48 Hours in South-East England

Stretching from Kent to the east of London, down to England’s southern coastal counties of Sussex and Hampshire and back up to the counties of Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire that cluster around the capital, the area of South-East England is one of diverse landscapes, vibrant beach resorts, historic cities and gastronomic centres of excellence.

The real beauty of this region is its accessibility from London, with numerous public transport options available from the capital to all parts of the South East. Within just 30 minutes south of London you can be in the attractive city of Guildford, with its inviting mix of centuries of history and first-rate contemporary shopping. Beautiful coastlines and verdant woodlands await you in the New Forest in Hampshire, just 90 minutes from London, or experience the royal atmosphere of Windsor or the scholarly vibes of Oxford in less than an hour’s journey time from the capital.

The area may be perfect for day trips from London, but it also means you can pack in a huge variety of experiences within a weekend in the area, each bringing its own unique charm. Here we take a look at just one option of how to spend 48 hours South-East England; in its vibrant coastal areas.

 

DAY ONE:

09:00 BROWSE CONTEMPORARY ART

Take an early train out of London’s Charing Cross station and, within 90 minutes, you’ll reach Hastings, a town on the Sussex coast that’s well-known for its connections with the famous battle of 1066 but is also at the forefront of contemporary art with exhibitions at the Jerwood Gallery. Set in a stunning glass building on the Old Town’s fishing beach, this is the home to a fabulous collection of 20th- and 21st-century British art.

 

10:30 DISCOVER THE DARK SECRETS OF SMUGGLERS

Head down to St Clements Caves and embark on a Smugglers’ Adventure. You’ll join notorious smuggler ‘Hairy Jack’ through underground tunnels and caverns on this interactive experience that tells the tales of smugglers through the ages. You can also enter the attraction via the original West Hill funicular railway, which retains its original Victorian wooden carriages.

 

12:00 EXPLORE THE TOWN’S PAST

Stroll around the picturesque Old Town, a bustling haven of cobbled streets, ‘twittens’ (narrow passageways) and a flourishing arts community, which you can explore through its myriad of antique stores and independent art shops.

 

13:00 FEAST ON LOCAL SEAFOOD

Fresh fish lands on Hastings’ beaches every day, serving the town’s restaurants and cafes. Head down to The Stade area, the town’s fishing and cultural quarter, and dine on smoked fish and fresh cockles at Rock-a-Nore Kitchen, or admire the views of the seafront while munching oysters and other delicacies from the sea at the Old Custom House Restaurant. Round off your lunch with a luscious homemade ice cream from Di Polas ice cream parlour, where flavours range from sea salt caramel to apple and ginger.

After lunch, jump on the train and travel to the coastal city of Brighton & Hove, around an hour’s journey. Although just a short distance from Hastings, you’ll find a different vibe here.

 

15:00 WALK THROUGH A ROYAL FANTASY

Brighton & Hove is bohemian yet historic, eccentric yet stylish, and is unlike any other English seaside city. Although its heritage is deeply rooted in the 18th century – the Regency era – it boasts a heady mix of contemporary culture, artistic quarters, must-see museums and diverse shopping. Dominating the town is the Royal Pavilion, built by King George IV, a palace unlike any other in Europe. Wander through architecture bedecked with Indian domes and oriental interiors as well as Regency style.

 

17:00 SOAR INTO THE AIR

For unrivalled views of the city and its surrounding area, take a ‘flight’ on British Airways i360, the tallest UK viewing platform outside of London. Brilliant, Instagrammable views surround you as you head up 450ft/137 metres in the air.

 

18:00 ENJOY TRUE BRITISH ENTERTAINMENT

Back down to earth and head out to sea – as far as the end of Brighton Pier! A Grade II-listed pleasure pier, you can enjoy fairground rides and entertainment, and don’t forget to buy an iconic English seaside treat – Brighton Rock.

 

19:00 DINE AT SUSTAINABLE RESTAURANTS

Brighton is a real hotspot for food, particularly if you’re looking for something special, with a range of restaurants that encompass everything from vegan to waste-free. Terre a Terre, situated in the narrow alleys of the 17th-century Lanes – a maze of eclectic shops and unique eateries – is about indulgent vegetarian cuisine. And, if you’re looking for a restaurant that endorses sustainability throughout, try Plateau, a vibrant Lanes-based eaterie that offers a menu of organic and biodynamic wine.

 

21:00 HIT THE NIGHTLIFE

The city is well-known for its fabulous nightlife, arts and theatre scene, and is bursting with seriously cool and quirky bars and clubs. Sip on craft beers from local breweries, surrounded by walls lined with vinyl records and listen to your favourite tunes on the record players at Dead Wax Social; enjoy live music, home-made brews and quirky weekend events such as chocolate-sculpting lessons at the North Laine Brewhouse; or sip cocktails amid the retro charm of The Mesmerist, a 1920s’ speakeasy-style bar.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN

There’s a range of well-known budget hotel names in Brighton, from Ibis to Travelodge, as well as a whole host of quality bed and breakfasts (B&B). Nineteen, located in the Kemp Town area of Brighton, is a stylish B&B in a converted 200-year-old Victorian townhouse, with walls adorned with contemporary artwork. For truly bohemian artwork throughout the rooms check into the Artist Residence, a seafront hotel decorated by local artists, while the grand dame of the city’s hotels is the Grand Brighton, an iconic five-star Brighton landmark of elegance and grandeur.

 

DAY TWO:

0900: BUILD UP AN APPETITE

There’s nothing like fresh air to wake you up and a bracing walk along Brighton’s seafront will do just that. Worked up an appetite? Pop into Billie’s for breakfast, a cosy, family-run café serving local handmade sausages, stacks of pancakes and a wide range of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

 

11:00 TASTE ENGLISH WINE

Nestled in the beautiful Sussex countryside, just 20 minutes from Brighton & Hove by taxi or bus, is the South Downs National Park, home to Ridgeview Vineyard and its award-winning English sparkling wine. Go behind-the-scenes with a tour of the vineyard and finish off with wine tastings overlooking the glorious South Downs. Once a month the vineyard also offers a wine and lunch tour.

 

12:30 Head to Brighton station and take the direct train to Portsmouth in the county of Hampshire, in just under 90 minutes.

 

14:00 GO BEHIND THE SCENES OF A HISTORIC DOCKYARD

The city of Portsmouth on the south coast of England is completely surrounded by water, making it an island city! So, it’s no surprise that it also comes with more than 800 years of naval history, much of which you can discover at its Historic Dockyard. Step back to the 16th century and explore the story of Henry VIII’s shipwrecked (and now raised) war ship at the Mary Rose Museum, or imagine what it was like being an 18th-century sailors aboard HMS Victory. In Spring 2018, the D-Day Museum will reopen on Southsea seafront (in the south of the city), which will use interactive material, video and major new exhibitions to retell the story of the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War.

OR

14:00 DISCOVER A LITERARY PAST

Portsmouth has hugely significant literary links; Charles Dickens was born here and his birthplace is preserved at the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes while living in Portsmouth. The city is home to a large collection of Conan Doyle memorabilia at the Portsmouth Museum.

 

16:00 SHOPPING AND SEAVIEWS

Pick up designer bargains and high-street treats at the 90 premium outlet stores located at Gunwharf Quays, before heading up 105 metres to take in the gorgeous views from Emirates Spinnaker Tower, over the city and out to the Isle of Wight.

 

18:00 SIP CHAMPAGNE AT DUSK

Walk along the charming waterfront at Southsea and stop off for a glass of Champagne at the Southsea Castle Champagne Bar, which runs every Friday from May until September. You’ll be drinking bubbly with a beautiful Tudor castle backdrop!

 

20:00 ENJOY A RANGE OF RESTAURANTS

Restaurant 27 and Montparnasse are two of Portsmouth finest restaurants, and it’s at both of these you’ll find menus produced by chefs with Michelin-star experience, using ingredients from local suppliers and producers. Or, if you prefer a taste of the east, head down to the area of Old Portsmouth – this was once referred to as the Spice Island, as ships would dock there from Asia to unload their cargo – which still has a whole host of restaurants serving Asian cuisine. Check out the area of Albert Road, which is packed with choices.  

 

22:00 HIT THE NIGHTLIFE

Being a university town, Portsmouth offers a good mix of nightlife. It also serves up some excellent locally brewed beer – head up to the rooftop garden of the Brewhouse & Kitchen, set in a historic, Tudor-style inn, and order a pint of one of its 50 craft beers, including five that are brewed on site. Gin fan? Head over to Gin & Olive where aficionados of the spirit can choose from more than 100 on its menu, the only bar to offer this many in the county of Hampshire.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN

Similar to Brighton, Portsmouth has a good stock of budget hotels, guesthouses and lovely bed and breakfasts. Its boutique hotel offer is strong too. The G! Boutique Hotel has designed each room to be unique and quirky – rooms are given names ranging from Good Times and Grinning From Ear to Ear, to Giddy with Delight and Gloating You’re Not Here, plus there’s a funky cellar bar. Or, for a hotel with views over Portsmouth Harbour, check in to the Ship Leopard Boutique Hotel, housed in a Georgian building next to the Historic Dockyard, while just five minutes from the Southsea area is luxury property The Clarence. Looking for somewhere unique to stay? Sail out to No Man’s Fort, an island man-made fortress out at sea converted to a luxury venue that’s ideal for group bookings.

 

RETURNING TO LONDON:

There are direct trains from Portsmouth to London, which take just under two hours.

Coventry - the capital of cool and culture

After years of regeneration, Coventry is set to become Britain's city of cool after being named the UK’s City of Culture for 2021. In the lead-up to its time in the spotlight, here are some of best places to chart the historical roots and culture of this West Midlands city.

 

Coventry through the ages

During periods of unrest in Roman Britain, the Lunt Roman Fort was used as headquarters by the Roman army during the fight against Boudica, the tribal queen who led the uprising against the Roman Empire in around AD 60. Now fully excavated and partially reconstructed, the fort is the only example of an early Roman cavalry fort in Britain.

 

As one of the most celebrated women from Britain in the ‘Dark Ages’, Lady Godiva is best remembered for her naked horseback ride through Coventry. Now a legendary 12th-century tale, it’s said she did this to bargain with her husband, the Earl of Mercia and a ruler of England, to free people from the heavy taxes he had forced on them. Today, the Lady Godiva statue forms the centrepiece of the central square of Broadgate.

 

Discover how the city’s innovative spirit echoes throughout history at the award-winning Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, which celebrates the city’s history, arts, culture and diversity. Permanent exhibits include a tour of Medieval Coventry, the Victorian era and the beginning of the motor industry, and how the City of Dreams rebuilt itself after World War II. The most severe attack occurred on 14 November 1940, when 515 German bombers set out to destroy Coventry's factories and industrial infrastructure. In just one night, over 4,300 homes were destroyed and around two-thirds of the city's structures damaged, including Coventry Cathedral.

 

Petrolheads should visit the Coventry Transport Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of British vehicle. Displays include the fastest car on earth, motoring innovations over the last 150 years, and exhibits on how the city has been shaped by the rise and fall of its motoring industries. Visitors can test out the fastest car, ‘Spirit of Speed,’ to feel what it’s like travelling at 763 miles per hour.

 

Contemporary arts and culture

FarGo Village is Coventry’s answer to Camden in London, its creative quarter packed with independent shops, markets and local food and drink, while workspaces and studios are home to innovative artists. Events here include Vintage in the Village, animation workshops, the Vegan Festival and the Urban Culture Coventry Street Art festival.

 

The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum also presents a contemporary outlook on the city’s culture; running from 10 March to 10 April 2018 is the Irish Heart, Coventry Home exhibit which looks at the role of the Irish community in Coventry. Meanwhile from 24 February to 13 May 2018, New Art West Midlands presents emerging creative talent in a mixed media exhibition with contemporary themes including Artificial Intelligence, fake news and gender inequality.

 

City sounds

Coventry is renowned for its Two-Tone ska-punk rock fusion that helped launch bands such as The Specials and The Selecter, offering up infectious rhythms and on-point lyrics to try and address racial tensions in 1980s Britain. Visitors can trace the musical roots of Two-Tone and other genres at the award-winning Coventry Music Museum in the city’s 2-Tone Village. The museum is open Thursday to Saturday10am to 4pm and on Sundays, 10am to 3pm.

 

2018 also sees numerous music events coming to Coventry. The Godiva Festival is the UK’s biggest, free, family music festival with live music and fairs at the War Memorial Park from 31 August to 2 September 2018. This park will also play host to BBC Music's The Biggest Weekend on 27 and 28 May 2018, an exciting live music event including performances Paloma Faith and Snow Patrol.

 

See also:

  • Coventry Cathedral: After being bombed during World War 2, the cathedral was rebuilt and the new Cathedral Church of St Michael, still known as Coventry Cathedral, is one of the few post-war listed buildings in the UK.
  • Coventry Watch Museum: During the 18th century, Coventry became one of the main centres of England’s watchmaking industry. This locally run museum displays timekeeping artefacts and visitors can observe specialist watchmakers on the job. Note, it’s only open Tuesdays and Saturdays, 11am to 3pm.
  • Rising Café - From the Rubble: Set in the grounds of Coventry Cathedral, Rising Café is a favourite with locals too, serving hearty lunches and artisan coffees in a 1940s interior that pays homage to the city’s World War II bombing and subsequent regeneration.

48 Hours in... Suffolk

From cultural urban treats to rural delights, the county of Suffolk in eastern England is the perfect place to venture for a weekend. Here are some ideas for a short break in the Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich areas.

 

DAY ONE: BURY ST EDMUNDS

 

TIME TO CHECK IN:

 

The Angel Hotel is a boutique property in the heart of Bury St Edmunds with lovely suites full of relaxed charm and luxury touches. A former Georgian coaching inn, The Angel was said to have been frequented by Charles Dickens on his trips to Bury St Edmunds.

 

10:00 A CAFFEINE PIT STOP

Start the morning at the popular Paddy & Scott’s Café, a branch of the Suffolk coffee house chain, where passionate baristas fuel customers with signature coffees or even vegan hot chocolate, along with pastries for a sweet kick.

 

11:00 UNLOCK THE TOWN’S SECRETS AND SCANDALS

The Official Bury St Edmunds Tour is a 90-minute trip back in time. It uncovers the legend of St Edmund and the wolf, as well as the town’s connection to the Magna Carta. Covering over a thousand years of history, the tour takes in the Abbey and main market area.

 

13:00 AN ATTRACTION IN A NUTSHELL

For something quirky, stop by The Nutshell Pub. It is the smallest pub in Britain at just 15ft by 7ft, perfect for a cosy drink while marvelling at curios decorating the walls.

 

14:00 DISCOVER THE REAL SPIRIT OF BURY

With gin very much on trend in Britain, make for a gin-making experience at craft distillery Adnam’s. An Adnam’s Gin Maker will show you everything from choosing botanicals to how to distill the spirit and name it — with a bottle to take home. They also offer brewery and distillery tours.

 

17:00 LIGHT BITES

The Giggling Squid rustles up Thai tapas dishes featuring rustic yet simple light bites made for sharing, from satay to dumplings, with squid thrown in too of course. The restaurant’s conservatory provides an elegant backdrop completing the scene.

 

18:30 GOING DEEPER UNDERGROUND

Enjoy decadently curious pre-theatre drinks at The Angel Hotel. The Wingspan Bar is located in the 12th-century vault under the hotel, which was fashioned out of the secret tunnels that run under much of the town. Order a cocktail and look out for the bar created from half an aircraft engine, among other aviation-themed furnishings.

 

19:30 A NIGHT AT THE THEATRE

The Theatre Royal is the only remaining example of a Regency theatre in the UK, and the Grade I-listed building has been fully restored to its Georgian grandeur. Visitors can book a tour to revel in its history and elegance or book tickets to a show to experience its opulent surroundings.

 

DAY TWO: IPSWICH

 

TIME TO CHECK IN:

In Ipswich, make a reservation at the Salthouse Harbour Hotel on the waterfront offering eclectic and richly decorated rooms with floor to ceiling windows affording fabulous views of the harbour. Make a reservation for dinner to savour the award-winning selection of food and drink, with a twist of something deliciously different.

 

09:00: ON THE RURAL ARTS’ TRAIL

Eighteenth-century artist John Constable was born in Suffolk and many of his works are based on scenes in Flatford, just 20 minutes from Ipswich. One of the best known is The Hay Wain, a landscape that remains virtually unchanged today. Take a National Trust walking tour and step into his world around Flatford and Dedham Vale. Then view a special exhibition of his works at Bridge Cottage by Flatford Bridge, which appears in two of his paintings.

 

13:00 TIME TO GO LOCAL

Known as #TheFoodieCounty, Suffolk doesn’t disappoint the tastebuds. Food lovers should head to Suffolk Food Hall, a huge farm shop selling local produce, from savoury to sweet treats, from its delicatessen, cheesemonger, and chocolatier. With a cooking school and Cookhouse Restaurant, it takes epicurean experiences seriously.

 

15:00 HUNT FOR SOUVENIRS

For a shopping treat, enjoy the one-off finds along The Saints streets, made up of St Peters and St Nicholas streets. You’ll find an appealing mix of high-street names and independent boutiques, such as Cake & Catwalk with striking, handpicked fashion accessories.

 

16:00 FINDING FAMOUS FACES

To delve into some of the local history, take a Blue Plaques Tour to discover British icons who lived in or regularly visited the city, such as author Charles Dickens, painter Thomas Gainsborough, and Britain’s first female pilot, Edith Maud Cook.

 

18:00 TAKE A WALK ON THE WATERSIDE

See in the evening with a stroll along Ipswich waterfront with a lively stretch of restaurants and cafés beside a picturesque dock and harbour, perfect for a relaxed evening before heading back to London.

 

Alternatively…

  • If you plan on hiring a car, you can visit the coast or a scenic lake.
  • Shotley Peninsula is a coastal area near Ipswich, perfect for picturesque walks. Stop by the Butt and Oyster pub for lunch.
  • Thorpeness Meare is the enchanting lakeside area where wealthy Scottish barrister Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie was inspired to build by the tales of Peter Pan, penned by his close friend author JM Barrie. Explore its tiny coves, creeks and islands to reveal key places from Neverland.

 

HOW TO GET HERE:

Suffolk is a county in the east of England. Its principal town, Ipswich, is one hour 18 minutes from London Liverpool Street by direct train. The market town of Bury St Edmunds is approximately two hours by train from London’s King Cross and Liverpool Street stations.

48 hours in… Brighton

Brighton is a cultural cornucopia of creativity, with more than its share of festivals, museums, galleries and gigs. Famous for having a thriving gay scene, legendary clubbing spots and magnificent Regency architecture, Brighton is without doubt one of Britain’s most colourful and fascinating cities.

A bohemian vibe runs through the streets, from the exuberant 19th-century Royal Pavilion to the wonderfully tacky Brighton Pier, and the maze of independent shops along the warren of alleys, the Artists’ Quarter and the quirky fashion hub, North Laine. What’s more, you can head to the pebbled beach and seafront promenade for fresh air, fish and chips and traditional seaside entertainment.

For party peeps in search of entertainment, the city offers a cornucopia of choice from comedy to cabaret. And if music is your raison d’etre then there are many enchanting nightspots where you can dance from dusk ‘til dawn, catch an old school band or see fresh musical talent.

Whether you’re looking for top notch restaurants or bohemian independent shopping, Brighton offers urban glamour by the bucket load.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN:

For a real bohemian experience, Hotel Una is independently owned and sits in the heart of Brighton, just a stone's throw from the beach with a great view of the historical West Pier. With 20 individually designed bedrooms and suites, this recently converted Regency town house is a stylish mixture of old and new, industrial and traditional; with free standing baths, stone fireplaces and avant-garde furnishing.

Artist Residence is another option that encapsulates the spirit of a town into one building; creative, bohemian and downright eccentric, this 24-bedroom townhouse is at the head of Regency Square and each room is a riot of original artwork and local character.

The Grand Brighton is a traditionally elegant building with a beautiful seafront view. Rooms have been decorated in a classic-meets-contemporary finish and offer beautiful furnishings and interiors.

 

DAY ONE:

 

10:00 THE ROYAL PAVILION & BRIGHTON MUSEUM & ART GALLERY

Start at Brighton’s ode to hedonism, the iconic palace with an Indian exterior and an Oriental inspired interior, the Royal Pavilion. Originally the home of the Prince Regent (later George IV) who set the tone for Brighton to be known as a place to relax and escape the mundanities of everyday life.

The Royal Pavilion’s Basement and Tunnel Tours gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the what life was like below stairs for the servants, including a visit to the tunnel which led to George IV’s royal stables and riding school (now Brighton Dome).

The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is a treasure trove of pieces including Salvador Dali’s Mae West lips sofa. Throughout the year there is an eclectic mix of temporary exhibits and events.

 

13:00 GET LOST IN THE LANES FOR LUNCH

From locally smoked fish to home-brewed beer, Brighton is bursting at the seams with veggie treats, beachfront brunches, fine dining and tasty value options. Nestled in a cobbled back street in the South Lanes, Lost in the Lanes celebrates fresh, healthy food, and exclusive coffees. Smoothies are made to order and smashed avocado comes on sourdough toast.

 

15:00 MEANDER THROUGH WINDING ALLEYWAYS

It’s easy to lose yourself amid the quaint, winding alleyways of The Lanesbrowsing hip boutiques brimming with vintage clothing, sparkling jewellery and all manner of kitsch and quirky goodies. The North Laine and Lanes areas have over 500 independent retailers within a 5 mile radius, and with everything from vintage fashion to contemporary designer homeware, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to sourcing an elegant keepsake.

For a more mainstream shop, there are more than 90 well-known brands under one roof at Churchill Square mall or head to North Laine for colourful shops and independent traders.

 

18:00 LIFT OFF FOR BRITISH AIRWAYS i360

British Airways i360 is a moving observation attraction on Brighton seafront, designed by Marks Barfield, architects of the London Eye. Board a giant glass viewing pod and glide up slowly to 138m to enjoy spectacular 360-degree views of up to 40 miles of Sussex coastline. There is a Sky Bar on board and on certain dates it’s possible to dine, do yoga classes or even abseil down from the open pod doors.

 

19:30 EXPERIENCE THE RENOWNED FOOD SCENE

Brighton city’s food scene has been grabbing headlines for years, from firm veggie favourites like Terre a Terre and Food for Friends to stylish, quirky restaurants like 64 Degrees, and Silo, which prides itself on having zero waste by trading directly with farmers and composting.

Riddle & Finns on the beach offers exactly what it says on the tin – an alfresco terrace perfect for watching the world go by on a balmy afternoon, or dine later in the day to enjoy a summer sunset with a glass or two of bubbly, freshly shucked oysters or a celebratory seafood banquet.  Or check out The Salt Room, Brighton's newest dining hotspot, serving the best of British food - with a particular focus on fish and crustaceans cooked over a real charcoal oven.

 

21:30 CHECK OUT THE INFAMOUS NIGHT SCENE

Famous for its vibrant and varied nightlife, Brighton’s nightspots cater for all tastes from the relaxed to the outrageous. Enjoy drinks whilst watching saucy burlesque acts at Proud Brighton; dance till the early hours of the morning at the popular Concorde 2 and watch top class stand up, theatre and live music at Komedia. In addition, there is a fantastic array of classy cocktail spots, including Mrs Fitzherbert's - a lovely pub in the North Laine that serves craft ales & cocktails.

 

DAY TWO:

 

10:00 TAKE A LOOK AT THE CITY’S STREET ART

The Prince Albert pub under Brighton Station is the site of Banksy’s famous ‘Kissing Policeman’. Wander the streets of the North Laine and you’ll soon see the whole area has become a gallery with everything becoming a canvas – from walls to cable boxes. In addition to street art the city is also home to sculptures. The sculpture trail can be downloaded to guide you around, highlights include the ‘Kiss Wall’ on the seafront featuring six kissing couples and celebrating the diversity of Brighton’s population.
Also on the seafront is ‘Afloat’; the shape is based on the globe where the north and south poles are pushed together forming a central hole, which is why locally the sculpture is known as the doughnut.

 

15:30 BUCKLE UP FOR OLD-SCHOOL THRILLS

The traditional seaside delights of the quintessentially English Brighton Pier is not to be missed, with its old-school dodgems, helter skelter and carousel – not to mention clouds of pink candy floss and sticks of colourful Brighton rock.

 

16:30 EXPLORE THE LEGENDARY BEACHFRONT

Brighton’s quirky promenade is home to a seafront arches full of independent shops selling photography, furniture, fashion and more. As visitors approach the Brighton Pier you can enjoy more traditional seaside pursuits such as Punch & Judy, the carousel or simply sitting back in a deckchair to enjoy the view.

 

17:00 TUCK INTO TRADITIONAL FISH AND CHIPS IN FRONT OF THE PIER

A trip to the seaside city wouldn't be complete without fish n chips, so the Regency Restaurant should be on every visitor’s holiday hit list, for the best crispy batter and superb views of the sea and iconic West Pier.

Despite being ravaged by re in 2003, Brighton’s West Pier still attracts thousands of visitors. Every December, a black cloud drifts across the horizon from as far away as Scandinavia towards the pier’s charred skeleton. Swelling up to 40,000 in number, the starlings come to perform their annual pre-roosting aerial show, known as ‘murmuration’. Their arrival is particularly significant since plummeting numbers have earmarked the starlings as a Species of Conservation Concern.

The best time to catch their hypnotic display is at sunset, the sight of these speckled birds looping and swirling across the rose-tinted sky is simply spellbinding.

 

HOW TO GET HERE:

Air: The nearest major airport is London Gatwick Airport. Regular train services take 30 minutes to the city centre.

Rail: Brighton Station is around one hour from London Victoria Station.

Road: Brighton is just over 50 miles south of London, and is at the end of the A23/M23

48 hours in…Nottinghamshire

Situated in the very heart of England, the county of Nottinghamshire is known as the land of Robin Hood, the heroic outlaw famous for robbing the rich to feed the poor. The legacy of Robin Hood resonates across the county, from the ancient oak trees of Sherwood Forest to the historic city streets of Nottingham, whose Sheriff was Robin’s main adversary.

One of England’s first industrial towns, Nottingham was an important centre for textile manufacturing. During Victorian times, the world’s finest machine made lace came from Nottingham’s Lace Market. As the industry declined, so did the city’s outlook – but today Nottingham’s many impressive examples of Victorian industrial architecture are the bricks of a rejuvenated city, with former 19th-century warehouse buildings converted into independent bars, restaurants and shops.

2017 is VisitEngland’s ‘Year of Literary Heroes’, and besides originating the myth and legend of Robin Hood, the region has other literary connections. Nottingham’s oldest public park, the Arboretum Park is known to be the place that inspired J.M. Barrie’s novel Peter Pan, while beyond the city is the ancestral home of the poet Lord Byron and the birthplace of writer D.H. Lawrence. An inspirational place to these great writers, Nottinghamshire is sure to inspire you too. www.experiencenottinghamshire.com

 

TIME TO CHECK IN:

A 17th-century former farmhouse set in three acres of private grounds to the north of Nottingham, Cockliffe Country House Hotel is undergoing major renovation works, due for completion summer 2017. All guest areas and 11 bedrooms will be luxuriously refurbished, plus there’s a striking new architect designed banqueting room.

A converted Georgian townhouse in central Nottingham, the Lace Market Hotel is a stylish boutique option with 42 bedrooms, a smart restaurant, and its very own pub, the Cock & Hoop for more casual drinking and dining.

Located in Nottingham city centre, Igloo is a cool hostel that pairs vintage and up-cycled furniture with top-notch comforts like memory foam mattresses and flatscreen TV’s. There’s a choice of dorm rooms, sleepboxes, and single, double and family rooms, some with en-suite facilities.

 

DAY ONE:

10:00 SEE A CASTLE FULL OF HISTORICAL & ARTISTIC HERITAGE

Nottingham Castle museum & art gallery stands on the site of a 11th-century Norman castle built to establish the rule of law over this notoriously rebellious city – both the city and castle are associated with the legendary outlaw Robin Hood, as well as with significant kings including William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart, and Richard III. The present building is an elegant Ducal Palace dating from 1678. Gutted by fire in 1831 by protestors demanding electoral reform, it was remodelled and reopened in 1878 as the first municipal art gallery outside London. Today its collection includes fine works by 17th-century Dutch and Northern European masters, as well as renowned contemporary artists including Grayson Perry, Wolfgang Tillmans and Sam Taylor-Johnson.

 

12:00 DISCOVER A HIDDEN WORLD BELOW THE CITY

Deep below the city of Nottingham is a hidden world of over 500 manmade caves, many of which date back to medieval times. The soft sandstone bedrock allowed for these hand-carved caves to be excavated. Many were created for use as pub cellars or storerooms, and some have fascinating historical significance. Beneath Nottingham Castle is a labyrinth of manmade caves that are integral to the castle’s history. In 1330, King Edward III is said to have entered the castle via these secret passageways to stage a coup d’état against his mother, Isabella of France and her lover, Sir Roger Mortimer, who together had conspired to depose and murder his father, Edward II. Mortimer was executed for treason, and his ghost is said to haunt a particular tunnel here known as Mortimer’s Hole. Visitors to Nottingham Castle may join a cave tour for an additional fee.

 

13:15 HAVE A CURIOUS LUNCH

The quirky Curious Manor and Curious Townhouse are surreal spaces for enjoying anything from brunch to late night cocktails, with menus that include burgers, hand stretched pizzas, and splendid afternoon teas. The latest addition Curious Tavern opened in October 2016, serving traditional tavern fare including freshly shucked oysters and hand-pulled cask stout. It’s also home to a new secret bar called Lost Property.

 

14:00 TAKE A ROBIN HOOD OR LACE HERITAGE TOUR

An award-winning tour guide, Ezekial Bone is best known for his Robin Hood Town Tour, visiting places throughout historic Nottingham that tell the story of the legendary outlaw. The tour concludes with a tankard of ale at Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, a historic inn dating from 1189 that claims to be the oldest in England. The city became a major centre for textile manufacturing during Victorian times, with the finest machine made lace in the world coming from here. This fascinating period is the subject of the new Nottingham Lace Market Tour, a 90-minute tour that threads its way around the city’s fine Victorian industrial architecture.

 

16:30 DELVE INTO A LACE ARCHIVE OR A VIDEOGAME MUSEUM

When Nottingham’s lace industry fell into decline, so did the streets surrounding the Lace Market, a neighbourhood known as Hockley. In recent years the area and its well-preserved Victorian buildings has enjoyed a resurgence, and is now home to modern creative and digital industries. Hockley buzzes with pavement cafes and independent shops such as Debbie Bryan, maker of individually hand cast brooches and knitted scarves inspired by British heritage – her studio has regular craft and design classes, and houses a unique Lace Archive. Grand 18th-century Willoughby House is a flagship store of pre-eminent British fashion designer and Nottingham native Paul Smith. Pixelheads may prefer the nostalgia of gaming at the nearby National Videogame Arcade, a playful museum sure to unleash your inner geek.

 

18:00 TOUR A HAUNTED MUSEUM AFTER DARK

A city associated with the outlaw Robin Hood, it’s appropriate that Nottingham’s National Justice Museum has Britain’s largest collection relating to law, justice, crime and punishment. Formerly the Galleries of Justice Museum, it reopened in April 2017 following a £1million refurbishment. New interactive activities and exhibition spaces now complement the museum’s grand Victorian courtrooms, 17th-century dungeon and 19th-century prison cells. As well as displaying many fascinating artefacts, it’s reputedly one of the world’s most haunted buildings and in 2014 was voted the most haunted building in Britain. Not normally accessible to the general public, its darkest and deepest corners are open for chilling Ghost Tours and Terror Tours on Friday and Saturday nights at 6pm.

 

19:30 DINE IN AN HISTORIC BOOTS PHARMACY

The Hockley area of Nottingham has many independent eateries, including Michelin Guide listed The Larder on Goosegate, whose daily changing menu is based around seasonal produce. It occupies a Victorian building that was once home to Jesse Boot’s first apothecary – he transformed M & J Boot, founded by his father in Nottingham in 1849, into one of Britain’s best-known high street retailers, and the restaurant décor retains many heritage and architectural features that echo the building’s history. Or enjoy award-winning North Indian cuisine at MemSaab.

 

DAY TWO:

09:30 GO IN PURSUIT OF AN OUTLAW

Once part of a royal hunting forest, Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve is the legendary stomping ground of Robin Hood. Located 1 hour north of Nottingham by car, the forest covers 450 acres including ancient areas of native woodland. Legend asserts that Robin and his band of Merry Men would hide inside the hollow trunk of an enormous oak tree known as Major Oak, thus evading enemies including the Sheriff Of Nottingham. Standing in the heart of Sherwood Forest, this epic tree is estimated to be between 800 and 1,000 years old, and is so huge that since Victorian times its branches have needed the support of scaffolding. There are numerous trails through the trees and glades, and the forest is free to enter. Held each August is the annual Robin Hood Festival, with live-action re-enactments of Robin Hood’s exploits, plus medieval jousting, jesters and falconry.

 

12:30 HUNT FOR LUNCH

Robin Hood may have been skilled at archery, but with numerous country inns and restaurants around Sherwood Forest, hunting for lunch with a bow and arrow is no longer necessary. On the edge of the forest, the village of Edwinstowe has excellent options including Launay’s, whose seasonal menu fuses English and French cuisine, and Forest Lodge, an award-winning 18th-century coaching inn.

 

14:00 TAKE A LITERARY PILGRIMAGE

The famous writer D.H. Lawrence was born in 1885 in a red brick miner’s cottage in Eastwood, 30 minutes north west of Nottingham by car. Now the D. H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum, its authentically recreated interiors offer an insight into the writer’s formative years. Awarded a VisitEngland ‘Hidden Gem’ accolade in 2016, it’s also a fascinating snapshot of what life was like in a small mining community during Victorian times. For more literary connections, nearby Newstead Abbey was the ancestral home of the poet Lord Byron, and is also open to the public.

 

Or…

If you’d prefer to pamper your body, spend the afternoon at a luxury day spa. Surrounded by countryside in the east of the county, award-winning Eden Hall Day Spa is a peaceful sanctuary set in a beautiful old mansion. Or head farther north to the historic Ye Olde Bell Hotel. This AA 4-star Rosette hotel has a brand new purpose-built £multi-million spa open from Spring 2017, with state-of-the-art amenities including an indoor to outdoor vitality hydropool, Sabbia Med Sunlight Therapy, and Britain’s first and only ‘snowstorm’ spa experience.

 

19:30 HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL DINNER

Head back into Nottingham for a global smorgasbord of drinking and dining options. Nottingham’s newest bar and eatery is Bavarian-style The Bierkeller. Or enjoy world tapas at Bar Iberico, a new and casual sister venue to Iberico, a fine dining restaurant and Nottinghamshire’s only Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand entry.

 

HOW TO GET HERE:

Nottinghamshire is a county in the heart of England. Its principle city, Nottingham, is 1h 40m north of London by train. Located just over 30 minutes south west of the city, East Midlands Airport is a hub for budget airlines Jet2.com and Ryanair, with flights from many European cities.