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I spent a soggy, but fun filled Sunday in Sussex at Arundel Castle during International Joust Week July 21-26th. Even without the jousting, the castle is well worth the visit if you are looking for a quick day trip outside of London.
History of Arundel Castle
The castle’s history dates back to the Norman period. It was built by Roger Montgomery in the 11th century. Montgomery (d.1094) was a powerful magnate during the rule of William the Conqueror (1028 – September 9, 1087). For his efforts at Hastings, he was rewarded by William with Arundel in 1067. What’s remarkable is that the castle has been directly descended through the female line from 1138 to the present day. Arundel castle has also been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk since June 28, 1483 when Richard III (October 2, 1452 – August 22, 1485) conferred the title upon Sir John Howard for his support against Edward V (November 2, 1470 – 1483). It was home to some of the more notorious Dukes, like Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473 – August 25, 1554) uncle to 2 of Henry VIII’s (June 28, 1491 – January 28, 1547) wives: Anne Boleyn (1501 – May 19, 1536) and Catherine Howard (1521- February 13, 1542). He narrowly escaped with his head only because Henry VIII died the night before Howard was to be executed. His son, Henry Howard (1517 – January 19, 1547), was not so lucky – he was beheaded 10 days before Henry VIII’s death. Arundel castle survived two sieges during the English Civil War in the mid-17th century. The damage wasn’t repaired until 70 years later, and the castle was not fully restored until the late 18th, early 19th century.
I don’t drive on this side of the pond so I booked train ticket on National Rail for £16 return (the tickets were for a set time and set train only, open fares may cost more!). The train departs from Victoria station and it’s a quick trip, a little over an hour. The walk from Arundel station to the castle is 10 minutes. You can’t get lost since the castle looms massively over the town and there are signs directing you.
Things to Do at Arundel Castle
Dominating the countryside, it’s an impressive structure. Visitors are able to visit the medieval keep, the Fitzalan chapel (the final resting place for the Dukes of Norfolk), the majestic gardens and view most of the rooms on a castle tour. You need a full day to really take in everything the castle has to offer. It’s a very large, sprawling site. Words of warning: while you can take pictures of the outside of the castle, the medieval keep and gardens, you can’t take pictures inside on the castle room tours because it’s still a private home to the current Duke of Norfolk and his family. The castle also boats many events during the course of the year to add to your experience. Just check their website to time your visit with one of their special events.
On top of the joust, there were re-enactors dressed in late medieval attire selling their wares in little tents alongside the jousting area. There was blacksmithing, crafts and roving musicians. The weather may have put a damper on the day (literally) but most events went ahead as planned.
If you’re hungry, there is a cafe and a full restaurant with hot food. It wasn’t the usual awful tourist site fare; the restaurant food was good. I had a squash stroganoff and hot chocolate and it came to around £12. There is also a gift shop, full of tacky, extortionately expensive items to commemorate your castle visit.
There are various ticket levels. I purchased the Gold Plus because I wanted to see all of the castle. Normally, this costs £18 (£19.80 with a voluntary donation) but because it was joust week, we paid £23 for an adult admission. Unfortunately, except for the Shakespeare in the Collector Earl’s Garden performance in late August, there is no online ticket purchase for a regular visit. You must buy your ticket when you arrive at the castle.