Please note our writer visited Devon prior to the coronavirus pandemic
All-season Brighton offers elbow room in its quirky pubs in winter, alongside bracing walks watching the sea work itself into a fine fury. As for sunny weekends, the choices are many: mooch through the North Laine alleys, play the pier or find that perfect antique in The Lanes. And though Brighton’s reputation for naughty weekend trysts gave rise to the city’s b&bs, nowadays, they’re more about boutique glamour than seedy hideaway. Here’s our pick of the best bed and breakfasts in Brighton.
The narrow, salt-flecked Victorian townhouse, tucked away in a small Kemp Town side street, is reminiscent of many seaside boarding houses, but that’s where the similarity ends. Nineteen is aeons away from the candlewick brigade; an arbiter of the new millennial-style b&b. Inside, cool-white halls with vast ceilings display an eclectic collection of modern art, several from acclaimed Brighton artists. Rooms have a contemporary feel with pops of seaside colour and the odd mid-century modern pick. The lower ground-floor Gin Den doubles as the breakfast room where a delicious breakfast sets you up for the day.
Behind the staid door of this imposing double-fronted Victorian villa on St George’s Terrace is a cavern of funky retro and vintage delights – a colour-clashing throwback to the Seventies, with many bedrooms paying homage to all things groovy. There are eight rooms, including two attic suites. Doubles are fairly spacious and all individually styled with reclaimed treats from flying ducks and old tin Tizer signs to classic Seventies wallpaper, kitsch canvases and Robin Day recliners. Breakfast is served in the ground-floor reception-cum-breakfast room, or if you’re staying in a suite, by room service – don’t miss the veggie full English or the Snooze BLT with crispy bacon, vine tomatoes and rocket.
This tall, slate-grey Georgian townhouse was built around the same time as the Royal Pavilion. While it’s not quite as bonkers as the exotic seaside pleasure palace, built for the George, Prince of Wales (later George IV) in the late 18th century, the plush interior mirrors the opulence favoured by the party prince with a wealth of gilt, mahogany and chinoiserie. All five rooms, named after the Prince Regent’s inner circle, come equipped with David Bramwell’s entertaining Cheeky Guide to Brighton, which is highly recommended reading, especially when accompanied by one (or three) of Diego’s freshly baked madeleines. Breakfast is a pleasingly elegant affair, served in the period dining room.
This small but luxurious Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse, set next to the Palace Pier and looking out to sea, feels more like a boutique hotel than a b&b. Nine of the 10 rooms have at least a partial sea view and all are slightly different. Try and bag the roof terrace room at the top of the house which has a balcony from which you can watch the wind whip up the waves and folk strolling along the pier. Breakfast is taken in the bright morning room and includes a buffet of croissants and fruit, plus cooked options of either a full English that makes the most of quality local produce.
The Claremont is a peaceful alternative to Brighton’s central hotels. With its elegant black-and-white tiled lobby, grand staircase and spacious rooms, the b&b’s design beautifully melds period details with contemporary furnishings. Paintings, prints and sculptures by local artists reflect the owners’ involvement with the Artists Open Houses events and all works are for sale. During the May festival, the hotel also stages fringe events. A dreamy walled garden to the rear – a rare find in this city – offers an idyllic place to linger over vintage cream teas or a G&T on a summer’s evening. There’s no restaurant, but the elegant chandeliered front room serves up an excellent breakfast which, on fine days, you can enjoy in the walled garden.
This charming guest house in a beautiful whitewashed Victorian villa is just 100 metres from Kemp Town’s seafront and boasts its own plant-decked patio garden alongside three rooms with sit-out balconies. Downstairs, the modern breakfast room has a fun vibe with a candy striped feature wall, lime-green banquettes and yet more Brighton-themed artwork. The menu includes a top-notch full English, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, and creamy wild mushrooms on toasted brioche, all using locally sourced ingredients. If the sun is shining, there’s an option to eat outside on the small patio.
This friendly and informal boutique – one of the more established in Kemp Town – offers bright and cheerful rooms. It’s less than a five-minute stroll from the lively bars, independent restaurants and rather eclectic shops on St James’s Street, as well as the seafront. Inside, it’s all high corniced ceilings and ornate Victorian detailing mixed with contemporary exposed brick features and a smattering of trendy artwork by Brighton artists. Owners Garry and Derek pride themselves on going the extra mile for guests, and their award-winning breakfasts are not to be missed: expect omelettes, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, excellent cafetiere coffee, veggie fry-ups and plenty of locally sourced goodies.
Spread over two early 19th-century townhouses in Kemp Town, this charmingly quirky and informal b&b was one of the first vegetarian-friendly hotels in the city. Though now catering for all tastes, vegetarians still favour Paskins — reassured that little has changed since its inception. Though generally small in size, many of the rooms feature Art Deco wallpaper, 1920s junk-shop finds and period furniture. No two rooms are alike. Breakfasts are a big part of what makes it so great. They make their own vegan sausages, veggie fritters and source organic meat, eggs and tomatoes from local farms. A help-yourself buffet precedes out-of-the-ordinary dishes like sardines or anchovies with scrambled eggs.