The Grand in Brighton is an iconic seafront hotel steeped in history dating back to 1864. I am staying here tonight in one of the remodelled sea facing rooms and it is truly an experience to recommend. The hotel has been going though quite a period of refurbishment and some of the sea facing rooms which have been compromised by scaffolding have been selling at very reasonable rates. Hence my stay tonight. I have a huge double bed, a lounge area, a dressing room, a bathroom that is as big as my bedroom at home ( with two sinks!) and a LOCKED DOOR. ( I wonder what is behind there?)
I have dressing gowns and slippers provided, plus an array of lovely designer toiletries. The bath is, quite frankly, a wonder and I spend a good hour in there after dinner. I couldn’t really think of a good reason to get out. I’m feeling a bit selfish in that I have SO much space (and I’m not very big). I think about the homeless people outside a few metres away sleeping in doorways and i wonder what they would make of this. I certainly feel I should call Andy or one of the kids and insist they drive up here now so that they can experience this with me.
The Grand was originally built to offer an exclusive seaside experience to Victorian ladies and gentlemen and amongst other attractions, could boast the first hydraulic lift as one of its many stand out features. It was built on the site of a battery and apparently is still the most expensive of the Brighton hotels. It’s 4 star rating is well deserved and if you appreciate exemplary service, a superior spa and even a brand new seafood restaurant, I can guarantee you will enjoy your stay.
In the early morning hours of 12th October 1984 the Grands’ history changed forever when it was bombed by the IRA. The Conservative Party Conference was on at the time in Brighton and most delegates were staying at The Grand. At 2:51am the bomb (which had been planted behind the bath panel in room 629 (currently 621) and had been designed to eliminate the entire Thatcher cabinet, tore through the hotel killing 5 people and injuring 39. I was a first year undergraduate studying just up the road at Sussex University in Falmer in 1984 when the news broke, and I vividly remember wandering down to the seafront in the days that at followed and being mesmerised by the beautiful building that had been literally ripped apart. It looked like a massive wrecking ball had smashed into the fascia. The hotel eventually reopened some 18 months after the bombing and Margaret Thatcher spoke at the reception.
I didn’t visit Brighton much in the 90’s but in the last few years, because I need to be in Brighton a couple of times a month, my love affair with Brighton and The Grand has been rekindled. Whenever I return to this beautiful Victorian hotel, I am transported to a bygone age – vintage cars, ladies in crinoline and enthusiastic bathers in stripey cover-all swim suits. The majestic sweeping staircase has me daydreaming about flouncing down the staircase in huge hooped skirt with a parasol and taking a stroll along the pier, perhaps accompanied by a gentleman sporting a natty bowler and a tweed suit.
Brighton for me IS the Grand Hotel and although it’s bombing by the IRA in 1984 is one of the saddest points in its illustrious history, it also underlines the strength and tenacity of a hotel from a bygone age that is still flourishing in the 21st century. And flourish it does. I drew up today in the car park and had to steer my little Mini through a veritable array of personal plated Porches and top of the range Audi’s. My little car felt positively inferior… but the valet who greeted me was so welcoming and attentive, I immediately felt SPECIAL … and that’s the key to what this place does. It makes you feel like a queen for a day/night …and nothing compares with that.
The building itself is nothing short of breathtaking, It is epic in proportion and though it’s facade for the last year or so has been hidden under ugly scaffolding, it is a portrait of grandeur slightly diminished, never lost. Today the Grand is rebuilt and has been through a number of updates and owners. It is the epitome of grandeur and luxury and actually the price to stay is not as much as you would think. The Grand King Suite on the 7th floor for example is approx £400 per night. However, on my present company budget I was delighted to get one of the last remaining scaffolding affected rooms for £100. These will normally retail double that, and more in high season. Are they worth it? Oh yes! From the array of gorgeously scented toiletries to the ‘his and hers’ bathrobes and slippers, a bath the size of a football pitch and separate walk in shower and the double sink, (still can’t get over that), this is a taste of luxury. On top of that of course the hotel faces onto one of the most beautiful and famous beaches in the UK, made famous by Quadrophenia and Brighton Rock.
The food and drink is superb and the staff are attentive but not overly so, and although the Hilton next door tries to compete, its not quite the same. I say this not to be disparaging about the Hilton, (I stay there far more often than The Grand as it much more affordable) but it doesn’t have the special something that makes the Grand what it is.
The famous Brighton Lanes are 5 minutes walk away and the beach less than a minute making this old fashion luxury with a modern twist, Brighton being one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the country. I just wish I could afford to stay here more, but sadly with the scaffolding coming down and most of the rooms nearly finished, the discounts are diminishing and it’s back to the Hilton for me. Did I mention what a nice hotel the Hilton is?