Newest Review: ... places to hide smuggled goods (bottle of brandy under a doll's skirt, anyone?) - all ways to foil the taxman. Many of the displays h... more
An hour spent with Hairy Jack
Smugglers Adventure (Hastings)
Member Name: best_deal_hunter
Smugglers Adventure (Hastings)
Advantages: Fascinating insight into the world of smuggling
Disadvantages: Some figures a bit shabby, some buttons didn't work
We spent a week on the South Coast this summer, and one of the places we visited was the Smugglers Adventure in Hastings. This is actually the St Clements Caves - a series of tunnels and caverns once used extensively by real smugglers.
Having looked on the website before visiting, my son was convinced we were going to be shown around by 'Hairy Jack' in person, and was quite disappointed to discover Hairy Jack was just speaking on a film! There are in fact two short films - one just after entering and one a little later on, giving some interesting history and insight into the caves and the widespread practice of smuggling.
As you progress around the caves there are plenty of interactive displays and over 70 life size figures bringing the days of smuggling to life. We particularly liked displays showing back-to-front horseshoes and innovative places to hide smuggled goods (bottle of brandy under a doll's skirt, anyone?) - all ways to foil the taxman. Many of the displays have a button to press to hear a short commentary on what you're looking at - well three buttons to be precise, as the commentaries are available in English, French and German.
There was plenty to keep children occupied, and indeed it seems a popular place for school trips, but I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting I found it too. I don't think I'd ever appreciated the sheer scale of the smuggling operations which went on! I think what I especially liked was that the quantity of writing on the walls was about right to be able to read it all rather than having to skim through it as often happens when visiting such places with children.
We did have a few minor gripes. Some of the life-size figures were looking a bit shabby, and some of the buttons didn't work too well - the English ones anyway. Nothing too bad, but it did detract from the experience slightly. It was not always entirely clear which way to go next, and we did actually manage to miss one of the caves completely! Also, this is just a personal one from that particular day, we had timed our visit badly and were being closely followed by a German school trip. Not a problem in itself, but it meant we were hurried into the second film showing before we were quite ready, because the next one was going to be in German.
It takes about an hour to go round (before ending up in the inevitable gift shop!) - before going we thought this sounded quite short, but actually we found we were kept engaged throughout that hour, we had chance to see and read everything (well except for the room we missed!) and the children didn't get bored at all. I would say for a family visit the time is about right.
At the time we visited, this was one of the attractions available on the Tesco Clubcard Rewards programme, so we didn't actually pay for our tickets as such, but it is unfortunately no longer possible to pay for entrance using Rewards vouchers. Still, the admission prices are not too steep - at the time of writing ticket prices are : adult £7.20, child £5.20, student/OAP £6.20, family £22.80. We thought this was about right - if we'd been buying our own tickets we'd probably still have bought them at this price, but wouldn't have wanted to pay much more.
The caves are not accessible to pushchairs (though baby slings are available to borrow) and there are steps and low ceilings to negotiate.
Overall, it was an enjoyable family outing, and combined with a browse round Hastings itself made for a lovely day out. We found there was plenty we'd seen that we were talking about in the car on the way home, which for me is a mark of a good family trip!
Summary: Worth a visit
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