Ahh Brighton, just where do you start in describing this city? It’s the best seaside resort in the UK, but the beach doesn’t actually have any sand, (it’s a stone beach!). Then there is the Kitsch – Like the kiss me quick hats, the amusement arcades, fairground rides and the Brighton Wheel (Brighton’s underwhelming version of the London Eye). Then the sublime – The beautiful Regency Squares and buildings that line the seafront along a 3 mile stretch from Hove to the Brighton marina.
Since Brighton first became popular after Dr Richard Russel started prescribing its seawater to improve health in the 1750’s, Brighton has embodied the eccentric and hedonistic. The Prince Regent who later became George IV built his ‘party palace’ – The Royal Pavilion here in the 19th century. The building still divides opinion today, and the guided tour includes Queen Victoria’s toilet which somehow seems fitting. Brighton is also the only place in the UK where the largest number of council members are from the green party (Green for Environment).
Whilst the summer is Brighton’s busiest time, when the streets and beach are filled with shoppers, sunbathers and sightseers; it is alive all year. After the Pavilion, probably Brighton’s next most known landmark is the Palace Pier. Opened in 1899, it’s one of the best Victorian Piers in the country. It sits opposite the charred remains of the West Pier, that was finally destroyed by fire in 2003 after being closed since 1975.
Whilst the Georgian and Victorian influence on the city has the most impact on the eye, in recent years Brighton has seem a lot of contemporary building, and the old new mix well together especially in the North Laine. Wonderfully eclectic, The North Laine was originally a slum area during the industrial revolution. It’s great to stroll around, or have a drink there, and watch the people and ever changing colours of the area. There really is something for everyone from the Farmers Markets and a Vegan Shoe Shop, to Savill Row quality tailors and Champagne Bars, as well as the sparkling Jubilee square.
Further to the south are ‘The lanes’, a collection of winding and very narrow streets that were originally the tightly packed fisherman’s houses of the village ‘Brighthelmstone’, that was recorded in the Doomsday book. Today the houses are filled with cafes, pubs, art, furniture and jewelery shops. Further to the east lies Kemp Town which has a villagey feel and is the centre of the Gay scene, the largest in the UK after London.
Brighton has always had a creative vibe, and is a hotbed for the new media industry. Festivals run throughout the year, and some of the highlights include the Brighton Arts and Fringe Festivals in May, which after Edinburgh are the largest arts festival in the country, a Zombie March in October, GAY Pride at the end of August, and the Burning of the Clocks on the winter solstice (the 21st of December).
Also to the north of the city there is the South Downs National Park. The park is a perfect spot for Walking, Running, Horse riding and Mountain Biking, as well as Hand Gliding and Paragliding. The views across Sussex county are stunning especially from Devil’s Dyke and Ditchling Beacon, and it’s a perfect place from which to explore the picture postcard villages and cosy pubs that nestle into the north side of the downs.
Brighton Guide – Getting There and Around
The station in Brighton is located in the middle of the city, with around 10 minutes walking to the sea and the major shopping areas.
Trains from London take around an hour with 2 different companies running trains. Southern run trains predominantly from London Victoria, and their fastest services takes just 49 minutes. First Capital Connect run services to London Bridge and St Pancreas International (56min/1hr13min). Departure and arrival times, as well as advanced ticket booking are available for both companies on the National Rail website, www.nationalrail.co.uk
There is no need to prebook a ticket however, you can just turn up and jump on the train, although planning in advance can sometimes be cheaper. Also if you turn up at a station without a prebooked ticket, buying from the ticket kiosk rather than buying from a machine at the station can sometimes save money, as the sellers will be able to advise you of the best and cheapest priced tickets available. It’s not always clear on the machines.
Brighton is accessible from all the major London Airports although Gatwick is closest (0844 335 1802).
National Express runs a twice-hourly service to Gatwick from the Pool valley bus station close to the Palace Pier in the centre of town. It takes 55 minutes. There is also one bus an hour to the Victoria coach station in London (2hrs15) and one direct bus to Heathrow (2hrs25). Phone or check the National express website for the latest price information, (0871 781 8178; www.nationalexpress.com).
A taxi from Gatwick airport takes around 35 minutes and costs about £50.
Taxis are plentiful, clean and safe in Brighton and you rarely have to wait more than a couple of minutes for one anywhere in the centre. However, they are not particularly cheap.
The bus service is good and covers the whole city. There are day and longer period passes available. Check the website for more details, www.buses.co.uk.