One of the most noticeable features of the Brighton landscape is the giant Ferris wheel that sits just below the East Cliff, next to the Brighton Pier. Having just been built in October 2011, it’s one of the newest additions to the popular seaside resort town’s existing wealth of attractions.
Early names for this giant carnival ride included the Brighton O and the Wheel of Excellence. But in the end, it was called the Brighton Wheel. Its location in the East Cliff area caused controversy when the project was announced due to its planned location in a conservation area that is home to many historic residential structures as well as huge nature preserve.
In the 18th century, this part of Brighton was the most fashionable place to live. Some of the town’s earliest attractions were built here, such as the Royal Suspension Chain Pier, the Brighton Aquarium and Volk’s Electric Railway. In 1973, 150 acres around East Cliff was designated a natural conservation area.
Protests to the Ferris wheel poured in from all sides. Hotels like the Metropole argued that it impeded the views from its property, with the views themselves partly warranting the hotel’s expensive room rates. Residents complained that it would add too much tourism congestion to their historic district of homes and shops. Nature lovers argued that the wheel was a blight on the otherwise undeveloped conservation area that was created in 1973.
In the end, however, the Brighton Wheel’s developers won the battle and the attraction was built. Rising 150 feet in the air, the Ferris wheel contains 36 gondolas that were shipped in from South Africa. The project cost £6 million to complete and the owners claim it will create 30 new jobs for Brighton and attract an additional 250,000 visitors to the town each year.
It seems unlikely that the attraction will lure that many additional tourists just to ride a Ferris wheel, but it has proven a popular activity for visitors. Whether or not it can generate as much business and buzz as the London Eye remains to be seen. But one thing that can’t be argued is the fact that this wheel clearly dominates the landscape of the East Cliff district.
The ride opens at 10:00 everyday, running until 20:00 on weekdays and 23:00 on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets cost £8 per ride for an adult and £6.50 for kids aged 4 to 16. It’s possible to hire out the entire gondola, which can hold six adults and two children, for £45 a ride, and if you have something special to celebrate you can buy the VIP Champagne Experience and ride in the smallest, most intimate gondola.
The ride lasts about 12 minutes and provides inspiring views over the sea and Brighton. The most popular times to take a ride are sunset and at night, as the lights are spectacular. So prepare to wait a while for your turn if you want to catch a Brighton sunset from the loftiest perspective.
More information and tickets: www.brightonwheel.com