EASTBOURNE: We all like to be beside the seaside, right? So when the invitation came to speak at the CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale) Conference this weekend in Eastbourne, I jumped at the chance. Originally I thought it would be a great opportunity to get Bam Bam down for her first taste of the coast. In the event, we decided that for such a short period of time it would be too much of a journey on the trains, so I went down on my own, just for the night. This gave me 24 hours in Eastbourne to play with. I thought I’d share a few of my highlights with you, in case you find yourself passing some time at the Sussex seaside.
The Winter Garden
CAMRA’s weekend was based in the Winter Garden, with lots of brewery trips and fringe activities going on besides. I’ll be honest, from the outside it doesn’t look much! But the main hall was lovely inside and it was a great (if intimidatingly large) place to give a little speech to members. Downstairs they held the Member’s Bar with an all-Sussex lineup of breweries, which I really enjoyed exploring. Obviously, classic family brewer Harveys and sustainable option Bedlam were solid choices, but I also enjoyed 360° from East Sussex and cottage brewers Kissingate of Horsham which I have not tried before.
Obviously, you have to go for a little wander along the seafront whenever you have the chance. It is still off season, so things were pretty quiet, but a seaside market was bustling during my visit. The big wheel was spinning, and you could wander up the pier, although it was mainly frequented by seagulls since most of the concessions were still closed. It’s a classic Sussex pebble beach, and I was lucky on Saturday morning to have a spell of bright, warm sunshine to enjoy a little stroll.
Eastbourne Old Town
I was grateful for the Members’ Weekend handbook, which suggested a pub crawl in the Old Town. Sadly I did not have time for a pub crawl, not least because I visited on the Saturday morning before my speech. However, without the suggestion, I would never have known to make the short walk inland, beyond the train station. It’s absolutely beautiful! Totally picture-perfect chocolate box Sussex right there. Lots of old medieval pubs (some with more authentic interiors than others from what I could see) and a beautiful church, Norman by the look of it. I settled on a pint of nicely kept Hophead by Darkstar at The Rainbow, enjoying the light sunshine on my face in the beer garden.
Highlights and Lowlights
Sadly my hotel breakfast was a bit of a write-off. Limp, tepid and uninspiring despite the promising sounding menu. So I was pleased to find the newly opened Rosso Italiano for lunch where I enjoyed a perfectly passable spaghetti with meatballs served by a very jovial Italian host. Not to be missed is the Bottle Grove, a beer bar and bottle shop with an enviable selection of beers from local brewers and those further afield. I saw lots of the best of my own region and big names from all over. An absolute must for beer lovers in the area I would say.
A very pleasant trip all in all. Probably a bit of a slog considering the 3+ hour train journey each way, but you do what you have to. Lots to recommend Eastbourne to the casual traveller and the beer lover, if you avoid all the slightly dodgy looking town centre chains. It is also one of those towns that is absolutely riddled with charity shops. If you love a bit of a mooch through the thrift (which I do) then you can easily hit 20 or so within an hour (which I did). Stick your recommendations in the comments!