Standing above the banks of the meandering River Arun and crowned with its perfect castle, Arundel has all the awe-inspiring beauty of a mythical Arthurian kingdom, but that’s more the business of history than legend. Dating back to Roman times, it began life as a bustling inland port and market town (there’s even a town crier since the fourth century). It’s not quite the bustling port it once was, but it has managed to retain much of its classic English charm and makes a good base for exploring this south-eastern corner. There is also plenty to keep you in the city, from wetland walks and spectacular castle gardens to its elegant main street, with its quirky mix of cafes, antique shops (including the excellent Old Maps & Prints), pubs and historic buildings.
Nature is never far here, with the South Downs National Park stretching north and east, and the popular beaches of Witterings and Selsey Bill just a few miles to the southwest. Not that you need sand and surf if the weather is nice – stay in Arundel and take a dip at the city lido, dominated by the castle.
Arundel is small, but there is no shortage of activities most weekends. Chichester, the county town of West Sussex, is 25 minutes away by train; the pretty, compact town is rich in history, including Roman walls and a Gothic cathedral, notable for its stand-alone bell tower. There is more Roman heritage to be found elsewhere in the county – Fishbourne Roman Palace and Villa Romaine Bignor are both less than half an hour’s drive from Arundel and are well worth a visit for their surprisingly preserved mosaics.
What to do
Filled with an army of towers and ramparts, you can’t miss the menacing fortress that is Arundel Castle. Built on a hill in 1067 to defend the Sussex coast, it was significantly enlarged in the 1800s by the Duke of Norfolk, who restored and improved his family seat with Gothic Revival extravaganza. Explore the halls and halls filled with works of art, armor and sumptuous furniture, before marveling at the magnificent stained glass windows of the Fitzalan Chapel. Don’t leave without strolling through the gardens either – a veritable Eden, with a parterre, manicured lawns, vegetable gardens, fountains and secluded wooden pavilions.
Then check out the Arundel Museum just outside the castle gates, houses family exhibits exploring the city’s past and present.