A Brighton stroll

A fascinating and diverse trail around one of England's newest cities




4.25 miles (6.8kms)

164ft (50m)
2hrs 30min

About the walk

Brighton began life as a small fishing town, labouring under the name of ‘Brighthelmstone’, but it was Dr Richard Russell who really put it on the map in 1754 when he transformed the modest settlement into one of Britain’s most famous resorts. Dr Russell believed fervently in the curative properties of sea water, and he began to promote Brighton as somewhere where the ailing could regain their health. Part of the cure included being towed out to the sea in horse-drawn bathing machines and plunged underwater by people employed as ‘dippers’. It certainly caused a boom in the little fishing settlement, which became dubbed ‘Doctor Brighton’.

The Prince Regent, who later became George IV, helped to strengthen Brighton’s new-found status by moving to a house which he then transformed into the Royal Pavilion. The town’s genteel Regency terraces and graceful crescents reflect his influence on Brighton. The Old Steine, an area of grass now dominated by busy traffic, became a fashionable strolling ground.

Later still, the railway era attracted visitors and holidaymakers in their thousands, boosting the town’s economy to unprecedented new heights. As a seaside town Brighton has always been a mix of ‘the raucous and the refined’ as one writer described it. In 2000 the united boroughs of Brighton and Hove were awarded city status by the late Queen Elizabeth II, one of three ‘millennium cities’ to be favoured in this way.

Brighton changes in mood from one quarter to the next. The main reminder of Brighton’s fishing-town origins as 16th-century Brighthelmstone is in a knot of picturesque tiny streets and alleys known as The Lanes, just in from the seafront. Further north is the area known as the North Laine, with its strikingly individual shops and cafés. West of the Palace Pier are Brunswick Square and Hove. To the east lies Kemptown, with its grandiose seaside architecture reaching a climax at the elegant curves of Lewes Crescent.

For sheer eccentricity, few buildings in Europe can rival the 18th-century Royal Pavilion, which looks stunning at night when floodlit. Even in the daytime, this Oriental fantasy, characterised by exuberant spires, minarets and onion domes, cannot escape your notice. Designed by the architect John Nash, it is Indian style outside, but inside the mood is of festive chinoiserie. Next door to it is the Dome, built in 1806, originally used as stables and a riding school for the Prince Regent. Across Pavilion Gardens, the Brighton Art Museum and Gallery is free to enter, and has an excellent section on the development of the town.

Walk directions

From the front of Brighton Railway Station, keep the Queen’s Head on your right and walk down Queen’s Road, heading for the sea. Cross over North Road and continue down to the junction with North Street. Turn left here at the clock tower.

Turn left into the broad, largely pedestrianised New Road. Pass the Theatre Royal on the left and on the right is the Brighton Dome Pavilion Theatre. Note the striking façade of the Unitarian church. Bear right into Church Street and pass alongside the Corn Exchange, part of the Brighton Dome. Keep the Pavilion on your right, pass the George IV monument and veer right. Just after three Art Deco bus shelters cross Castle Square into Old Steine and look for the YMCA and adjacent Marlborough House on the right. Originally built for the 4th Duke of Marlborough, the latter was sold in 1786 and later transformed by Robert Adam.

Turn right at some iron bollards and go along a pedestrianised walk simply called ‘Avenue’. Cross over East Street and, just after the handsome town hall on the left (located in Bartholomews), bear right into Market Street, passing Nile Street. Continue into Brighton Place. You are now in the district known as The Lanes. Veer left opposite the red-brick former 1835 House of Correction into Meeting House Lane, turning right at the junction in front of the Friends Meeting House entrance and keeping left at the next junction. Just after the Bath Arms, turn left into Union Street, then left again into Ship Street towards the seafront where, after dark, you can see the flashing lights of a huge array of off-shore wind turbines. Veer left here and then continue to the Palace Pier.

Fork left by the Sea Life Centre and then follow Marine Parade. Pass Royal Crescent on the left, and the Madeira Lift on the right.

Opposite Bristol Court and Paston Place at a signpost to Kemptown, take the steps on the right, descending to the Volks Railway. Travel back to the terminus or return along the pavement to the Sea Life Centre, passing the statue of a local athlete, the Olympic gold medallist Steve Ovett. Cross into Old Steine, pass the YHA on your left and bear round with the road to the right, past Avenue, before turning left into Castle Square.

Take the second right through the India Gateway and the Pavilion Gardens and past the Royal Pavilion and Museum and Art Gallery to another ornamental gateway. Turn left. Pass the Royal Pavilion and turn left into Church Street. Turn right into Gardner Street, through the North Laine area, and follow signs to the station, turning right and immediately left at the end into Kensington Gardens. Turn right and then left into Sydney Street, and left up Trafalgar Street to return to the station.

Additional information

Pavements, streets, squares and promenade

The heart of Brighton and its famous seafront

On lead at all times

OS Explorer OL11 Brighton & Hove

Various pay car parks close to station

Several on seafront; Royal Pavilion Gardens

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About the area

Discover East Sussex

East Sussex, along with its western counterpart, is packed with interest. This is a land of stately homes and castles, miles of breezy chalk cliffs overlooking the English Channel, pretty rivers, picturesque villages and links to our glorious past. Mention Sussex to many people and images of the South Downs immediately spring to mind – ‘vast, smooth, shaven, serene,’ as the writer Virginia Woolf described them. She and her husband lived at Monk’s House in the village of Rodmell, near Lewes, and today, her modest home is managed by the National Trust and open to the public.

There are a great many historic landmarks within Sussex, but probably the most famous is the battlefield where William, Duke of Normandy defeated Harold and his Saxon army to become William the Conqueror of England. By visiting Battle, near Hastings, you can, with a little imagination, picture the bloody events that led to his defeat. East Sussex’s pretty towns such as Lewes, Rye and Uckfield have their charms, while the city of Brighton offers museums and fascinating landmarks, the best-known and grandest feature being the Royal Pavilion. 


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