The many wonderful attractions of the United Kingdom include some of the world’s most beautiful castles.
And, naturally, everyone seems to have a favourite.
From the grandeur and amazing history of Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, to the fairytale settings of Bodium Castle in East Sussex, Corfe Castle in Dorset and Leeds Castle in Kent, there are many stunners.
However, without hesitation, our vote goes to a lesser known but equally awe-inspiring structure.
Although it is set high on a hill, Arundel Castle, in West Sussex, seems to appear out of nowhere to literally take your breath away.
It caught us totally by surprise as we travelled from Brighton on England’s channel coast to the ancient settlement of Shaftesbury in Dorset’s Blackmore Vale.
Our road swung around a corner bringing us suddenly face-to-face with a commanding 11th century Norman Castle overlooking the River Arun.
The great castle totally dominates this section of the South Downs, perched above the historic market town of Arundel. We were in awe of its sheer size and majestic presence.
On investigation, we discovered that Arundel Castle was built at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, a loyal baron in the days of William the Conqueror.
The baron was awarded a third of Sussex with the stipulation that a new castle be built near the mouth of the Arun to protect the area from attack.
It was founded on Christmas Day in 1067.
Arundel Castle has been owned by the family of the Duke of Norfolk for more than 400 years and is one of the longest inhabited country houses in England.
Investigations have shown that there was possibly prehistoric earthworks on the site.
The castle was damaged in the English Civil War and was restored in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, many of the original features such as the Norman keep, gatehouse and barbican and the lower part of Bevis Tower survive.
The castle’s size and location also lends itself to regular jousting tournaments, occasionally on an international standard.
Grounds of Arundel Castle are also extensively landscaped to feature striking gardens, with particularly stunning displays of tulips each April and May.
When we told English friends how Arundel castle had impressed us, they mentioned that – as well as its beauty and sensational location – the building was also well known for a collection of ghosts and a mysterious white owl said to warn of impending death.
How to get there
Arundel Castle is located in a steep vale of the South Downs of West Sussex.
It is open from Easter to the end of October each year. See exact times.
Only about 49 miles from London, the castle is also close to both Brighton and Chichester. Arundel can be reached via the A27 or by train direct from the capital’s London Bridge and Victoria stations.
Visit the cathedral too
There’s more than one magnificent public building worth inspecting in tiny Arundel.
In 1868, Henry, the 15th Duke of Norfolk, decided that he wanted a church to rival the imposing castle. The result was Arundel Cathedral, one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival style in England.
Soaring high above its gardens, the Catholic cathedral features unmistakable Bath stone, clusters of pillars and awesome vaulted ceilings.
The western frontage of the cathedral is dominated by a huge rose stained-glass window, much like another sensational English church, the York Minster.