Arundel Castle, the 11th Century seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, is reputed to be haunted. The original earl can be seen wandering around the moat checking his pride and joy; there is the stuff of romance in the woman in white, unlucky in love she is said to have thrown herself from the Hiorne tower; and then there’s the blue man, who hasn’t left the well-stocked library since 1630 – and who could blame him.
At this time of year Arundel Castle reverts back to being a cosy, haunted home for the Duke of Norfolk (come Easter the doors will open wide again to welcome visitors), but there are countless other delights that you can find in this charming enclave of Sussex.
What To See
You’ll definitely need to peruse some art in the galleries which showcase a thriving creative force that permeates the whole of the South East; it’s not just Brighton that fosters creativity, it’s thriving here too. The annual festival in August is a huge push for local artists, but at all times of the year you can admire the talent in galleries like the Zimmer Stewart Art Gallery, a showcase for contemporary art and sculpture of the region. There is also a shop where you can view and buy original pieces, prints and books.
Stalking these rare and elusive creatives in their own environs is also possible via the Open House Art programme which we have more on later in the magazine.
If you like a bit more age with your artifacts, you can engage in that wonderful British pastime of browsing the countless antique stores that cluster around the top of Tarrant Street. Trawl for one-off treasures at the French Loft if you are a fan of the industrial or shabby chic, or for something more traditional head up the road to Antiquities and pick up an 18th century walnut chest, or a pair of Georgian columns topped by ionic capitals.
Where To Eat
There are many places to dine right in the center of the town. all you need to do is pick a century. The Grade II listed Regency Town House restaurant has a surprise in store, with the dining room topped by a 16th century renaissance ceiling, intricately carved in walnut and transplanted from Florence Italy, it’s definitely a talking point over your roasted local partridge and a bottle of fine wine.
For something a little more traditional there is the Swan Hotel. The Georgian pub with rooms, stands solidly on the corner of the high street, and offers warm comfortable surroundings, rather than showy ostentation. The restaurant serves hearty pub grub in an interior of mismatched chairs and distressed signs. Take a seat on the tweed banquette and tuck into some slow-roasted pork belly, or pop in mid-shop for an afternoon tea of scones and clotted cream.
A Victorian former warehouse houses the wonderfully named Sparks Yard, established for over ten years it continues to grow. The latest addition, opened a year ago, is the Loft restaurant, bringing the best of American diner style cuisine to Sussex. The interior is clean, industrial chic with copper lamps of varying scale reinforcing the urban charm. It’s the perfect setting to enjoy a homemade burger in a brioche bun (is there any other kind), or fully-loaded Nachos. The restaurant now opens in the evening too, with an expanded menu and delicious cocktails. Who’s for a Mojito?
What To Drink
If cocktails are not your thing, then stay local and opt for an artisan beer from the Arundel Brewery Shop on the Town Quay, the imaginatively labelled bottled and cask beers are brewed just a stagger away down the road at the Arundel Brewery. Try an Autumn Breeze or Winter Knights, but watch out for the Red Nose. Brewed in small batches, you’ll need to stay abreast of the latest weird and wonderful brews they are trying out, or the return of any old favourites by joining the club or following them on twitter.
The Black Rabbit pub is one of a smaller list of establishments that still serves a fine pint of Badger Beer. Situated right on the River Arun it enjoys superb views of Arundel Castle. Hall and Woodhouse is another regional brewer, and has been brewing award winning beers for over 230 years. Drop in and pick up a hamper of ale for Christmas.
There are plenty of lovely coffee shops in the centre of Arundel, but if you like a bit of history with your coffee head to Belinda’s on Tarrant Street. Its home is a 16th Century Tudor framed building ,dwarfed by its neighbours. This is the longest established tea room in Arundel and still going strong. As you would expect from the exterior, this is a traditional tea room, with an interior warmed by an open fire and decorated with bone china plates and horse brasses.
For aficionados there is nowhere better in the South East than Edgcumbes, in Mill Lane. It’s a bit further out of town but they pride themselves on delivering the most refined, ethically-sourced brews and award-winning coffees. Edgcumbes is a roastery and tea blender that has a coffee shop on site, so, once you’ve selected the perfect blend for your Sunday morning brew at home, you can sit, sup and eat cake whilst you wait.
Where To Shop
Independent stores are a welcome antidote to the homogeneous high street staples and are a showcase for the best of Sussex’s local fare. Looking very Dickensian is Pallant, situated on the High Street, at the base of the hill that leads to the Castle, it’s a delicatessen that is proud of the local produce it stocks. Pallant’s double bay windows are chock full of delights, and you won’t resist leaving without a taste of Sussex in your shopping basket.
If you like your carrots with leaves and potatoes with the mud still on, get along to the farmer’s market on the third Saturday of every month. A word to the wise though, it’s not just vegetables you’ll be tempted by; this is a showcase for every genuine local producer in the area, and buyers can rest easy knowing that only produce grown or reared within a 40-mile radius of Arundel is accepted. Some of the stand-out producers that regularly appear are the Slindon Bakery, Chutters Homemade, the delightfully packaged Craft Coffee and there’s even gourmet biscuits for the dog – now there’s a great stocking filler for Rex – from Snaffles.
What To Do
Grab your Hunter’s and head off for a wander on a portion of the 615 mile public footpath, the Monarch’s Way. It runs from Worcester in the Midlands, to Shoreham-by-Sea on the West Sussex coast and it’s the route taken by King Charles II, whilst fleeing to France, following his 1651 defeat at the Battle of Worcester. In the absence of marauding hoards, just walk off lunch and don’t worry about getting lost and ending up in France, it’s fully signposted.
Work up an appetite for your cream tea, and head out to Swanbourne Lodge which overlooks the boating lake. The split flint stone lodge is another piece of Arundel’s rich architectural tapestry that sits on the edge of Arundel Park. You can go boating or sailing on the River Arun, free life-jackets included, or take a walk around the WWT Arundel Wetland Centre to enjoy a bit of wildlife.
Whether you’re a foodie, an art lover or a walker, there’s something for everyone here and if Arundel has been on your list of places to visit, then move it up to the top spot. This is the perfect place to find that one-off Christmas gift or to enjoy the Christmas ambience, especially at the festive market and Arundel by candlelight on the 5th December. And if the number of ghosts floating about Arundel is anything to go by, you’ll certainly find it hard to leave too.
• For more information go to www.visitarundel.co.uk or arundel.org.uk