Saturday, May 4, 2019

Annual Tulip Festival in West Sussex, UK

My jaw literally dropped open, and I exclaimed “Wow” as the train rolled past the Arundel Castle in the English countryside.

Guess I didn’t do enough research about this nearly 1,000-year-old castle, located in West Sussex, about 90 minutes away from London by public transport. I simply had a day off and had Googled where I could find a tulip festival as I recalled hearing about one on TV recently. (The castle overlooks the River Arun and was built at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel.)

Well, the first week in May (this month) might be about the last chance you have to see the annual tulip festival in bloom at Arundel Castle. I visited the extensive gardens earlier this week and was disappointed to see that the large field of tulips were already depleted. Bookmark your calendar for mid-April 2020 so you can see the more than 60,000 tulip bulbs burst into bloom. Of course, when the tulips bloom is always up to Mother Nature.
Never the less, I thoroughly enjoyed walking around the grounds of the castle and the gorgeous gardens. At one point, I think I was the youngest person in the gardens. Ha ha. That’s what happens when you have a day off in the middle of the week.

Tulips of all the rainbow colors adorn massive flower pots as well as immaculately designed gardens spaces. If you love flowers and gardens like I do, you could easily spend a few hours in the gardens alone.

Get ready for a ton of tulip photos!

Castle History and the Keep
While there are several ticket options, I purchased a silver level one for £16.50, which included access to the castle keep as well as the gardens. I also received a £3.00 voucher for the café where I bought a slice of Victoria sponge cake and a coffee after all the walking I did outside in the gardens.

The keep, located within a courtyard and surrounded by a stone wall, was the heart of the medieval castle. The tower keep, with its extra thick walls and protected entrance, generally was the safest place to be during warfare. The tall tower offered its protectors a 360-degree view of potential enemies. Today, the keep offers spectacular views of the English countryside and of Arundel Castle itself.
One of the oldest parts of the castle is the gatehouse, which dates to 1070. Under his will, King Henry I (1068-1135) settled the Castle and lands in dower on his second wife, Adeliza of Louvain. Three years after his death, she married William d'Albini II, who built the stone shell keep on the motte. In 1155, King Henry II confirmed William d'Albini II as Earl of Arundel, with the Honour and Castle of Arundel.

I was also interested to learn that the castle is pretty well preserved because the same family – The Duke and Duchess of Norfolk – have owned it for several generations. Part of the castle is open to the public, and part of it is where the family actually lives. I can only imagine the upkeep of this impressive castle.

In 2002, Edward Fitzalan-Howard became the18th Duke of Norfolk when his father died. Arundel Castle has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years – descending directly from 1138 to the present day, carried by female heiresses from the d'Albinis to the Fitzalans in the 13th century and then from the Fitzalans to the Howards in the 16th century.  
Looking at the private section of Arundel Castle where the Duke of Norfolk lives with his family.
If you want to peek inside some of the castle’s extravagant rooms, check out this post by British bloggers Hand Luggage Only.
On the way back to the train station, I had a nice view of Arundel Castle along the river.
If you missed the tulips, don’t fret as they are followed by a flurry of purple and white as thousands of allium bloom for the Allium Extravaganza this month. 

Wouldn’t you like to visit an English castle with gardens like these?