Castle Categories: B&B Castle Hotels and Family Friendly Castle StaysCastle Tags: Best Castle & Manor House Hotels near London, Best Castle Stays in England in 2023, and Best Castle Stays in South East England in 2023
Most famous former guests: King Henry VIII, King Charles II, Queen Elizabeth II.
The 12th century era Amberley Castle is a unique luxury hotel just south of London, in West Sussex, England with an impeccable historical pedigree. Some of England’s most famous historical figures have passed through its doors and it still retains a huge amount of historical features, including 60 foot high defensive walls, portcullis and moat.
In its present incarnation as a luxury hotel it offers an immersive historical experience as well top class service and facilities including an 18 hole putting green, tennis courts, a croquet lawn and a famous fine dining restaurant.
It has a selection of extremely comfortable, nicely decorated rooms and suites divided between the castle itself, and two atmospheric 17th century stone buildings tucked into the castle’s dry moat, known as the Manor House and the Bishopric.
Most of the rooms and suites are historical in nature, with four poster beds, antique furniture, classic thick velvet curtains and lattice windows, with a few being more modern in style, though never modern enough to make you forget you are staying in a deeply historical building. Tip: If you request a four poster bed on the booking form that will, by default, guarantee you a historic room.
All the accommodation offers modern conveniences including WiFi, flat screen TV & DVD player, tea & coffee makers facilities etc., and the bathrooms are in general very luxurious and romantic, with nice lighting, deep baths and a generous range of L’Occitane toiletries.
Note: Amberley is in the ‘family friendly’ category but only children over the age of ten are welcome to stay.
Check out all the details – prices, reviews and more photos – on the booking page here.
FACILITIES & THINGS TO DO:
As you will gather from the History section below, the castle has strong royal connections and is a wonderful place to explore. We’d recommend that one of the first things you do is to join one of their daily guided tours which include lunch or afternoon tea, then afterwards, as an overnight guest, you can wander this extraordinary property at your own leisure, to better soak up its unique atmosphere in the quiet of an evening.
The 12 acre grounds outside add to the historical ambience and are equally wonderful to explore. There are the old castle walls, the (now dry) moat as well as some beautiful Victorian style English gardens. There are tennis courts too, an 18-hole putting course and a croquet lawn.
The food at Amberley is known to be some of the best in all of Sussex, with the dining area being either the magnificent Queen’s Room, with its 12th century barrel-vaulted ceiling and open fireplace, or the Norman era Great Room with its high lancet windows tapestries and coats of armour.
Lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are available, including a lavish 7 course evening taster menu. Examples of main courses include guinea fowl with pear, and date and pistachio couscous, and panfried sea bass with baby fennel, saffron and champagne sauce. A separate vegetarian (though not vegan) menu is also available, with choices like wild mushroom risotto, and quail egg tartlet with truffle and pea purée.
It is very much a fine dining and the atmosphere is undeniably formal; the dress code demands, at the very least, smart casual wear, and certainly no shorts or trainers. Snacks, mainly canapés, can be had throughout the day though in the castle lounge or on the terrace outside, as well as very enjoyable afternoon teas, and various drinks.
The castle is in the lovely little village of the same name; Amberley, Sussex, which has a railway station with connections to London, Gatwick Airport as well as Arundel, Bury, Chichester, Littlehampton, Worthing and Brighton.
Getting there from London by car is also very straightforward being about 60 miles to the south west of the city via the A3, the A283 and finally the B2139, passing through the lovely South Downs National Park along the way.
A LITTLE HISTORY:
Historical records show that the site on which Amberley Castle now stands was granted to the See of Selsey by Cædwalla of Wessex in AD 683, with the first recording of a structure at the site being a timber lodge built in 1103 by the Bishop of Chichester, Ralph de Luffa.
The estate would be in the possession of the Bishops of Chichester for centuries with the building being replaced and upgraded several times. A stone hall replaced the timber lodge around 40 years later under Bishop Seffrid I, and in 1200 this was extended by his successor, Bishop Seffrid II. Further enhancements were made by the Bishop John Langton in the early 14th century including the construction of the Great Hall.
In 1377 Bishop William Reade had this newly constructed Great Hall upgraded and fortified the entire site with the addition of 40 foot walls, a gatehouse and an oubliette type dungeon. Bishop Robert Sherborne was the last Bishop of Chichester to occupy the castle when he died in 1536.
In 1526 it had the honour, if that is the word, of hosting King Henry VIII, there reportedly to seek preliminarily advice on the chances of an annulment from his wife, Catherine of Aragon, due to her inability to produce a male heir. Reports say the signals from Amberley were not positive but, undeterred, Henry went on to petition the Pope in Rome. When again the idea was rejected Henry, very famously, severed links with the Catholic Church and declared himself Supreme Head of the new, Protestant, ‘Church of England.’
From 1536 onwards Amberley, though still officially in the Bishopric’s possession, would be leased out to various tenants over the years. In the English Civil War a Royalist tenant at Amberley lead to Oliver Cromwell ordering his General, William Waller, to attack and capture it. This he did, reportedly knocking some 20 feet off the defensive walls and destroying the Great Hall in the process. The castle was then forcibly sold on before being restored to the Bishop after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. In the same year Amberley, and the Bishop, would receive a morale boosting visit from King Charles II.
“This may be the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed in. Stunning! The building and gardens are stunning and the albino peacock was an added bonus! Beautiful! We were upgraded to a junior suite as it was our wedding anniversary which was lovely. The private access to the battlements from an old door in our bathroom was a fab surprise! The food was amazing – my husband wanted the tasting menu so the chef created a vegetarian tasting menu for me so we could eat together. We will definitely be back :)”
“The experience of staying in the castle is really unforgettable. The lounge and the library with open fires have a truly historic feeling with fantastic stone mullioned windows. The staff were very attentive and went out of their way to make the stay most memorable. The dinner and breakfast were brilliant in a wood paneled dining room. A stay is highly recommended. You will not be disappointed….”
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- Church St, Amberley, Arundel