 Country website, which has some great maps and guides to download. You can also find some other suggestions for pet-friendly places to visit on the Hastings Dog-Friendly website. It hasn’t been updated for a while though, so double-check the venues are still open for business before you visit.