At the point where the River Arun cuts through the South Downs, lies the quiet town of Arundel. With the skyline dominated by its castle and ‘Gothic’ cathedral, from a distance Arundel has more the air of a feuding settlement than the picturesque market town that it really is.The Town
High Street, which is said to be the steepest in England, rises up the southern slopes of the Downs. At the bottom of the hill is the river, at the top the castle, and in between are numerous picturesque shops and inns. An important settlement in pre-Norman times, the buildings are a fascinating mixture of old and new, with plenty of attractive facades and fine Georgian houses. The unpretentious narrow streets are lined with antique shops and places to dine, with many of the buildings concealing Tudor timber-framing and medieval foundations.
The River Arun is tidal from Pulborough in the north all the way south to the sea at Littlehampton, and the stretch around Arundel has been owned by the Dukes of Norfolk and their predecessors from before the Magna Carta. The docks and warehouses on the riverbanks have gone, but Arundel was once a busy port exporting 60,000 tons of grain a year during the Napoleonic Wars. In its heyday, ships were built here and in the sixteenth century, Henry Fitzalan widened and cleared the river to improve the town’s prospects as a commercial port. Even as recently as the 1930’s, tall ships would come up river full of coal, salt and timber; and there was once a thriving oyster fishery based upon shellfish beds in the Channel.
In and around: Arundel
Situated in a glorious heavily wooded 1100-acre (45 hectare) park, Arundel Castle’s treasures include furniture dating from the 16th century, tapestries, paintings and a magnificent mahogany library from the 18th century.
Built for the fifteenth Duke of Norfolk in 1873, the Cathedral was constructed in the French Gothic style of 1300, with Romantic features such as pinnacles, flying buttresses and gargoyles.
||Dominican Friary, Arundel
The remains of the friary founded in the mid-thirteenth century can be found on the banks of the River Arun.
||St Nicholas’ Parish Church, Arundel
Dating back to the fourteenth century, the parish church is unusual because the chapel is reserved for Roman Catholic services. Built on the site of an eleventh-century church, a stone set into the flintwork bearing a pattern of four crosses is all survives of the original building.
Originally a millpond and situated in the grounds of Arundel Park is the lovely Swanbourne Lake, which was painted by both Turner and Constable. Rowing boats are available to hire.
||Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Anyone who loves birds must visit the Arundel Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Situated to the east of Arundel on marshy ground, it is possible to see wildfowl from all over the world, including the Hawaiian goose (the rarest goose in the world). Facilities include a restaurant, cafe, gift shop, picnic area and binocular hire.
Near to: Arundel
Built as a manor house and once belonging to the Bishops of Chichester, it was not until 1377 that it was turned into a castle in order to protect the nearby river. In 1989 the castle was purchased by the present owners and opened as a luxurious hotel. Visits should only be made by prior appointment as the castle is not open for public viewing.
A working museum on a 14.5 hectare site dedicated to keeping traditional trades alive, a resident team of craftspeople use traditional tools and material to produce a number of fine wares. Also available are vintage bus rides, a narrow gauge railway, cycle exhibition and electrical items in the Seeboard Electricity Hall, plus lots more.
A vineyard trail, collection of agricultural equipment and picnic area plus wine tasting in a fifteenth-century Sussex Barn.
A way-marked trail takes you through 160 acres (64 hectares) of beech and yew woodland, grassland and meadows, with picnic areas provided for you to stop and admire the countryside.
Located near the Open Prison in Ford, this flint church is simple but very pretty and has parts dating back to Norman times.
Bargains galore – everything from household goods, car accessories, garden furniture and plants can be found here.
Parham House and Gardens
Carefully restored in the 1920s, this typical ‘E’ shaped Elizabethan house was built in 1577 for Sir Thomas Palmer, a London merchant. It is located north of the South Downs in a massive deer park. Treasures inside include china, tapestries, furniture and a collection of Elizabethan and Stuart portraits. The grounds included a 4-acre (1.6-hectare) walled garden, orchard, eighteenth-century landscaped garden, lake, brick & turf maze and pleasure pond.
Southdown Gliding Club
Founded in 1930 and now one of the largest in Britain, the Southdown Gliding Club is the perfect place to experience the thrill of soaring quietly through the air over the South Downs. The club owns a number of tandem seat trainers, single seat gliders and several tug planes which can be used by club members, whatever their experience or age. Not sure if gliding is for you? Then before committing to full membership, why not take to the air with a trial lesson.
St Mary the Virgin, Burpham
Restored in 1868, this cruciform church dates from the Norman times, although the west tower was added in the fourteenth century. Featuring an attractive vaulted chancel with a number of mouldings and carvings, the church also features two piscinas and the double aumbry.