Whether you love it or loathe it, there’s no denying that a lot of people seem to have strong opinions about the BA i360 in Brighton! The tower, once heralded as Brighton’s ‘vertical pier’ has come in for a lot of criticism from pier ‘purists’. So we thought that we’d visit with an open mind (and a fully charged camera!) to see what all the fuss is about.

On busy days you have to book your ‘flight’ tickets in advance online http://britishairwaysi360.com/tickets-and-prices/ but we were lucky to visit in December so could purchase tickets from one of the reconstructed West Pier toll booths for the next flight.

Once we had our tickets we waited to board our flight in the waiting area, which provides information and some great time-lapse footage of the tower being built. Inside the pod is clean and there is a bar where you can purchase a celebratory in-flight champagne, should the mood take you. It’s a strange feeling looking up at the sheer enormity of the tower from inside the pod.

Our flight began, and the ride was so smooth you could barely tell that you were moving. Of course our main focus was on the West Pier, and we began snapping away. You have about 25 minutes of flight time, so our attention was then drawn to the Palace Pier. We were reminded of the views of Central and South Piers in Blackpool from the top of the Tower. The one thing that we did find odd was that we couldn’t pick out the Pavilion clearly, but could see Brighton football ground, the South Downs, and a great view of Hove in the December sunshine.

The pod made its slow descent and we disembarked to the obligatory gift shop. A mug and a fridge magnet later we emerged to one of Sussex’s most spectacular sights: Starlings over the West Pier!

As dusk settled in and the starlings descended to their roosts, we made our way over to the West Pier Centre which is currently housed in one of the arches, although the West Pier Trust are currently busy refurbishing one of the original West Pier Kiosks for future use https://www.westpier.co.uk/west-pier-kiosk/ We were really impressed by the Trust’s ‘Golden Spiral’ which comprises 24 of the original columns from the Pier.

At the centre of the spiral is a plaque to Eugenius Birch, the great pier designer and engineer. Of course, 2018 sees the 200th birthday of Eugenius Birch, and the National Piers Society will be celebrating this in style at one of Mr Birch’s other great piers: Blackpool North Pier!