Last week I enjoyed a summer holiday of sorts, staycationing around the south east. It was an alternately relaxing and exhausting experience, showing me how many great places and activities there are a short journey from my home – and reminding me why it's as important to make the effort to explore this country.
A particular highlight of the week, and one that took me by surprise, was Hastings. I've heard a lot about this seaside town but as comments have ranged from good to terrible it wasn't somewhere I'd made much of an effort to visit. Indeed, as we left the railway station and walked through the town centre it wasn't hard to see why there had been so much criticism. Yes it's a practical shopping area, but it's hardly a destination high street.
Of course, the fact there are three bookshops almost on the same street as each other also helps.
We were walking along the bright and boisterous George Street to take a look outside the Boulevard Bookshop and Thai Cafe*, which I knew to be a few doors down from the Albion Bookshop*, when I spotted an unobtrusive A-board by the side of the road. More accurately, I spotted the word bookshop within the text of the sign, which was all that was needed to have me running off down a wide alley/small pedestrian street to find out more.
A small bookshop space awaits, but it's light and airy and beautifully filled. Half the room is dedicated to bookshop, the other half to work space, which I assume is where the bindery part comes in. The room itself is a work of art and although stock is limited, every single item counts.
For our visit The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell was the buy of the day, but I could happily have gone home with around 95 per cent of the bookshop had money and bag space allowed.
Nothing about Hastings was as I'd expected – especially this beautiful bookshop find – but everything about our visit made me fall in love with the town and become determined to return as often as possible. Which is exactly what I suggest you do if you find yourself at a loose end during this long weekend.
Hare & Hawthorn Bindery & Bookshop
31a West Street,
Hastings, East Sussex,
Tel: 01424 429909
*I decided to prioritise one bookshop this time to ensure I had another reason to return very soon.