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Brighton

Brighton must surely rate as being one of the most frequently visited beachside resorts in the whole of the South of England. And it has the added allure of being within close proximity of The South Downs, described as being ‘one of Britain’s most famous landmarks – a stretch of rolling chalk clad hills that extend from Eastbourne into Hampshire’.



It is said that more than five million visitors come to the coast each year. And it’s maintained that the area lays claim to ‘entertainment, good beaches and inexpensive accommodation’. It’s remarkable to reflect that once upon a time – according to the Domesday Book – Brighton started off as a tiny fishing village known as Brigthelmston.

In fact, it remained ‘undiscovered’ until the eighteenth century when ‘sea-bathing’ became a popular cult. Now described as the south coast’s ‘premier resort’ Brighton attained real fame when it attracted the patronage of the Prince Regent – the future George IV – who was referred to as ‘Prinny’.

And it was during the eighteenth century that Brighton became his ‘favourite haunt’, and it also earned the title of ‘London on Sea’. In fact, it’s said that he drove a coach from London to Brighton in four and a half hours – driving along the newly built ‘direct road’.

And it was in Brighton that he was said to have spent time with his ‘mistress’, Mrs Maria Fitzherbert, whom it is said, he later secretly married. It was in 1822 that his Royal Pavilion was finally completed, and in 1899 Brighton’s original ‘Chain Pier’ was replaced by the famed ‘Palace Pier’. ‘Prinny’, therefore, was said to have been largely responsible for ‘putting Brighton on the map’ – so to speak!

And by 1830 Brighton’s population had risen to 40,000. While I haven’t actually stayed in Brighton, I have visited the resort on many occasions. For, when based in London, Brighton seemed to be the easiest seaside resort to locate. One only had to get to Victoria Station, travelling via Clapham Junction – and then it was a ‘direct line’ to Brighton all the way!

At one time Brighton tended to be associated with funfairs, amusement arcades, and a ‘hippie’ type environment. In fact, it’s ‘being-beside-the-seaside’ reputation conjured up images of visitors ensconced on the seaside promenade, indulging in vast quantities of ‘fish and chips’ and giant sized ice cream cornets!

But Brighton became determined to shed this ‘blowsy reputation’! An university town, and the largest in Sussex, with a current population of more than 150,000, it was granted city status in the year 2000. But it still remains a ‘fun city’! And the word ‘fun’ intimates a cheerful environment.

Personally, my main recollection of Brighton is sitting on its vast beach, inhaling its intoxicating saline sea air, where it was never too hot for comfort, yet warm enough to revel in its gentle sea breezes. There is a vitality about Brighton that’s hard to define. Certainly, quite apart from the vast beach, which is my main association with Brighton, there are countless places that can be visited.

The Royal Pavilion, of course, is the city’s most ‘celebrated landmark’. Described as being one of England’s ‘most exotic extraveganza’ buildings, it seems to dominate the city of Brighton – and epitomises a ‘once seen, never to be forgotten’ sight.

It is possible to visit The Royal Pavilion, and its interior is claimed to be as equally exotic as its exterior, and to represent a particularly memorable experience. An opulent ‘Banqueting Room’ occupies a section of the ground floor, while beyond it lies ‘The Great Kitchen’ – which is described as being ‘as big as a ballroom’. The ‘Music Room’, likewise, is also most impressive, having been equipped with a ‘huge dome, lined with more than 26,000 individually gelded scales and hung with exquisite umbrella-like glass lamps’.

And, it’s recommended that an opportunity to hear a concert performance here is an experience that should never be missed! Situated across the garden from The Pavilion is The Dome, which was once the royal stables but is now the city’s main concert hall. And alongside it is the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.

Between The Royal Pavilion and the seafront is an area known as ‘The Lanes’, which is the original centre of the ‘old fishing village’ from which Brighton evolved. And, on the seafront just beyond The Lanes is the place from where it is said Charles II made his escape across the sea to France – and from where it is claimed ‘an annual dash’ to France takes place to commemorate the event……

Also on the seafront stands The Grand Hotel, where the attempted assassination of those attending the Conservative Party Conference took place in October 1984. On the seafront too stands The Brighton Fishing Museum. The Palace Pier is, of course, a ‘must’ on the itinerary of anyone visiting Brighton. A 1,700 foot structure, it lays claim to two pubs, a karaoke bar and also a fish and chips restaurant.

Near The Palace Pier can be found the Volk’s Electric Railway – described as the ‘oldest electric railway in the country’, which was built in 1883, and which runs for one an a quarter miles along the sea front. It starts from an area known as Madeira Drive – which is where the annual London to Brighton Vintage Car Rally ends.

Also near Madeira Drive is ‘The Sea Life Centre’ – an aquarium that has underwater tunnels where one can view sharks and stingrays at close quarters. It’s an aquarium that has been in existence since Victorian times. Marine Drive, which is situated above it, extends to Brighton Marina, described as being the ‘largest marina in Europe’ – covering seventy seven acres, and capable of providing berthing space for 2,000 boats.

It’s claimed that, apart from London, Brighton has ‘the greatest concentration of restaurants in the southeast’. Brighton’s nightlife, likewise, is described as being ‘hectic, and compulsively pursued throughout the year’. It’s said that it not only has innumerable pubs, bars, myriad night clubs and lots of live music but also many theatre and concert venues and several cinemas.

And, of course, Brighton abounds with hotels and holiday accommodation of every kind – ranging from the sumptuous to the inexpensive. In fact, it would seem that Brighton ‘has it all’ – and it’s unlikely that there would ever be ‘a dull moment’ for anyone staying here

Roberta Crookes has worked as a newspaper journalist throughout most of her life, writing news stories, editorial features, advertisement supplements, and reviews. And in the course of her work she has interviewed many famous people from all walks of life. She has also managed to combine parallel careers in both journalism and acting, and, being Welsh speaking from North Wales, her main television featured parts have been Welsh language roles with BBC Wales.