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Things to do in Eastbourne, East Sussex

Eastbourne is a large town of just under 100,000 residents on the East Sussex coast between Brighton and Hastings. It is located near Beachy Head and close to the South Downs.

Eastbourne seafront  © Christopher Jones Photography
The Seafront © Christopher Jones Photography

History of Eastbourne

Eastbourne's history can be traced back to Stone Age settlements with archaeological artifacts and flint mines.

Back in 963 AD the area was recorded as having a landing stage and stream at "Bourne".

There are several Roman sites which were uncovered in 1717 including a pavement and baths.

The remains of a Roman villa lie close to the Queens Hotel.

Belle Tout lighthouse © Christopher Jones Photography
Belle Tout Lighthouse © Christopher Jones Photography

After the Norman conquest, the area was given to Robert, Count of Mortain who was a half-brother of William the Conqueror and the Domesday Book listed it as having a church, watermill, salt pans and ploughlands.

The area developed during the Middle Ages with the building of a manor house, Bourne Place, and the Church of St Mary's in the 14th century.

By the 19th century the town had formed from four small hamlets which gradually merged together.

King George's III's children enjoyed a visit to Eastbourne in 1780.

Shortly afterwards Martello Towers were built for defence from France along the coast and in 1805 the Eastbourne Redoubt was built with 10 cannons.

Paragliders on the South Downs © Christopher Jones Photography
Paragliders on the South Downs © Christopher Jones Photography

With the opening of the railway in 1849, Eastbourne was well positioned for tourists from London to enjoy a visit to the coast and it developed as a prime Victorian resort.

World War II temporarily changed Eastbourne's fortunes as it was badly damaged in air raids.

Most of the locals were evacuated and buildings were taken over by the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.


Present Day Eastbourne

Eastbourne's shingle beach and 3-mile long promenade draw many tourists.

It has a reputation as being one of the sunniest places in the UK.


Eastbourne Pier © Christopher Jones Photography
Eastbourne Pier © Christopher Jones Photography

The well-kept gardens and pebble beaches attract many retirees who enjoy the fresh sea air and arcade-free promenade.

The seafront is lined with guest houses and small hotels which cater to its tourist-driven local economy. The modern marina is a good source of revenue for the town.

The town has an excellent range of amenities including four theatres, museums, a bandstand which hosts music concerts and several parks.

South Downs Way © Christopher Jones Photography
South Downs Way © Christopher Jones Photography


The excellent retail area in the town centre includes the Arndale Shopping Centre.

The Grade I listed manor house is now owned by the Duke of Devonshire and is now known as Compton Place.

Other historic buildings in Eastbourne include the Wish Tower.

Famous residents include explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll and artist Mabel Lucie Attwell who lived at Ocklynge Manor under her married name of Mrs Earnshaw.


Things to do in Eastbourne

Eastbourne has several sites of Special Scientific Interest include the Neolithic burial ground at Willingdon Down and Beachy Head with its famous lighthouse.

Picnic at Beachy Head © Christopher Jones Photography
Picnic at Beachy Head © Christopher Jones Photography

The area is ideal for pleasant walks to local chalk landmarks known as "Gibraltar" and the "Sugar Loaf" or along the South Downs Way.

The pier and bandstand continue to offer timeless entertainment along with the amenities at Hampden Park.

Shinewater Park has a fishing lake, railway, skateboard park and sports pitches.

Eastbourne Beach © Christopher Jones Photography
Eastbourne Beach © Christopher Jones Photography

With a summer circus, tennis tournaments, festivals and an air show there is always something happening in the town.

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