Chances are if asked to imagine a castle, you’d think of something like Arundel Castle. Towering above the small historic town it gets its name from, the castle has it all – towers, slit windows, a portcullis, moat, ginormous walls. It’s the kind of castle where it’s easy to imagine medieval knights and ladies. But a lot of what you see of the castle now, isn’t really medieval.
From the 11th century, the castle has been the seat of the Earl of Arundel and for over 400 years, the Duke of Norfolk. The original Norman motte and bailey castle remain with the later additions, alongside. Like most buildings, it’s been demolished, re-built, expanded and re-modelled many times over the years. The main castle you see now owes much to Henry, 15th Duke of Norfolk.
The buildings aren’t the only fascinating part of the castle either. The gorgeous walled gardens include the Collector Earl’s Garden opened in 2008 with fountains and a grass labyrinth.
There’s also a stumpery and organic kitchen garden full of fruit and veg, with lean-to Victorian greenhouses. And there’s a rose garden and water garden. So if you like gardens, you might just want to check them out. It’s a lot cheaper too.
The keep retains much of its original features (but sadly we couldn’t go down into the dungeons) and gave off some very strong Game of Thrones vibes, although surprisingly none of that was filmed here.
The view from the keep is stunning and you can definitely see why this was a prime spot for both castle and town. There’s the obligatory portcullis and a Brettice door – perfect for hurling rocks and boiling oil down on any would-be attackers.
The main castle building is still partly inhabited and mixes large spaces like the great hall, with smaller, intimate drawing rooms. After a restoration project in 1900, the interior has electric lights, fire fighting equipment, service lifts and central heating. A nosy into the guest bedrooms (still in use today) reveals opulent luxury and en-suite bathrooms.
The place is chockfull of historical objects; the 14th Earl was nicknamed “the Collector”. There are portraits by Van Dyck, personal possessions of Mary, Queen of Scots and the preserved bedroom where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert slept during their three day visit.
The highlight for me (and I imagine any other bookworm) was the library. It’s double height, covered in dark wood and brass, full of cosy niches to read in front of the fire or work on your masterpiece. I could have stayed there for hours, had they’d have let me hunker down with a book or twelve. Sigh.
The castle would be a great place to set a fictional tale, be it historical, romance, gothic horror or a fairytale. I could even imagine a detective novel of the Agatha Christie vein working nicely there too. So whatever your genre, a visit is worthwhile. The town itself is also lovely with antique shops and cafes galore. A walk around down by the river will give you a different perspective on the castle itself. And there’s a wetlands just round the corner, if you fancy bird spotting.
The castle has been a film location for Wonder Woman, The Young Victoria and The Madness of King George.
Some of the real stories of the people who lived at Arundel Castle contain plenty of drama to get your mind working. The ‘Poet’ Earl was executed in 1547. His father, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk only escaped his death penalty because King Henry VIII died the night before the execution was due. But the 4th Duke wasn’t so lucky. He was beheaded for plotting to marry Mary Queen of Scots.
What do you think? Have you visited Arundel Castle before? What does it inspire in you? Please share in the comments.