The Brighton Pier ---What's on in Brighton

What’s On in Brighton

The mission? Rent a car for 24 hours and head somewhere we hadn’t been in the UK.

Now, with a plan of only staying for a night, our choices were limited. We didn’t want to spend four hours heading north or south, only to do it again the next morning. We’ve toured Kent, driven across the pristine hills of the Cotswolds, and seen the white chalk cliffs of Eastbourne. The only glaring omission from our trips around the southeast of England was Brighton, the seaside town due south of London, famous for its pier and quirky personality.

So we booked a car, packed the car (an adorable Fiat 500x), typed ‘Brighton’ into Google Maps, and headed south to find out what’s on in Brighton.

Packing up the car to find what's on in Brighton

After an hour or so, finally clearing the traffic of the outskirts of London, we decided to make a pit stop for a rustic English lunch at a pub. As you do. We neared the village of Bolney and spotted on our map a pub named the Bolney Stage. Knowing nothing about it besides being conveniently located off the motorway, we ducked in (literally), and settled in for a meal.

Boyeln Stage pub -- -- What's on in Brighton

Great English pub food -- What's on in Brighton

A pint at Boyeln Stage -- What's on in Brighton

The Bolney Stage is exactly how every country pub should aspire to be. The building, dated back to the 16th century, is comprised of tiny, cramped rooms with low ceilings, uneven floors and exposed beams. A roaring fire was going near the bar, and we saw at least three dogs enjoying some pub time with their owners.

With a pile of thick-cut chips and a pint of room-temperature ale, lunch at a humble country pub is one of the best ways we know how to spend an afternoon in England. You literally pull off a motorway for a quick lunch, and instead of a rest stop lined with fast food restaurants, you discover a perfect pub in a building that has five hundred years of history!

Wisteria craziness -- What's on in Brighton

Before heading into Brighton, we stopped off in Balcombe to drop our bags off at our accommodations for the night, the stately Highley Manor. It, too, has a storied history, having been an entertainment venue for the exiled King of Portugal in the 1920s, and used as a base by the Canadian Army during WWII.

Highley Manor is tucked away down a long, narrow lane, which in classic rural English fashion, is the width of one car yet considered to be a two-way road. After a few years of driving around the UK, I have become accustom to these types of country roads, yet for first time drivers, I could imagine the fear of seeing an oncoming vehicle and trying to figure out how to pass safely. The joys of country driving!

After downing a cup of tea for a quick caffeine boost, we were on the road again, heading thirty minutes south to the city of Brighton.

Highley Manor, Balcombe -- What's on in Brighton

Brighton was a mystery to us as we pulled into town. We did a pathetic amount of research before arriving, only looking up the best parking garages as we drove up, so we landed in Brighton with no expectations or plans for the afternoon. Car parked, we headed off on foot to find out what’s on in Brighton.

Thankful, we quickly discovered that a lot was on in Brighton. We found ourselves in The Lanes, a collection of streets that run through the heart of Brighton, narrow alleys full of quirky shops and cafes. Despite the spitting rain, the streets were packed with locals and tourists, all browsing in art galleries and vintage stores along The Lanes.

the main drag in downtown Brighton --- What's on in Brighton

Treats at a coffee shop in Brighton --- What's on in Brighton

Treats at a coffee shop in Brighton --- What's on in Brighton

the funky downtown area of Brighton --- What's on in Brighton

The Lanes gave way to the sea, as we exited out on the “beach” of Brighton and its famous pier. The beach itself is more a pile of rocks than a true beach, but you can’t win them all. We walked out onto the Brighton Pier, past the tempting doughnut stalls, ice cream stands, and candy shops. The one thing I couldn’t look past was the arcades, my favorite pastime from childhood summers spent on the Jersey shore in the US.

Julie put up with my exuberance in playing video games, which I appreciate.

The rocky beach of Brighton ---What's on in Brighton

The Brighton Pier ---What's on in Brighton

The Brighton Pier ---What's on in Brighton

After getting my fill of fun on the pier, we decided to try to figure out what to do for our only night in Brighton. As we wandered back into The Lanes, we came across the hub for the Brighton Fringe Festival and the Brighton Festival, two events taking place simultaneously from early May to early June. With over a combined 1,000 events between the two festivals (yes, 1,000 events!) we actually had a load of options, despite our lack of planning.

Brighton Theatre -- What's on in Brighton

We decided to purchase two tickets to the beautiful Theatre Royal Brighton for “Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour” which turned out to be a fabulous decision. The name of the musical sounds like it would be some serious, poignant production, but, in reality, it was the complete opposite. The play focuses on a Catholic girl’s school from Oban, Scotland, traveling to Edinburgh for a choir competition. The group spends their entire single night in Edinburgh before the concert getting drunk, meeting boys, and doing drugs. It was quite dirty and full of foul language. I loved it!

Having topped up the ‘culture’ meter for the weekend, we happily got back on the road to journey to our manor for the night.

Brighton Theatre -- What's on in Brighton

After a filling English breakfast the next morning at the Highley Manor, we were back in the car, heading north,  home to London.

We had a blast exploring Brighton, a town that we have talked about visiting for the past three years, but for whatever reason, it never materialized. We are lucky to live in such a fun, unique, and historic country, and while London is all of those things too, it is nice to get some fresh area and just head out into the unknown.

This post was part of the campaign, 24 Hours with TravelSupermarket, about exploring the UK by car.

To see more, check out our video of our 24 Hours in Brighton below!

 

BrightonPin-min

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  • June 1, 2016

    We have friends who live outside of Brighton and a few years back they gave us a day tour of the Lanes and the pier. The men headed to The Bolney Stage, while the women were shopping, which was my husband’s very favorite place we visited in England – he still brings it up every now and then. I’ll definitely be visiting it next time!

    • June 2, 2016
      Julie

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the area. We feel like idiots that it took us this long to get there (yikes!) but so glad that we took the time to visit. I can understand why so many Londoners move south to Brighton to escape the city!

  • June 2, 2016

    Suddenly Brighton doesn’t look so appealing anymore! It’s not because of your post, just looking at the pictures it looks so much more touristy than I imagined it! This is kind of what I imagined Blackpool to look!
    Dominique recently posted…Zuid-Kennemerland NP – 30 van Zandvoort 18kmMy Profile

    • June 5, 2016

      It definitely is a little touristy, especially the pier, but it does have a funky/alternative feel. The Lanes, with cool vintage stores and coffee shops is a lot of fun. For more peace and quiet, and for beautiful views, we love Beachy Head near Eastbourne.

  • June 4, 2016

    The shortbread looks yummy! Sounds you both had so much fun with your Brighton trip. Would love to visit UK someday for a longer time and visit Scotland too!
    carla recently posted…Quick Guide to Historic CebuMy Profile

    • June 5, 2016

      So much to see around the UK besides London. Hitting the countryside is a must if you visit the UK..

  • June 4, 2016

    I love the idea of these short local trips. Too often we forget what is in our own backyard. Sounds like a great short break, the chocolate Carmel squares look amazing.

    • June 5, 2016

      we love taking some time to explore the UK by car or train, rather than just hopping on a plane and heading off the island!

  • June 4, 2016

    That musical sounds like so much fun. I love that you did a staycation. So often, we forget to explore the cool stuff in our own back yard. Looks like a fun filled getaway!
    MariaAbroad recently posted…Photo Essay: Sosua Beach, Dominican RepublicMy Profile

  • June 5, 2016
    Brianna

    Brighton looks like the perfect summer British road trip. Reminds me a bit of the Jersey Shore.

    • June 5, 2016

      It is a little bit like the Jersey shore! The beach itself is actually nicer in NJ!

  • June 5, 2016

    Love Brighton! That was our go to during my year in London – I was based in Haywards Heath so it was only an hour or so away, I think by train from memory – nightclubs were the biggest draw at the time. And coming from Australia I was so confused by the pebble beach lol

    • June 5, 2016

      Yeah, the whole rock beach thing is always a little strange. Doesn’t make me want to lay out and work on my tan!

  • June 5, 2016

    Can’t believe we never made to Brighton. We have been to London a couple of times and our British friends recommended Brighton for a weekend. The Fringe Festival sounds like fun!
    Natalie Deduck recently posted…2 Days Trekking in Sapa Mountains » An Unforgettable ExperienceMy Profile

    • June 5, 2016

      The Fringe Festival is a lot of fun and brings a lot of people out. Highly recommended!

  • June 5, 2016

    I hope to do something similar this summer–pack up a car and head out into a nearby area that I’d never made an occasion to visit before. I’m glad you enjoyed Brighton and were able to enjoy the cultural offerings of the city!

    • June 6, 2016
      Julie

      A spontaneous 24 hours away is highly recommended. Now that we’ve done it once, I want to do it again!

  • June 5, 2016

    I’ve been to Brighton a couple of times, but never on a good beach day. I think you had the right idea of seeing a musical – going there during a fringe festival would be a blast.
    Wandering Carol recently posted…One day in Evian-les-Bains, FranceMy Profile

    • June 6, 2016
      Julie

      Arriving in town during a festival is such a great way to get involved, and see a new side of a new city!

  • June 6, 2016

    I love Brighton – even if it is just for the iconic pier! But you are right, there are so many other things to do. Awesome that the day you chose to go was during the festivals too – the town would have had such an lively buzz about it!
    Vicki Louise recently posted…How I Afford To Travel.. And How To Stretch Your Money So You Can Too!My Profile

    • June 6, 2016
      Julie

      The pier is epic, and fun if you love eating fried food and arcades. Brighton was so much more quirky and artistic than I expected, so it was fab!

  • June 6, 2016

    I love it that you guys get out so much around the UK to explore new places. Brighton looks fun. We’re moving from Seattle to London in November and you’ve provided a lot of great tips and hints for me.
    Laura Lynch recently posted…Shortcut Guide to the Chianti Wine Region of ItalyMy Profile

    • June 6, 2016
      Julie

      ooh, a move to London! If you want to know the best place to live (ahem!), just shout and we’ll give you our recos for our neighbourhood!

  • June 23, 2016

    Shortbread—the kind you get in the UK, not the dense cookies the US markets—is pretty much my favorite thing ever. And I’ve long wanted to get to Brighton: In my head, it is the quintessential British seaside experience. One day…

    Thanks for the virtual trip!
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted…Like Zion National Park? You’ll LOVE Snow CanyonMy Profile