SWC Walk 169 : Hastings Circular via Fairlight Glen Beach and Fireheights
Hilly cliff top path via remote Fairlight Glen naturist beach to Fireheights. Return by the same path, a gentler inland route, or along the seashore
About 13 km / 8 miles return.
Ascent: The figure below are for the way out. The return route is downhill, so subtract 130 metres from these figures for the way back. So, out and back by the cliff top path, and visiting Fairlight Glen beach, is about 2500 feet / 775 metres
a) Cliff top path : 1,325 ft (400 meters) of ascent, plus 300 feet (100 metres) if visiting the beach
b) Beach route : 220 metres ascent
c) Inland Route : 2 km longer, 180 metres,
d) North's Seat : 2 km longer, 220 metres
|Toughness||10 out of 10|
|OS Maps||Explorer 124, Landranger 199|
This is a dramatic and hilly coastal cliff top walk from Hastings to the hidden and very pretty Fairlight Glen beach (which is used by naturists), and on to to Fireheights beacon - with fine views of the surrounding coastline. There are 4 options for the return: a) by the same strenuous route, b) a beach route past a newly formed undercliff, c) a forested route which contours around some of the steep glens of the coast path, and d) an inland route via North's Seat (hill). In fact any of the 4 routes could be used for either the out or return journey. Finally, at the start (or finish) of the walk, there is are options to visit Hasting's working sea front with its art gallery and shingle beach launched fishing boats, its old town with shops and cafes, and a city centre hill to visit the ruins of Hastings' castle.
There are already 2 SWC walks in this area, TOCW2 Hastings to Rye, and TOCW1 Rye to Hastings - this walk, and they, all share the dramatic cliff top walk out of Hastings. This walk aims to make a circular walk back to Hastings, giving time to visit Fairlight Glen beach, and further explore this very pretty coast. Why? Beyond Fireheights (the route onwards to Winchelsea and Rye) by Fairlight village, the coastal path has fallen away, and the new "coast path" is actually inland along (quiet) roads for quite some distance - an anti-climax after the coastal views at the start of the walk.
The walk starts in Hastings. Here you can either walk along the slightly tacky seafront to the old town, or climb over a hill to visit Hasting's castle
The 2 routes meet up at the old town, a narrow pedestrianised lane full of old pubs and small independent shops. In front of the old town is the working beach, with its distinctive black clapperboard houses, beach launched fishing boats, Jerwood Art Galley, and a nice view from the sea wall.
From here, there is a choice of 4 routes through Hastings County Park to Fireheights beacon, each is around 6 km / 4 miles
So, there is no really good answer to choosing you return route, the beach route is interesting, but far too much like hard work, and the other 2 routes are an anti-climax. If you are fit enough, or take you time, and stop off along the way to explore, picnic, or admire the view, out and back by the cliff top path is the best choice.
Trains from London Charing Cross, Waterloo East or London Bridge to Hastings take around 1 hour 30 minutes.
Trains are half hourly in the day, but check the return times, as they are much less frequent in the evenings.
There is a cheaper, but much longer route, from London Victoria / Clapham Junction / East Croydon to Hastings via Lewes - check the Southern train websites for Downrider or Daysave tickets if you book in advance
There are half-hourly buses between Hastings and Fireheights village – routes 100 and 344.
By Car: you can park by Fireheights, Fairlight village, or anywhere around the County Park away from Hastings seafront
Catch an earlier train, and have a fry-up at one of the cafes in the Old Town
Coastguards Tea Room, Coastguard Lane, Fairlight, Hastings, East Sussex TN35 4AB. Tel 01424 812 902. www.coastguardstearoom.co.uk Opening times: April to October: Weds-Sun and bank holidays 10am - 5pm November to mid December, and February to March: Friday, Saturday and Sunday 11pm- 4pm. Quirky tea room, a few tables outside (no view), many inside - a few in the conservatory have a stunning views. Bottled beers at very reasonable prices.
Spoilt for choice in the old town, or a Wetherspoons just before the station
Landslip at Ecclesbourne Glen
[Aug'16] - The coast path is still closed, and the inland detour is still place.
Our latest report is "[I took] the "closed" path. The final climb is tricky in places and has become very overgrown - not really recommended" and "On the advice of another walker we went up it, but it is in pretty bad shape. There are recent cracks, and my friend who is a geologist said that with rain there could be another landslide at any time, i.e. the path is officially closed, and now almost impassable as its overgrown, and dangerous due the possibility of a further landslip.
Ecclesbourne Glen is on the coast path between Hastings East Hill and Fairlight Glen. The coast path was closed at this point after a major landslip in winter 13/14. A replacement path was destroyed by subsequent landslips in winter 14/15. There were further landslips in winter 15/16
Below is a safe inland detour for the TOCW2 walk (the TOCW1 walk does the same route, but in the opposite direction). See the OS Map page for details. Take a map - the diversion is poorly signed locally.
Detour: From East (Hastings) to West (Fairlight) : from the top of the lift at East cliff follow the cliff path as per the book for 600m then turn half left across the grass your direction 60° to Rocklands Lane. Walk along the lane for 250m an then turn right for 20m to come to an open area were your turn left your direction 75°. Follow the footpath for 250 m to come to directional bollard No 5. Turn half-right here your direction 90° for 290m to come to directional bollard no 7. Turn sharp right at the bollard your direction 200° initially and in 260m as you exit the woods turn half-left and go through the gate across the field your direction 120°. In 80m go thought the next gate and turn half left to rejoin the Book 2 route.
Sadly, Hasing Council does not seem in a hurry to fix the coast path which has been closed for 3 years now. The County Park's website no longer mentions the closure. Local campaingners seem to be loosing a battle with a caravan park (who they blame for the landslip). See: Ecclesbourne Glen Facebook Group
After the walk, we would really appreciate your comments
Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
Start: TN34 1BA
National Rail Enquires: 08457 48 49 50 • Travelline South East (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (10p/min from landlines) • Transport for London: 0343 222 1234
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- After leaving Hastings Station, head down to the sea front (south on Havelock Road), passing a Wetherspoons on the left, and Tesco Express on the right. Continue through the pedestrianised shopping area to an underpass, where you have a choice of routes to the Old Town.
- Easy Seafront Route : Go through the underpass, and continue past the shops to the sea front. Walk along the seafront road, and fork left on pedestrianised George Street with small shops, cafes, and pubs. At the end, head back to the sea front.
- Castle Hill Route : Go left (Albert Road) and first right (Castle Hill Road). Carry on uphill (later bearing right, remaining on Castle Hill Road), until you come out on to Castle hill. Cross the hill, and go down into the old town. Head down to the seafront, passing the end of George Street (the pedestrianised shop and cafes street)
- Once at the seafront you have another choice :
- To explore the working beach : walk down onto the beach, and look around, then return to this point
- And another choice :
- To take the beach route (on a falling tide only) : carry on along the seafront, then under the base of the cliffs, and follow the beach all the way to Fairlight Glen beach.
- Otherwise for the other 3 routes, take the narrow stairs just before funicular, and climb up to the top of the hill (i.e. to the top of the funicular). There is a County Park information board and marked bollard (point #1). Carry on over the grassy hill (East Hill), keeping near the cliff edge.
- At #2, by the start of the steps down to Ecclesbourne Glen you have a choice
To follow the recommended cliff top route via Fairlight Glen Beach :
- Just follow the coast, but in more detail. Go down into the valley. There is no beach access despite the faint path. Head straight back up the other side of the valley to #3. Follow the cliff top path (passing #8) to #12, where you go down into Fairlight Glen, passing #14 to reach #16 at the bottom.
- The path to Fairlight Glen beach leaves here, on the other side of the fence and warning sign (on the left hand side of the small stream).
- To continue, carry on. In more detail: Go uphill to #17, then down again at #18 into Warren Glen.
- This area is worth exploring. Head off the path to the right to a headland for a good picnic spot, with great views
- Continue on, up again at #21, keep right at #22, still up, until you come to Fireheights.
- Follow the road inland for the County Park visitor centre. Keep right for the Coastguards cafe, car park, and St Andrew's church.
To follow the inland routes
- Head inland, contouring around the glen to #5, turn right towards #7, continue, passing the reservoir to #9. Head back to the coast #12, rejoining the main cliff path for a short distance to #14
- Contour around Fairlight Glen at #14, heading inland to #15, then back to the coast again at #17.
- Follow the main coast path for a short distance to #18, then contour inland around Warren Glen via #19, #20, #23 to #24
- Note: You could avoid all the ups and down by following the quiet Barley Lane all the way from Hastings' East Hill to Fireheights, however, it is between hedges for most of the way, with no views.
To follow the North Seat route
- Contour via #5, #7, #9 as above. But at the junction after the reservoir, head inland (north) instead. You reach Barley Lane, where you turn right. Then just past #11, turn left (north).
- Cross the main road, and continue north along Mill Lane. Veer left to North's Seat.
- Leaving, take the path southeast to a small car park by the main road. Cross it, and head south to the junction with Barley Lane, turn left, and follow it all the way to Fireheights. At #20, there is a shortcut left to the Coastguards cafe and visitor centre.