From eclectic and hip to historic and refined, this two-night mini-break showcases the diversities of Sussex whilst providing you with a hearty dose of culture, wellbeing, and fine fettle!
The mini-break is a thing of great beauty! It’s short, so you can overindulge and overspend free of guilt (well, free-ish). And it’s short (did I mention that), so you can get really creative. Gone are the days of the one destination mini-break which had you trudging around a town before retiring to your hotel room. All hail, the slightly schizophrenic mini-break which has eccentricities in mind. And whether you’re Sussex born and bred or from foreign parts (i.e. beyond our Sussex borders) this one is a bit of a corker!
Day 1 Brighton
Arrive early afternoon for some quick exploring. If you’ve never been to Brighton before, the Royal Pavilion is the place to start. This insanely decadent and dashingly exotic royal palace designed in a combination of Chinese and Indian styles includes huge chandeliers, dragons, exquisitely detailed wallpapers and décor, and a banqueting hall like few others.
Choose the timing of your visit to coincide with the many events hosted here. For example, this year they are hosting the extraordinary The Regency Wardrobe exhibition (extraordinary because the stunning costumes are made out of paper) and in May, there is also an evening of “Operatic Adventures & Decadent Dining” which includes Mozart’s glorious “Cosi fan Tutte” and Gioachino Rossini. If you have time, pop over to the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery in the Pavilion grounds. This contains an extraordinary collection of oddities and at the moment there is a retrospective exhibition of US born Sussex based photographer, Marilyn Stafford.
Once you’ve indulged in a healthy dose of culture, head to your hotel and check-in (if you haven’t already) and then head back out to the British Airways i360 tour for 360-degree views of Brighton from 450 feet. If you can, book a night flight (although the times of their last flights of the day do vary). They have various events coming up that might tickle your fancy and which include a Summer Solstice Sunrise Flight, a gin tasting, and a sparkling wine tasting flight. The gin is locally made Brighton Gin and the wine is from Nyetimber, a West Sussex vineyard. Happy days.
If that doesn’t appeal, head down the road to the circular building on King’s Road at the bottom of West Street (and overlooking the sea) for champagne and oysters at Riddle & Finns. No booking is required but if they’re busy you can put your name on their waitlist and walk along the seafront to the Pier. Or just head to the Art Deco bar right next to the i360 for cocktails. The Theatre Royal is just next to the Pavilion grounds and is one of the oldest theatres in the country. If you want to take in a show while you’re here, this is a good place to start.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of restaurants to choose from whilst in Brighton including The Ivy, etch. in Church Road, Hove (which holds a Michelin Plate and 3 AA Rosettes), and Rockwater which wins our vote for its super stylish roof terrace and beach location. There are plenty of nightclubs and bars in town too or you might want to head back to your hotel to enjoy cocktails in the bar.
Day 2 Saturday morning in Brighton
Why not start your morning with yoga on the beach or a quick sea dip? If you are not an experienced sea swimmer, you really must join a proper group for this such as Brighton Sports Company which you’ll find in the Kings’s Road Arches on the seafront and where you can also hire bikes. There are plenty of yoga classes on offer, such as at the Beach House at Hove Lawns, or just take your own mat down to the beach.
Before you leave Brighton, you must head to the eclectic Lanes. North Laine is the bohemian quarter, full of vintage shops, street food, buskers, brightly painted buildings and flea markets. Heading back to the seafront, the South Lanes are a slightly posher affair, with lots of independent boutiques, jewellery and antique shops, and restaurants.
Where to stay in Brighton
Again, there are hundreds of hotels and Airbnb to choose from but for total “in your face” cool, we love the Hotel Pelirocco (in the very central Regency Square) with their themed room and cocktails!
Trains run from London and Gatwick to Brighton pretty much every 15 mins. Parking is expensive but there is a free park and ride on the outskirts of Brighton (just off the A23). There are plenty of taxis and bike / e-bike hire is plentiful.
Day 2 Arundel
From the uber-hip Brighton, you experience a complete gear change and culture shift as you head to historic Arundel. And once again, you may wish to time your visit with what’s on in the town. In April, there is the Tulip Festival, in June there is Medieval week and in July there is jousting. Of course, any visit to Arundel has to include a visit to the castle which dominates the town like a benevolent grand aunt. Although it’s been substantially rebuilt, the castle dates back to the Norman invasion and you can visit the Norman Keep, Medieval Gatehouse, the Barbican, vast hall and Victorian bedrooms. The castle has an impressive collection of furniture, tapestries and paintings by renowned artists including Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Canaletto.
With the castle under your belt, head off and explore the grounds – The Collector Earl’s Garden is a must with its Italianate water feature and with the cathedral in the background. Alternatively, take a walk on the wild side by heading into Arundel’s majestic park where you can loop round to Swanbourne Lake and take in some heady views and rolling landscapes. If you’re too tired for any walking, just browse the many antique shops in town.
If you really want to push the boat out on your mini-break, head to Amberley Castle for dinner where you will enjoy outstanding cuisine in either the magnificent Queen’s Room, with its barrel-vaulted ceiling, or in The Great Room, built in 1165. If castle dining is not for you, try The Parsons Table in Tarrant Street in Arundel which gets a mention in the Michelin Guide. Or if you’re after something a bit livelier, it’s the Arundel Jailhouse for you. This charismatic venue hosts all sorts of events from murder mystery, live jazz, comedy and sometimes a few ghost stories too.
Where to stay in Arundel
If you’re driving and want somewhere divine, head to the Pig on the South Downs in nearby Madehurst. If you’ve come by train and don’t want to have to travel far to your bed after your evening excursions, The Swan and the Norfolk Arms both offer accommodation, or you might want to sample the delights of The Town House.
By car from Brighton to Arundel, just head back up the A23 until it meets the junction with the A27 and head west or drive along the seafront and then take the A27. It’s about 20 miles and should take just over half an hour. You arrive at the feet of Arundel. You can also travel by train along the coast to Barnham where you need to change or head by train back up to Three Bridges and Gatwick and change there. Both routes by train from Brighton to Arundel take about an hour and a half.
Day 3 Before you head home
There’s just time for a couple of more treats. How about investigating the town’s brewing history with a visit to the Brewhouse Project and Taproom for brunch. Too early for beer? Try a quick boat trip down the River Arun to the Black Rabbit (you’ll need to book if you want lunch) or head out of the town and go for a walk on the stunning South Downs.
If you’re staying in Brighton or Arundel or you’re planning a Sussex mini break, you may also be interested in: