Amberley Castle

Nestled snuggly almost 2 hours by train south of London is Amberley Castle, a splendorous oasis built in the 12th century. One of the oldest castles in the United Kingdom, the Sussex countryside manor and its surrounding lands now serve as a whimsical hotel containing only 19 rooms, all of different sizes and names—yes, each room bears its own name!After taking the train from Victoria Station in London to Amberley Station, a “Castle car”—their fancy name for taxi—drove us roughly 5 minutes along a stone-paved road, across a small bridge, and under an iron gate to arrive at Amberley Castle, where I gazed in awe at the historic site’s magnificence and charm. I was so excited—who wouldn’t want to sleep like a princess for a day? The serene environment (and gorgeous sunny weather) created an intimate feeling throughout the castle grounds. Lush greenery within and surrounding the castle walls smiled warmly at us alongside beautifully blooming flowers of all sorts. Most stunning were the white peacocks who ruled the castle as if they themselves were royalty!The castle has a dining hall that serves breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. My family and I enjoyed tea on a private balcony overlooking a small garden area where, coincidentally, a wedding reception was being held (you can get married at the castle!).While other guests stayed in the few hotel rooms, my sister and I were the only “children” there, earning favor with the hotel staff; Dean, our tea server, couldn’t resist cracking jokes about us “California gurls.” The warm hospitality truly reflected the elegance of the castle. Although the hotel has been in operation for more than 40 years, we learned that the majority of guests still comprised local people, perhaps residents of the nearby village, who frequented the castle for tea or a nice meal. Just under a 5 minute’s walk from the castle lies a residential village culminating cottages built with bricks, stones, and thatched roofs (my favorite!). After the castle retired from use (it had once been an Oliver Cromwell royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, among many things), nearby townspeople “borrowed” materials from the castle to build their own homes, like the Romans did with the Colosseum. The homes are scattered beside the castle. Although I expected shops and restaurants to line the village, it was instead an innocent neighborhood of exquisite cottages. We only passed one shop (that sold asparagus) and one pub (The Black Horse). The scene felt very medieval, save for the many cars parked along the paved streets.Back in our hotel room, we enjoyed a small yet comfortable living space and a rather spacious bathroom. In addition to the general accommodations (bed, TV, etc.), each room provides a tea set for guests to enjoy some leisurely tea!Because the building is so old, they cannot install air conditioning, so fans are provided should it get too cozy. We enjoyed a good night’s sleep before going off on our way the next day, where, unbeknownst to us, a transportation adventure would begin. Although I would have loved to stay longer, one night seemed enough to explore the castle and the neighboring small village. Spending the night at the castle was certainly a treat for all of us, and it’s a great addition to any trip to the UK! What a fairytale!

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