After waking early we caught the Coastliner 700 bus service into the centre of Brighton. Before leaving home our original plan had been to travel into Brighton by train but on noticing these buses passing along Worthing’s seafront at ten minute intervals we opted for the Coastliner instead. Despite the journey time by road taking considerably longer than the train it actually saved us from a lengthy walk to and from the railway stations in both resorts. Day tickets are cheaper if downloaded on the Stagecoach App and the best value ticket for us was a Family Gold Day Rider £16 which covered two adults and up to three children. Our favourite seats at the front on the upper deck were vacant and although there was a great deal of stopping and starting, we enjoyed our coastal ride passing through Lancing, Shoreham-by-Sea, Portslade and Hove on our way into Brighton.
We alighted from the bus near the Palace Pier and decided to start the day on a high by taking a trip up the British Airways i360 observation tower, a 10-15 minute walk to the west. The tower has been constructed on the site of the West Pier which was built in 1866. The original pier fell into disrepair and partially collapsed during a storm in 2002. The following year the pier head caught fire twice leaving little of the original structure and it couldn’t be saved.
The idea was to replace the traditional pier jutting out into the sea with a vertical one offering visitors an aerial perspective of the seafront. The i360 first opened its doors in summer 2016 and is officially described as the world’s first vertical cable car. It didn’t look like a cable car to me but rather a large glass dome moving slowly up and down a tall metal pole.
It was shortly before 10.00 a.m. when we arrived and we were able to book ourselves onto the second flight of the day at 10.30 a.m. The time sped by as we popped outside to take some photos of the dome ascending on the earlier flight and to take a look at the sorry remains of its West Pier predecessor.
The original West Pier ticket booth had fallen into disrepair and has been painstakingly restored. This now serves as the i360 booking office whilst on the eastern side, a newly recreated replica is now home to a heritage style tearoom.
Standard tickets for the i360 are £16.50 or £14.85 if purchased a minimum of 24 hours in advance. We were asked to assemble 20 minutes early as we needed to pass through a security check and then have time to view an exhibition on how the i360 was built. Reading the information boards and viewing the pictorial displays we discovered that constructing the 450 feet (138 metre) tower was an impressive feat of engineering.
Soon it was time to enter the spacious glass viewing pod which is fully enclosed and ten times the size of a London Eye capsule, accommodating up to 200 people on each flight. The capsule is air conditioned with comfortable seating around its central core and features a Sky Bar with locally sourced drinks and snacks. The in-flight crew welcomed us on board smartly dressed in BA cabin crew uniforms. The pod gently started to rise and the ascent was so smooth that there were no sudden bumps or jolts along the way.
There was ample room to stand on the edge and admire the views from different angles. Once we reached the highest point one of the cabin crew pointed out various landmarks along the south coast and across to the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park in the far distance.
The glass pod then slowly returned to its base and we exited out onto the seafront via the gift shop. We were lucky to have picked a clear day for our ride up the i360 and if the weather is good I would recommend adding the observation tower to your itinerary when planning a visit to Brighton.
Next on our list was a visit to The Royal Pavilion a short walk away and located in the beautiful Pavilion Gardens. Standard admission to the Royal Pavilion is £15 but if you also intend to take a ride to the top of the i360 observation tower then a Brighton Explorer Pass bought in advance, is a good idea as it offers considerable savings.
The Royal Pavilion is one of the most extravagant and opulent palaces I have ever visited. It was designed by the eminent architect John Nash as a seaside pleasure palace for King George IV and is now under the ownership of Brighton and Hove Council. Unfortunately no photography is permitted inside the building as many of the items are on loan from H.M. The Queen but every room was absolutely exquisite with sumptuous interiors and huge domed ceilings.
The banqueting hall was certainly fit for a king with its dazzling 30ft high chandelier hanging from the ceiling weighing one ton. The music room was lit by nine lotus shaped chandeliers and its domed ceiling was made up of hundreds of plaster cockleshells. If you are interested to view photos of the pavilion’s sumptuous interior then some can be found on its own website which I have linked to above.
After such a busy morning we were beginning to feel quite hungry which was just as well as we had reserved a table for lunch at The Coal Shed restaurant tucked away down a side street. The restaurant which has another branch near The Shard in London specialises in steak and meat dishes and we had been looking forward to our visit. On stepping through the door we were warmly welcomed by the friendly staff and shown to a cosy table in the window alcove.
Over glasses of wine we studied the menu and I settled on a starter of seaweed cured salmon which was both light and flavoursome. Our other starter of Jacob’s Ladder was so tender the slow cooked ribs of beef fell off the bone.
I chose a lamb rump for my main course which was served pink and was moist and flavoursome. Across the table my son opted for one of the restaurant’s signature steaks which was cooked to perfection and he told me tasted divine. We accompanied our mains with sides of thickly cut beef dripping chips and a green leaf salad.
The staff were attentive but not overly so, leaving us to take our time over each course and not rushing us to order desserts. I selected grapefruit mess with meringue, cultured cream and honey custard. The sharpness of the grapefruit balanced the sweetness of the meringue and every spoonful left me in food heaven. Our other dessert, recommended by our waitress and described simply as a milk chocolate bar was actually a delectable chocolate coated orange and praline mousse served with waffle ice cream which also went down a treat.
Sipping coffees, we enjoyed the end of a delicious lunch in the relaxed atmosphere of the Coal Shed. Its wooden floors, chic industrial style decor and lighting adding to its ambience. In addition to the a la carté menu there is also an express menu available at lunchtime and early evening which offers excellent value at only £20.
It was then time to walk off our lunch so we sauntered back to the Pavilion Gardens to take a look in the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery which is located very close to the Royal Pavilion. Entrance to the museum is £6 and although it does contain numerous links to Brighton it also holds a diverse collection of artefacts from further afield. I preferred to focus on the history of Brighton and enjoyed viewing images of Brighton over the years and exploring the temporary exhibition on the Royal Stables where King George IV’s horses used to live.
Leaving the museum we wandered through the narrow maze of streets known as The Lanes that make up the historic quarter of the city. It’s a shopper’s paradise with lots of inviting independent retailers, small boutiques, cafes and galleries between the Royal Pavilion and the seafront.
Time was ticking on but we realised that if we walked quickly we would still have time to fit in a visit to the Brighton Toy & Model Museum located under the railway arches of Brighton station. Regular visitors to my blog will already know that I never miss a chance to visit a toy museum wherever I’m travelling and I was eager to add this one in Brighton to my ever growing list. Adult admission is £6.50 with family tickets available at £14.
Inside this underground cavern are more than 10,000 items tightly packed into quite a small space. Glass cabinets contain old toys, model kits, dolls, teddy bears, Meccano construction sets, trains and cars.
Hanging from the ceiling are a collection of model aircraft and old helicopters whilst propped on the top of cabinets are old prams, dolls houses and larger vehicles. Taking pride of place in the centre of this small museum is a 1930’s model railway and visitors are able to press a button to start one of the engines moving. I loved visiting this museum as it contained an extensive collection of Victorian toys as well as bringing back some fond memories from my own childhood. It’s not a ‘hands on’ museum for children but as well as activating the electric train set, children might like to try their luck on some of the ‘end of the pier’ heritage slot machines that are dotted around the museum and have been converted to accept 10p coins.
It was then time to return to Worthing on the Coastliner bus service after spending a fun filled day in Brighton, experiencing so much and enjoying a delicious lunch at the Coal Shed. It didn’t take us any time at all to make the decision to return to Brighton the following day to see even more, so stay tuned for the next instalment!
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