Dieppe

Perhaps it was the weather. Or a choppy ferry crossing. Whatever the reason, my first trip to Dieppe several years ago left me most uninspired. But a recent long weekend changed my perception completely.

Cliffs, almost orange in colour, loom on the horizon when approaching by sea followed by Dieppe Castle and then individual seafront blocks. Dieppe’s lawns aren’t dissimilar to Hove’s and a number of impressive buildings certainly do exist along the promenade. The overall effect is unfortunately spoilt by a multitude of post-war buildings on sites which really should only exemplify architecture of the highest quality.

The slim, tall and charming buildings surrounding Dieppe’s marina paint an entirely different picture though and this is where my friends and I, having travelled from Brighton Marina by boat (thanks Andy!), spent much of our short break. Almost all of the buildings around the marina are interesting in some way and many are cleverly lit at night. Their charm only increases when viewed as a background to the many different boats which call the marina home. I thought of Hove when I saw the marina’s unashamedly modern street lamps which are a welcome and positive addition to the streetscape.

The town centre, beside the marina and behind the large seafront buildings, contains relatively low buildings – except for the dominant Church of St. Jacques. Whilst the town is far from pristine in terms of both cleanliness and condition of buildings, it is at least the case that quality materials are being used on the various historic structures. In many cases, I found it difficult to tell recent repairs from old additions.

It would be unfair to compare Dieppe with Paris just like Newhaven can’t be compared with London. Dieppe’s strengths and weaknesses should be considered against those of Newhaven, or even Brighton Marina.

Imagine arriving at Brighton Marina by yacht as a foreigner visiting England for the first time. Or Newhaven by ferry. What is there to do and see? What is there in the way of noteworthy architecture (other than the delightful Newhaven Fort of course!)?

Dieppe may not have amazing restaurants or museums and it can be awfully quiet on certain days. But, at a fraction of the size of my beloved Brighton, it’s tiny, so tit’s hardly surprising. As an extremely accessible historic destination, Dieppe is perfect – and it shames both Brighton Marina and Newhaven in so many ways.