This lovely South Downs walk passes through Arundel, which has a very pretty and historic centre, a Cathedral, and a very large and picturesque Castle, and then through the castle's landscaped parkland. Amberley, at the end of the walk, has a pretty riverside tea garden and a recommended pub.
The walk starts and ends along the River Arun. It goes up Arundel’s old High Street, lined with ancient buildings, to the Duke of Norfolk’s castle. The Norfolk family have been Roman Catholics for centuries, hence you pass the only church in the UK that is part Catholic and part Protestant (the Catholic part is their chapel, separated off by an iron grille).
You pass the impressive Roman Catholic Cathedral (free entry, recommended) then enter the 1,240-acre Arundel Park (the park is closed on March 24th each year, but the public footpaths should remain open on that day). From the Hiorne Tower, you descend to Swanbourne Lake, then go up and through the Park to exit it through a gap in the wall, to walk above the River Arun again.
The route leads you to the isolated hamlet of South Stoke, with its unusual church and from there you walk beside the river all the way to the village of Burpham, with its church, and pub – your lunchtime stop. The walk requires a relatively early start from London if you want to be in time for food at the lunchtime pub; the distance to the lunch pub in Burpham from the start of the walk is 6 miles, 2.5 hours of walking.
The afternoon’s walk, up, over and down the chalky South Downs, makes for a nice contrast to the morning’s walk.
There are several stretches that are steep (but with excellent views in compensation) and some of the descents on chalky paths can be slippery in the wet or after recent rain. When coming down off the South Downs towards Amberley, the final leg of the walk, across the south-western section of Amberley Wild Brooks, should not be undertaken in winter or after periods of heavy rain, as your route over the water meadows is likely to be flooded; instead, take the direct route down High Titten to the railway station and the Bridge Inn.
Amberley is a delightful village with many thatched houses, a pub, tea shop and village store, in addition to its castle and church. Next to the railway station is the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre.
There are several opportunities during the walk to cut it short or embark on a different, shorter walk. Many of these options are described in full in our Arundel Circular and Amberley Circular via Arundel Park walks. To mention a few of the options in outline here.
- At point  in the directions, on exiting Arundel Park through the tall kissing gate in the wall, instead of turning right, turn left, to follow the path beside the River Arun for the 2.5 km to Houghton Bridge and Amberley station, stopping for lunch at the Bridge Inn (the station pub) if you wish. This reduces the walk to some 7.7 km (4.8 miles).
- At South Stoke (point  in the directions), instead of turning right over the stile, turn left through the wooden kissing gate, to follow the footpath in a north-westerly direction alongside an old meander of the River Arun (crossing it on a miniature suspension bridge) and up to the hamlet of North Stoke, then along a country lane to Houghton Bridge and Amberley station, stopping for lunch at the Bridge Inn (the station pub). This reduces the walk to 9.5 km (5.9 miles).
- At the main lunchtime pub in Burpham you can call for a taxi, to take you back to Arundel.
- Having come down from the South Downs, instead of walking through the village of Amberley before embarking on the home leg across the Wild Brooks and beside the river, you can take the direct route down High Titten (the street through the village) to the railway station. This direct route should be taken in winter and after periods of heavy rain, as the Wild Brooks are likely to be waterlogged.
Short circular walk (with a riverside pub)
- Short circular walk with a riverside pub: At South Stoke, instead of crossing the South Stoke bridge, turn right over the stile on your right and then follow the riverside path all the way back to Arundel, stopping for lunch at the Black Rabbit pub (its picturesque riverside terrace has a stunning view, with the castle on the skyline). This makes for an easy and pleasant Arundel Circular Walk of 13.6 km (8.5 miles).
- This walk also works well as a "Backwards" Walk , that is, in reverse . Following the directions in reverse, by starting the walk in Amberley and ending in Arundel is recommended during weekdays, particularly outside high summer, when most of the tea options in Amberley are closed. You have no such problem when ending the walk mid-week in Arundel. Directions for the walk in reverse are given at the end of the main directions, although please note - the reverse walk is a hybrid: it starts with the route of Book 2, Walk 22 before switching to reverse the main directions here - Book 1, Walk 32. This combination is considered by many to be the best for the "Backwards" walk.
- As a summer extravaganza for the fit, who like a very long walk, try returning to Arundel from Amberley on the route of Volume 2’s Amberley to Arundel walk, making a total circular long walk of some 32 km (20 miles).
Arundel Castle was built at the end of the eleventh century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel. The castle was damaged in the Civil War (changing hands twice) and was largely rebuilt in ‘idealised Norman’ style by Dukes of Norfolk in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Parts of the castle and its grounds and cafe are open to the public, in 2020 between 01 April and 01 November, Tuesday to Sunday, Bank Holiday Mondays and all Mondays in August: 10 am to 5 pm, with last admission 4 pm. Full access ticket (2020) to Castle and grounds is £24.20 with gift aid, which qualifies for a spending voucher, and for grounds only £ 14.30.
Hiorne Tower within Arundel Park, is named after architect Francis Hiorne, who was bidding to rebuild much of Arundel Castle at the time - 1797. The then Duke of Norfolk was unimpressed by Mr Hiorne's "folly" who was not awarded the commission. Some historians object to the tower being described as a folly, although in truth it is ! The 50 ft tall triangular structure was built in the Gothic revival style, with three octagonal corner turrets in flint and stone chequer work with pointed and mullioned windows. It was occupied as a residence until 1960 - with a Mr and Mrs Bailey living here for 62 years until their deaths in 1937. The tower had a modest but important practical function in bygone years when the Duke's rifle range in the valley below was in use. Red flags flown from the top of the tower acted as a warning to pedestrians not to venture beyond Swanbourne Lake below the tower whilst shooting was in progress. Today, parts of the tower are used for storage, although the main parts are open to visitors on most days, with closing time around 5pm. Finally, the tower's recent claim to fame was its appearance in an episode of Doctor Who.
The lack of labourers after the Black Death in 1349 led to the decay of St Nicholas Parish Church, Arundel, which was rebuilt in 1380. There were no pews, but there were stone seats around the side (hence the expression ‘the weakest go to the walls’). The building became barracks and stables for the parliamentarians during the Civil War – their guns laid siege to the castle from the church tower. In 1969, the then Duke of Norfolk opened up the wall between the Roman Catholic and Protestant parts of the church. For ecumenical special occasions, the iron grille dividing them is opened.
The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady and St Philip Howard in Arundel was completed in 1873. Entry is free. St Philip, thirteenth Earl of Arundel, whose father was beheaded by Queen Elizabeth I, was himself sentenced to death but died in 1595 after eleven years in the Tower of London, aged 39.
The eleventh century St Leonard’s Church in the hamlet of South Stoke (population 57) has a thin tower with a ‘frilly cap’, topped by a nineteenth century broach spire with four slatted dormer windows. The church is still lit by candles. Since the last resident Rector left in 1928 the parish has been in the care of the Vicar of Arundel.
A Roman pavement was uncovered in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin Church, Burpham, and parts of the church date from before the Norman Conquest.
Amberley Castle and St Michael’s Church, Amberley were both built shortly after the Norman Conquest by Bishop Luffa, using French masons who had been brought over to England to build Chichester Cathedral. The castle, one of three country palaces for the Bishops of Chichester, was considered necessary to defend the Bishops from peasants in revolt and from marauding pirates. Today, the castle is an exclusive hotel.
A hundred men once worked at the lime and cement works that now form the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre (amberleymuseum.co.uk, tel: 01798 831370, highly recommended), next to Amberley railway station. The museum occupies a 36 acre site and is dedicated to the industrial heritage of the south-east, containing a wide range of exhibits, including vintage transport, tools and telecommunications. The museum is also home to a number of resident craftsmen and craftswomen, working in traditional ways. Open to the public from early March to end of October, Wed-Sun, 10 am to 4.30 pm, also February half term week and on all days during West Sussex school holidays. Admission price for 2020 is £ 15.00 with gift aid. Average visit is 4 hours.
- If doing the full walk, through the village of Amberley, you can stop at the Amberley Village Tea Room (tel: 01798-839196), open 02 April to 30 September, 6 days a week (closed Wednesdays) 10.00 am to 5.30 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays in October, closed November to March.
- The Black Horse pub reopened in Dec'18. It caters for real ale, afternoon tea in its garden room, and fine dinning.
- At the end of the walk, near Amberley station, the Riverside Café (tel: 01798-831558) is in a perfect location for walkers and cyclists on the South Downs Way
- Nearby, the walker-friendly and comfortable Bridge Inn (tel: 01798-831619) serves coffee, tea and stronger drinks all afternoon and good-value meals from 6pm.
- If reversing the walk, you have a good choice of tea and pub stops in the centre of Arundel. Two of the tea shops are popular with SWC walkers: The Motte and Bailey Cafe at 49 High Street, and Belinda's Tearooms at 13 Tarrant Street, just off the High Street. Both are usually open until 5pm.