Brighton and Beachy Head

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A trip to the seaside! That's what Brighton has been to Londoners for generations, along with other Sussex seaside towns such as Eastbourne, Hastings and Bexhill-on-Sea. Brighton itself is the largest city in Sussex, and is a centre for tourism, music and alternative thinking. Further along the coast the seaside transforms into the great towering chalk cliffs of Beachy Head.

I visited Brighton and the Sussex coast as a day trip from London in 2010, for the first time in over twenty years, since coming down here as a child. It happened to be on the same day as the London to Brighton Mini Rally, as I came to realise on my drive down, not least because every lay-by was occupied by handfuls of conked-out Minis.

Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier epitomises all that's British about a trip to the seaside, with puppet shows, potted whelks, candy floss, slot machines, fish, chips and borderline kamikaze seagulls. Its full name is Brighton Marine Palace and Pier, but since the West Pier was closed in the 1970s the distinction between piers hasn't really been necessary.

The ruined hulk of the West Pier still sits in the English Channel for all to see, it operated for over one hundred years before closing in 1975. Although restoration has continuously been on the cards since then, it has been mired by misfortune with four partial collapses and two fires all between 2002 and 2005.

Remains of the West Pier

Brighton Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel on the Brighton sea front has been one of the fanciest hotels in town since it was built by the Victorians. In 1984 it was the scene of an assassination attempt on the UK Prime Minister, by a time bomb set three weeks earlier. The hotel faces the ruined West Pier.

Brighton's Royal Pavilion is perhaps the city's most famous building, built in an Indian style which seems quite out of place in a British seaside town. However it was designed during the age of empires, and that just happened to be in vogue at the time.

Brighton Royal Pavilion

Close up of Brighton Royal Pavilion

A close-up of one of the Indian style domes atop the Royal Pavilion.

Pristine posh white town houses in eastern Brighton, towards the Marina area.

Posh townhouses in Brighton

Lewes Crescent white houses

These townhouses are on Lewes Crescent. I really like this style of wedding cake architecture.

Further along the coast I stopped at Telscombe Cliffs for a short wander, and realised I'd landed right on the spot where the Prime Meridian leaves the south coast of England. The marker at the top left shows the arbitrary point where from which all time and longitude worldwide is measured, and where the Eastern and Western hemispheres meet.

Telscombe Cliffs and the Prime Meridian

Beachy Head and lighthouse

Even mightier cliffs can be seen at Beachy Head, just west of Eastbourne, where the English Channel is cutting into the chalk. Unfortunately the sea fog was rolling in by this point so it was harder to get some decent shots.

The cliffs at Beachy Head rise to 162 metres, making them amongst the highest in Britain. The surrounding grassy plain ends very abruptly, almost like it's been bitten off.

Enormous chalk cliffs

Beachy Head memorial

A very unfortunate consequence of the height of the cliffs is the suicide rate they attract, which along with the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol is the highest in the UK. Only the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco attracts more jumpers.

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