My fascination with visiting Arundel started a few years ago. Whilst on the train going to Gatwick Airport I spotted this fantastic century old looking town, with a majestic castle rising beyond it. I quickly opened Google Maps and found out that I was just passing Arundel, a medieval market town in West Sussex. Since that moment the picturesque image of the town remained in my mind and the desire to visit Arundel has sparked inside me.
Years passed by though and I’ve only made it to Arundel this spring. Faith almost made it that I almost didn’t make it, as after driving and finding parking close to the town centre, I realised that I forgot my wallet at home, with all my cards. The day was saved however by a NatWest cardless ATM in the nearby Littlehampton.
Back in town and with some cash available, I started to explore Arundel. After my experience, I’ve written for you a one day itinerary with the best things to do in Arundel.
How to get to Arundel from London
If you travel by car to Arundel you will enjoy a scenic route, passing through the South Downs National Park. There are many cute little villages on the way. The journey from London to Arundel by car is about 90 minutes, but this depends on the traffic in the capital. Prepare your trip so that you avoid the rush hour.
If you are renting a car, check out my trusted car rental website: Holiday Extras. I always rent my car through them and avoid the extra fees.
Where to park in Arundel:
The safest place to park when you visit Arundel is at the Castle Mill Road Car Park (BN18 9PA), on the opposite side of the street from the entrance to the castle. The maximum day charge for parking here is £5 (after 4 hours). This parking closes at 6PM, but, if you drive a caravan, overnight stays are permitted and cost £10. The gates however close between 6PM and 8AM.
The station car park (BN18 9PH) is located just outside the train station and has 151 spaces. A day ticket costs £4.75 and it is a good alternative in case the Mill Road Car Park is full, which can happen in peak season. This car park is open 24 hours.
Finding free on street parking in Arundel during high season is not likely. I have visited Arundel in May and found free parking on London Street and on Maltravers Street. However, I did arrive quite early, before 9AM.
There are around 36 daily trains leaving London Victoria station, direct to Arundel. The journey is around one hour and 20 minutes, and, the more in advance you book your ticket, the cheaper will be. Booked two months in advance, a return train ticket from London Victoria to Arundel costs approximately £12. If you leave it last minute expect to pay at least £60 for a return. Bear in mind that the Oyster Card does not cover the transport from London to Arundel, you will need to buy a separate ticket. You can book online using the Trainline website.
The train station in Arundel is about 1 kilometre away from the town.
Where to stay in Arundel
Hotels in Arundel
Luxury: Hilton Avisford Park
My choice of where to stay in Arundel is the Hilton Avisford Park Hotel, 6 miles from the town. This charming property has both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a spa centre, tennis courts, a restaurant, and is overlooking the local golf course. You can read reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor or book directly on the Hilton website.
Mid-range: Norfolk Arms Hotel
Located right in the centre of Arundel, Norfolk Arms is a great choice if you are looking for a traditional old English inn. This is not a posh hotel, but the charming old furniture and four poster beds. You can check the hotel reviews on TripAdvisor or book directly on Booking.com
There aren’t really any budget options of accommodation in Arundel.
One day Arundel itinerary
Breakfast in Arundel
I had breakfast at Motte and Bailey Café, on the High Street of Arundel. The coffee shop was packed with locals and that is always a good sign. As I didn’t have it in a while, I opted for the house English Breakfast (£8.45), with two fried eggs, two rashes of bacon, a Treagust sausage, roasted plum tomatoes and buttered mushrooms, served with toast and butter. I also ordered a large coffee (£2.45). They have a selection of non-diary milk for people like me, who are lactose intolerant.
The breakfast was delicious and plenty to make me feel full for quite some time.
Visit Arundel Castle
The Castle is the main attraction in Arundel, and how not to, when it has been preserved so well? The ticket for Arundel Castle is expensive but after visiting the grounds I can tell you that it is worth it. The best place to buy your ticket from is online, from the castle’s official website, as you save £1. There are different ticket tiers which give you access to different parts of the castle. I bought the Gold ticket and once inside, regretted that I didn’t spend 2 more pounds for the Gold Plus.
The cheapest ticket tier is Bronze which, for £13, allows you to visit the castle grounds, the collector Earl’s garden and the Fitzalan Chapel. The Silver ticket adds the Castle Keep on top, whilst the Gold ticket provides access to the main castle rooms. The Gold Plus ticket includes all of the above plus the castle bedrooms. And trust me, once you are inside the castle you will want to see the bedrooms as well. Sometimes there are special events at the castle, which may or may not cost extra. When I visited I was lucky to see the 15th Century Raiders: England versus France, which was pretty cool! You can check the calendar of events and plan your visit around it by clicking here.
This year the castle is open only between the 2nd of April and the 3rd of November. For more opening times on bank holidays check out this link.
My recommendation is to arrive early, as soon as the Castle opens (10:00AM), to be able to enjoy everything that it has to offer. You will need around half a day to see the entire grounds of the castle at your own pace. To avoid the crowds, first visit the Castle Keep, the oldest part of Arundel Castle.
The Castle Keep
The Keep dates back from the medieval times, the 12th century to be more exact, and it is still in its original form. The Keep is the highest point of the castle, from where you have beautiful views over the countryside. On a sunny clear day, you can even see the coast. Part of the view is however restricted for privacy, due to the Norfolk family still living here. Some of the rooms of the Keep have been set up to display the Castle’s defence during the English Civil War from 1644. Here you can see and experience how people used to live during those days, and even dress up with the props available. I did enjoy pretending to be a princess for a couple of minutes. 😊
The Castle Rooms
The Castle Rooms open at 12:00, and they should be next on your Arundel Castle self-walking tour. The interior of Arundel Castle is so majestic and so different than the Keep, and with each room you visit, it gets better and better.
The private chapel open only for the members of the Norfolk family is breath taking. Looking at it from above, from the balcony in the back, one can notice its majestic gothic architecture and the beautiful arches on the ceiling, design inspired from the Salisbury Cathedral.
Next door, the Baron’s Hall amazes with its stunning and intricate stained-glass windows and oak wood beams supporting the tall ceiling. The wood used for the beams comes from the castle’s estate. The Baron’s Hall is a tribute to the singing of the Magna Carta in 1215, the first fundamental document to recognise the idea of the liberty of citizens. You can see the best-preserved original manuscript of the Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral.
Another fantastic room is the Library, where tens of thousands of books are shelved on both sides of the hall. Located in the East Wing of the castle, the library has been decorated in a Victorian style, dating from Queen Victoria’s visit to Arundel in 1846. Before her arrival the Duke of Norfolk redecorated the entire castle. This way the library has received its mahogany carved bookshelves and the fine red carpet and curtains. I could have easily seen myself cuddling on one o the sofas, with a book and a cup of tea.
Another interesting room open to the public is Queen Victoria’s bedroom. Whilst this is not the actual room in which she stayed, the décor is original. The bed in the room is the one on which she slept during her three days visit to Arundel.
The Fitzalan Chapel
What makes the Fitzalan Chapel special, besides the fact that is practically the Norfolk family mausoleum, is that it is one of the few churches in England split into two areas of worship: Anglican and Catholic.
There are some intriguing effigies inside the Fitzalan Chapel, one of them belonging to the 14th Earl of Arundel, John Fitzalan. On top of his tomb the effigy is depicting him in full-size, just as he was before he died. Below, there is a sculpture of the same size, of his dead body, decomposing.
Other effigies depict husbands and wives with their hands over their chest, waiting to be resurrected.
There are around 40 resting places inside the Fitzalan Chapel, with most of the recent deceased Dukes of Norfolk and their close relatives buried here.
The Arundel Castle’s Grounds
Arundel Castle is surrounded 40 acres of grounds, the most notable being Collector Earl’s Garden which reminded me of Granada’s Generalife, at a very small scale. The garden was in full bloom when I visited, so I enjoyed not only its magical design, with oak pagodas and water fountains, but also the vibrant colours. The Oberon Palace, which is overlooking Arundel Cathedral has a very special fountain inside, with the water spinning a “floating” crown. A must see!
Another gorgeous relaxing place on the grounds of Arundel Castle is the Rose Garden. Beautifully landscaped, the Rose Garden is not only an oasis of color but also a delight for all senses.
Visit Arundel Museum
The Arundel Museum is located on the opposite side of the street from the entrance to the castle, next to the car park. A team of volunteers is running the museum dedicated to the history of Arundel, starting in the prehistoric times.
The Arundel Museum has a permanent collection of objects that tell the story of the town, from the sea fossils which were covered by the sea 65 million years ago to flint hand tool made during the Stone Age by the first men in this area, from the writing styluses left behind by the Romans to mysterious Nordic spoons, from a chair dating from the 17th century to the most recent traditional working class clothing items.
The entrance to the museum costs £3.5 and it is open every day between 10:00-16:00.
Lunch in Arundel
As I had quite a filling breakfast, for lunch I decide to only have a snack and a drink at the Waterside Café. I can imagine this place looks wonderful in summer, when the weather is good. Unfortunately, when it was quite cloudy during my visit and the water level was very low. The location is beautiful though, with a riverside terrace overlooking the stone bridge on one side and the castle on the other one.
Take the Arundel Historic Tour
Every day at 2PM Arundel resident Martin is conducting a fascinating historical tour in which he will take you on the back streets and tell you all about the town’s hidden secrets. Martin has lived all his life in Arundel, making the tour very personal, recalling memories from when he was growing up. He is a very passionate guide and knows everything about Arundel. The tour lasts for around 75 minutes and it is customisable, based on the audience’s questions.
The meeting point is on the High Street, next to the bench by the bus stop. The tour costs £5 and doesn’t require a booking. They also run a private tour, for £10 a person (minimum of 4 people, or £40 for a group of less than 4 people). For more details you can check out their website here.
Visit Arundel Cathedral
As soon as I stood in front of the Arundel Cathedral, I noticed the resemblances with Notre Dame, from Paris. At a smaller scale, the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Arundel was built in a French Gothic style and it is Grade 1 listed. One of the finest examples of this French Gothic Revival architecture in the country, the Cathedral in Arundel can be visited every day.
Shop for antiques in Arundel
There are many independent owned antique shops and boutiques in Arundel. The town is filled with cute little shops where you will find a great selection of hand made items and local products.
Every 3rd Sunday at the month the local Farmer’s Market takes place in the town centre. Here you will find many plants and herbs grown locally by small producers, food and drinks prepared in and around the town, fresh fruits and vegetables produced at the nearby farms.
Dinner in Arundel
For a feast fit for a king, and to embrace the medieval feel of Arundel, head over to Knight’s Table for dinner. As soon as you step into the restaurant you will feel that you left the present day and gone back in time to the medieval period. Lovely serving wenches dressed accordingly will take you to your table and make sure you have the best experience. The restaurant is decorated with a medieval theme so don’t be surprised to find armours, swords and wooden furniture that recreate the Middle Ages atmosphere. There is even a costume rack from where you can choose your outfit for the evening, whilst you are dining.
The food is outstanding as well. Knight’s Table is a steakhouse so expect a lot of very good prepared meat dishes. However, they do have some vegetarian options as well. You can see the full menu by clicking here. My choice: the venison steak burger topped with bacon and smoked applewood cheese. Yum!
Arundel’s best kept secret: The Jailhouse
If you spend the night in Arundel then a visit to the Jailhouse is a must. The ex-town hall prison has been transformed into an exclusive underground club where visitors can enjoy jazz concerts or comedy nights. One of the most popular nights at the Jailhouse is the Murder Mystery dinner, in which the audience is directly involving in solving the crime.
To see the calendar of events and plan your visit to Arundel around it, click here.
Extra information: Other things to do around Arundel:
If you happen to visit Arundel in August, there are big chances that you will stumble upon the 10 days long Arundel Festival, the biggest in town. During this period Arundel is taken over by different events such as art galleries trails, circus performances, concerts, dragon boat races, the annual rubber duck race, and, spectacular celebrations. You can check the dates for this year’s festival here.
Walk the Arun River Walk in Arundel
The Arun River Walk is a relaxing way to exercise whilst enjoying beautiful views. The path passes by the wildfowl reserve, with seven hides along the way for people who want to observe the resident birds. This is an easy circular walk which will bring you back to Arundel after 12 kilometres. If you are interested in this trail, here is a link with the route description.
Take a boat down the river Arun
In summer you can rent a boat from the Waterside café and steer down Arun river for about 3.5 kilometres to the Black Rabbit Pub. Here you can enjoy a cold drink whilst sitting on the terrace and enjoying the view towards Arundel Castle. If you want to eat at the Black Rabbit phone ahead and book a table, especially during summer weekends.
Visit Arundel Wetland Centre
The Arundel Wetland Centre is a great place to spend the day if you visit Arundel with your children. The free boat safaris the centre offers are a wonderful way to spot wildlife from the water. The Meadow Maze is designed to portray how the world is perceived by an insect. The Tree Creepers is a unique structure built to recreate two giant bird feeders inside which children can both play and learn about how birds live. The Centre also has hundreds of friendly geese that come to be fed by hand.
How about you? Have you been to Arundel? If not, what are you most looking forward to visit in Arundel?
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