Spending a day in Arundel
PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 May 2020
Â©2019 Nick Hawkes, all rights reserved
Once the lockdown has been relaxed, spend some time at one of Sussex’s go to locations.
The picturesque West Sussex town of Arundel combines all the essential elements for a first-class day trip. Fascinating history? Check. Natural beauty? Check. Great food and shopping? Check and check.
Even for long-term residents, the sweeping view of the town when approached from the east takes the breath away: the River Arun snakes through verdant fields, watched over by the town’s two great landmarks: the Gothic cathedral and fairy tale castle.
That castle is the seat of the Duke of Norfolk, and there has been a fortification here since the Norman Conquest, when William the Conqueror gifted the Honour of Arundel to Roger de Montgomery. A town quickly grew up around the castle and it became an important administrative and trading centre with a flourishing port.
Arundel today is a bustling, community-spirited place with plenty of businesses centred around tourism. There is a flourishing arts scene, exemplified by the annual festival in August and the several galleries found around town.
IN THE MORNING
Arundel is sometimes described as “the gateway to the South Downs” and there are many beautiful walks to be had in the area. You might like to start your day with an early morning stroll around beautiful Swanbourne Lake, where visitors
can take out rowing boats in the summer months and a kiosk sells food for the ducks.
Close by, the 65-acre Arundel Wetland Centre really warrants a full day out but around three hours would give enough time for a quick tour, plus a fascinating and tranquil trip on the Wetland Discovery boat safari where you might spot water voles and kingfishers. If you’re ready for a little sustenance after your visit, the nearby Black Rabbit pub enjoys a wonderful position on the river, but be warned – it gets very busy on sunny days.Arundel town centre is a 20-minute stroll along Mill Road – a wide tree-lined promenade with views over water meadows to the left and to the castle on the right. Here you will find Arundel Museum, which tells the story of the town from the first pre-Roman settlements to the present day. There is also a Tourist Information point inside. If you’re keen to discover more about the history of this fascinating place, Martin Alderton of Arundel Historic Tours is an absolute wellspring of knowledge. Tours can be pre-booked via arundelwalkingtours.co.uk
After replenishing your energy reserves at one of Arundel’s many eating places, you might like to linger over a spot of shopping. Nineveh House houses the towns arts, crafts and antiques market, with 16 separate shops and a veritable Aladdin’s cave of items including vintage clothes, grampophones, jewellery and porcelain.
Also on Tarrant Street is The Old Printworks, an elegant Edwardian arcade with unusual shops including Abi-K, which sells beautiful kimono silk accessories, and Retroesque, which stocks vintage-inspired clothes brands including Irregular Choice. Of course, a visit to Arundel wouldn’t be complete without a closer look at that wonderful castle. Normally it opens from April to October but due to the continued disruption brought by COVID-19, as with all the other businesses featured, it is best to check before you plan a visit. Do make sure to spend some time in the Collector Earl’s Garden, a magnificent Italianate space with fountains and grottos. The stumpery and Victorian glasshouses reward loser inspection too.
Do try to squeeze in a visit to 14th century St Nicholas’ Church and that splendid Victorian Gothic cathedral, both on London Road, and a dip in Arundel Lido. As evening falls, Arundel offers a wealth of activities, from music and comedy at the Jailhouse to theatre at the Priory Playhouse, plus regular concerts by the internationally renowned Hanover Band, who are based in the town.
DAY ON A PLATE
There’s plenty to tempt the tastebuds here: for special dinners and a very reasonably priced set lunch menu, you couldn’t do better than The Parsons Table.
Chef and proprietor Lee Parsons comes to Arundel via The Savoy and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.By day, Motte and Bailey serves light lunches and cakes but on weekend evenings it transforms into an excellent tapas restaurant.
The Townhouse and Pappardelle both come highly recommended by locals, while Butlers is an elegant spot for dinner and cocktails. Pallant of Arundel is an upscale deli and the perfect place to visit for picnic essentials.
THE LOCAL VIEW
Director of Zimmer Stewart Gallery
Arundel is full of contradictions: quirky yet familiar, old-fashioned yet contemporary, rural yet cosmopolitan. Some people have lived here for generations, others like me are relative newcomers (having lived here for ‘only’ 23 years!). We all love the location on the edge of the South Downs, close to the sea and straddling the River Arun. What I especially like is the sense of community, the many artists, galleries and Akin (www.akinarundel.com) a relatively new group for the many creative individuals living, collaborating and working here.
Editor of town magazine The Bell
My favourite things in Arundel? Being pampered at Gilded Pleasure Hair and Beauty; sipping delicious English sparkling wine in Digby’s Tasting Room; popping into The Book Ferret to browse Sarah’s stock of hilarious cards; listening to a magnificent Hanover Band concert in St Nicholas’ Church; having dinner with good friends at the Parson’s Table (or Butlers, La Campania, Pappardelle – any of our great restaurants) and walking in the park or by the river. There are just so many things to do and enjoy in Arundel – living here is like being on a permanent holiday!