A Glorious Medieval Castle Restored by Victorian Craftsmen
Arundel Castle and Town are a delight to visit. The Castle with its Norman Keep and palatial Victorian interiors, the Town has little tea shops, restaurants, old pubs and antique shops to stroll around.
A commanding castle that rises from the hillside and crowns the vibrant greens of the South Downs National Park. The second-largest in England and still the country home of the Fitzalan-Howard family. One of the most impressive parts of the Castle is the regency Library, with its 10,000 books, Chinese lanterns and lavish mahogany carving. The treasures at Arundel are abundant, with historical relics including Mary Queen of Scot’s rosary beads, which she carried to the scaffold.
Arundel Castle has the chalky steep ‘downs’ with Vineyards dotted on one side and the River Arun and Southern Coast on the other. A visit to Arundel can include English sparkling wine tasting, sailing and stops in historical villages. Our suggested England’s South Coast driver-guided tour. You may prefer a day tour from London, such as our Brighton, Arundel and Sussex Downs tour.
Guardian of the south coast
A brief history of Arundel Castle
After the Norman invasion of 1066, the new King, William the Conqueror (reign 1066-1087) ordered the construction of a long list of castles to defend his newly won territory. There was a need to plug a vulnerable gap in the South Downs, where the River Arun cuts through the hills. Loyal subject Roger de Montgomery receives the responsibility and one-third of the entire county for his trouble.
For speed and cost, the fortress was built out of wood. Slowly over the next one hundred years, it was rebuilt using stone. Eventually, the estate is under the control of the Fitzalan family, the Earls of Arundel. The 12th Earl dies, and his daughter marries Thomas Howard the 4th Duke of Norfolk (hence The Norfolk Arms pub in the high street).
The Dukes of Norfolk
One of the most notorious Duke’s was Thomas Howard the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. It is usual for Royal Courts to be full of ambitious souls trying to catch the ruling monarchs attention. The 3rd Duke cajoled, persuaded and pushed his two nieces, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard to marry King Henry VIII. As you know, both lose their heads at the block. The Duke makes no protest, his ambition overrides his sympathies for his nieces.
The vicious tug of war between Protestant and Roman Catholic saw the Duke walk a political tight rope. He faced imprisonment in the Tower of London, which almost led to his imprisonment; he was on the wrong side of the Christian fence, he was Catholic. King Henry VIII dies, and the Duke gets a reprieve. He remains locked-up through King Edward’s short reign (Edward was Protestant) and is then released when the Catholic Queen Mary came to the throne, and he dies aged eighty.
The Collector Earl
The 14th Earl of Arundel (the ‘collector Earl) married the Earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter, a fabulously wealthy heiress. Her fortune was put to fair use buying a superb art collection and marble statues. You will see some of that art during your tour of the Castle.
The Victorian restoration is one of the most successful projects of its type. You can only imagine the magnitude of the task, take an old castle and restore it tastefully and improve with modern details and conveniences. The restoration took place between 1875 and 1900; it was a remarkable achievement. It is a designer Castle in many respects, with specially designed door hinges, radiators, and elevators.
Today, Arundel Castle is the private home of Edward William Fitzalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk and his family.
Highlights of the Castle
The Keep is the old part of the Castle; the climb onto the walls is well worth it for views of the surrounding countryside. Only from the battlements do you fully appreciate the strategic value of the site. There is a commanding view onto the old road and onwards to the coast. Lookouts could have seen enemy boats sailing up the river and called the alarm. Exhibits in the Keep allow you to get a picture of medieval life.
For many people, the chapel is the crowning glory of the 19th-century restorations - the ceiling made of chalk and Painswick stone supported by Purbeck marble columns. Westminster Abbey in London is the inspiration for the chapel structure. Still, Canterbury Cathedral inspires the stained glass; it is beautiful.
The Fitzalan Chapel is the ancient burial place of the Howard-Fitzalan, there are some intricate effigies on incredibly elaborate tombs. The ‘white’ garden of the chapel is beautiful, which you see as you enter.
The Barons Hall
The design of Great Halls give that wow-factor, they are enormous and impressive. Arundel's Barons Hall does not disappoint; the hall is 133 ft long and 50 ft wide. Family portraits hang on the walls, allowing your tour guide to explain the characters in the Arundel Castle story.
The Library never fails to impress; it is 122 ft long and entirely fitted with architectural features of a church made from Honduras mahogany. The chimneypieces resemble chantry chapels, a component of grand old cathedrals. Libraries must-have books, well there are ten thousand here, many are incredibly precious.
The Collector Earls Garden
A sub-tropical and English paradise divided by hedges and classic wooden buildings. The magnificent cathedral overlooks the gardens, creating a lovely backdrop to the whole affair. Enjoy the waterworks and grand seasonal displays. We love the Fitzalan Chapel's White Garden.
The garden is relatively new compared to the castle. The Collector Earl's Gardens Opened in 2008. Originally the area was a kitchen garden and, more recently a car park.
Touring and accommodation
Please think about including Arundel Castle on your next tour of England. We feature the Castle in our suggested England’s South Coast guided tour, and we have an itinerary for a day tour from London, Brighton Arundel and the Sussex Downs.
Please stay in the picturesque village Amberley at the Amberley Castle Hotel near Arundel and use it as a base to tour England's Wine Country. The home of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, is under 30 miles away from Arundel. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard tells the stories of the Royal Navy with interactive displays and tours inside HMS Victory and several other historic vessels.
Sail Chichester Harbour and shop in hip Brighton; there are plenty of options our Tour Designers incorporate into your itinerary based on your interests.
Our five-star option in this region is South Lodge Hotel and Spa a luxury hotel in Sussex, only a short hop from Brighton, Gatwick airport and Arundel Castle. There is a wide choice of accommodation in the around London including Manor House Hotels, Guest Houses and Britain's Finest Hotels.
If this is your first time in England, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting off the beaten path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands. Merging Wales with England makes for a dynamic experience of mountains, stately homes and cosy country pubs.
Norman Castle with Superb Victorian Restoration and Gardens
Explore Arundel Town - try local wine and cheese, and shop in the antique shops
- Superb Gardens
- Visit the Fitzalan Chapel
- Visit Arundel Cathedral
- Climb the Norman Keep
- Tour the Victorian State Rooms
- VIP Guided Tours Available
Fitzalan Chapel White Garden
Arundel Town, The Norfolk Arms Pub
Fitzalan Chapel Tombs
Arundel Castle Gardens Fountains
Arundel Castle Waterworks
Tour the Gardens
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