Arundel Castle: A Visitor’s Guide

First established as a motte-and-bailey castle in the 11th century, Arundel Castle survived England’s tumultuous Middle Ages and was besieged during the Anarchy and, subsequently, the English Civil War. Remodelled and restored during the 19th and 20th centuries, Arundel Castle & Gardens today constitutes one of the great historical sites in South East England. 

Join us for our guide to this remarkable tourist attraction, an ideal day out for visitors of all ages. And if we inspire you to begin planning your trip, why not join us for our dedicated Private Tour of Arundel Castle from London?

One of our most popular Private Day Tours of South East England, our tour is a journey through 900 years of English history and includes an idyllic journey through the beautiful countryside of West Sussex.

Arundel castle on a sunny day

A Short History of Arundel Castle

Strategically (and magnificently!!) situated overlooking the River Arun in West Sussex, Arundel Castle was initially established as a motte-and-bailey style castle by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel, in the 11th century.

The castle had not been established much more than a century when a major war of international significance arrived at its gates. The Anglo-Norman civil war known as The Anarchy erupted in 1138.

In 1139, Empress Matilda, a claimant to the English crown, was besieged in Arundel Castle. Eventually, her son would take the English throne as King Henry II. (Empress Matilda and her son were also involved in the infamous Becket dispute, a story we explore in detail on our Private Tour of Medieval Canterbury.)  

The motte (a large, manmade mound) is the castle’s oldest surviving feature, with part of the castle’s fortifications still looking down from the 100ft motte. King Henry II carried out much of the castle’s early development. 

In 1155, King Henry gifted the castle to William d’Albini II, Earl of Arundel. Amazingly, the castle has been passed down through generations of heirs and heiresses since the 12th century, apart from occasional temporary periods when it came under the monarch’s control. 

It has been the official seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years and has been run by the Howards since the mid-16th century. The Howards are a family who has been at the centre of British history through many important chapters of her history, including the War of the Roses and the English Civil War. 

Some of the most notable members of the Howard family are Lord Howard of Effingham, who fought alongside Sir Francis Drake against the Spanish Armada in 1588, and the 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473-1554), uncle of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both of whom became wives of King Henry VIII.

Other family members have been engaged to marry queens, have been executed for supposedly treasonous behaviour (by the notoriously unforgiving King Henry VIII), have amassed world-class art collections, and one, Philip Howard, 13th Earl of Arundel, even became a saint for upholding his catholic faith during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. 

During the English Civil War, the castle was besieged twice. First by Royalists, then by Oliver Cromwell’s forces. Fortunately, the damage inflicted has since been repaired.

Today, the castle houses important collections of 16th-century furniture and historical items associated with famous figures, including personal items belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots and portraits by master painters, such as Van Dyck, Mytens, and Canaletto. 

 A visit to explore the treasures of Arundel Castle is a deep dive into English history!

Suit of armour in Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle and the Tudors

If you’ve browsed our selection of Private Historical Tours in South East England, you’ll notice that we dedicate quite a lot of time to exploring Tudor history. This is partly due to our own fascination with the Tudors and partly due to its immense popularity with our guests. 

Unquestionably, the Tudor Age throws up some of the most colourful characters in the entirety of English history. So, when we take guests to Arundel Castle, one of England’s most complete examples of a medieval castle, it should be no surprise that we get plenty of questions about some famous (or infamous) Tudors.

King Henry VIII’s Visit to Arundel Castle

King Henry III indeed stayed at Arundel Castle during the 1526 royal progress

Royal progress was the term for tours of England taken by queens and kings. With the amount of deceit and politics that would surround a monarch at court, you can’t blame them for needing a bit of time away. 

Unfortunately, besides the record of his visit and stay, there is little information about how Henry VIII spent his time at Arundel Castle. 

We can, though, hazard a guess that it might have involved feasting and tennis!

Did Anne Boleyn Live in Arundel Castle?

No. Although Anne Boleyn’s uncle, Thomas, was a member of the Howard family who owned Arundel Castle, there is no record of Anne staying at the castle, and she certainly did not live there. 

The castle did play host to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for three days in 1846 – just two of the many famous guests who have stayed here. 
Anne Boleyn did, however, grow up at Hever Castle. We visit that glorious site with our Private Hever Castle Tour.

Water feature n Arundel Castle Gardens

Visiting Arundel Castle – Useful Information

Ready to begin planning your day out at Arundel Castle & Gardens? The information below will be useful.

Arundel Castle & Gardens Opening Hours

Dates vary annually, but Arundel Castle & Gardens are generally open to the public between April and October.

You can access the castle during the open period between Tuesday and Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. 

Tickets can be purchased at the gate. Please check the castle’s official website for its latest prices. 

Getting to Arundel Castle from London

Getting to Arundel Castle from London is simple. During peak season, trains regularly leave London’s Victoria Street Station, with the journey taking around 2–2.5 hours. 

Of course, if you’re visiting London and don’t want to be left to plan your own travel, you can join us on our Arundel Castle Tour

When you tour with us, John will pick you up from Bromley South station, in London’s suburbs, from where your private tour will begin. We’ll enjoy a scenic drive through the West Sussex countryside before reaching the castle for an extensive tour of its interiors and gardens.

Events at Arundel Castle & Gardens

Not only is Arundel Castle an excellent historical site, but it is also a fabulous venue for an exciting calendar of events throughout the year. 

In recent years, events have included medieval festivals, plant fairs, and history days, perfect for the whole family. Check the What’s On at Arundel Castle page for the latest information.

Arundel Castle Court

Your Private Day Tour to Arundel Castle

So, are you ready to traverse the beautiful countryside of West Sussex to visit one of England’s most epic historical sites? Join us for an intimate private tour where there will never be more than a maximum of your nominated six guests. 

On our tours, your expert local guide will endeavour to answer any questions you may have relating to the site and you will be introduced to some of the staff who work there. All tours are designed with comfort and enjoyment in mind, meaning you will never be made to feel rushed. 

If Arundel Castle has piqued your interest, you may also be interested in our Private Medieval England Tour or our Private Tour to Historic Dover Castle. 

If you have any questions or comments regarding our tours, please don’t hesitate to contact us

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