Ah, another month, another lockdown. Do you feel like the walls are closing in? Are you fed up seeing the same old familiar sights on your daily trip out the house? Kids driving you crazy? No one anticipated this going on for so long. Here at Ellie & Co, we’re trying to find ways to get excited for our lockdown reality – not resist it – by trying to see our city as an outdoor adventure playground, as a temporary alternative to our usual cultural entertainments, coffee meet-ups and social get togethers. Today, we’re picking up where we left off after our week of secret Brighton adventures at the start of Lockdown #1 with a few more ideas. To spice things up a bit, you could prepare a picnic lunch, a flask of coffee – something stronger if you need it – put on your cosy clothes, a fedora hat, maybe and start strolling.
Explore A different neighbourhood
We do it on holiday so why not do it in our own city? A good place to start is with this neighbourhood I’ve named the ‘Notting Hill of Brighton’, for its plush whitewashed Regency-era homes, some of the most beautiful – and most expensive – in Brighton and Hove.
Another way to get out your locale is to go in search of the city’s hidden streets with this handy guide to all the ones I’ve discovered in Brighton so far. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I’m a fan of seafront side streets, some of the most charming to be found in Kemp Town.
Take yourself on a culture date
So we can’t go inside a museum just yet, but we can see some culture outside in Brighton. Not far from the Notting Hill of Brighton is this incredible secret museum of curiosities in a shop window. This miniature collection of natural history finds started by Brighton teenager, Anna, a few years ago, which she adds to whenever she can. People love it so much they leave donations.
Brighton is full of street art to discover on a walk around town, but here’s an alternative way to take yourself on an artist date: find Brighton’s tiniest art gallery in an old red London phone box. It’s hard to imagine they were once ever derelict and exhibits change regularly.
Meanwhile, down on the seafront near the West Pier you’ll find another outdoor gallery, which every year hosts the Brighton and Hove Camera Club annual exhibition.
Discover Salvador Dali hiding in a corner of the North Laine…
Find clues to the city’s past
On a walk around central Brighton, don’t miss this abandoned architectural treasure on Middle Street, the city’s incredible sleeping theatre: Brighton Hippodrome, which very few people are allowed inside. If you stand on the other side of the road from what was once the main entrance, you can still see the original signage above the front canopies, as well as another impressive entrance– the only surviving example of its type in the UK – which horses and other animals were once led through to the side of the stage. Grab your copy of my guide to Secret Brighton to find out more impressive facts!
Not far from the Hippodrome is the site of a former gem. Although this beautiful building which housed Brighton’s forgotten flower market is long gone, it’s nice to find where it once stood and imagine the golden era of grand market halls. You’ll find it in central Brighton, close to this hidden vintage shop, where Black Lion Street and Market Street meet each other.
Taking a treasure hunt for ghost signs around the city is a fun way to learn the city’s past. Brighton is filled with them, like the one for the old Langham Hotel (above) on Western Road in Hove. All you need to do is look up and pay attention to what’s around.
Immediately east of Brighton marina at low tide, you can spot remnants of Brighton’s perilous floating railway – basically a train on legs – that once ran through the sea. You can follow the remains of the tracks all the way to Rottingdean, where the world’s most famous actress spent the day Audrey Hepburn in 1951 for her first photoshoot. Who knew?
Do some window shopping
If Aladdin had a shop in Brighton, this would be it. Even if it’s closed right now, Blackout Shop is a sight for sore eyes on a grey drizzly walk through town.
Peek through the window of this 1960s time capsule chocolate shop and start planning what you’re going to pick out when it opens again.
As you walk around, spare a thought for all of the local independent shops that are being hit hard by this third lockdown.
Look out for curiosities
Brighton is full of oddities, which you find everywhere. My favourite architectural curiosities are houses with turrets, which I love spotting on my travels, like this one, which got lots of comments on Instagram.
I love this mural on the front of Bowen Court in Hove which I see on my morning run to the seafront. I’ve wanted to find out more since spotting it. If anyone knows anything…
These old green-tiled pub facades make me stop in my tracks, like this one of the former Rose Hill Tavern in Clyde Road at Preston Circus which is now a performance venue, also called The Rose Hill.
Then there’s mini house tucked along one of the city’s hidden streets.
Seek out the quiet spaces
You’ll find my perfect place for a secret sea view picnic at the Kemp Town end of the seafront, not far from the entrance to the mysterious Kemp Town enclosures which are said to have inspired the story of Alice in Wonderland.
While everyone else strolls around Preston Park, head over to my secret Brighton garden nearby, with its lily pond and bizarre miniature pet graveyard.
You won’t find it on the tourist board website, any official maps, or find sign posts to show you the way. Thousands of visitors come to enjoy Preston Park every year, but very few know that hidden away in the rock garden opposite – one of the city’s best-kept secrets in itself – is a magical waterfall.
Hidden from plain sight in the middle of an inner-city Brighton housing estate are three acres of lush, wild landscape overlooking the city and the sea. This little heavenly sanctuary is known as the Whitehawk Nature Reserve. It’s also home to a secret city orchard with a distant sea view.
Here’s a new walk we can take around the gardens I think you might love… When you live somewhere for a long time, it’s easy to stop ‘seeing’ it, you forget to slow down and take in your surroundings, and stop noticing the little details. To help slow down, here’s a magical guided walk I think you might love.
Grab a take-out treat
You’ll still find the odd cafe and restaurants in the city open for take aways, which you could visit as part of your walk around town. Here are a few favourites serving take out:
Pick up a delicious Ottolenghi-inspired lunch at this cosy neighbourhood gem in Fiveways, or the legendary Brighton falafel house, Smorl’s, in the Open Market, where you’ll find lots of other little shops open for things like fruit and vegetables, eggs, Greek food, honey, refills etc
Pay a visit to authentic French bakery, the Real Patisserie for a delicious pastries, quiches and sandwiches, also serving coffee
Grab a wholesome vegan budda bowl to go from the Real Junk Food Project’s new café on Gardner Street, available from 1pm, Wednesday to Sunday
Grab a hearty portion of fish and chips from the oldest chippy in the city, Bardsley’s, open for takeaway
Adventure awaits with the keys to the city
There are so many places in Brighton that could really use our collective and individual support right now – small museums, neighbourhood holdouts, independent shops and family-run businesses. Many of them you’ll find in my book, and if I can help guide just one more person to their doorstep, then I’ll shamelessly plug this book to the very end. Unlock more of brighton’s city secrets with Secret Brighton: An Unusual Guide.