Castles and follies provide a fascinating insight into history as well as making a fun day out that the whole family can enjoy. Here in Sussex we’re lucky enough to have some of the most interesting right on our doorstep and we’ve handpicked six of the best to ignite your imagination…
Arundel Castle, West Sussex
Arguably one of the most absorbing sites in Sussex, Arundel castle sits on a hill overlooking the fast flowing River Arun. Steeped in history, the castle was built towards the end of the 11th century, but was extended and added to by various kings during its early years. The site has seen much of history, surviving serious damage during the Civil War as well as housing notable figures including Henry II, Thomas Howard (2nd Duke of Norfolk) and Sir Francis Drake. It even hosted a visit from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1846. Arundel castle also boasts a selection of interesting artifacts including furniture and artworks from the 16th century, alongside some of Mary Queen of Scots’ personal possessions.
Opening times: Open from the 1st of April until the 29th October 2017, Tuesdays to Sundays inclusive.
Prices: Prices start from £11 for adults, £10 for children.
Brightling or ‘Fuller’s’ Follies, East Sussex
The Brightling Follies are a selection of six structures all commissioned by John Fuller, situated around the village of Brightling in East Sussex. Born in 1757, John Fuller, more commonly known as ‘Mad Jack Fuller’, earned his name due to the many stories of his eccentric behaviour and larger-than-life personality. He served as an MP for some time, however was removed for being a steadfast supporter of slavery, and spent much of his time and money restoring historic buildings and erecting follies, some of which were said to be the result of outlandish wagers. One of his most famous, The Sugar Loaf, was allegedly built because Fuller had bet a friend that he could see the Dallington Church Spire from his home. When he realised this was not the case, he built The Sugar Loaf, named because of its resemblance to the conical shape in which sugar was supplied at the time.
Further details: There are six follies: the tomb, the temple, the obelisk, the sugar loaf, the tower and the observatory. This 9½ mile walk contains detailed directions to take you within view of all six.
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
With its high walls and crenelated towers reflected beautifully in the surrounding moat, Bodiam Castle is a classic medieval monument. It was built in the 14th century by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge in order to defend against an invasion by the French during the Hundred Years’ War, but later passed through many hands, including Henry VII and Richard III. In 1829, Bodiam Castle was bought and partially restored by John Fuller (see Fullers’ Follies!), and finally, in 1925, was donated to The National Trust who opened it to the public. Bodiam Castle bore witness to numerous sieges during its time, and as you stand in the impressive ruinous interiors, it’s easy to imagine the many banquets and battles that took place there. The spiral staircase and original wooden portcullis are just some of the extraordinary features to look out for, as well as the castle’s supposed ghostly residents!
Opening times: Open every day except 24th and 25th December – 10.30am-5pm
Prices: Adult - £9.30, Child - £4.65
Woolbeding Follies, West Sussex
Also under the care of the National Trust is Woolbeding House & Gardens, tucked away in a peaceful part of West Sussex. The sprawling 26 acre gardens have only been open to the public for six years, having undergone several decades of restoration by Sir Simon Sainsbury and his partner Stewart Grimshaw. Up until Simon passed away in 2006, the pair updated the various sections of the garden, creating a potager, orchard and orangery as well as introducing a huge array of shrubs, trees and flowers from all over the world. They also built most of the sculptures and follies you see around the grounds, including Tulip Temple, erected to commemorate a 100ft Tulip tree which came down in a storm, together with a summerhouse located a top a small waterfall.
Opening times: 20th April - 29th September - Thursdays and Fridays 10am – 4pm (last admission 3.15pm) All visits must be pre-booked via email: [email protected] or telephone: 0344 249 1895.
Prices: Adult - £8.50, Child - £4.30.
Please note: There is no visitor’s car park so you must take the complimentary shuttle bus from nearby Midhurst. Bus times can be viewed online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/woolbeding-gardens/features/planning-your-day-at-woolbeding-gardens.
Hastings Castle, East Sussex
The ruins of Hastings Castle occupy a stunning position overlooking Hastings town and coastline. The original structure was built out of wood under the instructions of William the Conqueror upon his arrival in England in 1066, and was one of the first motte and bailey castles in the UK. After William’s famous victory at the Battle of Hastings, he ordered the castle to be re-built out of stone and the Collegiate Church of St Mary established within its walls. Over the centuries, the castle was dismantled and rebuilt several times, notably as part of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monastries in the 16th century. The structure also succumbed to storm damage, erosion and was a target for air raids during World War II. Despite this, the remains of Hastings castle are a striking tourist attraction, providing a vivid and beguiling glimpse into history.
Opening times: 1st April – 31st October - Open daily from 10am to 5pm (last admission at 4pm).
Prices: Adult - £4.75, Child - £3.95.
Petworth Park Follies, West Sussex
The 700 acre park at Petworth has attracted scores of visitors for decades, and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of English landscape design. In the 1750s and early 1760s, the park was transformed by English landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown from formal gardens in to the beautiful setting we see today. Brown installed carriageways, planted trees and erected two follies, strategically placed to offer stunning views across the grounds and surrounding area. The first of these is the Doric temple inspired by ancient Greek architecture, while the second is the Rotunda, chosen by Brown to emulate the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy. Other intriguing structures to look out for around the park include the Upperton Monument with its single statuesque turret, as well as the bath and boat houses, which were added in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Opening times: Open daily from 10am-5pm.
Prices: Prices vary depending on the time of year, click here for full details.
Please note: Opening times and prices correct at time of writing but may be subject to change. We recommend checking before your visit to avoid disappointment.
Image credits: Header image of Bodiam castle - 'Bodiam Castle in Sussex UK' by Erik Schorr. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0. | Arundel Castle - 'Arundel Castle' by Chris_Parfitt. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. | Brightling Follies - 'Brightling, Dudwell Valley, Bateman’s Forests' by Mal B. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0. | Bodiam Castle - 'Bodiam castle and moat' by Steve Slater. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. | Woolbeding Follies - 'Woolbeding' by Rictor Norton & David Allen. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. | Hastings Castle - 'Hastings Castle' by Hans Splinter. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0. | Petworth Park Follies - 'In the house on the hill, They are all gone away' by sagesolar. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.