For a proper traditional British seaside break, you really have to stay in a bed and breakfast. B&Bs are a British seaside institution, but after a few years of apartment rentals and hotel stays it’s been a while since I stayed in one. But just as towns like Hastings are reinventing the classic seaside resort, places like the Old Rectory are bringing B&Bs into the 21st century and adding a touch of luxury. A good B&B has a more personal touch than a hotel and you get more local insight and the feeling you’re being taken care of than in a rental. The best B&Bs feel like you’re staying at a friend’s house – though in the Old Rectory’s case that would be a super-stylish friend with an eye for interior design who’s trying to fatten you up!
As you’d guess from the name, the B&B used to be a rectory, and it’s next door to a church on the edge of Hastings Old Town. Hastings is located on the south-east coast of England, about two hours from London by train. The station’s a 25-minute walk or short taxi ride from the Old Rectory. Or if you’re coming by car there’s a car park for four cars as well as on-street parking. Hastings Old Town is right on the doorstep with its half-timbered buildings, quirky pubs, cafés and boutique shops. It’s also less than 10-minutes’ walk down to the seafront and the Stade, a historic fishing district where you’ll also find the Jerwood Gallery of modern art. A bit further afield is Battle, where you can visit the Abbey and the 1066 battlefield, and the pretty medieval town of Rye. Also within easy reach of Hastings is the wide sandy beach at Camber Sands and Bexhill with its Art Deco De La Warr Pavilion arts centre and motor racing circuit.
The Old Rectory has nine rooms named after streets in Hastings Old Town. Each is different, with its own style, furniture and artwork. We stayed in the first-floor Crown room, a huge light space with a king-sized bed and vintage claw-foot bath in the room. But don’t worry the whole of the bathroom isn’t open plan, the toilet’s hidden away behind a bookcase. Spines of old books make up the door and inside the walls were papered with old book pages for a bit of bathroom reading. Lots of attention has gone into the design, from the smoked glass chandelier to the vintage photo wallpaper with decorative frames and swirls drawn in by hand. Other rooms come with showers or more conventional bathrooms, with bathrobes, fluffy towels and locally made toiletries. All rooms come with the facilities you’d expect – flatscreen TV with DVD player, wifi, tea- and coffee-making facilities. There are lots of little extras too, like fresh milk in a fridge on the landing, a bookcase of DVDs to borrow and homemade biscuits to go with your tea each day.
I have to admit I’m not normally a breakfast person, but the Old Rectory might have converted me. Breakfast takes place in a blue and white dining room decorated with hand-painted flowers. You start with juices, cereal, smoothies or yogurt and granola pots. Then you can go for a Full English, something lighter like an omelette or eggy bread, or go seriously traditional and try devilled kidneys on toast. They also make good use of the area’s seafood with kippers, smoked salmon and smoked haddock on the menu. Everything that could possibly be homemade is – they make their own muesli, bread, jams and sausages and cure their own bacon. The rest comes from local dairies, egg farms and apple orchards. They are also clued up on food allergies and sorted me out some gluten-free toast. Being a B&B they don’t serve dinner but there are lots of good places around Hastings Old Town. We went for fish at Webbe’s Rock-a-Nore but also tipped were The Crown (gastropub), Whites (seafood and steak) and Cafe Maroc (Moroccan),
Most of the Old Rectory’s ground floor is a communal space so there are lots of places to sit if you want a change from your room. The entrance hall has a big sofa as well as an unusual deer antler chair. Then there’s a lounge with a big roaring fire in the winter. It also has an honesty bar so you can help yourself to drinks and snacks like chocolate, crisps and popcorn in the evenings, then just pay when you leave. Like the bedrooms, the communal areas show off works from local artists and designers from the Hastings and St Leonards area, including wallpaper designers, sculptors and rug makers. Outside there’s a terraced walled garden with different levels cut into the hill behind. There’s a pond and lots of tables and chairs as well as secluded seating areas which are perfect for relaxing with a book and a G&T.
- Guests are… mostly couples, with a lot of weekending Londoners.
- Staff are… hosts Tracey-Anne and Helen are really friendly and helpful, happy to have a chat and give recommendations or just leave you to it if you want some time on your own.
- Don’t forget… check their website for special offers like a bottle of prosecco with mid-week bookings.
- Useful to know… if you’re looking for a wedding venue the Old Rectory is licensed so you can hire out the whole place and get married either in the house or in a marquee in the garden.
Rooms at the Old Rectory start from £110 a night for two people (£90 for one) in the Rock a Nore room up to £190 a night for the two-bed All Saints Suite. The Crown room starts from £150 a night for two people (£115 for one). All prices include breakfast and there’s a minimum two-night stay at weekends.
Many thanks to The Old Rectory for hosting me for my stay. All views and opinions are, as always, my own.