Arundel Castle


Arundel, West Sussex

As I have previously reported on this blog, my boyfriend is a fan of castles. That was fine by me, until we started visiting them. I soon realised that I don’t like castles much. As far as I’m concerned, if you’ve seen one castle, you’ve seen them all. They’ve all got a gatehouse, a portcullis, a drawbridge, tricky spiral staircases and slitty windows for shooting arrows out of. Some are just ruins that you still have to pay to get into, then imagine where those features were. I’m rarely bored, but I am bored by castles, and find it difficult to hide – so much so that when we visited Caerphilly Castle (one of my boyfriend’s favourites, one of my least favourite ever) I couldn’t hide my desperation to get out of there. It has given rise to the term ‘Caerphilly Face’ in our household.

As Christian gamely trudges around gardens with me without complaint, I have vowed to never again show my Caerphilly Face when visiting a castle. To lessen the chance of it happening we have agreed that it’s best for all concerned if the castle has a tea shop, and, ideally, a garden. Which is, of course, the case with Arundel Castle. So off we went to coincide with the Tulip Festival.

Judging by the Caerphilly Faces of the French and Dutch teenagers trudging around the castle I am not alone in my castle-phobia. But actually, I quite enjoyed this one. For starters, it’s intact. It has lots of life-size models and recordings that give you a sense of life in the castle. It even has soft furnishings.

But of course the garden was the main draw for me. It’s awash with tulips at this time of year – over 20,000 of them.  Some of the displays were a bit too garish for my liking (I guess you have to go for the wow factor in a garden like this) but here are some ideas that I could see myself replicating in my own garden.



Arundel Tulips-by-steps


St Michael’s Mount

St Michael's Mount, Cornwall

It’s impossible not to fall for the charms of St Michael’s Mount – it looks atmospheric from afar, and romantic from within. The garden is ever so pretty, filled with exotic plants (the granite rock acts as a giant heat store) that can withstand salt-laden winds. Succulents abounded,which made me very happy – my favourites are below.

The garden is a tad precarious – the garden was crowded when we visited, and when there was a bottleneck on the paths, it wasn’t hard to imagine someone toppling off one of the terraces. While we were visiting, a woman had to be airlifted off the castle path by a Royal Navy helicopter – a private drama made public. Her rescue seemed to take ages, the helicopter whirring rather menacingly above our heads. It made me feel fortunate to be eating ice cream, admiring succulents and enjoying my holiday. I hope she was ok.



Norton St Philip, nr Bath

My boyfriend has a deep love of castles. He reads books on them, and loves visiting them. Unfortunately there are hundreds of castles in the UK, and I can’t get very excited about moats, keeps or portcullises. But thankfully, many have gardens.

Farleigh Hungerford Castle is little more than a ruin, but it’s in a lovely setting on the Somerset/Wiltshire border and has a little garden. It’s looking pretty now, with lots of snowdrops and hellebores, and has various (neatly labelled) perennials that are peeping through. I liked the way the ivy had been trained against the wall.

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