Disclaimer: this is not about an imaginary trip to Frozen land with Elsa and Anna, but a trip to a charming little town in the south of England.
Long before I returned to the UK, I’d planned to visit Arundel Castle as soon as I arrived. Things got hectic and I visited around 15 places – all spread around England, Wales, and Scotland – so you can imagine it was pretty busy for a while. But finally, 2 weeks ago I made it to Arundel.
H and I agreed that for some reason, the town reminded us a lot of Hay-on-Wye. We were there when Arundel Festival was in full swing, so maybe that’s why (we were in Hay when Hay Festival was going on). But also, it might be because of the town itself, surrounded by hills, with a river cutting across the town (River Wye for Hay, River Arun for Arundel). Although the view of Arundel bore a resemblance to Hay, the amount of pastel-colored walls and bookshops were pale in comparison.
There was a souvenir shop that caught my attention, for all the right reasons.
I still think that someone in my family hid my letter from Hogwarts, and I’m still quite bitter about it.
Anyway, we also found this gem in the town center, Kim’s Bookshop. I love independent bookshops, they’re full of charm and warmth, and each has their own uniqueness. I’ve been to many independent bookshops, and I have to say, Kim’s is one of my favorites. Lots of secondhand books, including the ones I used to read when I was little. If I hadn’t remembered the time, I’d have stayed there until we had to go home.
But by then, it was 11 already, so we decided to make our way to the castle.
There are a few options for the ticket, with the Bronze being the cheapest (£11) and Gold Plus the most expensive (£20). The Bronze ticket allows you to explore the gardens and Fitzalan Chapel, while the Gold Plus allows you to see the castle keeps, main rooms, and also bedrooms.
And guys, take my word for this: get the most expensive ticket. We didn’t get this one, we had gold tickets instead (£18 each), so we didn’t get to see the bedrooms, and I really regret this. Of course, the Gold Plus is a far cry from the cheapest ticket, but trust me, the inside is really worth every penny.
Now, I’d known from pictures that this castle was stunning and majestic, but I certainly didn’t have a high expectation. After Neuschwanstein Castle, I wasn’t really interested in seeing castles anymore – because, as amazing as Neuschwanstein was, it kinda ruined it for everything else. And also, nobody was as deluded as Ludwig II about castles, so I didn’t expect to experience that awestruck moment upon seeing a castle ever again.
But while nothing would ever beat my experience with Neuschwanstein Castle, Arundel Castle was quite special as well, and it did take me by surprise.
Unlike Neuschwanstein Castle where your first glimpse of the castle will be far before you’re actually there – and therefore, you’ll get to admire it from afar – I didn’t get to see Arundel Castle until we were on the castle ground, right in front of it. And I have to admit, it reduced the wow factor a bit if you don’t see it as a whole from a distance, but nonetheless, it was beautiful.
The real surprise, though, was when I stepped inside, and saw the interior. Unfortunately, photography was prohibited, but I saw the most amazing chapel and library inside (not to mention other rooms as well, which were extravagant, as you might expect).
As soon as we were outside again, I whipped out my camera and almost got in a state of panic, not knowing which to capture first. Needless to say, the view from such height was stunning, and so were the grounds around the castle.
Arundel Castle is famous for its gardens, and they truly are impressive. The Rose Garden, the glass house, the Collector Earl’s Garden, and the Cut Flower Garden were among the things that we visited. And even with those few, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of this place.
It didn’t help that it was extremely hot and humid that day. I couldn’t believe it when I found myself saying, “I wish it was a bit colder.” I mean, I’d take the sunshine and blue sky any day, but the heat that day was draining us, and we had to cut the gardens exploration shot to retreat back to the shade.
The Re-enactment of the Victorian Era
On our way to the gardens, we encountered many people in costumes, who were apparently re-enacting the life in the 19th century. We said hi and chatted with a few of them, and to my amazement, they stayed true to their character. If there hadn’t been visitors strolling around in their modern-day outfits, I would’ve been totally convinced that I was in a dream and had been transported back to the 19th century. Everyone had their own story, and it was really interesting to see a glimpse of life in this era.
This lady, with her blackened teeth and tattered outfit, had endured a hard life. She sold animals’ poop to survive. Life could be pretty hard back then.
We also met the gypsies and were engaged in a conversation with one of them, who said that later on there would be a plot-based fight between him and some other guys. We were told that he would win.
You wouldn’t have thought, but that was an easy win for him. And don’t worry, nobody was injured in this pretend play.
The Normans and Crusaders
Just as we were leaving the castle, we encountered the Normans who were marching toward the front lawn.
I still blame myself for not taking any photo of the Crusaders, except for this tiny banner.
Sadly, we had to say leave right after that. Arundel Castle was bigger than we thought, and we hadn’t expected to spend that much time at the castle. We walked away unwillingly from the hubbub, where there were some attractions going on with the Normans and Crusaders. On the way back, I found out that later that evening, there would be A Midsummer’s Night Dream theater playing at the castle. I could only howl in regret, and seeing the photos on social media after that only rubbed salt into the wound.
My other regret was I didn’t get the chance to take photos of the town from a distance. We parked right across the castle entrance, so after the visit to the castle and walking around the town a bit, we went back to the car and left. And just as we were driving away, I looked back and saw the gorgeous old buildings set against the hills, but it was too late to go back and there was no place to stop. I’m determined to go back to Arundel; to get the shot of the town, and also to experience the vibe without the festival. Considering it’s only less than 50 miles away from where I live, it shouldn’t be too hard.
So if you’re planning to visit Arundel and the castle, here are a few tips:
- Like I’ve said earlier, get the most expensive ticket. It’s quite a lot, but it’s so worth it
- Spare at least 3-4 hours to visit the castle, especially if you’ve got the Gold ticket. The castle is huge, and so were the grounds
- If you’d like to capture the landscape of the town, park at Fitzalan Pool Car Park (we parked at Mill Road Car Park and missed the chance to capture the town from afar). Or, you could just walk to the direction of Fitzalan Pool Car Park to get some shots of the town.
Hope these help! :)