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Less than an hour from central London by the fastest trains, Brighton makes a perfect escape from the English capital. Tim Locke, author of the Bradt Guide Slow Sussex and the South Downs, describes Brighton as “exuberant, quirky and even outrageous.”
Brighton is the nearest point on the Sussex coast to the capital and generations of Londoners have flocked to Brighton for sun, sea and sand — and all manner of fun and frolics, some legal and others less so. In his excellent guide, Tim Locke reminds us that Brighton has attracted all types. “Far too many of the wrong sort of people,” averred Queen Victoria. There has certainly long been a seedier side to Brighton life. But let’s not worry here about what goes on behind the shuttered windows of those sedate Regency terraces.
Squid, skate and sole
Seaside kitsch, fish and chips and the statutory pier provide the necessary ingredients for a fun day out. A shopping area known as The Lanes is all rather twee and is the stuff of picture postcards. But foodies should certainly dive into The Lanes to discover Riddle and Finns (12 Meeting House Lane) where, amid the candelabra and chandeliers, you’ll find squid, skate, sole and plenty of other seafood diversions.
North Laine beats The Lanes
The area just north of The Lanes is the heart of bohemian Brighton – a tad confusingly referred to as North Laine (note that “i” – so Laine). Centred on Gardner Street, just a short walk from the main railway station, the North Laine area is a world apart from The Lanes – and very much more interesting. The North Laine district is the place for vegetarian shoes and hand-knitted organic muesli.
Stop off at Temptation (56 Gardner Street) where Peter Allison tempts you to a Sussex breakfast (£8.95). Peter is a legendary knitter and the café currently showcases his latest work — a scale model of the Brighton pavilion. We think it beats the real thing!
Then wander north up Gardner Street past Whirligig and Toby Tiger (both great toy shops) to boutiques like Nola and Aurora. Punktured is good stop-off for body piercing and, for eco-friendly footwear, don’t miss Vegetarian Shoes.
Fast trains run thrice hourly from London Victoria station to Brighton, with travel times running to between 50 and 65 minutes. To keep fares down, buy the Southern DaySave Ticket, which gives unlimited travel on the Southern network from 9.55 am weekdays (and any time on weekend days). It costs £14 for a solo traveller or £28 for a group of up to four (adults, children or a mix). This is superb value, meaning that four friends heading to Brighton for a day out need only pay seven pounds each for the return train journey.
A DaySave ticket also allows travel over a much wider area of course, extending from Southampton in the west to Ashford in the east. You can even use it on Southern trains that run through the capital to points north of London, such as Milton Keynes. But, take it from us, you’ll not find vegetarian shoes in Milton Keynes.