Spotlight on Brighton
Brighton is a big and bustling town on the Sussex coast, full of excitement, intrigue, adventure, food, drink, and opportunities for fantastic shopping. With its links to London via train and road, and its enviable position in the county, Brighton is often the top spot for locals and visitors alike, especially during the hot summer months when that craving for a trip to the beach, to play on the pier, or to indulge in some retail therapy can be impossible to ignore. There are plenty of hotels here (including the fabulous Hotel du Vin, the Seattle, the famous Grand, and the Hilton) so coming for a weekend or even longer is always possible, and always worth it.
by Lisamarie Lamb
History in Brief
Brighton has had over 40 names in its long history, the first of which – Bristelmestune – was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086. Although there is some debate about its meaning, the most likely derivation is from Beorthelm tun, which means the homestead of Beorthelm. The word Brighton as we know and love it today wasn’t seen until 1660, and was used as a shortened version of the name. It soon stuck, and eventually no one remembered the long name anymore anyway.
It was somewhere between 3500 and 2700BC when the first settlement in Brighton was created, and since then there has been a steady stream of people making their home here. Archaeologists have found burial mounds and tools dating from various eras throughout history including the Neolithic Age and Bronze Age. The Romans were also particularly fond of the area, building a number of villas there from the first century AD.
Although in a fantastic position for fishing and ship building, this also meant that Brighton was open and vulnerable to attack. Many times it was sacked and all but destroyed, causing it to build itself up again. By 1730, Brighton was a shell of its earlier self, and it was a place to avoid if possible, with the population standing at around 2,000. Thankfully, the fad for bathing in the sea to cure tuberculosis caught on at around this time, and Brighton benefitted; by 1770 it was definitely the place to be and be seen.
Things to Do
Once a hospital for the ‘limbless men’ of WWI, the exotic and remarkable Royal Pavilion at Brighton is now a fascinating museum in which you can see the flamboyant interior design tastes of King George IV in the banqueting room, great hall, bedrooms, salon, and much more besides. There are also temporary exhibitions and displays held here, and there is always something extraordinary to see.
It isn’t possible to visit Brighton without strolling on or near to the beach. As beaches go, this is up there with the best in the UK, with a host of cafés and bars to enjoy whilst you are there. Brighton has been voted one of the top 10 places to visit for a weekend break, and its beautiful beach is part of the reason for that.
Sea Life Centre
The Sea Life Centre is open every day, and is right next to the famous pier, so you’ll be able to continue your fun even after you’ve visited. Here you will be able to travel back in time to the Jurassic period and learn about the dinosaurs that once roamed the land – feed a plesiosaurus if you dare! You will also be treated to a huge array of weird and wonderful – and sometimes dangerous and beautiful – creatures, have the opportunity to touch a starfish, and even find out what it’s like in the rainforest. It’s a full and fun packed day for the whole family.
When in Brighton, why not catch a show at the iconic and celebrated Theatre Royal? There is always something exciting to see, from musicals to dancing to plays. The theatre itself opened in 1807 (its first show was Hamlet), and generations of visitors and locals have been entertained there ever since.
Devil’s Dyke is located just five miles outside of Brighton on the stunning South Downs, and if you are able to visit whilst in the area, you certainly should. This is the longest, deepest, and widest dry valley in the UK, and is estimated to be as much as 10,000 years old.
The lanes, encompassing the ‘North Lanes’ and ‘South Lanes’ of Brighton, are a wonderful maze of narrow streets, overflowing with an eclectic array of shops offering everything from antiques to jewellery to chocolate. You can enjoy food and drink from one of the many cafés and restaurants, or stop to enjoy some live music on the streets.
Coming soon…the Brighton i360
Soon to be the landmark of all landmarks in Brighton, this 162-metre observation tower has been designed and engineered by the same team as the London Eye – so we know it’s going to be nothing less than spectacular. The i360’s circular viewing platform will glide up slowly to 450 feet, providing jaw-dropping views of up to 26 miles. Opening summer 2016.
Booth Museum of Natural History
A true hidden gem, not everyone knows that this wonderfully eccentric place exists, but it should definitely be on your to do list when in Brighton. Free entry gives you unparalleled insight into some of the world’s most incredible animals. Once a Victorian collector’s private museum, it is now open to all and showcases such diverse items as butterflies, bones, birds, and fossils. The displays are interactive, so hands on learning is encouraged. It may be small but it is perfectly fun.
If Brighton knows one thing, it’s how to source and cook great food in its many restaurants.
The Salt Room
The Salt Room is a new (February 2015) restaurant in Brighton, but already it has become a firm favourite in the town. Dishes as diverse as the Surf Board (a selection of seafood such as prawns and langoustines), a South Indian fish burger with green chilli slaw, and lamb rump with aubergine, yoghurt, and cracked wheat, the menu is as interesting as the dining room itself.
Cosy and intimate, the food here is designed to be simple and delicious without the need for extra adornments. When the seafront is so close, and with a multitude of food producers on its doorstep, Gingerman can pride itself on sticking to its ideals. Food includes anchovy beignets with tartare sauce, braised beef boulangere with potato and spinach, and apple flan with vanilla cream.
With just 20 seats, this really is like having your food cooked in your own home; you can even have the option of sitting at the pass and watching it all happen in front of your eyes. Called The Set due to its three seasonal set menus, the food here is designed to work in harmony, with each course complementing the one before it (and the one that follows).
Terre à Terre
If you think vegetarian food can’t be exciting, think again. The acclaimed Terre à Terre is, as they say, is “where vegetarianism is more about indulgence than abstinence.” Stimulate your mind and taste buds with dishes such as Aubergine Dengaku, Bonbon Beets and Bigarade and Oyster Orzotto.
Curry Leaf Café
The brainchild of former food critic and journalist Euan Sey and chef Kanthi Kiran Thamma, Curry Leaf Café sources all of its ingredients seasonally and locally wherever possible, and around half the menu is vegetarian – making it a great choice for groups with varied tastes.
Brighton has much to offer when it comes to annual events – with so much cool chic, so much excitement, so much to see and do, there is always something happening here.
Brighton Marathon // Apr
26 miles (and 385 yards) of running is what greets the competitors at the Brighton Marathon. Each year thousands of men and women join in and raise money for charity whilst attempting to beat their personal best.
Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe // May
A star studded array of performances take place through Brighton during the festival, and the fringe – on at the same time – is the largest multi-arts festival in England, allowing an open access platform for performers.
Pride // Aug
Pride is an annual gay pride parade and party that takes place in Preston Park, Brighton. This is a place and event to celebrate yourself and others and the atmosphere is unforgettable.
Iconic and historic – opened in 1899 and is a Grade II listed structure. Here you can eat and drink, have fun on the fairground rides, or simply stroll along enjoying the ambience the place creates.
Did You Know?
There are over 400 pubs in Brighton!