Can you keep a secret?
Although Brighton is a hot spot for tourists who are drawn in by the bright lights and larger than life atmosphere, there are plenty of quirky and quiet nooks and crannies where visitors and residents can find a hidden gem.
Emily Turner takes on Brighton’s roads less travelled to spot and snap the most stunning secret spots in the city.
Although Amazon has its merits, there’s nothing like spending an afternoon browsing the shelves of a really good book store. City Books is not only comfortable, welcoming, and has a cracking selection of books including biographies, travel journals and the classics, but it’s also just around the corner from Brunswick Square, where you can take your new purchases, enjoy a whiff of that new book smell, and lose yourself in something fascinating. City Books, as an independent bookshop, also has that great Brightonian feel as it hosts literary events and stocks work by local authors. Enjoy its charms at 23 Western Road.
32 Western Road, Hove, 01273 725306, city-books.co.uk
It’s certainly worth hopping on your bike and taking a trip up to nearby Rottingdean to enjoy the peace and quiet of this secret spot. These gardens were once part of The Elms, where Rudyard Kipling lived from 1897 to 1902. They’re actually quite easy to walk past but if you spot the village’s wishing well, you should turn to your left and take a step beyond the curved archway straight into this serene walled garden. Although Kipling wrote some of his Just So Stories whilst living at The Elms, you don’t have to remember your Taffimais from your Tegumais to enjoy the garden’s ambiance.
The Green, Rottingdean, 01273 301004, rottingdeanpreservationsociety.org.uk/the-kipling-gardens
If it’s kooky and it’s on the outskirts of Brighton, it’s probably the Booth Museum of Natural History. Lovers of the macabre and eclectic should head down to this eccentric little museum, which was founded as a Victorian collector’s private collection in 1874. Combining the Victorians’ bizarre love of stuffing animals with their obsessive item collecting, this museum will also intrigue anyone interested in taxidermy, butterfly entomological boxes or skeletons, as well as those with a soft spot for Natural History. There are dioramas of birds from ceiling to floor, as well as stuffed snakes, lion’s heads, and killer whale bones. A personal favourite is the Booth mermaid. Admission is free.
194 Dyke Road, Brighton, 0300 029 0900, brightonmuseums.org.uk/booth
Chattri War Memorial
As far as these secret spots go, this one is pretty out of the way but guaranteed to give you some solitude. As lovely as the Pavilion and the Peace Monument are, the Chattri War Memorial is the place to go if you’re needing to get away from the constant energy, movement and noise of the city. It takes a bit of a hike to get up the Downs hill near Patcham, but once you’re there, you can enjoy the incredible views of Brighton and the sea, and spot the windmill among the trees and fields. For artsy types, the memorial itself is stunning, with detailed sculpting in the cool white marble.
Standean Lane, Patcham, chattri.org
Not only is The Cricketers built on the spot of the oldest pub in Brighton, which originally graced that place on what is now known as Black Lion Street in the mid 16th Century, it is also a comfy place to watch the world go by. With its faux Victorian décor and spitting distance from the sea front, it’s a cosy place to grab a pint. Fans of Grahame Greene can pay homage to the Brighton Rock author by having a drink in the upstairs bar, which was named after the man himself. If, like me, you’re a sucker for an eerie story or a gruesome ripping yarn, then you can also catch a ghost tour which will tell you more about this pub’s ghostly resident.
15 Black Lion Street, Brighton, 01273 329472, cricketersbrighton.co.uk
Old Police Cell Museum
Tucked away under Town Hall in Bartholomew Square, this museum qualifies for this list due to the fact that you can only get in for a tour of the place at 10.30am each day, as the cells are located in the basement area of the building. Learn about the history of the force in Brighton, see the varied but equally brutal looking collection of truncheons, and keep an eye out for the list of bobby rules which states that a policeman may eat his lunch out of his hat if necessary. If you’re planning on getting hitched, love birds can become jail birds as you can apparently tie the knot down below in the cells.
Town Hall, Bartholomew Square, Brighton, 01273 291052, oldpolicecellsmuseum.org.uk
Mechanical Memories Museum
The Mechanical Memories Museum is an old time penny arcade which has about fifty vintage penny slot machines, dating from the early 1900s to the 1960s. Hand over your shiny two quid for a pile of old, quaint pennies to use in this delightful little museum tucked away under Brighton Pier. Although a Far Cry from Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, these antique arcade games are entertaining, engrossing, and a load of fun (and in grand English seaside tradition, occasionally on the naughty side).
Kings Road Arches, Brighton, mechanicalmemoriesmuseum.co.uk
Brighton Fishing Museum
Surprisingly easy to walk past for a place with a 27 foot clinker built punt boat inside the entrance, Brighton Fishing Museum is bang on the seafront and tells the city’s story, tracing the history of Brighton from its appearance in 1700s advice given to patients to bathe in the “seawater of Brighthelmstone for medicinal benefits” right through to its idiosyncratic sense of self today. Told in film, photographs, models, and various Brighton kitsch from the last few hundred years, this little cellar of wonders is worth a visit.
201 King’s Road, Brighton, 01273 723064, brightonfishingmuseum.org.uk
Escape the noise and general hubbub of Brighton to head up to the quiet spot of West Blatchington. The windmill will suddenly leap out at you when you turn the corner of the road at the bottom of the hill. Right behind it is the church of St Peter’s, where you can grab a cup of tea. Worth a trip outside of the city centre to wander through the churchyard’s trees.
Holmes Avenue, Hove, sussexmillsgroup.org.uk/blatchington.htm
St Ann’s Well Garden
A poorly kept secret perhaps, as you will often see people enjoying the garden’s benches, playgrounds and greens in the sun or braving the chillier climes to use the tennis and ping pong facilities, this garden is a must see off of the beaten track in Brighton. St Ann’s also has links with early pioneering film makers, as Esme Collins shot the oldest surviving ‘blue’ movie there in 1896. The café is a winner as well, with gorgeous artsy décor and lavender in bottles hanging from string off the walls, and cuppa that won’t break the bank at £1.30. It’s also open to 4pm every day regardless of the weather.
Somerhill Road, Hove, stannswellgardens.co.uk