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Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…

The seaside? In February? I know.  Yes, I would rather be somewhere sunny and warm, but I’ve just spent a rather jolly long weekend by the sea – the grey, churning sea and the pebble beach at Hastings.  And yes, I had about seven layers on at all times, but we had a blast, it was an easy last-minute break just over a couple of hours drive away, the kids loved it — and so did we.

hastings 1

It really was freezing — she never, ever wants to wear more than a t-shirt. Honest.

For something we booked at the very, very last minute, I did not have very high hopes for the place we were staying. We’ve had some fairly shocking experiences in the past with holiday cottages – don’t get me started on the one where you had to sit sideways on the loo if you wanted to close the bathroom door – but this one, The Nook, was a total and utter dream. It’s bang slap in the middle of town (it’s on West ‘Street,’ but think more alley-with-cars) and only about 200 yards from the sea. Yes, it was small but it was decorated and kitted-out beautifully – all very monochrome and uncluttered, but still welcoming and comfortable, with a corking little wood stove making the living room even cosier.

And the beds? We could, all four of us, rave about the beds for as long as you like. They were amazing. The sort of beds you really don’t want to get out of. Like, ever. And I’ve now added ‘duvet like the one we had there’ to my birthday list which is, I realise, a little sad but they were just that good.

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Hastings is a funny old mix. There’s a fair helping of slightly shabby traditional seaside stuff – amusement arcades (in which we sheltered from the flippin’ freezing wind one day, and came out weighed down with plastic tat), more fish and chips than you shake a haddock at, predictable souvenir shops (away from which to shepherd the kids), and – get this – the world championship crazy golf course.

It’s also got some brilliant places to browse and enjoy – ‘vintage’ there runs the gamut from proper dusty junk to some real spruced-up treasures – and there are some serious places to eat, as well as a choice of cafes and coffee shops in which to get a decent cup of something hot (we needed that) and any number of cakes, scones, biccies, you name it. We were spoiled for choice, which I’d not expected.

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In the end, we tried out Webbe’s on Rock-a-Nore Road, where we had a good family dinner out (my eldest had the slow-cooked short rib of beef and the bit I nicked was delicious), and Latham’s Brasserie on George Street, which had a bit more atmosphere and equally good food, along with very friendly staff. Both, so Mr C tells me, serve cracking local beer.

hastings 6

The Jerwood Gallery, right on the Stade, is small but worth a visit – there’s a brilliant Chantal Joffe exhibition on there until 12 April, with a really engaging worksheet for kids (my littlest loves a good clipboard) and some stunning paintings. The permanent collection isn’t vast, but it is interesting and modern. Lots of variety – some names even I’d heard of (Lowry, Epstein, Moore) and some I’d never come across but really enjoyed.

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The newly-renovated swimming pool at the Summerfield Leisure Centre was a great way to get out of the rain, too – there’s lots of space for swimming lanes in the main pool (I did do a few, honest) and a good big children’s pool (where I spent most of the time because it was warmer). And at under a tenner to get all four of us in, it was a total bargain compared to the pools we go to at home. And there’s a sauna at the pool side, too, which had Mr C’s eyes lighting up.

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I’m still hankering after a fortnight somewhere warm and lovely, but a few nights in a gorgeous cottage, a couple of good meals out, and some fun time with the kids has helped. We would definitely recommend The Nook – we’ll be booking to go there again, although maybe this time without the kids – and Hastings definitely has a charm all its own. Even in February.

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Hertfordshire