Friday, 18 November 2016

October Road Trip Part Two: Arundel and Arundel Castle

After a fun-filled Saturday in Bournemouth on the 1st of October, we awoke the next morning to flawless blue skies and sunshine beaming through our hotel room window, and knew it was going to be a good day.

We were both a little peckish, so we popped out to the nearest McDonalds for sausage and egg McMuffins, and brought our breakfast back to the hotel room to enjoy in our PJs, before packing up, checking out, and hitting the road once again. This time, to Brighton.

With barely a cloud in the sky, it was a beautiful day for a drive, and while Marie drove, I got to enjoy glimpses of the gorgeous New Forest scenery as we headed east. I haven't visited the forest since a school holiday when I was ten or eleven, and I'd forgotten just how vast and scenic it was. The pine trees and scrub land stretched on for miles, dipping down in to valleys, and climbing back up hills in the distance towards the horizon. It was so beautiful; something I definitely didn't appreciate when I visited it as a kid (I was only interested in the wild ponies), but now I'm really eager to return for a holiday and explore it properly. Hopefully one day I will be able to.

Somewhere along the road, we decided to take a quick detour to Portsmouth, since Marie wanted to pay a quick visit to Gunwharf Quays, and we needed to stop for petrol and supplies anyway. It was strange driving past Marie's old house and all of the familiar places I got so used to visiting or seeing in passing when I stayed with her while her husband was deployed overseas in 2013. It seems like a life time ago now.

We didn't spend long in Portsmouth, but it was lovely driving by all of the places where the sunshine glistened on the water, and getting to dawdle around busy Gunwharf, which is right on a marina, and beside Portsmouth's naval shipyards. My only purchase was some more heat patches for my back, but it was still nice to return to another familiar place. We spotted this really random figurehead on the way back to the car.

A few minutes later, we were back on the road again, sound-tracked by epic eighties tunes, which we both agree make the perfect driving tunes.

An  hour or so later, when we were about twenty miles from Brighton, we were driving off a slip road when I spotted the most incredible looking castle on a hill, just a short distance away on our left. We were both in awe because it looked like something out of a fairytale, so of course, with it being so close, we had to get a closer look.

We turned off the road and the signs informed us we were heading towards Arundel Castle and the historic town of Arundel, neither of which I'd ever heard of before. Apart from the castle, we had no idea what we were about to find, but a few seconds later, we both literally gasped when we laid eyes on the picturesque scenery ahead of us.

Just over a small bridge was a beautiful, historic high street made up of black and white, wooden and red brick Tudor buildings, with the magnificent castle raised up just behind them to the right, surrounded by dozens of lush green trees. It felt like we had driven several hundred years in to the past, but had taken the car-flooded-streets and people in modern day fashion with us. I've never seen anywhere quite like it before. I mean, I live in The Cotswolds where there are gorgeous historic places everywhere you turn but Arundel was something else. It was without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I've seen in my life. It almost looked too magical to be real.

We  didn't have long to spare, but we decided to see if we could get any closer to the castle by car for a better look. We spent a few minutes driving around part of its perimeter, moving slowly because the entire area was swarming with cars, people, and their dogs, but that worked in my favour for snapping photos from the car window, and getting to enjoy the view a while longer. Through arches in the castle walls, I caught glimpses of hoards of visitors walking around, and a river crowded with swans and other water-fowl, but most of what lies inside the castle walls remains a mystery.

The road led us under a thick tunnel of trees, where we were able to see different angles of the castle through the foliage, and noticed that the castle  has it's own real life, water-filled moat! The castle couldn't have been more stereotypical if it tried. I almost expected a knight in metal armour with a lance in hand to appear on horseback, on his way to rescue a fair maiden.

It  took us a few minutes to get through the traffic, find a place to turn around, and head back again, but it wasn't exactly a hardship idling through a copse with a view of an ancient castle! I was dying to get out of the car and explore the entire area- the town, castle, and the copse- on foot, and would have happily spent a year there, but we could only afford those five or ten minutes as we needed to get to Brighton. I'm definitely going to return one day and explore it all properly because it was so beautiful and clearly has so much history to uncover.

I was curious to know a little more about Arundel and its castle, so I did some Googling a few days later, once I was back home. I've learnt that Arundel has traces of early Roman development, but was mainly developed by the Saxons, and for centuries (at least as far back as a thousand years ago!) it was a thriving market town and international port. It's mind-blowing to imagine anywhere having International trade and ports a thousand years ago!

The castle dates back to the 11th century, when it was built by Roger de Montgomery, the Earl of Arundel, with its oldest feature being a 100ft high motte (the artificial mound, which the castle sits on) that was built in 1068. While it's had a lot of restoration over the years, incredibly, many of the castle's original features survive to this day, and it's amazing to think we were looking at a structure that has been standing there for almost an entire millennium, with so many years of history and noble ownership behind it. It made my thirty one years seem like no time at all.

You can read more about the castle and the people it belonged to here, and the town of Arundel here.

And so we reluctantly left Arundel, and headed on for the last leg of our journey to Brighton- but we'll save that story for another day.

Part three of my road trip coming soon.

Have you visited Arundel or Arundel Castle? What's the most interesting place you've stumbled upon during a road trip?

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