Friday, 29 July 2016

Madhouse Diaries : Smugglers Adventure/St Clements Caves, Hastings


We often come to Hastings to visit the Madhouse grandparents but, as it's my hometown, we usually bypass the tourist attractions (except for the amusement arcades on the seafront, which may possibly be the Madhouse kids' favourite place on earth !). This time though, we decided to go to Smugglers Adventure, located in and formerly known as St Clements Caves.



The caves have been used for many things in the past, from underground jazz club to world war two air raid shelter for 600 people.


They have been completely renovated as a state-of-the-art tourist attraction but still retain some of their original charm, as you creep through low tunnels and dark passages.


There is lots of atmospheric lighting to highlight natural rock features and the models depicting the history of smuggling in Hastings and the surrounding area, but you can also buy Smugglers Adventure branded torches at the entrance (or take your own along) which can help reassure younger children who might be slightly scared (like Pierre).


 There are lots of things to discover along the way, with video displays, buttons to press for audio descriptions in a choice of languages and signs to read. 


You can also see display cases of some of the seized goods and historic artefacts from the good old-bad old days of smuggling.


Child-friendly displays show younger visitors how the smugglers managed to get away with their illegal pursuits without being caught.


The educational video games and push-button interactive activities are very popular.


And there were lots of "wow, look Mum !" moments as we wandered around.


 And not just from the younger members of the family !


 There are plenty of photo opportunities and you can also buy a souvenir photo with a pirate-themed backdrop on the way out, if you want. We managed to squeeze all eight of us into shot which was worth a laugh !


The kids threw themselves heart and soul into trying out the different displays. Pierre certainly gave it his all (and had us in stitches !) when he had the chance to try to lift a very heavy weight with a pulley system.


The funniest display was definitely this one, where you had to put your hand in the holes to try to locate the lost booty and some of them had sound effects, like a barking dog or screeching cat, that made everyone jump.


We even found our own ways of making people jump, going on ahead and hiding in secret tunnels to leap out at the rest of the family when they rounded a corner. You're left to your own devices and go round at your own pace so you don't need to feel inhibited or crowded by other visitors. 


By now, the kids had got used to the semi-dark and were feeling much braver.


 Until we got to the graveyard and the prison cell, complete with prisoner who rattles the cage door when you least expect it, making you jump out of your skin !


 There are always unexpected things to discover, from wall carvings to skeletons hanging in a crevice.

It was just the right side of funny-scary and even Pierre, who needed lots of reassuring cuddles on the way round, said that he really enjoyed it.

Tickets cost £8 per adult, £6 per child, with family tickets available, but if you go to the Smugglers adventure website and buy your tickets online (at least one hour before you visit - click on "buy discounted tickets now"), you can get £1 off each ticket. There is also a combined ticket with two other Hastings attractions, Hastings Castle and Blue Reef Aquarium, which works out cheaper if you plan on visiting all three.

22 comments:

  1. I had no idea these caves existed, they look really interesting and well worth a visit and educational for the kids too. I think it's lovely to share a little of the history of your home town with them. I love the added entertainment of scaring one another on the way round by hiding, mine would have been doing that too. This is definitely on my to do list if we spend some time with family up that way.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids

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    1. I hadn't been for years - they've changed a lot since my last visit !

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  2. That looks really interesting and a little bit spooky! #CountryKids

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    1. Just a tiny bit, but enough to make it more of an adventure !

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  3. Those caves look really interesting. I think I would have found it a bit scary as I don't like confined spaces! #countrykids

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    1. Most of it is wide open but there are a couple of passages that you have to bend down to get through

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  4. Looks like a great day out and certainly seemed to appeal to all the age groups with you.
    Love the idea of the originality of the low tunnels and dark passages. Gosh an air raid for 600 people must either be large or they were squashed in.

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    1. They are big - some of the caves would fit lots of people in and they stretch out for miles.

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  5. Wow brillant review. I love the picture of your lad pulling the bag on a rope, he looks like he is abseiling! Its great exploring places that live on your doorstep and that you can look round it leaisurly too. Good tip on the online discount too! #countrykids

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    1. He made me laugh because he definitely put his heart and soul into it and gave it all he had !!

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  6. Caves are always nice to explore! My son loves going in as long as he's got his flashlight. And this one looks lovely. I love those colored lights that makes the ambiance fun and so many things to do along the way! #countrykids

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    1. There's certainly a lot to see and discover along the way :)

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  7. Can't beat a good scary tour. Caves look fab!! #CountryKids

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  8. Brilliant fun - we have the annual pass for the aquarium, castle and caves :) #countrykids

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    1. Ooh we could have bumped into you ! :)

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  9. I did not know there were caves at Hastings! Definitely something to visit next time we go! We have caves just like these in our village and they are scary but worth a trip! #CountryKids

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    1. They're not really scary, just fun scary - although Pierre nearly jumped out of his skin when the cat shrieked really loudly and he wasn't expecting it !!

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  10. How did I not know about these caves? I used to visit friends in Hastings a lot and have never been here

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    1. They've been open for donkey's years but have changed a lot over time - I remember going round in groups with a guide with a head lamp and nothing in there that wasn't natural when I was a kid !

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  11. Shame this is far from me, looks fab! My son would find this fascinating

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  12. I love caves and it seems a fun day out. Getting 3 tickets must be better for a couple of days in Hastings, I will remember for a future trip.

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    1. Have a look on the website for promos because they have them off-season sometimes

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