This walk packs more interest and variety into its 4 miles than many longer routes. Arundel Castle sits on a finger of high ground extending from the Downs to the river Arun with the ancient town buddling at its foot. The walk starts in the town with its many interesting nooks and crannies, before entering Arundel Park. This is a beautiful stretch of the walk with outstanding views and ends beside Swanbourne Lake, overlooked by a tea shop. After tea the return to Arundel is a level stroll beside the river with unrivalled views of the town, castle and cathedral.
The entrance to Arundel Castle is across the road from the car park. One of William the Conqueror's most favoured knights, Roger de Montgomery, first built a castle in about 1070 on the high ground overlooking the strategically important crossing of the river Arun. This first castle was probably a simple earth motte and bailey defended by a wooden palisade but by the 12th century this had been replaced by a formidable stone fortress, of which only the barbican and shell keep remain today. The castle has been besieged three times; in 1102 by Henry I, in 1139 by Stephen and by Parliamentary forces in 1643. In the Civil War siege the Parliamentary troops pounded it from a cannon mounted at the nearby church of St Nicholas, passed later on the walk. The present structure mainly dates from the rebuilding carried out at the end of the 18th century and then again at the end of the 19th century and so it is not the medieval fortification it seems but a relatively modern reproduction! However, this does not detract from its magnificence.
About 1800 one of the Dukes of Norfolk, owners of the Castle since the 16th century, introduced a colony of North American owls into the keep. Apparently, the birds were called after friends and relations with scant regard for gender so the butler once announced, 'Please, your grace, Lord Thurlow has laid an egg.' This eminent bird died in 1859, aged over a hundred and the remaining owls had died out by 1870.
The castle is open from the beginning of April to the last Friday in October every day except Saturday between noon and 5 pm. Telephone: 01903 883136.
1. Turn left out of the car park. Opposite the bridge on the left, turn right up the High Street, shortly with the castle walls on the right. At the top, follow the castle walls round to the left and continue ahead along London Road, signed 'London Dorking'.
Arundel has a wealth of interesting buildings and nooks and crannies too numerous to describe here. It is well worth taking the time to explore and an excellent pamphlet to guide you round is available from the Tourist Information Centre on the left as you walk up the High Street.
The line of London Road was changed in 1803 when the wall round the estate was built. The sign of the ancient St Mary's Gate Inn shows the old town gate, which now stands within the castle grounds. The road passes the ancient church of St Nicholas. It is a unique building as one end has the Catholic chapel with the tombs of the Fitzalan family while the other is the Anglican parish church. There is a wealth of interesting information available within. A little further along the road is the Catholic cathedral on the left. The Dukes of Norfolk have remained staunchly Roman Catholic despite past religious persecution, especially in the 16th century. Philip Howard, the 5th Duke of Norfolk, spent 11 years as a prisoner in the Tower during the reign of Elizabeth I and died there in 1595. He was canonised in 1970 and now the cathedral is partly dedicated to him. It was built by the 15th Duke between 1868 and 1873 and designed by Joseph Hansom, inventor of the safety cab named after him. It is a dominating building and was intended to be even more so as the original design included a 280 foot spire. This was never built because it was decided that the structure could not bear the weight.
2. Immediately after the entrance to Arundel Castle Estate Office, bear right on a surfaced drive to the Park Lodge entrance to Arundel Park and continue on the drive through the park, bearing right when the drive forks.
The drive passes the cricket ground where touring sides traditionally play their first match against the Duchess of Norfolk XI.
3. As the drive approaches a turreted folly, turn right off the drive on a path across a grassy expanse. The point where the path leaves the drive is not visible on the ground but is marked by a yellow arrow on a post. Cross a gallop - a wide track surfaced with bark - and continue ahead and down a few yards to meet a cross track.
The folly is called Hiorne Tower. The architect Francis Hiorne built it in 1787 in the hope that he would win the contract to rebuild the castle. Sadly, he died two years later at the young age of 45.
4. Turn left along the track, over a stile by a gate, and follow the track down to a cross track in the valley below.
5. Turn sharp right. Follow the track for about a mile, shortly by Swanbourne Lake, to the tea shop on the left at the entrance to the park.
Swanbourne Lake is mentioned in the Domesday Book, when it was a millpond. It is fed by springs. The aquifer that feeds the springs is also used to supply Bognor and Littlehampton. This abstraction lowers the water table and so threatens the future of the springs and the lake. The management of the aquifer is the subject of research to protect its future. There is usually a wide variety of birds to be seen, visiting from the nearby Wetlands and Wildfowl Trust reserve.
6. Go through the entrance gate onto a road. Turn right for 250 yards.
7. At the conical turret of a bridge, turn left on a signed path. Do not go over a footbridge but take a path ahead along the left bank of a stream to the river Arun.
8. Turn right along the riverbank and follow it back to the car park.
The view of Arundel as you walk along the path beside the river is one of the best with the castle and cathedral above the town. The town grew up where the main east/west route crossed the river Arun. In those days, Arundel was a port with wharves along the river. There have been several suggestions about the origin of the name. The most obvious is that it means 'dell on the Arun'. An alternative is that it comes from 'Harbun dell', meaning the valley of horehound, a medicinal plant. More fanciful is that it is from the French 'hirondelle', meaning swallow, because it is the first place where summer reaches Sussex. Better yet it is named after the steed Hirondelle that carried the legendary Bevis of Southampton, one-time warder of the gatehouse of the castle. He was the original Desperate Dan who ate an ox a week with bread and mustard, washed down with two hogsheads of beer. When he felt death was near he flung his mighty sword from the tower and asked to be buried where it fell. A prehistoric grave in Arundel Park is known as Bevis's Grave.
The trail starts at Mill Road car park, Arundel (charge). If this is full, there are other signed car parks in Arundel. Please note that some of this walk is within Arundel Park to which there is unrestricted public access on foot. However, dogs are not allowed. There are two exits for Arundel from the A27. Take the eastern one, signed 'Arundel Town Centre'. Immediately across a bridge over the river, turn right into Mill Road to a car park on the right opposite the entrance to Arundel Castle. If you wish to visit the tea shop at the beginning or end of your walk, continue along Mill Road to the tea shop to find some lay-bys on the right-hand side of the road. You will then start the walk at point 7.