Friday, 2 September 2016

Exploring England: Arundel Castle



When I initially heard about Arundel Castle, my first thought was of course Frozen. This Castle, built at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel, does look like it could've come straight out of the Disney fairy tale, and while the town's name sounds like Arendelle too (inspired by it, perhaps?), it is actually not imaginary but is nestled among the hills of West Sussex. We did not find Elsa, Anna and the gang during our visit, but we did see an impressive stately home, incredible gardens, a falconry display, and even a battle of the time periods.




The town of Arundel is less than 90 minutes from London by train (departing Victoria Station) and I am astonished that I didn't hear about such a fascinating destination close to where I live until a few months ago. Friend and I were planning our theatre outing to Chichester and what to see along the way and that's when I first read about this castle. As we saw it was closed the day we were driving down, we planned to go over the Bank Holiday weekend instead.

And of course since making this decision, the magnificent castle and gardens are suddenly everywhere, as two people I know also visited in recent weeks (separately), without any of us talking about the castle prior. Very strange but a good thing regardless as everyone needs to see this stunning stately home!






Once we booked our train tickets (which can be as cheap as £10 for a return, though we waited just too long and so our tickets were £13.50 each) we perused the website for the various different ticket options to access the castle and gardens, ranging from £9 for just the grounds and gardens to £18 including various rooms within the castle. Just as we were discussing this I received an email from the PR company working with the castle with information on a great range of theatrical performances they were organising (as I, of course, cover a lot of theatre on my blog).

Unfortunately we weren't able to attend any as they finished too late for us to return to London, but I did take this serendipitous opportunity to enquire if they work with bloggers and we were kindly offered the Gold Plus ticket for our visit, which allowed us access to the castle rooms too. This is definitely the best ticket option to go for as it allows you the most access and the rooms are well worth visiting in their own right.




As the castle rooms don't open until noon, the first thing we did upon our arrival was explore the lush gardens stretching out along the castle keep. We popped in the fragrant rose garden first, from which we had a great view over the towering castle, before making our way to the wildly impressive Collector Earl's Garden (pictured above, how stunning is that?), the glass houses and finally the castle gardens, which houses the most amazing wildflower garden imaginably. I've always wanted an English wildflower garden myself (one day, when I own my own home) and this was the picture-perfect example of why; the vibrant combination of colours, delicate flower petals and buzzing bumble bees formed a very serene environment and I properly felt like I was on holiday while enjoying this beautiful garden.







After popping into the Fitzalan Chapel, we made our way to the Castle Keep, which meant a bit of a climb up a hill and steep sets of stairs, but being rewarded with a stunning view over the grounds and surrounding areas in West Sussex. Having grown up in the Netherlands I always have mountain envy and even the rolling hills into the distance we could see from the Castle made me feel like I was on holiday.





Next up we went inside of the Castle which included bedrooms, bathrooms, a beautiful library, drawing rooms, and lots of interesting hidden nooks and crannies. Photography wasn't allowed within the rooms, however I did take some pictures through the windows of the stunningly impressive Castle as we could view it in its entirety (see below). How incredible does that look? An awe-inspiring image and well worth the climb up and down stairs. And though photography was prohibited within the rooms and so you have my word alone to go on; I highly recommend you opt for the ticket that includes the Castle so you can admire them for yourself too.





We had our lunch in the shade on the Castle lawn (it was a scorching hot day, after all) while enjoying the wonderful festivities happening on the field for the Bank Holiday weekend. There was a falconry display during which the gorgeous and very big Luna the owl (pictured at the beginning of this post) showed off her impressive wingspan, followed by a Battle of the Time Periods in which people were dressed up in iconic battle gear from history (such as the Romans and Saxons) and battle it out. The moderator was especially fun to listen to and he knew his stuff!

When the battle had finished, we made our way out of the castle grounds to explore other areas of Arundel. The picturesque town was 99% comprised of antique shops, old fashioned sweet shops and pubs, creating a quaint backdrop for my photos.






Eventually we ended up back where we begun at the start of town, which curved off into a beautifully shaded river walk, where we were surrounded by wildflowers and bushes brimming with blackberries. I thought it was a bit early for the fruit to be ripe but I tried some of the wild blackberries and they were delicious; juicy and far sweeter than I'd expected. Once the river curved we had a stunning view of Arundel Castle and so we sat down on the river bank for a picnic dinner; a serene way to end our visit to this beautiful place in West Sussex.







Arundel Castle & Gardens is open Tuesdays-Sundays until 30 October 2016 (reopening in March 2017). Ticket prices range from £9 (for just the gardens and the grounds) to £18 (to also go inside the Castle rooms), and they offer family tickets for £45, allowing up to two adults and three children.


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