Brighton has a reputation as a resort that’s a bit different. Nina Swift headed to East Sussex with her dog – and husband – to see for herself.
Hailing from Whitby, my childhood memories are filled with sand-covered ice creams, novelty rock, paddling in the sub-zero North Sea and the shrill sound of seagulls.
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So I have never really felt the urge to travel to another seaside resort – particularly one 273 miles away.
However, with its bohemian vibe, Brighton and Hove has always exuded cool – a far cry from the typical British seaside resort I have grown accustomed to.
I was assured East Sussex is as dog-friendly as Yorkshire, so decided to take the pooch (and the husband) along for the ride.
Despite travelling in mid-spring, it was the hottest weekend of the year so we hit the jackpot. Our impressive hotel – the Hilton Brighton Metropole – exuded Victorian splendour and was perfectly situated at the centre of the famous seafront. Despite its busy central location, surprisingly it welcomed dogs – a cosy bed and blanket awaited his arrival.
After a five-hour drive it was time to relax with a cocktail. The New Club – just a five-minute walk from the hotel – provided a taste of New York on the seafront, with views of the sea and the Old West Pier. Think funky, imaginative cocktails, gourmet burgers and super-friendly staff.
A hot Friday evening following an eternal winter saw beachfront bars and clubs filled with sun-worshippers. It felt more like Ibiza than a British seaside resort and the buzz was infectious. There wasn’t an arcade in sight.
The following day we decided to explore the city’s rural surroundings, taking a 15-minute drive to Stanmer Park. With its beautiful woodland and extensive grounds, it was perfect for a dog walk in the sun. We cooled off with afternoon tea at the stunning 18th century Proud Country House, which lies at the heart of Stanmer. It was hosting a drum ’n’ bass “family rave” – very hipster, very Brighton.
The stately home is also dog-friendly and he slept at our feet as we tucked into a clotted-cream scone and sipped a glass of Prosecco. Booking is a must, as the elegant panelled room soon filled up with those eager to enjoy this traditional treat in quintessentially British surroundings.
Later that afternoon, with a few hours until dinner, we decided to take advantage of Brighton’s renowned eclectic shopping scene.
Just a short distance from the seafront, in the North Laine area you’ll find vintage clothes, intricately made costume jewellery and one-of-a-kind bags and accessories in the boutique shops.
Saturday night was spent at the quirky, Lion and Lobster – again just short walk from the hotel. Spread over three floors, including a bar area, the Regency restaurant and a hidden terrace, the dog-friendly venue is one of the oldest and most traditional pubs in Brighton and Hove. Its quirkiness lies in its many nooks and crannies and it boasts an impressive menu – think gastro pub fayre – featuring locally-sourced ingredients.
The following day we took advantage of yet more sunshine and further explored the seafront. We headed out relatively early with the dog and the beach was already filling up.
We meandered down to the famous Brighton Palace Pier but were stopped by a security guard who said “no dogs allowed”. So I strolled along the Victorian structure alone, while my husband sat with the dog. It was the only doggy hiccup we encountered.
On the way back, we checked out the new West Pier Arches, in the creative quarter of Brighton beach. Situated at the site of the West Pier and British Airways i360 – a 162-metre observation tower on the seafront – the refurbished arches, originally built in Victorian times, boast a range of unique independent shops.
We were also impressed with council beach clean litter-pick initiatives, where members of the public are offered a small gift if they fill bags with rubbish after the busy sunny weekend. Whitby and Scarborough beaches could certainly benefit from a scheme like this.
For our last hurrah we drove a few miles down the beach to the quieter Hove. It was here we enjoyed the most amazing lunch at the Ginger Pig – another dog-friendly venue.
Awarded Best Food Pub in the Brighton and Hove Food Awards for the past three years, this was the perfect end to our trip. Seriously good cocktails complement exquisite food and we enjoyed one of the best Sunday roasts ever. And we’re from Yorkshire.
We noticed Gogglebox’s Stephen Webb sitting at a table nearby – it was clearly the place to be. And with food like that, it was easy to see why.
So the weekend was over – and I still felt there was so much more to explore. We drove past the Royal Pavilion and it looked so impressive – I would have loved to have wandered around the eccentric Grade I-listed palace.
However, I have a feeling we will be back for a longer stay. This time we might leave the dog at home so we can sample some of the city’s famous nightlife. I’m pretty sure the nightclubs aren’t dog-friendly. Although it is Brighton…
Nina Swift visited Brighton and the South Downs National Park and stayed courtesy of Visit Brighton.
Latest figures from Tourism South East show Brighton & Hove attracted around 11,234,000 visitors in 2016, an increase of 6.4 per cent on 2015.
Nina stayed at the Hilton Brighton Metropole http://www3.hilton.com/
For more information, go to Visit Brighton https://www.visitbrighton.com/