On the final day of our stay in England my in-laws really wanted to take us to Arundel Castle. They had visited previously and really enjoyed it, but there were things they didn’t get a chance to do or see and thought we would like to join them.
Arundel Castle is in the southern part of England in West Sussex (for the Sat Nav – BN18 9AB). It is about half way between Brighton and Chichester and just outside of the South Downs National Park. The castle is massive
and gorgeous. The castle itself was founded at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel. Apart from the occasional reversion to the Crown, Arundel Castle has descended directly from 1138 to the present day, carried by female heiresses (the d’Albinis, the Fitzalans, the Howards) and it has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years. The oldest part of the castle is the Keep which is the large round building in the picture to the right. Much of the castle was renovated in the late 1800’s and that is what we see standing today. The family still uses the castle and while there are several rooms you can tour and that are open to the public there are sections that house the private residences.
The rooms tour was quite interesting and was an additional fee to the admission we paid. You get to see some of the grand rooms the family used at one time, including one bed room where Queen Victoria slept during her visit to the castle. The rooms are extravagant and it quite amazing seeing this kind of wealth. My son’s favorite room was the library though – it was a perfectly stunning room with books that looked quite ancient. He could imagine himself curled up in the little nooks and crannies of the room reading next to the windows.
The castle has lots of planned activities on the weekends and full schedules of events can be found on their website. The weekend we were there was wonderful. There was archery to be done and since we were early and nobody else was there my son got to have extra lessons with them. They have bows for children and adults to try their hand and see where they can land one the target. There was also several tents set up on the lawns where the various knights were preparing for battle. At first they did a presentation about the various types of knights that were around during the early years of the castle. They came from all over, including areas all over the continent. Humans are migratory beings after all and back then they would travel for money and work. They would band together to fight for their kings and prove their worth in various fights and duals. We got to learn all about it during the first show. The later shows were the knights dealing and fighting. Most of them were wearing maile and armour of various types which weighed up to 40lbs! By the end of each fight the men were exhausted! It was very interesting learning about this part of history and seeing it live in action.
My son’s favorite came a bit later. There were falconry shows also being done to show the different birds of pray in the area and things they could do. Many of these birds have been rescued or surrendered by people who have come across them or thought it would be nice to have them as pets and learned they don’t make very good pets. When the birds were not in a show they were in a special tent where kids and adults over the age of 5 could hold them while wearing a special falconry glove. We have never seen this experience available before and my son was really wanting to do it. He asked to hold “Storm” – a large Harris Hawk. The handlers spend a great deal of time working with the birds and know their personalities. There were some birds that were no available to be held for the safety of everyone, but Storm was a very mellow bird and sat and had a good look around while he was perched on my son’s hand. It was something he will never forget.
We decided to have a cup of tea at the end of our visit inside the castle. There is a lovely cafe and a restaurant available with all sorts of different drinks and we decided to have a couple of sandwichs and desserts while in the restaurant. It was nice to refuel before the drive home.
The castle was wonderful and a lovely place to visit. My son wasn’t overly impressed with the rooms tour (not very many 9 year old boys will be I imagine) but he loved everything else that was going on and he also loved going to the top of the Keep and having a look out. There is something for everyone here and we recommend visiting Arundel Castle!