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.