by Keren Moran
A lot of what I see in England reminds me of scenes from the books of Jane Austen and JRR Tolkien. The riverside town of Arundel is no different. Situated among the picturesque countryside of the South Downs in West Sussex, Arundel harks back to the Victorian era. On a warm summer’s day it is the ideal spot for a Victorian style picnic.
If the elaborate, sumptuous and artfully orchestrated picnics you’ve read about in Jane Austen’s Emma seem unattainable, the Pallant of Arundel is here to help. This gourmet delicatessen in the town square has an excellent selection of cheeses, salads, fresh breads, pastries, wines, cold drinks, and coffees. Delicious and refreshing, Fentimans Traditional Victorian Lemonade is a fizzy concoction of fermented botanical lemons, ginger and herbal extracts. .
Once you’ve put together your instant picnic lunch, the River Arun, where you can find a nice patch of grass to recline on, is just a short stroll away. You might even be tempted to take a rowboat out on the river before you gear up to see the main attraction, Arundel Castle.
Built at the end of the 11th Century, the original Norman keep, gatehouse, barbican, and the lower part of Bevis Tower of Arundel still survive. The climb to the top of the keep is rewarded by a fantastic view over West Sussex and the sea. Looking directly down from the same vantage point to a bridge below, it’s not difficult to imagine a scene from Lord of the Rings.
The rest of the castle was almost entirely rebuilt in the 1870s. The Gothic style architecture is said to be one of the great works of Victorian England. Queen Victoria herself stayed at Arundel Castle for three days in December 1846. Rooms that were built and furnished especially for the visit can be visited along with the other castle rooms and bedrooms. Queen Victoria’s bed is so high that it comes complete with a stepladder. All this might inspire you to see history come to life in the recent film, “The Young Victoria” in which Arundel Castle plays a starring role.
The castle has been the family home of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 900 years and is one of the longest inhabited country houses in England. I don’t think anyone should use the word “house” in reference to this place – it is beyond big.
The castle is still lived in four months of the year and only open to the public from April to November.
I continue to be very impressed by English gardens. Arundel Castle’s gardens are beautifully kept and very artistic. The Rose Garden is simple and quiet compared with the fountains, pavilions and ponds of the Collector Earl’s Garden, but it’s pretty little garden benches with a great view out to the castle are a perfect place to rest after a lot of walking.
Heading back into the town, one can finish the day off foraging through the antique stores that line the main street and then stopping of at one of the many cafes along the way. Popping back into The Pallant of Arundel for some coffee beans to take home is a good idea as their coffee is delicious, fair trade and ground to order.
Arundel is an easy 20-minute train ride from the nearby town of Chichester, and 90 minutes from London’s Victoria Station.
Arundel Castle is open to the public from early April through October.
Opening hours are 10am-4.30pm Tuesdays through Sundays.
The Pallant of Arundel is open 7 days a week.
The Square 17 High Street Arundel
Keren Moran is currently working a long way from her hometown of Sydney as an Au pair in West Sussex, United Kingdom. When she’s not looking after kids, Keren is seeing as much of Europe as possible.