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Arundel Castle

Visited August 2012

Location Arundel, West Sussex
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby Yes- Arundel
Parking Yes
Facilities Toilets, Cafe, Gift Shop


In terms of both size and tourism, Arundel Castle is one of the biggest in the UK.  On offer to the visitor is a Norman keep, Victorian gothic buildings, terrific gardens and a restaurant that has been awarded our own special Castles4kids five star award (Good quality tasty food+reasonable prices=empty plates all round)


Although a lot of the castle today is the result of a Victorian re-build, it does in fact date back to Norman times, when it was part of a chain of defences around Sussex , presumably built to deter further sea invasions. Roger of Montgomery was the original builder, but in time the castle passed into the Fitzalan family, who were the Earls of Arundel. Eventually the final Fitzalan heiress married into the Howard family, who held the title of the Dukes of Norfolk, and  Arundel Castle has been owned by the Norfolks ever since.





The best part of the castle in our opinion is the Norman keep. It has been heavily repaired over the years so is in very good condition. Fairly steep steps lead up to it, but we were there in light drizzle and had no problem with slipping etc.  It is an oval shape, with completely intact battlements which can be walked all the way round. On ground level is an underground chamber, which is now set up as a dungeon with a wax model of a prisoner peeking out from between the prison bars. Originally the family would have had their apartments inside the keep, but these would have been made of wood so did not survive.


Built onto  the keep are the Well and the St Martin Tower. The Well Tower is exactly as it sounds, a tower which houses the 100ft deep well, it has as its source the water table below the motte. This feat of medieval engineering gave the keep an independent water source in case of siege.


The St Martin's Tower houses a small chapel dedicated to St Martin, the patron saint of soldiers, who was a favourite of the original builders of the castle, the Montgomerys. St Martin's is the first of three chapels in the castle.  The second chapel is the Fitzalan chapel, built in 1380 in the castle grounds. It was considered to be the private property of the Duke of Norfolk so survived the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII. It sustained much damage during the civil war, and it was at this time that the chapel was divided and the western part was used for Anglican worship, with the rest remaining catholic. The chapel is still divided today- a glass panel separates the two areas. The Fitzalan chapel is still used as the burial chamber for the Norfolk family, and several masses are  said here every year.


Throughout  many turbulent times the Dukes of Norfolk have managed to remain true to their catholic faith, and the third and largest chapel in the main part of the castle is an impressive testament to this.  Begun in 1894, it was built with vaulted ceilings, marble columns and beautiful stained glass windows. It is still used regularly and all the current Duke's children were baptised here. Currently all three chapels are open to the public.


The Victorian part of the castle is still the main family home of the present Duke of Norfolk. It was rebuilt between 1875 and 1900, and is similar in design to Windsor Castle- it has been used as a 'stand-in' location for filming when permission to use Windsor has been refused. Tourists are free to wander around the interior of the Victorian castle at their leisure, taking in the Chapel, the Armoury, the superb library (try to linger in this room if you can, it is fantastic!) with over ten thousand books, the Baron's Hall, Picture Gallery & Dining Room- once a medieval chapel, it houses the relics of Mary Queen of Scots. Upstairs the bed chambers are on display, the children were also very interested in the various en-suite bathrooms with some very grand looking but antiquated toilets!


Also inside the castle buildings are the cafe which we raved about, and a large souvenir shop. The castle's public toilets are also here, and are surprisingly modern in comparison to the bed chamber en-suites!






With the abundance of culture in the castle buildings, children will probably need some fresh air and exercise by now so a walk around the castle gardens are a welcome distraction. They have been recently restored to a very high standard and are beautifully maintained. The 'Collector Earl's Garden' is the most recent addition, and is supposed to represent a Jacobean formal garden. The children found the many fountains very interesting, especially those which had coloured water in them. A crown dancing on top of a jet of water in the shell-lined 'Oberon's Palace' was also popular with the children. There are many quirky areas of the garden which appealed to all of us actually!





A visit to Arundel Castle is not cheap, admission is based on several different tiers, depending on whether you just want to see the castle exterior & gardens,  limited interior access, or the whole package. The top tier price including access to all public areas was £41.00 for a family (up to three children) when we went, but there is no denying that there is a lot to see for your money. We stayed for about 3 1/2 hours on our visit but we would have stayed longer in the garden had it not been drizzling. All things considered,  it is a large castle with much of interest so the admission price is worth paying. Do heed our usual warning though- get there early- by midday the whole castle is heaving with visitors (even on rainy days!)





More info:  Arundel Castle

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