Thursday, 7 August 2014

A day out at Arundel Castle

West Sussex is a lovely part of the world. Really, properly lovely.

I’ve lived here for just over 13 months now - that’s gone crazy quick! - and I love it. It was a big risk for me packing up my life in York (also really, properly lovely by the way) and carting it 250 miles down south but it was absolutely the right move for me. I’m 100% happy here.

That said, I definitely don’t make the most of living here. I have a list of places in I want to visit and explore that’s as long as my arm and just keeps growing. My average week goes thusly: I work 9-5 Monday to Friday, fall asleep on the sofa after doing some yoga most evenings and then spend the weekend either in London or catching up with sleep and housework. I really must try harder.

For once, though, this weekend I managed to cross somewhere off my ‘to visit’ list. And it was one from the very top of that list too - Arundel Castle.

Before we start let’s just get one thing clear: this is not the castle from Frozen. Similar name, different spelling and, crucially, Arundel is actually real. Arundel is a medieval castle dating back to the 11th century and the seat of successive Dukes of Norfolk from the Howard family. Although the original castle is medieval - and some of it still stands - the majority is the result of centuries of renovations, most notably in the Victorian period.

And it is stunning. Approaching the castle from the entrance to the estate is like approaching Hogwarts from Hogsmead.

Look at that. A proper castle! It’s a shame that photography inside the building wasn’t allowed as that was beautiful too. In particular the chapel - the big rectangular bit with huge stained glass windows on the left by the tower in the photo above - is breathtaking. The stained glass is so beautiful (and I went on a gloriously sunny day which really showed it off) and the vaulted ceiling constructed from stripes of white and grey stone made me almost literally drool. I love a good vaulted ceiling, me.

I also neglected to take any photos in the separate FItzalan Chapel - a smaller, less ornate but no less interesting chapel in the grounds of the castle which houses the remains of generations of Howards - because I always feel a bit weird about taking photos of tombs, however beautiful they might be. You’ll see it’s pretty exterior in several of the following shots though.

I did manage to take some photos from the castle’s keep. One of the oldest parts of the building, the 144 rickety stairs are well worth it for the beautiful views.

The view out to sea, across Arundel town
I’m not much of a gardener, but the grounds at Arundel are amazing. They’re fantastically varied for a start. Some parts are left almost wild, there’s a traditional rose garden, a fantastic kitchen garden (with the best purple sprouting broccoli I’ve ever seen!) and fascinating glass houses growing everything from chillies to peaches.
Apples growing in the kitchen garden
But the undisputed highlight must be the Collector Earl’s Garden. What looks like a traditional formal garden turns into much more than that on closer inspection of the beautiful, colourful plants and novel display.
Apples growing in the kitchen garden

Impressed with the intricacy of the stone work in all these photos, right? Wrong - none of that is stone, it’s all carved wood. Such a simple, clever and unexpected idea!

One of my favourite parts of the garden were the innovative grottos.

The inside of this grotto was thatched in moss and dried leaves

The stunning shell covered one was originally constructed for a performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream as a grotto for Oberon. Isn’t it cool? I love the ‘floating’ crown.

The gardens also offer superb views of Arundel’s beautiful cathedral, which I didn’t have time to visit on this occasion but will definitely go back to check out.

The cathedral and with the Midsummer Nights Dream grotto in front

So basically I’m a big fan of Arundel Castle. And the rest of Arundel for that matter. I’d highly recommend a visit - there are direct, reasonably quick trains from London Victoria - and at £18 for the whole castle, grounds and ‘out buildings’ it’s a great value day out.













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