We had passed Arundel on our way to Chichester for a short break and thought the castle so astounding it would give our homeward journey a great start. Arriving around mid-morning gave us plenty of time. A free space to park outside the castle gates gave time for a coffee and orientation (aka slice of cake).
Noticing there was a tulip festival in the grounds drew us back to the castle and a longer-term space to park. The car park is almost opposite the gates and has a standard charge of £2.50 for the day. That was the cheapest part of our visit, yet clearly many were prepared the much higher price of admission: I had to use the second overflow space and hundreds had preceded us.
There are three admission prices: gardens, gardens and public apartments, and gardens with the entire castle; no concessions as far as we could tell. So £23 each the poorer we walked uphill inside.
There is a transport service for the less mobile, which I think is free. There is still plenty of walking required from the set-down point, although wheelchairs can be used. A brief diversion took us to the lake, where swans were nesting so only a general view was possible. Nonetheless the waterside plants were impressive, with gunnera beginning to spread its huge leaves. Also huge is the pawlonia tree in full bloom just below the castle.
The tulips were magnificent: swathes of single colours in some areas, mixed in others. Considering the poor performance of ours this spring we almost felt the admission fee was justified. Despite the brilliant colours we found the white garden just below the family chapel inspirational. As well as the tulips there was a gentle fountain: an ideal area for contemplation.
Inside the chapel there were impressive tombs, not as intimate as the Arundel tomb of Philip Larkin’s poem in Chichester Cathedral but testiment to a family tradition of great age and of course grandeur, given the role of hereditary Earl Marshal held by the dukes.
So to the castle. We decided not attempt the keep, a monumental motte-and-bailey towering above us but went instead to the state rooms. As expected, these are grand. Plenty of armour and weaponry were on display, with a fine collection of family portraits. I found the Tudor poets of the family particularly interesting. Overall, however, there was a gloom about the grandeur.
The restaurant was crowded and very war, not an ideal place for lunch prior to a journey: at the time I was not aware of the admission fee. We decided somewhere else would be preferable. The coffee shop was one option but there was also an open air alternative with seats and tables overlooking the river. Having decided on that we were not disappointed. A homely sandwich with good coffee met our needs entirely. It also gave a needed boost at the start of a fascinating drive through Sussex towards Surrey and the M25 homewards.
Discussing it we agreed the tulips had been worth most of the cost with the pawlonia as bonus.