Arundel and Arundel Castle

For this post we’re heading over to West Sussex, to talk about Arundel and Arundel Castle. Arundel is a place i’ve always wanted to visit, often passing on the way back from Brighton or Eastbourne. The striking views of the castle poking out from the sleepy market town have always stuck with me – making it an easy submission to my ever-growing list of places to visit.

Looking out at the Castle from the stairs to the Keep.

Looking out at the Castle from the stairs to the Keep.

VISITING ARUNDEL CASTLE

I accidentally visited Arundel Castle at possibly one of the busiest times in their calendar – the annual Medieval Jousting Week. The event included Jousting, Falconry, stalls and too many people walking around in historical costume – aka a pair of M&S Long Johns. The event was great for families, but I’d love to go back when it’s a bit quieter and really take it all in.

For adults, tickets start at £13 for the Bronze pass which will get you entrance to only a few areas of the grounds. The Gold Plus pass is £22 and will give you access to all the areas that are open to the public. The Medieval Jousting Week made our tickets cost a few pounds extra. Visit their website for full ticket details and for any upcoming events.

GETTING TO ARUNDEL

Arundel is in West Sussex, and if you’re heading from East Dorset by car it should be just under two hours. There’s a pay and display parking (with an overflow) opposite the entrance to Arundel Castle, but there’s also limited roadside parking about a 10 minute walk away if you’d prefer not to pay. For the main parking use BN18 9PA in your Sat Nav.

Arundel has a train station too, and it’s only a 15 minute walk from the castle. You can always jump into a taxi if you want to get there pronto. Because Arundel is a little out of the way you might have to change trains, so if you’re coming from Dorset you’ll most likely need to change at Southampton.

THINGS TO SEE

Ancient Castle and The Keep

Arundel Castle has been home to generations of the Duke of Norfolk (18 to be exact), it’s a Norman Castle with the addition of a large Manor House in the victorian era. According to the guide book, the current Duke of Norfolk moved back in to the castle in the 1980s – it hadn’t been lived in for more than 20 years! It’s thanks to him (and his family) and the charitable trust for restoring the interiors, gardens and the park so visitors can have the best experience.

The view of the grounds and the South Downs from the castle is breathtaking. I like to imagine all the people that have looked out at the view – were they as blown away back then? And how much has it changed? I can almost picture people riding horseback, charging at the castle.

Stately Home

The stately home is joined onto the castle but has a separate entrance for the public. It boasts a very lavish interior; there’s a private chapel, a great hall, an armoury, drawing rooms, a gallery, dressing rooms, grand bedrooms and a library (that’s vert reminiscent of Harry Potter). The bedrooms have housed some royal guests too, like Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Each room and hallway area is home to stunning collections of art and objet d’art.

The house definitely feels like a work of art in its own right, you can see the influence of different centuries as well as the various owners coming through.

The Gardens

I didn’t have very long as the gardens closed at 17.00 and it was 16.50 by the time I realised. Armed with my camera I legged it to the gardens hoping to catch a small glimpse. And WOW! I was absolutely blown away by the view and the colours. I’d recommend giving yourself more than 10 minutes to frantically dart around trying to take everything in.

The Gardens are split into 13 sections (unlucky for some) and include a few fountains, a Hot House, a Vinery and Peach House, a Kitchen Garden and a Flower Garden. The Kitchen Garden is actually a working garden as the produce grown is used in the castle.

The centrepiece of the garden is ‘Oberon’s Palace’. It towers over the far end of the garden almost transporting you to another place. It looks new, but it’s actually dated back to the early 1600s and is well worth a look.

WHERE TO EAT

There are two places on-site for food and drink – the restaurant and the café. The restaurant serves light meals and lunches but if you would prefer to eat al fresco you can grab some sandwiches and drinks from the nearby café and head outside. We took a packed lunch and found a nice shaded spot under a tree – it’s really picnic friendly, but i’d recommenced bringing a blanket to sit on. While i’m making recommendations I might as well say that as there’s lots of walking and climbing up stairs, wear comfortable shoes for this trip.

I absolutely loved visiting Arundel Castle (and even bought the guide book so I could read up on it) – I can’t wait to go back and explore it some more. I reckon it’ll be very magical in winter!

Visited Arundel or Arundel Castle? We'd love to see what you got up to, so make sure to tag us in any photos @deardorset and use #deardorset!

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Good to know…

- Pay and display parking available

- Prices start from £13 (adult)

- Options for food/BYOP

Mapperton House and Gardens

Mapperton House and Gardens is in West Dorset, just outside of Beaminster. It’s home to the Earl and Countess of Sandwich (and if you’re wondering, yes they’re related to the guy that invented the sandwich). I’ve visited here twice now, and I can’t wait to go back for a third time to take Fern – I know she’ll love it just as much as I do.

Mapperton House

Mapperton House

GETTING TO Mapperton House

Depending on where you’re coming from you’ll need to drive west (well, south west). From Dorchester it’ll take about 30 minutes – it’s really close to Beaminster and Bridport so once you’re finished at the house you can explore somewhere else close by. For better directions than ‘drive west’, head over to the Mapperton House website. The route is well signposted and there’s lots of parking available too.

There are two main types of ticket – Garden access only and House and Garden access. If you book online in advance you’ll save £2 on the entrance fee. And if you have the Gardeners’ World 2-for-1 card, you can use this here and save even more! Personally, I think that the ticket price is reasonable for what there is to offer. Don’t forget to check opening times and dates before you travel, but usually it’s open Sunday-Thursday (Closed Friday and Saturday) during March-October.

THINGS TO SEE

The Manor House

The Manor House is nestled at the heart of a working estate and is steeped in years of history. From the outside of the house you can see the influence of different centuries with each owner adding their mark. From Tudor and Jacobean to Georgian and more recently, the additions in the early and late 1900s, the house is a wonderful blend of time and architecture – something that I think is really special to the place. The estate has also been used in film, most recently for Far From the Madding Crowd starring Cary Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts.

To see the inside of the house you’ll need to book onto a guided tour, you can do this when you book online or on the day. I’ve never booked online and so far haven’t had trouble with getting the tour time of my choosing. Tours are usually between 12.00-15.00 and last for approximately an hour. The tour guides are really friendly, and have so much knowledge on the house, the owners (past and present) and their romantic, political and naval pursuits. Interestingly the house has been handed down the family through the female line, which I think is really cool!

One thing I should mention is that you’re not allowed to take photos of the inside of the house as it’s still a family home.

Italianate Gardens

The gardens are beautiful and much like the house have been subject to centuries of style and influence. Walking from the left of the house down a small passage way, you’re met with a deep green, well-groomed croquet lawn complete with a garden pavilion. And to the right hidden behind the hedgerow is the Italianate gardens. You can tell that the various owners of the house have really cared for the property – it’s a really calming and peaceful environment (I think that all the water features really help with this). In my mind, the lower gardens are split into three main sections; the Fountain Court, the swimming pool and the pond which leads on to an arboretum and the woodland walk that heads to the sea.

In the Fountain Court is probably one of my favourite parts – the Orangery. Fern and I are really partial to a good Orangery. Sitting in there on a warm summers day with the breeze blowing through, the smell of the flowers in the air and the low hum of nature outside is my idea of heaven (and a hay fever sufferer’s worst nightmare).

Food and drink

On the estate there's the Coach House café; they serve breakfast until 11.45 and gourmet sandwiches, mains from 12.00-15.00 and of course, tea/coffee and cake (the triple chocolate brownie was amazing!). On the menu it says that the gourmet sandwiches were developed with the 11th Earl of Sandwich – which I hope is true!

Unfortunately, you can only eat your picnic in the car park. The outside benches are for customers of the café, and you can’t eat inside the gardens either.

Before you leave don’t forget to say hello to the tortoise, it’s an interesting quirk to the estate but I’m still not sure what the connection is…

Visited Mapperton House and Gardens? We'd love to see what you got up to, so make sure to tag us in any photos @deardorset and use #deardorset!

Good to know…

- Free parking available

- Range of ticket prices and options

- Coach House Café

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens is located in Richmond, Surrey. Not quite Dorset, we know, but sometimes we do like to venture a little further afield! Charlotte and I first visited Kew back in 2017 and I enjoyed it so much I’ve been back every years since; so definitely worth a post in my eyes.

If you weren’t already aware, Kew Gardens (formally known as Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) is a botanic garden in southwest London and, according to the internet, is home to "largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world.”

The Palm House

The Palm House

I was lucky enough to receive an annual membership for my birthday, which allows entry for myself and a plus one, which is pretty handy! Membership costs £71 annually. It also includes discounted bookings for certain events such as Christmas at Kew, but more on that later. If you don’t think you’ll get the use out of a membership, then general admission starts from £16.50 for an adult ticket.

Getting there

If you’re travelling from Dorset, then we’d recommend getting the train, as there’s no car park and limited parking around the area. If you’re travelling with South Western Railway, you can catch the train into Clapham Junction and change there for a train to Richmond (approx 10 minutes.) It’s then a short 15 / 20 minute walk from Richmond station.

Kew Gardens station is on the Richmond brand of the District Line and the London Overground. It’s probably best to head over the the Kew site to work out the best way of getting there, depending on your location.

Things to see…

There’s so much to see at Kew, whether you simply want to take stroll around the gardens stopping to smell the flowers, or transport yourself to another continent with their indoor rainforest, there’s enough to keep us coming back time and time again! An extensivel list of what to see can be found over on the Kew website, but here’s just a few of our favourite picks.

Palm House

The Palm House is probably the most recognisable location at Kew. Essentially an indoor rainforest, it’s hot and humid, but filled with a vast variety of tropical plants. Many of the plants are endangered, some even extinct in the wild! If you can stand the humidity for long enough, you can climb the spiral staircase to the balcony for an overheard view.

Rose Garden

One for the flower fans, the Rose Garden is home to 170 different species of roses. You can’t miss it, as it’s situated right in front (or behind, depending on which way you look at it) the Palm House. The roses smell absolutely wonderful and, if you’re thinking of your Instagram feed, make for a pretty beautiful photo opportunity.

Treetop Walkway

Get up-close to Kew’s trees with a stroll across the treetop walkway. It’s 18 metres above ground, so not ridiculously high, but maybe not one for those who don’t like heights! From up here, you can even see a glimpse of various London buildings – which is an interesting contrast between the greenery of Kew Gardens (and one I love!)

Fern looking out from the Treetop Walkway

Fern looking out from the Treetop Walkway

Temperate House

The world’s largest Victorian glasshouse, Temperate House, re-opened in 2018 after a five-year renovation process! Temperate House is filled with 1,500 species of plants from around the world (mainly Africa, Australia, Asia etc.) all of which need to be kept over a temperature of 10 degrees to survive.

Christmas at Kew

Whilst we’ve only ever visited Kew during the warmer months, it is open all year round; although opening hours vary throughout the year. Throughout November – January you can enjoy Christmas at Kew. Bookings are actually open already, which may sound ridiculous but it does sell out quickly! We still need to pick a date for our trip this year, so will report back once we’ve been.

Where to eat

Whether you’re after a full on meal or just fancy some tea and cake, there’s a good variety of places to grab a bite to eat. The Orangery (not to be confused with an actual orangery) is a personal favourite, offering plenty of choice from hot lunches to delicious cakes. You can find the full list of places to eat here.

Of course, if you don’t fancy paying full prices you’re more than welcome to take your own picnic with you and enjoy it on one of the many grassy areas. There are also various stations around the gardens to re-fill your water bottles – a godsend on a hot day!

Visited Kew Gardens? We'd love to see your photos, so make sure to tag us @deardorset and use #deardorset!

Kew Gardens Palm house

Good to know…

- Nearest stations are Kew Gardens (District Line), Richmond (National Rail and District Line)

- No car park but limited on-street parking on surrounding roads

- Adult tickets from £16.50

- Various food and dining options

Stourhead

Known for its idyllic beauty, iconic Palladian architecture and being both home to the source of the River Stour and the famous landscape garden, Stourhead is a must-see. It doesn’t matter when you visit in the year as the place comes alive with each season – you won’t be disappointed.

It’s part of the National Trust so admission is free for members. You can find out more about opening times and ticket prices on the National Trust website.

Looking out across the lake at the Palladian Bridge and the Temple of Apollo.

Looking out across the lake at the Palladian Bridge and the Temple of Apollo.

A brief history…

The Stourhead estate is home to centuries of history, having been passed down through generations of the Hoare family. The house and gardens that we can explore today were originally built in the 18th century under the watch of Henry Hoare, a banker from London.

The estate is essentially split into two halves with Stourton village at the centre. The first half which is close to the entrance is the stately home, also known as the ‘country villa’. Visiting this first is the perfect way to start your visit – step back in time and explore the property that’s rich with history, art and architecture. The building has been restored twice, once due to neglect and the second time was sadly due to a fire. After the restoration was complete the National Trust took over the care and maintenance of Stourhead and it’s been open to the public ever since.

The second half of the estate is the b-e-a-utiful landscaped gardens, which I’ll get on to…

Stourhead in film

Stourhead was used as the location for some iconic scenes in Pride and Prejudice (2005) – the one starring Keira Knightly as Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy. The first location used was the Temple of Apollo; in this scene they had been walking in the rain (v romantic…) and ended up sheltering from it at a beautiful temple. Here he proposes and subsequently offends her entire family, she responds with “no” (although, a little more eloquently) and runs off over a bridge. The Palladian bridge is location number two – it’s the perfect setting for such an emotional scene and gives me (Charlotte) goosebumps just thinking about it. I could go on and on, but let’s get back on track!

The world-famous gardens

Along with the Temple of Apollo and the Palladian Bridge there’s also the Temple of Flora, the Pantheon, the Grotto and the Gothic Cottage to explore. It feels very much like something from The Secret Garden, and i’m totally onboard with that. Every time I visit, I feel like i’m a kid again and just want to run off and investigate every corner.

The secluded gardens are very classically designed, with a huge (and I mean HUUUGE) nod to Greek mythology and architecture. The lake walk takes you around each of the areas on a circular trail so you shouldn’t get lost. The plants and trees on the walk are absolutely stunning too, with a mixture of local and exotic species. It’s a real work of art – a living painting before your eyes.

Stourhead is one of my most favourite places in the world. I know it’s quite a bold statement, but once you’ve experienced the beauty and tranquility of Stourhead you’ll get the bug too.

Where to eat

Now for the good stuff… At Stourhead you’re quite spoiled for choice when it comes to where and what to eat. For starters (unintentional pun) there’s a National Trust owned restaurant at the entrance where you can sit down and have a bite to eat. They sell all the usual goodies like sandwiches, jacket potatoes, soup, crisps, cakes and scones to name a few things. There’s also a kiosk outside that sells quick nibbles like pasties, ice cream and hot/cold drinks. Great for if you’re hungry but want to get exploring!

Once inside the grounds of Stourhead there’s the Spread Eagle Inn – we’ve not eaten here, but from the menu it looks quite fancy, yet reasonably priced (it’s not owned by the National Trust). In the quad that the Inn is based, there’s also an ice cream parlour that we’d recommend. We’ve tried it out a few times… you know, just to make sure.

As you should know by now, Fern and I are regulars with BYOP (bring your own picnic), and there are plenty of spots to stop and take in the tranquil views. Don’t forget to bring a picnic mat though as there aren’t too many benches.

As most of the paths are accessible, deciding on what to wear to walk in is pretty easy – whatever you’re comfortable in and whatever the weather is – so whether that’s walking boots or sandals you should be just fine. We wouldn’t recommend heels though, there are some cobbled paths and hills to walk up and down too.

Visited Stourhead? We'd love to see what you got up to, so make sure to tag us in any photos @deardorset and use #deardorset!

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Good to know…

- Parking charge for non-members

- Prices start from £8.70 (child) without a NT membership

- Options for food

The Blue Pool

The Blue Pool is tucked away in-between Wareham and Swanage (trips for another blog post) – it’s a tranquil haven just off the main holiday route to Corfe Castle. It’s a place that neither of us have explored, and was perfect for a day off that we’ve had marked in our diaries for a while.

Once home to a clay mining pit, the space now offers a unique and beautiful attraction. The name doesn’t leave much to the imagination – Blue Pool – but there’s defintiely more to it than meets the eye. The colour of the water changes and seems to transition between a variety of blues and greens. In short, this phenomenon happens when light hits tiny clay particles that are in the water.

The Blue Pool

The Blue Pool

Finding blue pool

We brazenly decided (or rather I, Charlotte, insisted) on not using a sat nav to find the Blue Pool, hoping to rely on sign posting from Wareham and my local knowledge that had seemingly appeared over night. The sign posting was relatively minimal, but did the job.

It’s worth noting that the Blue Pool is independently owned, there's a £7.50 admission fee (including access to the café). And don’t stress about bringing cash as they accept card payments. Tickets aren’t time limited so you can enjoy exploring the trails around the Blue Pool at your own pace – there’s also a plant centre near the entrance, a museum, the Wareham Bears and a gift shop.

picking the route

Walking around there are two routes to choose from, although you can mix between them if you like, we definitely didn’t stick to any one path. One option is fully accessible taking a longer route around and avoiding all the steps – even though you can’t get as close to the pool in some areas, the view is still extraordinary. There are lots of benches too (aka picnic opportunities), we often found ourselves wandering from one bench to another taking in the view from different angles.

The café offers a variety of hot and cold food options that cater to most dietary requirements (gluten and dairy free available), as well as kids lunches and homemade cakes and scones (obviously cream before jam).

Even more to explore

Kids go free with a paying adult, and there’s lots for them to do. From fairy trails to a choice of play areas there's something to keep them busy and entertained. Back at the main building the gift shop displays the Wareham Bears. This sweet and unexpected exhibition shows dressed teddy bears in an assortment of scenarios, whether that’s at home or working at the Maltings or the Green Grocer. Each little bear comes with their own quirky story, which even had us laughing.

Even though the pool looks enticing you can’t swim, or even dip your toes in it. From the surface it looks quite shallow but is actually quite deep and dangerous.

The Blue Pool is open from 9am daily, March-November (inclusive).

Visited the Blue Pool? We'd love to see what you got up to, so make sure to tag us in any photos @deardorset and use #deardorset!

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Good to know…

- Parking

- £7.50 adult ticket (concessions available)

- Tea room and toilets

- Dog friendly

Tyneham and Worbarrow Bay

Nestled in the depths of South Dorset, somewhere between Lulworth and Kimmeridge is Tyneham village. It was evacuated in WW2 for military use and the villagers were promised that they could return once the war had ended. Sadly, this didn’t happen and it’s still owned and used by the Ministry of Defence.

Worbarrow Bay

Worbarrow Bay

What to expect

I’ve been going to Tyneham for years now and it was something I really wanted to share with Fern. There’s something so special and untouched about the place – it’s far from main roads and has next to no phone signal (which is perfect for a digital detox day). And like most of the walks I go on, there’s usually some good dog watching to be had. It’s the perfect Dorset Day out.

To get to the hidden entrance of the village you have to drive on some quite narrow and winding roads. Depending on which way you’re coming from, there’s a viewpoint at the top of Whiteway Hill that I would definitely recommend pulling into – it’s an incredible view and perfect for some landscape shots. Take care driving into Tyneham from the awkward turning, it’s single file but with plenty of areas to pull in and let other cars pass. 

Walking around the peaceful ruins of what was once someone’s home, or visiting the school house where lessons once took place is quite haunting. You can’t help but wonder about how slow life was out here in a very isolated and rural Dorset, and how challenging leaving this all behind must have been. Amongst the empty buildings are signs of wildlife, and colour. In the springtime, the flowers take over and the smell of wild garlic is everywhere (if that’s your thing).

Worbarrow Bay

About a 15 minute walk away – if you’re speedy like Fern and I – from the village is the stunning Worbarrow Bay. You should take something warm to put on as it can get very windy out on the exposed coast. If you choose to ignore this advice, don’t say we didn’t warn you! 

My favourite time of year for exploring this part of the trip is in Autumn/very early spring when the sea is covered with mist. You can get lost in the blues and the peaceful sound of the waves lapping at the shore. On our last visit I decided to take a brisk walk up Worbarrow Tout (the big hill to the left if you’re looking out to sea) to see what all the fuss was about. The view was worth the walk, and i’m not being melodramatic (okay, maybe a tiny bit…) by saying I felt like I was at the edge of the world. On a side note, wear something more practical than converse on your feet if you’re going to head up the Tout. I found out the hard way after losing my footing and falling flat on my bottom. 

Bring your own picnic (BYOP)

On the way back to Tyneham, you can take the signposted short walk through the woods which will bring you back to the village via the main picnic spot. If like us, you need to be fed and watered regularly (nothing beats a good cup of Early Grey IMO) you’ll need to bring your own supplies as there isn’t a shop or café nearby. You can dine “al fresco” either by the ruins – there are plenty of picnic benches dotted about – or back on the pebbled beach. If it’s raining you might have to opt for a car picnic, which Fern and I secretly (or not so secretly) enjoy.

Even though Tyneham is a live firing range it’s open most weekends, but it’s always worth checking when it’s open before heading over.

Visited Tyneham and Worbarrow Bay? We'd love to see what you got up to, so make sure to tag us in any photos @deardorset and use #deardorset!

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Good to know…

- £2 parking donation

- Free entry

- BYOP (bring your own picnic)

- Toilets

Hello

Hello and welcome to Dear Dorset. It’s taken a little bit of time, but our blog is finally here! To keep it brief, we’re going to be sharing our trips around the south coast – where to go, what to do and, most importantly, where you can get a good cup of tea!

If you’re not already following us on Instagram, you can find us @deardorset. And if you want to find out a little more, keep on scrolling down.

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Having met in 2016 through work, Charlotte was appalled to find out that Fern had (despite having moved to Christchurch at the age of 6) visited very little of the south coast as an adult. So, armed with one National Trust membership, a Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II and, more often than not, a picnic, we started to explore. Three years, multiple days out and a lot of photos later, we decided it was about time we started sharing our trips through more than the odd Story on our personal Instagram accounts. And so, Dear Dorset was born!

We’ll be using this space to share guides to some of our favourite places in Dorset and further afield! As well as pretty photos, we’re hoping to offer handy insights such as where to park, what to pack, when you should opt for wellies over trainers and any other things we think you might need to know.

We’re excited to get started!