Bundled up, I hopped on a train to central London to meet my hiking friends. We grabbed a cup of coffee, met our Outdooraholics group leader and jumped on the southern train that would take us to Amberley, situated in West Sussex, at the foot of the South Downs.
This was a shorter hike than the others I’d been on – about 9 miles this time. As usual, I did very little research before meeting up with the group and allowed the countryside to unfold before me in a series of beautiful surprises.
After walking along a narrow riverside trail, we came upon Arundel Park. Since the 16th century, the park and nearby Arundel Castle belong to the Duke of Norfolk (also the Earl of Arundel…a title that I believe has been passed on to his son). The Duke of Norfolk is the highest rank below the monarchy in England.
This old-fashioned Duke and Duchess thing is a bit of mystery to me, but basically, they are all descendants of King Edward I (1239-1307). If you’d like to get entirely lost in the world of Lords and Ladies, you can look here. Or attempt to follow the family tree here. It’s really all very fascinating.
All I know for sure, is that this Duke has a pretty splendid back yard!
Given my lack of research, I thought this (below) was Arundel Castle. Turns out this is just a folly — an ornamental building. It was built by Francis Hiorne to show the Duke his castle building talents.
We propped up against the stone wall, in the sunshine, and ate our lunch here.
We continued on, stopping at a small lake, full of ducks and birds. Then, followed a path along to the Black Rabbit Pub, a peaceful little spot located on the river. We stopped there for a drink, just as the sun was sinking behind (the real) Arundel Castle and the autumn colours were glowing.
Pub stops are part of hiking in the UK and you won’t find anyone complaining. Although most people will opt for a pint of beer, a cup of tea is also acceptable – especially in the colder months.
We followed the River Arun into the town of Arundel. As we approached, we had a view of the castle the entire way, and it was difficult not to continuously stop and gawk at the enormity of it.
Arundel Castle was established during the time of William the Conqueror (1060s). The town could date back as far as Roman times, but was definitely an important port and market town from about 1086 until the 19th century. The sea is only 5 miles away, so ships would use the River Arun to travel to and from Arundel. The port stopped operating after the railways were built in the late 1800s.
What a beautiful, peaceful spot to spend a late-November evening.
I love quaint English towns like this – surrounded by countryside, lots of history and original architecture to admire. It was made even more special with a douse of Christmas lights and the little trees hung on all the buildings.
As if an elaborate castle were not enough, Arundel also boasts a beautiful Catholic Cathedral. In 1829, when Roman Catholic churches became legal again, the 15th Duke of Norfolk commissioned the construction of a Catholic church, built in French Gothic style (complete with gargoyles).
Oddly enough, we found cherry blossoms blooming there. Supposedly this is a sign of a harsh winter to come.
Our hike had now turned into a stroll around town, peeking into little shops and meeting up again a the Red Lion Pub for a pint before our train ride back to London.
I’m very much looking forward to visiting Arundel again with the family. Perhaps we’ll hit the popular monthly Farmer’s Market and we’ll definitely have to tour the castle.